For a true Okanagan adventure, explore the beautiful Canadian backcountry on offroad 4×4 vehicles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Miles and miles of old logging trails criss-cross the backwoods of the scenic North Thompson, Shuswap, and Okanagan Valley regions of British Columbia.
Tunkwa Provincial Park includes Tunkwa Lake and Leighton Lake, with numerous trails throughout the park suitable for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Offroad vehicle, motorbike and ATV access is limited to designated trails, as fish bearing streams, wetlands and grasslands need special protection and should not be crossed. There is a staging area bordering the North Leighton campground that is set aside for offroad use. Vehicle accessible camping is provided at three separate campgrounds; Tunkwa, Leighton and Leighton North. Snowmobiling is popular in the winter. Access to the park is by 15 miles (24 km) of gravel road from Savona, or 10 miles (16 km) from Logan Lake Road.
Buse Hill in Buse Lake Protected Area requires extreme caution when riding on an ATV due to the steep cliff edges, which are slippery and unstable, and drop off sharply. Viewpoints offer a panoramic of the Thompson Valley and the city of Kamloops in the distance. Access via Barnhartvale Road and Robbins Range Road.
Mt Scuitto and the terrain around Scuttio Lake and Campbell Lake provide a maze of trails and roads for exploring. There are many informal trails for snowmobiling in the winter. Access is via Barnhartvale Road, Robbins Range Road, and Campbell Range Road. Three rustic campgrounds are located at Roche Lake Provincial Park, at Roche Lake North, Roche Lake West, and Horseshoe Lake, and wilderness, backcountry camping is allowed beside the small lakes in the eastern part of the park.
Greenstone Mountain, Chuwhels Mountain, and the Logan Lake area southwest of Kamloops offers an extensive trail system, with multi-use trails criss-crossing the terrain and the many lakes in the area. Trail systems include the Inks Lake Trails, Bush Lake Trails, Greenstone Mountain Trails, and the Chuwhels Mountain Motorcycle Trails off Chuwhels Mountain Road (access from the Coquihalla Highway 5). Greenstone Mountain Provincial Park encompasses Kwilalkwila Lake and offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, lakes and the Thompson Valley from atop Greenstone Mountain. A forest service look-out at the top of Greenstone Mountain, but outside the park, is maintained by local snowmobile and ATV groups as an emergency shelter and viewing destination.
Other popular offroad destinations for dirt biking, 4x4ing and ATVing near Kamloops and the Thompson region of BC include Goose Lake and Batchelor Heights.
The abandoned Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) south of Kelowna is a long and popular multi-purpose recreation trail that extends throughout the southern Okanagan region of BC. Available to both motorized and non-motorized users, the old KVR railbed is followed through tunnels and over trestles, with marked spots of interest and many trails leading off the recreation corridor. The KVR provides great views of Okanagan Lake, with great access into the outdoors and many wilderness campsites available for camping. The KVR can be accessed from many locations as it follows a course through or close to Merritt, the Coquihalla Hwy, Tulameen, Princeton, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Naramata, Kelowna, the Kettle Valley highway, Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Midway, and Grand Forks in the Kootenays. More information on the Kettle Valley.
Blue Grouse Mountain offers great views of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake, and fabulous offroad trails, ranging from easy trails for beginners to more challenging trails for experienced riders. Access is via Bear Lake Main Road, off Westside Road on the west shore of Okanagan Lake.
Little White Mountain is accessible via the Little White FSR to the forest fire lookout at the summit of Little White Mtn. ATCs and capable offroad vehicles can continue on to picturesque Crawford Lake.
Gottfriedsen Mountain west of Kelowna provides views of the Monashee Mountains to the east and the Coast Range Mountains in the west. Access is via Hwy 97C to Sunset Main exit, north on Bear Creek Main to near Cameo Lake Recreation site. From Westbank, access is via Glenrosa Road, Last Mountain Road, and Bear Creek Main to Cameo Lake.
Other popular offroad destinations for dirt biking, 4x4ing and ATVing near Kelowna are Crystal Mountain and Bear Creek west of Westbank, and Noble Canyon and Vernon Hills in the Vernon area.
Stoyoma Mountain west of Merritt is accessed on the Petit Creek FSR off Highway 8 to spences Bridge. Four-wheel drive is required to reach Cabin Lake, a user-maintained Forest Recreation Site popular for camping, fishing, ATV and trail bike riding, and snowmobiling in winter. An old First Nations’ foot trail leads around Cabin Lake, which is occassionally used for small First Nations’ cultural gatherings. There is also rough 4×4 access to a wilderness campsites at Silver Lake and another on the northern shore of Lightning Lake. Cabin Lake, Silver Lake, and Lightning Lake can also be reached off Highway 8 on Spius Creek Forest Service Road. The Stoyoma area is criss-crossed with old logging roads.
Other popular offroad destinations for dirt biking, 4x4ing and ATVing in the Okanagan Similkameen region of BC include , the Garnet Valley, Helmer Lake near Merritt, Campbell Mountain in Penticton, and Whipsaw Trail near Tulameen.
Conkle Lake Provincial Park offers a secluded lake in the Okanagan Highland east of Osoyoos, set amid a forest of western larch and lodgepole pine intermingling with willow and black alder that cover the sharply rising surrounding hills. The large beach and cold, clear water of Conkle Lake will reward you with good swimming, and winter allows snowmobiling along the forest service roads that lead into the park. There are two access routes, both narrow and winding forest service roads only suitable for vehicles.
Other popular offroad destinations for dirt biking, 4x4ing and ATVing in the Southern Okanagan region of BC include the mine shafts above Hedley, the Ashnola River south of Keremeos, Twin Lakes and Rill Creek northeast of Keremeos.
While many outdoor recreational adventures in BC can be enjoyed on your own, or in private groups, many activities are best enjoyed under the care and guidance of experienced tour operators. Casual visitors to British Columbia are seldom able to venture into the backroads and experience the real wilderness. That’s where offroad tour operators play a valuable role, offering full or half day all-terrain excursions, backcountry wilderness trips, and scenic mountain tours designed for all skill levels.
Note that some of the areas listed require a key to unlock the access gate. Most of these gated areas restrict access to people who have paid a forestry tenure fee to the BC government to secure a key. Local tour operators will have access to these areas.
If you venture out on your own, be aware that many of the gravel roads are active logging roads, so exercise caution, especially during the week.
New Regulations for Off-roaders
British Columbia announced new regulations for offroad vehicles in 2011, including safety and environmental regulations, and requirements regarding licensing and registration.
Only a licence will be required for crossing highways at designated areas, rather than the operations permit previously required. The designated crossings will help connect trails across the province. Off-road vehicle users are also required to have a one-time registration permit.
The changes will apply to all-terrain vehicles, quads, off-highway motorcycles and utility vehicles, as well as snowmobiles. By fall 2012, all of BC’s new requirements should be in effect, including required helmet use, spark arrestors to avoid forest fires, and new mufflers to control noise.
Responsible off-road riders welcome the new regulations in BC, particularly the registration and display of plates, as it may help to identify off-road users who damage the environment. A portion of the registration and licensing fees will go back to the associations to build trails.
The new policy regulations were implemented by ICBC in consultation with the Quad Riders Association of B.C. and the Private Forest Landowners Association.