An attractive Sunshine Valley town on the Crow’s Nest Highway, Grand Forks is named for its location near the convergence of the Kettle and Granby Rivers. The town is overlooked by Observation Mountain to the north and the aptly named Rattlesnake Mountain to the east.
Kootenai Indians made their home in the Grand Forks Valley and Christina Lake area long before the settlement of European fur traders in 1865, as evidenced by pictographs and artifacts discovered.
The settlement was incorporated as the city of Grand Forks in 1897, during which era rapid growth was experienced when rich strikes of copper were discovered at Phoenix and Deadwood. The Granby Smelter, which opened in the year 1900, was the largest non-ferrous copper smelter in the British Empire. Grand Forks was born during an age of optimism, when all great things were considered possible!
Grand Forks was an important railway centre with 5 railways, including two continental lines. Discovery of gold and silver in the North Fork Valley contributed to the wealth of the area, and the Union Mine came into being. Mining prosperity reigned for twenty years, augmented by the developing agriculture and fruit-growing industry.
However, the decline of the copper market in 1919 forced the closure of the Phoenix Mines and the dismantling of the smelter, dealing a crippling below to the entire district. There was little growth in the area until new industries such as seed growing, logging and sawmill operations all combined to return prosperity to the community.
Grand Forks is the home of descendants of many of British Columbia’s Doukhobors, a pacifist group of political refugee emigrants from Russia that emigrated to Canada in 1899 and settled in the Grand Forks Valley in 1909. The pride and rich culture of the Doukhobors is prevalent in the valley, and Russian is still taught in schools.
Today, Grand Forks is one of the fastest growing towns in the Kootenays.
Doukhobor Cuisine: Grand Forks is famous for its Doukhobor cuisine. Look for vereniki, pyrahi tarts, galooptsi and borscht soup on the menus.
Interesting local attractions include the Mountain View Doukhobor Museum, the Grand Forks Art Gallery, and Doukhobor Homesteads.
In the ‘small-but-pleasant’ park category is Gladstone Provincial Park (formerly Texas Creek) on Christina Lake, which has informal campsites located in an open pine forest, providing pleasant shade from the summer sun. This waterfront park has many small pocket beaches, which provide splendid opportunities for solitude and privacy. Hiking trails lead north along the lakeshore.
Walking Tour: Slip into the past, on a self-guided, one-hour walking tour through historic Grand Forks, starting at the impressive Provincial Court House, completed in 1911. View heritage homes along residential streets, the Grand Forks Hotel (1909), the Yale Hotel, the old Post Office (now the City Hall), and other wonderful period buildings downtown.
Big Rock Candy Mountain offers family-friendly mineral prospecting outings at the site of an abandoned mine. Collect sparkling quartz crystal geodes, fine fluorite in green and purple, and beautiful barite.
Take a side trip to beautiful Christina Lake Provincial Park, located at the south end of Christina Lake, 21 km east of Grand Forks, and considered one of the warmest, clearest lakes in Canada, with an average summer water temperature of 73 Degrees Fahrenheit. The beach is long and sandy, and is backed by sweet-smelling cottonwoods and white-barked birches. Surrounded by the Christina and Rossland Ranges of the Monashees, the lake offers some of the best water-oriented recreation anywhere.
Spend an energetic day on the slopes! The Phoenix Mountain, located 19 miles (30 km) west of Grand Forks, is accessible not only to downhill and cross-country skiing, but also to winter activities such as snowmobiling and tobogganing, all a short drive away. Skiing & Winter Activities in the South Okanagan
Relax at one of the many beaches along the Granby and Kettle Rivers during the summer months, and enjoy great swimming, fishing and canoeing.
Discover the Boundary Museum, a vision and reflection of the history of Grand Forks. The museum portrays life in the Boundary Country since its beginning as an agricultural and mining boom town. Take a walk through yesterday in a re-creation of the Hunter Kendrick General Store, view the map collection dating back to 1896, including trading route and railroading maps, and explore the culture of the First Nations people indigenous to the region.
Take the Phoenix Forest and History Tour, a self-guided driving tour that follows the prospector’s footsteps and explores the area’s rich history and resources. The Phoenix Interpretive Forest, a 180 square kilometre area containing many significant historic sites, serves as an excellent example of Integrated Resource Management. Beginning at the junction of the Phoenix Road and Highway 3, approximately 20 km west of Grand Forks, the tour is 22 kilometres in length and can be completed in about 2 hours.
The surrounding mountains, lake and rivers provide the perfect setting for outdoor sports such as fishing, hiking and water sports. There are many mountain trails for hiking and biking enthusiasts. The short hike up Observation Mountain yields a panoramic view of Grand Forks, and the Granby River Trail in Granby Provincial Park is an easy three-hour round trip hike through old-growth forest, with tiny sandy beaches along the Granby River.
It’s hard to escape fish in this area of the West Kootenays. It seems that wherever there’s water – whether lake, creek, or river – there is fishing. At Christina Lake, for starters, fishing for kokanee, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, burbot, and whitefish is popular, and there are marinas and a public boat ramp in the vicinity. Anglers can also drop their lines in anywhere along the Granby or Kettle River.
Mountain Biking around Grand Forks is done in grand, sweeping style. There’s very little in the way of short, technical rides, and a great many epic, daylong adventures that will take you up some pretty big climbs, then down the same. Expect rides like the Vertical (S) Mile, which climbs 1,616 metres. For most of these rides you’ll want to start early and know exactly where you’re going. If you’re lucky you can hook up with a few locals for a mondo ride…if you can keep up. There’s an extended ride to Christina Lake from Grand Forks, known as the Spooner Creek Route. Fair warning though: If you do ride out, chances are you’re not going to want to ride back unless you’re a real goer. Best arrange for a pickup.
Golf: Golfers must travel 15 minutes east of Grand Forks to Christina Lake for a game of golf. Carved through majestic pine trees, Christina Lake Golf Club is a scenic 18-hole, 6,685-yard championship course designed by the renowned golf course architect Les Furber. Your golf experience includes captivating views of the Selkirk Mountains as you meander along paths near the pristine and scenic Kettle River. Facilities include a driving range, 2 mini-golf courses, and excellent dining and event facilities. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
The Rail Trail 200 Dog Sled Race is contested in mid January over approximately 200 miles of exciting and challenging trails running through some of BC’s most beautiful backcountry. The race starts and ends in Grand Forks, following the old Kettle Valley rail bed. The trail leaves the rail bed to continue through spectacular scenery along the valley bottom before climbing the slope to Big White Ski Resort for a mandatory layover. From there the trail returns through the Kettle Valley, across the adjacent slopes and rivers to Grand Forks.
East of Grand Forks is Christina Lake, one of the best family holiday destinations in Canada. Known as the Oasis of the Kootenays, the resort community of Christina Lake offers some of the best summer weather in BC.
West of Grand Forks is Greenwood, the Smallest City in Canada. Rich in historic charm, the story of Greenwood dates back to the discovery of rich lodes of copper-gold ore by prospectors in 1891.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through the Southern Okanagan, starting and ending your sun-drenched voyage in Osoyoos, the place where two lakes come together. Circle Tours in British Columbia.