Something about northern BC naturally speaks of adventure.
There are less people here, more animals, bigger, emptier landscapes, and an inclination among those who live here to explore the outdoors as much as possible. It’s reminiscent of the spirit of pioneers and homesteaders — physical folks who work and play hard, love the world they live in and know it intimately. Prince Rupert is full of these people, lifelong residents or recent transplants who get animated when they talk about some great trail they hiked, a crazy wildlife encounter, or the latest kayak trip out to one of the islands. And the best part—for locals and visitors alike—is adventure is always close by here.
The view from the top of Mt. Hays is stunning.
The city is nestled into the base of the mountain, like a cat curled up around the warmth of a fire. From here, you can see the many islands that punctuate the Pacific Ocean. Across the harbour, there’s the tiny community of Dodge Cove on Digby Island. In Venn Passage, the village of Metlakatla hugs the vivid green coastline. Look further north and you can see the southern reaches of the Alaskan Panhandle. On a clear day, to the west, you can make out the Haida Gwaii archipelago on the other side of Hecate Strait. And beyond that, nothing but open ocean for nearly 7,000 kilometres to the coast of Japan. It’s a staggering view, but that’s not the only good thing about being up here. As the ancient Taoist saying goes, the journey itself is the reward. Climbing to the top of Mt. Hays is a hefty hike, whether you walk up the access road or scale the steep Kiwanis Trail. But walking is worth the effort.
Hiking in Prince Rupert is a great way to get outside and keep fit, and it’s by no means the only active thing to do around here. Look around. Prince Rupert is surrounded by an endless ocean playground, old-growth forests, and spectacular mountains. The locals love to play, both indoors and out, and there is no shortage of activities here that can get your heart pumping and your adrenaline flowing.
A few hardy kayakers “surf” in the reversing tidal rapids just out from Prince Rupert’s most popular trail—Butze Rapids.
Sure, they wear insulated dry suits but when they practice rolls, heads fully submerged in the frigid sea. The grins on their faces say it must be worth it. Paddling around Prince Rupert is probably the best way to get to know this coastal city. Rupert is on an island—Kaien Island—and getting out on the water means experiencing the marine landscape that has helped this city grow from its humble beginnings back in 1910. Plus, you’ll have wildlife experiences you’ll never forget. The shallows along the rocky coastline are peppered with interesting aquatic life—starfish, mussels, crabs, a massive array of fish—and the curious heads of seals frequently pop up, checking out the colourful boats passing by. Whales are not uncommon—orcas and humpbacks being the most regular visitors to the north coast. Travelling by kayak through nearby Venn Passage (also known as Metlakatla Pass) is mind-bogglingly beautiful.
There are endless opportunities for trips by kayak from Rupert, but be aware that the north coast is home to some of the biggest tides in the world so proper preparation is essential for any ocean excursion. To get you started, look into paddling around Kloiya Bay, Tuck Inlet, Port Edward, Digby Island, and Metlakatla.
Prince Rupert also has plenty of trails to get you out in the landscape, while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
Butze Rapids is the best-known, and well-loved trail. If you get the timing right, you’ll see the reversing rapids and maybe some paddlers playing in the waves. For a more leisurely stroll, McClymont Trail is another favourite. There are plenty of other trails around, too, ranging from short paths winding through the city, to strenuous unmaintained trails up the surrounding mountains. The recently developed Metlakatla Wilderness Trail is an amazing spot to stretch your legs. Starting from the village of Metlakatla, the trail traverses the coastline for about 10 km (7 miles). There’s a rustic campsite near the end and just a short walk from the trailhead, a series of suspension bridges and viewpoint towers. As with paddling, hiking here does require safety precautions—this is a rugged landscape and the Rupert weather is known for rapid changes. Make sure you have a good map, appropriate clothing, and safety equipment before you head out.
Sometimes a travel itinerary doesn’t permit an overnight visit, or even a full daytrip. Luckily, getting a good look at the Rupert landscape can be a short adventure, from an interesting perspective—above. Several local companies offer flightseeing tours that take in a view of the region’s small communities, epic coastline, and—with luck—some wildlife.