Highway 97 is the longest continuously-numbered route in the Canadian province of British Columbia, running 2,081 km (1,283 mi) from the Canada/U.S. border at Osoyoos in the south to the British Columbia/Yukon border in the north at Watson Lake, Yukon. The route takes its number from U.S. Route 97, which it connects with at the international border. The highway was initially designated '97' in 1953.
The Okanagan Highway is a 269 km (167 mi) long section of Highway 97 between the international border and Monte Creek on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is named for the Okanagan region of British Columbia, through which it largely passes. It begins in the south at the international border crossing north of Oroville, and travels 4 km (2½ mi) north to its junction with the Crowsnest Highway at Osoyoos. A branch of highway designated as 3A starts here, sharing a common alignment with Highway 97 north of Osoyoos. The highway travels north for 47 km (29 mi), passing through the community of Oliver, before arriving at the locality of Kaleden, where Highway 3A diverges west.
13 km (8 mi) north of Kaleden, Highway 97 arrives at the city of Penticton. North of Penticton, Highway 97 follows the western shore of Okanagan Lake for 45 km (28 mi), through the communities of Summerland and Peachland, before reaching its junction with Highway 97C just south of Westbank. From there, Highway 97 passes through Westside, Westbank, Lakeview, and reserve lands belonging to the Westbank First Nation until, 15 km (9 mi) northeast of the 97C junction, Highway 97 begins to cross Okanagan Lake via the William R. Bennett Bridge. The highway enters the city of Kelowna upon landfall on the east shore of the lake. 6 km (4 mi) east into the city centre, the highway reaches its junction with Highway 33.
Four kilometres (2½ mi) north of the Highway 33 junction, Highway 97 leaves the urbanised area of Kelowna (the municipal boundary is actually a further 12 km, 7 mi, north). For the next 43 km (27 mi), the route travels well east of Okanagan Lake, passing through the community of Winfield, then alongside the west shore of Wood Lake to Oyama. Both of these communities lie within the municipality of Lake Country. Highway 97 then passes along the west shore of Kalamalka Lake before entering the city of Vernon and a junction with Highway 6. The highway then travels north for 10 km (6 mi) to a junction with Highway 97A at Swan Lake, at which point it veers northwest. 81 km (17 mi) further, Highway 97 merges onto the Trans-Canada Highway at Monte Creek, following Highway 1 for 105 km (65 mi) west to Cache Creek. As it travels westward, Highways 1 and 97 parallel the Thompson River, passing through the city of Kamloops, where there are junctions with Highways 5 and 5A.
The Cariboo Highway section of Highway 97, between Cache Creek and Prince George, is 441 km (274 mi) in length and is named for the Cariboo region, through which it travels. Much of its length as far as Quesnel follows approximately the route of the original Cariboo Wagon Road. The highway begins at Cache Creek, veering north for 11 km (7 mi) to its junction with Highway 99. North of Highway 99, Highway 97 travels 92 km (57 mi) through Clinton, where the British Columbia Railway begins to parallel Highway 97, as well as through the communities of Chasm and 70 Mile House before reaching a junction with Highway 24 at 93 Mile House.
Over the 100 km (62 mi) of road north of Highway 24, Highway 97 travels through 100 Mile House and 150 Mile House before reaching the city of Williams Lake and a junction with Highway 20. Over the next 120 km (75 mi) continuing generally northward, the highway passes through McLeese Lake and Marguerite. En route, Highway 97 follows the east bank of the Fraser River to the city of Quesnel, and a junction with Highway 26. Over the next 115 km (71 mi) north of Quesnel, after passing through the hamlets of Strathnaver, Hixon, Stoner and Red Rock, Highway 97 meets its junction with Highway 16 at Prince George. North of here, the Fraser River veers off east from the highway, and the British Columbia Railway veers northwestward from it.
The term Cariboo Highway originally applied to the reconstructed route from Hope through the Fraser Canyon to Cache Creek and Prince George. The new highway - gravel - opened in 1922, giving road access t canyon communities cut off since the destruction of parts of the Cariboo Road by construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. The Cariboo Highway designation for the Fraser Canyon portion of the route was supplanted with the completion and naming of the TransCanada Highway. Portions of the old highway survive as local streets, some carrying the name Old Cariboo Highway (as in Prince George).
This 405 km (252 mi) long stretch of Highway 97, named for former British Columbia Premier John Hart, begins at Prince George, travelling for 152 km (94 mi) north through the small hamlet of Summit Lake, as well as through Crooked River Provincial Park, Bear Lake and McLeod Lake, to its intersection with Highway 39. It then journeys northeast another 150 km (93 mi) through the Continental Divide at which point the time zone changes from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. After emerging from the Pine Pass, the highway intersects with Highway 29 at the town of Chetwynd. After a trek of another 97 km (60 mi) east, the Hart Highway terminates at Dawson Creek.