The Okanagan Valley is almost dry enough to warrant being called a desert. After even one visit to this spectacularly diverse area, you’ll understand why superlatives are constantly used to describe it. Beloved by thousands of visitors and inhabitants alike for the unparalleled variety of its climate and landscape, the Okanagan has something for everyone: hoodoos, orchards, vineyards, mountains, valleys, lakes, highlands, ski slopes, and trails. This is truly one of the most desirable locales in British Columbia for year-round outdoor fun.
In the South Okanagan, near the Canada/United States border, you’ll find spectacular backcountry, with the remains of old mining settlements dotting the highway. After you pass through the arid Osoyoos and Oliver regions and head north up the Okanagan Valley, you will encounter orchards and vineyards, evidence of some of the best fruit- and vegetable-growing land in the world.
Visitors are inundated with a wide range of attractions to see and adventures to embark upon. Tour the Gold Canyon Highlands at nearby Rock Creek, conquer the Similkameen River in a canoe, hike the wilderness Okanagan Mountain Park near Naramata, or ski the slopes at Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton.
Location: The communities of the South Okanagan are located in the southern interior of British Columbia, on or near Highway 97, which runs from Osoyoos through Vernon to Kamloops, and on into the Cariboo. The South Okanagan region can also be accessed on the Crowsnest Highway 3, from Similkameen Country in the west and Boundary Country in the east.
Drenched in sunshine on the shore of Okanagan Lake, Summerland was incorporated as a municipality in 1906, thanks to the vision of John Moore Robinson, who enticed future orchardists to the area proclaiming summer weather forever. Summerland remains a serious fruit-growing region today.
Nestled on the east shore of Lake Okanagan, Naramata means the Smile of the Manitou, named after Naramattah, the wife of the great Sioux Indian Chief Big Moose. In the early days, Naramata could only be reached by paddlewheeler, until a horse and carriage road was driven through in 1910, connecting the community to the village of Penticton, 14 kilometres to the south. In 1915, Naramata became a stop on the new Kettle Valley Railway, bringing prosperity to the previously remote community.
Cradled within tree trimmed mountain slopes, dramatic clay cliffs and bordered by the Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, Penticton is one of the larger cities in the BC interior, and a popular destination for visitors of all kinds. There’s literally something here for everyone, from water skiing to quaint boutiques, golfing to exploring local hiking trails.
Located on the southern end of Skaha Lake, and known locally as OK Falls, the little community of Okanagan Falls was originally known as Dogtown, from the Okanagan Indian word Skaha, meaning dog, after which the nearby Skaha Lake was named. Okanagan Falls is a charming little town best visited for its tasty pleasures: it’s home to the largest ice-cream cone seller in the valley, a world-famous fruit-snack producer, and two prestigious Wineries. Samples of these treats await you!
The town of Oliver is surrounded by desert to the south, and lakes, mountains, vineyards and orchards in almost every other direction. The First Nations of the South Okanagan settled the area around Osoyoos and raised cattle and wild horses. The first encroachment from the outside world came in approximately 1811, when fur traders came searching for better trade routes. In the 1880s, free gold-bearing quartz was found east of the present day Oliver, and Camp McKinney became a busy gold mine, attracting the usual restless characters: miners, con men, and outlaws.
Enjoying Canada’s driest climate, Osoyoos bills itself as Desert Wine Country. Osoyoos is the only desert in Canada, with the lowest rainfall, the highest temperatures, and the warmest lakes. Osoyoos is located in the middle of the Southern Okanagan wine country, whose fine wines match any wines from anywhere, from France to California.
The Okanagan Valley is a year-round adventure playground known for its abundance of vineyards and orchards, sparkling lakes, warm sunshine, and spectacular scenery. With a moderate climate producing warm spring weather, hot and sunny summers, mild autumns and temperate winters, the Okanagan boasts a limitless variety of year-round recreational activities.
The North Okanagan region is situated between the Okanagan Valley and the Shuswap, in the interior of British Columbia, stretching from Vernon in the south to Grindrod in the north. The North Okanagan boasts a limitless variety of year-round recreational activities. Vacation time is family fun time in the North Okanagan.
Boundary Country in the southern interior of British Columbia incorporates the heritage valleys of the Kettle River, the West Kettle River, Boundary Creek, Granby River, Christina Lake and all of the many tributaries that drain the Monashee Mountains into the Columbia River Basin. The main communities in Boundary Country include West Boundary, Rock Creek, Midway, Kettle Valley, Greenwood, Grand Forks, and Christina Lake.
A dominant feature of the Okanagan Valley is, Okanagan Lake, a boating and sailing paradise with many picturesque sheltered coves and bays, and good marina facilities. Surrounded by semiarid hills and plateaus, summer water temperatures reach 24 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit). Okanagan Lake is approximately 100 miles (160 km) long, with more than 220 miles (350 kilometres) of shoreline to explore.
A major attraction in the South Okanagan is Apex Mountain Ski Resort, located 32 km southwest of 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). There are 50 trails at Apex, and total vertical rise from the base to the peak is 2,000 feet (605 m). 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.
More information on Recreation and Outdoor Activities in the Okanagan Valley.
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.