What to do in Fort St. John

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BC’s “Energetic City” lives up to its name with endless opportunities for recreation, a thriving arts and culture scene, fantastic amenities, and an ideal location for exploring the surrounding and spectacular Peace River region. 

Here’s how to experience all that Fort St. John has to offer.

With an average of 304 days of sunshine a year (rivalling that of Kelowna) and four distinct seasons, it’s easy to take advantage of the great outdoors here. From camping and biking in summer to speed skating and snowmobiling in winter, there’s plenty to do and see in this bustling northern outpost. 

The Peace Valley along Highway 29 near Fort St. John. Photo: Northern BC Tourism/Montana Christianson

Outdoor Activities in Fort St. John

In summer, stretch your legs on any number of trails. The Community Trail System, located in town, offers 15 kilometres of paved paths that meander throughout the city while just outside the city there are boundless places to hike, stroll, and wander. The Cactus Loop Trails are a popular spot with dog walkers and fitness enthusiasts, offering over eight-kilometres of single-track trails that range from an easy 1.8-kilometre path to a more challenging ascent that takes you to a viewpoint. Prefer to explore by two wheels? Cactus Loop also plays host to a network of mountain bike routes, while nearby, the Fish Creek Community Forest lures beginners with its easy and accessible trails. 

Further afield, the 300-kilometres of well-maintained Stewart Lake trails pull double duty as ATV routes in summer and snowmobile terrain in winter. Fishing is a big draw in Fort St. John and the area’s many lakes and rivers offer plenty of places where you can angle for trout, Northern pike and walleye. Gently paddle down the famed Peace River itself or book a guided jet boat tour and explore the area’s waterways at the hands of a knowledgeable guide. 

Photo: Northern BC Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Keep watch for wildlife—the Peace Valley’s rolling hills make great vantage points for wildlife viewing.

In town, city parks provide room to roam, just a stone’s throw from shops, restaurants, cafes and events. There are also plenty of provincial parks in the area. Picturesque Beatton Provincial Park and the always-popular Charlie Lake Provincial Park are both a short drive from the city and perfect places for enjoying all that nature has to offer — whether that’s by foot, kayak, boat or bike. A must-visit is the Peace River Valley Lookout, between Fort St. John and Hudson’s Hope, for sunset where you catch the last of the Northern summer sun disappearing behind the horizon.

Want to hit the greens? Fort St. John Links Golf Course, located at the north end of town offers a moderately challenging 9-holes with tree-lined fairways that back onto the Fish Creek Community Forest. Lakepoint Golf & Country Club in Charlie Lake, just 15km from Fort St. John offers beautiful lake views while playing 9- or 18-holes. You won’t want to miss Lone Wolf Golf Club, located in Taylor where you’ll get a taste of what the Peace River valley has to offer. 

Be sure to check out the massive sports and recreation complex, Pomeroy Sports Centre, known for its indoor running track and world-class ice rinks.

Winter in Fort St. John

In Fort St. John, winter is as much a time to be outside as summer.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders can find some of BC’s best powder stashes at the aptly-named Powder King Mountain Resort located in the heart of the Canadian Northern Rockies on Pine Pass. Nearby in Taylor is Big Bam, a volunteer-run hill community ski hill that uses snowcats instead of lifts or tows to get people to the top of its 12-acre terrain.

Not a fan of vertical? Rent cross-country skis or snowshoes and take to the 12-kilometres of groomed trails in Beatton Provincial Park, managed by the Whiskey Jack Nordic Club, which maintains well-tracked beginner-level trails.

Outdoor skating rinks frequently pop up in different locations around the city in winter, offering residents a chance to lace up skates and enjoy the outdoors. Don’t feel like skating outside? There’s an Olympic-size indoor speed skating track, curling rink and three hockey rinks where you can rent skates and drop-in for an afternoon of fun. Into snowmobiling? You’re spoiled for choice, with over 600-kilometres of trails near the city. Most of the sledding around Fort St. John takes place in the lower elevations of the Peace River Valley’s plateau, making it a safe and accessible place for those new to the sport.

Fort St. John’s High on Ice Winter Festival puts the best of winter on display, with ice carving competitions, bob-sled races, giant ice-slides for kids, and more.

Arts and Culture in Fort St. John

Fort St. John locals know the fun doesn’t stop outdoors. The city is a hub of creative energy, best evidenced in the North Peace Cultural Centre, a 413-seat theater where live music and entertainment fills its hall year-round. Also in the same complex is the North Peace Art Gallery, which features a rotating exhibit of local and international artists. At the North Peace Museum, relics of years past tell the story of this rugged region, but the heart of the city is (and always has been) its people. The energy and can-do attitude of Fort St. John comes from a long legacy of locals and you can learn about these characters on the Pioneer Pathway Walking Tour, which starts on the south end of 100 Street and winds through the downtown core.

Where to Eat in Fort St. John

With this much access to outdoor adventure, you’ll need to refuel somehow. Luckily, there’s no shortage of restaurants and watering holes where a good meal can be found. Whole Wheat & Honey is a favourite for homestyle breakfasts and healthy lunches to-go. Need a jolt of caffeine to get you started? Swing by Cool Beans or Cultured Cafe. Brown’s Social House can satiate any number of cravings with their diverse menu of tacos, burgers, ramen, salads and more. Grab sushi from Sushi Heaven, pizza from Soul Sweet Cafe & 250 Pizza, Vietnamese classics from Pho A Pho Saigon or the Chopped Leaf for healthy salads and vegan and vegetarian-friendly dishes. Beer lovers will want to check out the Mighty Peace Brewing Co, which serves a lineup of easy drinking beers along with seasonal brews and sours, as well as the popular Beards Brewing, the first brewery to open its doors in Fort St. John.

Where to Stay in Fort St. John

For those looking to spend a night or two under the stars, Fort St. John has plenty of nearby provincial parks all offering spectacular sites, great scenery and excellent amenities. RV’ers will find serviced lots at Charlie Lake RV & Leisure, on the Alaska Highway, at Corner RV Park and south of the city in Taylor at Fairway RV Park. The Grande Haven, the city’s only bed n’ breakfast offers a taste of home away from home, while there are plenty of beds to be found in the city’s many hotels and motels, most of which are located within easy distance of the downtown core.

How To Get to Fort St. John

Fort St. John is easily accessible, with direct flights connecting from Vancouver and Calgary daily. Vehicle rentals are available from local airports; make sure to reserve in advance.

By road, there are multiple points of entry to Northeast BC. From Vancouver and the Okanagan, expect a two-day drive via Highway 1 and 97. Coming from Edmonton and Grande Prairie? Highway 43 is an easy one-day straight shot; from Calgary, Highways 2 and 22 will connect you to the main artery heading west in a longer but scenic route.

Highway 16 in Northern BC will connect you to Prince George, then onto Highway 97 north.