Silver Star Provincial Park in the Shuswap Highlands incorporates the rounded Silver Star Mountain, a typical landscape feature of the Okanagan and Shuswap Highlands. A combination of slope and snow conditions makes this an ideal area for winter recreation. Dependable snow depths and mild winter temperatures encourage a variety of activities throughout the winter, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Silver Star Provincial Park was established in May, 1940, with 8,935 hectares (22,080 acres) set aside to protect the area for recreational use by all British Columbians, and to preserve subalpine environment and community watersheds. The park has a dark history, as almost 40% of the park has since been deleted and added to a private ski resort’s Controlled Recreation Area. Land initially deleted from the park for ski resort recreational use was later rezoned for property development. As a result of the land deletions, the park has been split into two sections, cutting off public access to 580 hectares on the east side. BC Parks indicates the current size of the park as both 5,573 hectares and 6,029 hectares (2010).
The park is home to Silver Star Mountain Resort, the most northerly winter playground in the Okanagan Valley. Downhill skiers and snowboarders will find a year-round resort here, with hotels, restaurants, a saloon, lounges, and a grocery store all clustered at the base of the resort’s chairlifts. There is no need for a vehicle once you arrive here, as everything is within easy walking or skiing distance. Skiers and snowboarders here have 2,500 feet (760 m) of vertical drop in which to defy gravity.
World-class Nordic ski facilities can be found at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. The centre has a day lodge, ski school, Nordic ski rentals, and 50 kilometres of groomed trails. Developed snowshoe trails exist within the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, and the remainder of the park is also open to the public wishing to snowshoe on their own. The park has approximately 50 kilometres of maintained snowmobile trails.
There are two day-use only cabins in Silver Star Park and both are based on winter recreation. The Black Prince cabin is located within the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre and has a wood stove and 4 picnic tables. The second is the Snowmobile Chalet located on Ganzeveld Trail, which is maintained as a warming hut by the Vernon Snowmobile Club and includes wood stoves, tables and untreated water.
With its elevation change from the valley floor, the park offers a refreshing break from the summer heat that is typical of the Okanagan Valley, providing a great place to visit in summer for hiking and nature rambling. Silver Star Mountain operates a chairlift in summer for visitors to ascend to hike on wide, moderate grade trails, with easy access into sub-alpine meadows awash with wildflowers. Hikers enjoy fabulous views of the Monashee Mountain Range in the north and east, the Shuswap Highlands in the north and west, and the Okanagan Plateau in the south. Horseback riding is permitted on the designated ski and snowmobile trails in the park.
Silver Star Provincial Park is great for mountain biking along either the Nordic ski or snowmobile trails. The trails are wide with generally hard packed gravel surfaces, although there are some wetter sections to some trails. Grades vary from easy to difficult. Some single track trails do exist within the park, but the majority of this type of trail is located at Silver Star Mountain Resort. A trip to the area is not complete without a spin down Spanky’s, possibly the most popular ride around Vernon. The trailhead is right across from the Sovereign Lake cross-country ski area. Spanky’s features a 2,625-foot (800-metre) vertical descent, spread over 8 miles (13 km) of trail.
Although a large community has developed within the park, Silver Star is still home to many species of wildlife, including Black Bear, Moose, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Cougar and Lynx, and populations of grouse, crossbills, owls and raptors.
The park only has pit toilets, but flush toilets are available at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre day lodge.
Silver Star Provincial Park is located in the Shuswap Highlands of BC, north of Vernon on Highway 97. For access to the park, turn east off Highway 97 onto 48th Avenue, which becomes well-marked Silver Star Road. The park is 14 miles (22 km) up Silver Star Road.
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