Some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada, and possibly the world, can be found in southeastern British Columbia. Gaze from the highest viewpoint across an neverending succession of peaks and ridges; discover magnificent mountain scenery, spectacular landscapes, majestic waterfalls and azure-blue lakes.
Beautiful throughout the year, the area comes alive during the hot summer months. Vineyards and orchards flourish, roadsides are packed with fruit stands while city parks host musical entertainment, jugglers and open-air craft galleries. This too is an adventurer’s paradise: just about everyone will appreciate the hiking, camping, trail riding, and canoeing that is to be had here. Extremists can go hang-gliding, rafting, mountain climbing, ice-climbing …the list is as endless as the beauty that surrounds you.
The Okanagan Valley, stretching from Osoyoos at the US border north to Vernon, is laden with orchards, making it especially appealing in spring, when the fruit trees are in full bloom. The best time to pick up some of the valley’s bounty is mid-August through early September. However, the fruit starts ripening as early as the end of June. There are even free Tree Fruit Tours. Fruit aside, winemaking is the hot ticket in the Okanagan. British Columbians have long taken inordinate pride in their wines. Nearly three dozen wineries operate in the Okanagan Valley from Osoyoos to Vernon.
Penticton takes full advantage of its dual lakefronts. The south end of town touches the north shore of Skaha Lake and the north end of town sidles along the southern tip of Lake Okanagan. Summerland is a theme town; pick up the pamphlet ‘A Walking Tour of Summerland,’ available at the museum or Visitor Centre. Also of note is the Agricultural Research Station, the only active agricultural research centre in the Okanagan.
Its interpretive centre, research facilities, and ornamental gardens have become a draw for thousands of international visitors every year. There are many festivals in this region, too many to mention here. For a complete list, contact the Visitor Centre in the area you’re visiting. Don’t forget your golf clubs – the Okanagan boasts some of the finest golf courses in western Canada.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Armstrong cheese? Well this is where it comes from. Presiding over the Spallumcheen valley, where agriculture and ranching are the traditional economic ventures, Armstrong is named after a London banker who helped finance local development at the turn of the century. Interesting spots for visitors to check out are the Olde School House, one of B.C.’s original educational institutions, Canoga Carriages, where the art of horse-drawn carriages continues to thrive, and of course, the Armstrong Cheese Factory.
The history of Revelstoke is tied to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which you can delve into at the Revelstoke Railway Museum. Perched high in the Monashee Mountains, next to two national parks, Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park, this town is not to be missed by anyone who appreciates a view. Hiking in Glacier National Park is more extensive and at a higher elevation than in Revelstoke. Glaciers cover much of the challenging terrain in the park, which is dominated by 10 peaks ranging from 2,600 to 3,390 metres in height. Illecillewaet Glacier on the Great Glacier Trail has been a ‘must see’ destination for over a century.
A series of mountain ranges rise dramatically in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains between Revelstoke and Golden. Travellers between the two towns must negotiate Rogers Pass (elevation 4,534 feet/1382m), one of the great mountain crossings in the province and certainly the Trans-Canada Highway’s crowning glory. The lofty sensation of crossing Rogers Pass is one of the rewards of travelling here. Bracketed by Glacier National Park to the west and Yoho National Park to the east, Golden is right in the heart of some of the most pristine wilderness to be found in the Rockies. At the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia River, and with the Columbia Mountains standing guard overhead, Golden may be the perfect jump-off point for extreme outdoor adventure: hiking, river rafting, horseback riding, heliskiing, hang gliding, ice-climbing…its’ all here.
From Golden drive south on Highway 95 and spend the night at Radium Hot Springs or Fairmont Hot Springs. Radium Hot Springs makes an ideal soaking stop at the base of the Kootenay Mountain Range. The hot springs, open to the public year-round, are equipped with two pools: one heated, the other cooler for more athletic swimming. The internationally renowned Fairmont springs soothe visitors year-round with the curative powers of the 35 to 45 deg C waters.
Throughout British Columbia, diverse historic 19th century forts have been preserved as reminders of how the west was settled by Europeans. Fort Steele Heritage Town is undoubtedly the best example and is well worth a day’s visit when travelling through the area in summer months. Take a side trip to Kimberley, the highest city in Canada – elevation 1,113m. Nearby North Star Mountain attracts more skiers each year, and visitors will be charmed by the ‘Old Bavaria’ feel of the downtown shopping area. Plenty of cafes and boutiques for urbanities and hiking, camping and two golf courses for those who prefer the great outdoors. Kimberley’s International Accordion Championship is here in early July, so bring your lederhosen.
From Creston continue northwest along Highway 3A to Kootenay Bay and take the two-hour (round-trip) Balfour ferry across Kootenay Lake. It’s a pretty trip and happens to be the world’s longest free ferry ride. Take a side trip to Ainsworth Hot Springs, where you can explore caves of piping-hot waist-deep water, or swim in the slightly cooler pool. The restaurant here offers a stunning view of Kootenay Lake. Nestled in a valley on the shore of Kootenay Lake, Nelson sprang up with the silver and gold mining boom back in the late 1890s and has retained its Victorian character. For the best overall view of Nelson, stroll through Gyro Park to the vista point on the hillside. The park has picturesque gardens and a nice wading pool for children. An interesting pictorial exhibit of the region’s history can be seen at the Nelson Museum.s
Rossland, a 1892s gold-rush town, has experienced a second boom recently. This time the gold is not in Red Mountain, but on it. Red Mountain Ski Area is one of the more challenging ski areas in British Columbia. In the summer, the colourful turn-of-the-century main street of tiny Rossland bustles with hikers bound for alpine lakes, mountain bikers en route to explore the numerous trails, or visitors seeking scenery. Tour the fascinating Le Roi Gold Mine, Canada’s only hard-rock gold mine open to the public. It’s just another roadside attraction open May through September.
Approximate Distance: 2,000 Km
Approximate Duration: 7 to 14 days
Towns on or near this Route