Tucked into a shadowy draw through which the waters of Hedley Creek rush to join the Similkameen River, is the charming little village of Hedley. The cliffs of Stemwinder Mountain loom in the west, and Nickel Plate Mountain rises to the east. The coloured and striped cliffs on both sides of the canyon inspired the Similkameen Indians to call the place Sna-za-ist, meaning the Striped Rock Place.
Famous for gold since the first discovery in 1897, and once a thriving mining boomtown during the 1900s, Hedley was one of the great names in Canadian mining, and was named after Robert R. Hedley, manager of the Hall Smelter in Nelson, who had grubstaked many of the original prospectors.
Prospectors noticed coloured striations in the cliffs and recognized them as ore-bearing. Claims staked here were to expose one of the richest fractions in the history of mining in British Columbia. The mines were located high on mountaintops overlooking the town of Hedley below, and an aerial tramway 3 kilometres long had to be built to remove the ore.
The great northern railroad pushed through to Hedley in 1909, and the Nickel Plate mine continued to spew out rich ore at the rate of more than 50,000 ounces per year. The Mascot Fraction joined the action in 1936, to increase the total area production to more than 1.5 million ounces of gold and more than 4 million pounds of copper, significantly enriching the shareholders.
The ore finally ran out in 1955, and today, the mines have closed and the miners have gone, the bonanza ore has been worked out and the steady pounding of the stamp mill is no longer heard. But…its still The Striped Rock Place.
There are places where the mood hasn’t changed much, and the Hedley of old seems just around the corner. Ruins of the mine site may still be seen far up the mountain. A steep and winding road leads up to Nickel Plate and Mascot Mines, but a four-wheel-drive vehicle and permission are required to visit them.
In 1956 and 1957 there were several disastrous fires, and most of the historic hotel buildings in Hedley burned down. The Stamp Mill buildings also succumbed to fire in the 1970s.
A paradise for fishermen, swimmers or hikers, Hedley’s semi-arid climate makes for a perfect place for time out in the sun, and a wonderful place to vacation.
Take a truly fascinating look into Hedley’s rich mining history at the Hedley Museum, where many artifacts of the mining days gone by are on display. Don’t forget to gaze through the museum’s telescope, pointed at the old mine bunk houses perched high above the town on the side of Sidewinder Mountain.
Numerous Historic Sites and buildings can be seen by car or foot, including a 1904 miner’s cottage, a Historic Log Barn, the Blacksmith Shop, and the Mascot Mine buildings. To see who lived and worked in these buildings, take a stroll through Hedley’s Historic Cemetery. Maps are available at the museum.
For a refreshing dip in the Similkameen River on a hot summer day, stop at Stemwinder Provincial Park, although only very good swimmers should brave the fast waters here. Watch out for poison ivy along the riverbank. Stemwinder is popular as a picnic spot for travellers along Highway 3, and offers vehicle/tent campsites.
Twenty kilometres east of Hedley is Bromley Rock Provincial Park, a popular swimming hole on the Similkameen River, with a large picnic/day-use area and vehicle/tent campsites in a pleasantly forested setting. Hiking in the area just outside the park affords good views of the Similkameen Valley. Canoeing is also popular here, providing a downstream route to Stemwinder Provincial Park.
Cathedral Provincial Park, a 33,000-hectare wilderness area, is located due south of Hedley, and contains 85 km of hiking trails that lead to spectacular views, numerous lakes, and fascinating rock formations. One of the highlights of Cathedral Park is the wildlife, which includes bighorn sheep, black bears, mule deer and mountain goats. The park offers three campgrounds in its core area: Quiniscoe Lane, Pyramid, and Lake of the Woods. Vehicles aren’t permitted in the core area of Cathedral, so campers should plan on a hike in to the campsites. This mountainous park presents a wealth of thrilling hiking opportunities for both the novice and the seasoned hiker. Most of the lakes and waterways support populations of rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Gold Panning: Those with an adventurous spirit can try their luck at gold panning, which is always popular in this area famed for its gold.
Apex Mountain Ski Resort near Apex Mountain Provincial Recreation Area is located 32 km southwest of nearby Penticton off Hwy 97. Justly renowned in western Canada as one of the three prime ski and snowboard destinations in the Okanagan Valley, it’s fast becoming a popular destination for summer hikers and mountain bikers. The provincial recreation area covers Mount Riorda and Beaconsfield Mountain. From the summits of these mountains, you will enjoy the vistas of Manning and Cathedral Provincial Parks, Peachland Hills, and the rolling Okanagan Highland. More than anything else, skiers and snowboarders will love the fluffy powder snow that accumulates here. Powder fills the gun barrels of twelve steep chutes that lead skiers down from the peak of Beaconsfield Mountain (elevation 7,187 feet/2178 m), reached by the high-speed quad Westbank chairlift. The mountain is also served by a triple chair and a T-bar. Total vertical rise from the base to the peak is 2,000 feet (605 m). The 50 trails at Apex are divided between 16 percent novice, 48 percent intermediate, 18 percent advanced, and 18 percent expert ability levels. Almost anything’s possible when you have ideal conditions, and light crowds to boot. Apex Alpine also offers 7.5 miles (12 km) of cross-country trails. The trailhead is located beside the resort’s RV park. Skiing is free on the cross-country trails. Skiing & Winter Activities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
Golf: Golfers must head west to the Princeton Golf Club, a gorgeous 18-hole, par 72, public golf course located about three minutes east of Princeton. The course presents a challenge for almost every level of player, with intimidating Ponderosa Pines lining the long, rolling fairways. The beautiful scenery that surrounds the course only adds to the truly unique experience of playing the Princeton Golf Course. Facilities include a driving range, putting and chipping green, and RV hook-up service outside the club house for travelling guests. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Southeast of Hedley on the Crowsnest highway is the colourful village of Keremeos, nestled peacefully in the shadow of K Mountain on the banks of the Similkameen River.
Northwest of Hedley is Princeton, beautifully situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where the Tulameen River and Similkameen River meet.
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.