Get to know Prince George from a local point of view.


Your guide to successfully paddling the Bowron Lake Circuit

If you’ve read any of my posts on the Move Up Prince George blog, I might be starting to sound like a broken record. It’s true, the wilderness regions around Prince George are a backcountry camper’s paradise. Bowron Lake Provincial Park, home to the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, is a world-renowned wonderland and is a mere 2.5 hours from Prince George. The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit has inspired paddlers from across the country and around the world to embark on the 116 kilometre journey year after year. The canoe circuit is a perfect parallelogram of 12 lakes and rivers, which makes it unique in many ways. In 4 to 10 days (depending on your level of paddling expertise), a paddler will essentially finish the circuit in the same place they started without any back-tracking. Cue the ever-used John Muir quote, “the mountains are calling and I must go”. It was a no-brainer expedition for me.

Before embarking

canoes on a lakeshore

Docking on Sandy Lake.

  1. Getting a group together: It was one of my close friends in Vancouver who put the bug in my ear about this trip. After all was said and done, we had a total of five friends commit to this expedition.
  2. Setting trip dates: It was difficult to determine what time of the summer we wanted to go in. Earlier summer months are great for a more serene experience. Later summer months are better for weather and warmth but can become crowded. If you crave solitude, avoid holiday weekends, or at least plan your trip so that you’re well into the park’s interior when the weekend crowds arrive. We decided to endure the cooler, buggy weather for the quiet experience. Subsequently, we booked our circuit dates through the BC Parks website. A word of caution here: book your spots early! Reservations open up in October the year before the allotted season. More specifically, we booked our circuit dates for June 2018 in October 2017.
  3. Gear and equipment: Backcountry canoeing is really different from backcountry hiking. Since you don’t have to wear all your gear on your back all the time, it’s not as minimalistic. Since I was well equipped with light personal items (ultralight tent, ultralight sleeping pad/bag, hiking-specific clothing), I wasn’t too worried about those pieces. I would say there are some specific pieces of gear that are a must for this trip. This includes waterproof dry-bags, trash bags to line your dry-bags, a bear-proof food barrel, a tarp to go over your tent (yes even if you do have a rain fly), duct tape, and lots of paracord. The BC Parks website provides a really good packing list to help you get started. Like Santa’s list, check it twice to ensure you have the appropriate equipment for a safe and enjoyable trip.

Bring food…. like a lot of it (canoeing burns a TON of calories). The best part of the day on the trip is docking at your campsite and firing up the stove.

  1. Renting a canoe: We rented our canoes from the park itself and had a great experience. There are many local outfitters as well that can help you get what you need for the trip.

At the trailhead


A short detour to Isaac Falls is well-worth the paddle.

The anxiety of embarking on this trip seeps into the mind around a month before the start date and climaxes sitting at the registration centre watching the circuit orientation. Am I physically and mentally capable or am I way in over my head? Did I do enough tricep dips or are my arms going to fall off during this trip? How warm is merino wool anyway? Is “the Chute” my death sentence?

Realistically if you do your homework and plan appropriately, you will be 100% fine. After the registration and orientation, we weighed our gear at the weigh station and set onward on our expedition. Good-bye to bad thoughts and hello to adventure.

The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is _________

tent at a campsite

Campsite 54 (on the Bowron River) greeted us with a rainbow.

Throughout the circuit, I learned many things about the trip and myself. It’s always a life-changing experience when you submerse yourself in the wilderness. Here are some tidbits you may find useful:
  1. The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is challenging. I am used to hiking with my legs and using your arms all day gets tiring. Prepare yourself physically by training for this event. Portages are no walk in the park.
  2. The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is freeing. No cell service means no business, no obligations and no Facebook. It also means that you should let people know where you’re going and share your itinerary with them before embarking.
  3. The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is about building relationships. It’s a chance to have intimate conversations with your friends and build new relationships along the way. We met a lot of interesting paddlers on our 4.5-day canoe trip who had a memorable impact on the trip. It’s really amazing to hear the stories of others and why they chose to complete the circuit.
  4. The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is magnificent. The natural surroundings you’re enveloped in are breathtaking and not like any you have experienced before. You can potentially encounter moose (we did!), bears (we did!), and other animals (monster mosquitoes) that you must be prepared for.

For me, canoeing the Bowron Lake Circuit was an incredible experience and one I hope to return to when I am older. With my roots growing from Prince George, this journey felt home and one I was fated to complete.

Have you taken on the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit? We’d love to hear about your experience. Share it with us on our Facebook page.

Tag Archive: Outdoor Activity

Back to the Blog
Job Opportunities