6 B.C. Ghost Towns Worth a Detour on Your Next Road Trip

Gold and ghosts on the wild West Coast - discover British Columbia's past at these historical sites

These six B.C. ghost towns are alive with the province’s history

It’s no secret that B.C.’s natural beauty can’t be beat, but for tourists in search of history and lore, it isn’t always the first destination that jumps to mind. Yet it only takes a little digging to discover the province’s vibrant past and the multitude of places you can go to see it with your own eyes. Pay a visit to one of these ghost towns on your next road trip to learn some of the wild stories of the people who shaped B.C. 

Credit: Thomas Drasdauskis


Barkerville may just be the liveliest ghost town in the province. This preserved gold rush town is the largest historical site in western North America and among the best maintained. The town thrived during the gold rush, but today its only residents are actors who enthusiastically re-enact scenes from its golden days. Be sure to visit their exotic Chinatown, which has one of the largest collections of Chinese buildings in North America from that era. 


B.C.’s Southern Selkirk Mountains were the epicenter of a massive mining boom, but after the short-lived prosperity expired, the number of towns abandoned was so high that the area was dubbed the “Valley of the Ghosts.” The heart of the valley was the wild town of Sandon. Sandon’s success lay in its silver-lead ore deposits, and soon grew to host hotels, saloons, theatres, opera houses, breweries and an apparently booming red-light district. Today it attracts over 60,000 visitors a year who come to see its museum, preserved buildings and artifacts from the town. 

Fort Steele

Fort Steele was yet another boom town that found itself nearly abandoned with the decline of the gold rush. As some towns disappeared, Fort Steele was granted “heritage town” status by the Provincial Government. You can check out their working blacksmith, leather worker and dressmaker, or catch a show at the Wildhorse Theatre. From May to October they run a daily Gossip Tour where visitors can get the dirt on some of the town’s most colourful former residents.       

Fort St. James

This restored Hudson’s Bay Company post can be found on the shores of Stuart Lake, just a little north of Vanderhoof. Fort St. James National Historic Site has the largest collection of original Fur Trade era buildings in Canada and provides visitors with a glimpse into the life of a fur trader. The town has been restored to how it looked in 1896, and contains a large collection of fur pelts from the era. You can check their Facebook to keep up to date on the many special events and activities they offer.

Hat Creek Ranch

Hat Creek Ranch was a stop along the way for many hopeful miners on the Cariboo Trail. It functioned as a roadhouse and ranch, and the original roadhouse building filled with objects from the period still stands. You can pay a visit to the McLean Cabin, the former home of some of B.C.’s most cold-blooded outlaws, the McLean Brothers. They also offer guided trail rides (or pony rides for children under 10) in the scenic surrounding hills. 

Yale Historic Site

Located along the Fraser River, Yale was once said to be the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. It was the jumping off point for paddlewheel steamers, and home to 30,000 gold miners. You can stop by their “living history” tent city for an authentic look at how those miners might have lived. Their pioneer cemetery has headstones from 1863 until present day, including some of Yale’s most interesting characters.