Things YOU GOTTA SEE when visiting the Fraser Valley
The Fraser Valley has two stretches, the “Lower Mainland” between Hope and Langley (we have separate information on Greater Vancouver) which is characterized by a wide Fraser River and wide lush valley, nestled between Coast Maintains to the north and to the south. We’ll divide this up into a day on the south bank from Langley through Abbotsford and Chillwack, and a second day on the north bank, from Hope to Mission to Pitt Meadows.
Then there is the Upper Fraser Valley north of Hope. This is a narrow canyon and a narrow (but deep) River, with the Trans-Canada Highway clinging to one valley wall, while the railroads cling to the opposite wall, often in quite dramatic fashion.
Here are some quick suggestions for visitors with limited time in the Fraser Valley: The schedule is only a suggestion — you may have more fun, or wish to take more time than mentioned below.
One Day Stay (the South Bank of the Fraser, Langley to Abbotsford to Hope)
To capture the essence of this city, here are suggestions for your first day (especially if its your only day) in the Fraser Valley:
Starting at Langley, head east on the Trans-Canada until you see a space-ship looking structure (a Cineplex movie theatre), at which point you can exit the highway and head north to the Golden Ears Bridge across the Fraser to Maple Ridge, for views of the spectacular Fraser River at its widest point, with farmland to the southeast, and on Barnston Island to the west. The bridge has been toll-free since 2017.
From there, head back the south bank and findHistoric Fort Langley, a national historic site showcasing one of the oldest European settlements on Canada’s west coast, and trading fort to the interior of BC.
Head back on the Trans-Canada east and at highway 13 is the Greater Vancouver Zoo. before continuing to Abbotsford, the largest community (population 140,000) in the Fraser Valley, complete with its own major airport and scheduled airline service. Along the south bank of the Fraser River is the Matsqui Trail, on dikes along the riverbank, east of Highway 11 bridge over to Mission, on the north bank.
East of Abbotsford, you pass McKee Peak a ruggedly forested hill which rises over 400 metres (1200 ft) above the surrounding lush irrigated farmlands, some with flowers and some with food crops, which continue east for many miles. You will cross several irrigation channels, which help the area’s lushness, and finally cross the Chilliwack River.
Chilliwack is the gateway to the Fraser River Ecological Reserve to the north, and to Cultus Lake (with large and famous waterslides) to the south. For adults, there is white water rafting on the more interesting parts of the Chilliwack River. The mountains to the south push up from the United States and start to push the Trans-Canada Right up against the Fraser River.
Just east of Highway 9 (with a bridge across the Fraser River) is Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. The falls are a a five minute walk from the parking lot, ad there are a number of kid-friendly attractions close-by.
Continue east until you arrive in Hope. The town is small, has lots of hotels and restaurants, both downtown, and along the Old Hope-Princeton Highway between the town and Highway #3 (the Trans-Canada’s Crowsnest Route though Osoyoos in the Okanagan)
Second Day (North Bank, between Hope, Mission, and Pitt Meadows)
If you are here for second day in the Fraser Valley, here is a recommended itinerary:
Start your day at Hope, which is the junction of four great highways through BC, as well as both trans-continental rail lines. Take Highway 3 just east of town (about 8 km, and east of the Coquihalla junction) to see the Hope Slide.
Head back into town and enjoy the river view at Centennial Park where the Fraser begins its bend to the Pacific Ocean to the west. There is an Indian reserve and wildlife preserve on ,Greenwood Island, just offshore to the southwest. Check out the chainsaw carvings around downtown, the salmon spawning grounds on the Coquihalla River.
Continue on Highway 1 north, and cross the Fraser Bridge over the Fraser River and follow the signs to the Lougheed Highway westbound, also known as “Scenic 7”.
As you head west, you pass through a series of First Nations reserves before reaching Agassiz. The natural areas to the south of the highway are North America’s top Bald Eagle nesting habitat. Over a thousand Bald Eagles have been seen in this area of the Fraser River.
From here you can head north (on Hot Springs Road) about 5 km to Harrison Lake and Harrison Hot Springs, a scenic resort community. You might even try some sailing or windsurfing here.
Return back to #7, and head west about 10 km where you actually cross the Harrison River. Between Deroche and Dewdey, the highway travels for several kilometres on Seabird Island in the Fraser River.
As you approach Mission, you pass through Hatzic and see Hatzic Lake to the north, and visit Hatzic Rock beside the Xa: Ytem Interpretive Centre which discusses the proud history and role of the area’s First Nations.
Closer to Mission, you will see the Westminster Abbey the Benedictine mission on the hillside. Take Manson Rd north and then Dewdney Trunk Rd to get a closer view (it’s a 5km detour).
Mission is the largest city on the north bank of the Fraser River, and the highway divides into separate one-way streets through the city’s commercial and historic areas. The Mission Museum is 2 blocks north of the Highway. West of the commercial strip, the highway reconnects, and you can access Highway 11 to the bridge over the Fraser River, to Chilliwack on the south bank and the Trans-Canada Highway #1.
From Mission, the highway continues through rural farmland, and crosses the Stave River, with the Stave Lake (reservoir) providing the area’s water supply and recreation. To the north are the Golden Ears mountain peaks, visible as one enters the community of Maple Ridge and then Pitt Meadows. The Pitt River is famous for its floral farms, providing Canadian florists with many fresh cut flowers.
Cross the Pitt River and you are in Port Coquitlam and the Great Vancouver area, where half the province’s population lives. Its only 7 km to the head of Burrard Inlet at Port Moody, the original terminus to the C.P.R. where you can visit the railway museum. From Port Moody, you can enjoy the panoramic vistas across the very end of Burrard Inlet.
If you are visiting for a longer period, there are a number of destinations worth visiting (each at least a half day, including driving):
Golden Ears Provincial Park, north of Maple Ridge
Manning Provincial Park, southeast of Hope, which has lots of rugged mountains, hiking trails and a ski hill.
Othello Quintette Tunnels Head east on the Coquihala Highway #5, and exit about 6 km north of the Highway junction, and then take the Othelos Road west, past the campground to the Othello Quintette Tunnels. These are part of the scenic Kettle Valley Trail, converted from the roadbed of the Kettle Valley Railway (which conitnues to the Princeton and Penticton). This wild area was also used as the backdrop for a number of movies (including a Rambo one)
Hells Gate is up the Trans-Canada #1 about mid-way between Yale and Boston Bar. This atrtraction overlooks a very narrow portion of the Fraser River, where the river (normally a kilometre wide) into a narrow gorge, further narrowned by a rockslide to 110 feet (35 metres). An aerial tramway descends from the Trans-Canada into the gorge, where you can walk a bridge across the gorge andtake some great photos.