Bella Coola Valley's Nuxalk people
10,000 Years of Cultural History

Geography of the Bella Coola Valley

Giant Cedar Trail Walker Island

Sublime Beauty

The Bella Coola Valley is approximately 400 kilometres north of Vancouver along the coast of British Columbia. Here the Coast Range Mountains, the dry Chilcotin Plateau, and the Pacific Fjords intersect, creating a bio-diverse and spectacular wilderness.  The town site of Bella Coola proper is situated at the head of a series of fjords and inlets winding their way 140kms in from the open Pacific.

The main geologic feature in the Bella Coola area is the Coast Mountains. Although the mountains are not particularly high by world standards, they do have significant relief, and in many cases climb 3,000 vertical metres straight up from sea level. In addition, they are very rugged, are covered in dense rain forests on the lower slopes and have the largest temperate-latitude ice fields in the world on top. These features kept the area largely inaccessible until the advent of helicopters.

The Bella Coola Valley cuts through the Coast Mountains, running west to east for 60 kilometres then turns southwards and splits into the Atnarko Valley and the Talchako Valley. Running the length of the valley is the Bella Coola River, an important local waterway for transport and a rich source of Salmon. The fertile sedimentary soils, temperate climate and reliable water combine to create a hospitable habitat for healthy wildlife populations.

Bordering the Bella Coola area to the east is the high Chilcotin Plateau, which influences the weather of the area creating a drier climate then in other parts along the West Coast of Canada. Temperature in the valley hover around the freezing point in the winter and 16 - 20 degrees Celsius (61-69 degrees Fahrenheit) between June and September.

There are a number of parks and conservancies that are easily accessible from Bella Coola. The largest is Tweedsmuir Provincial Park which includes the Rainbow Range, created from an enormous dome of eroded lava and fragmented rock exposing as astonishing array of reds, oranges and yellows, and the magnificent Hunlen Falls, dropping a sheer 260 metres in a single drop, it is one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. For information on hiking the sensational Rainbow Range, see our blog here.

Bella Coola is a 1 hour flight from Vancouver; a scenic 5 hour drive west of Williams Lake or can be reached by ferry along the BC Ferries' Discovery Coast Passage route. Visitors arriving by car enter the valley through Heckman Pass, also known as 'The Hill' by locals because of its steep elevation and tight switchbacks.  Click here for more information on traveling to Bella Coola.