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Mountains & Vineyards Circle Route

View of vineyard near Summerland

(Picture BC photo)

Summerland

Geography

Summerland is located in the Okanagan Valley (a northern extremity of the Great Basin Desert), on the western shore of Okanagan Lake.

The town centre lies in a caldera, a basin-like depression created when an ancient volcano exploded. The stump of the volcanic cone remains in the form of Giant's Head Mountain, Summerland's major landmark.

Orchards and vineyards surround the town, filling the flat lands, the steep narrow gulches that run down to the lake and the broad valleys that radiate to the west. Pine and fir covered ridges rise to the rolling terrain of the Thompson Plateau with its myriad fishing lakes. Beyond that, the Cascade Mountains cause the rain shadow effect that produces the area's semi-arid climate.

Lava Bombs

Reminders of the cataclysmic volcanic explosion that created Giant's Head Mountain are regularly found in the area. Lava bombs, volcanic material that spewed into the air and cooled in round shapes, are known locally as cannonballs. See examples in the Summerland Museum.

Hoodoos

Glaciation was the other major geological event that shaped the Summerland landscape. Dramatic clay cliffs are the remnants of silt deposited in a massive lake that formed as glaciers melted. When the waters receded, the clay banks were exposed and began to erode, forming the fanciful hoodoos (rock spires) that visitors see today.

Okanagan Lake

Summerland is located on the western shore of Okanagan Lake, which stretches 111km/69mi from Vernon in the north to Penticton in the south. Municipal and provincial waterfront parks provide public access to sandy beaches, grassy picnic areas, boat launches and a marina. Camping is available at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park.

Climate & Weather

Summerland experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are long and hot with average daily highs in July of 27°C/80°F and many days well into the 30s°C/90s°F. Humidity is very low. Winters are short and mild with average January highs of 0.2°C/32°F and little snow. Spring is marked by an abundance of showy wildflowers, especially the yellow arrowleaf balsamroot that carpets the hillsides, while sagebrush perfumes the air from spring through autumn and blooms in late summer. Precipitation averages just 327mm/13in annually.

Practical Points

  • Dress in layers year round when visiting the mountains. Temperatures and weather conditions can vary dramatically.
  • Winter tires are strongly recommended when heading to the high country from early autumn through late spring. Road conditions at higher elevations can be treacherous even when excellent in the valley. Four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicles are best suited for rugged backcountry travel.