Vernon sits at the confluence of the Okanagan, Spallumcheen, and Coldstream valleys in south central BC.
The rainshadow effect of the Coast Mountains to the west makes the area relatively dry. The city lies in a fertile agricultural region surrounded by dry grassland hillsides and forested highland plateaus, and is bordered on the east by the Monashee Mountains. Three bodies of water – Okanagan Lake, Kalamalka Lake and Swan Lake – help to define the local character.
The two northern arms of Okanagan Lake, which stretches 111km/69mi from Vernon south to Penticton, touch the city on the west and have beaches, marinas, boat launches, picnic sites, camping areas, municipal parks and Ellison Provincial Park.
Kalamalka Lake lies just to the south with more beaches and water sports facilities (public and private). Kal Beach and Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park are the most popular sites. Kalamalka is known as a "marl lake," where crystals that form in the water as it warms in summer reflect sunlight and give the lake a luminous turquoise colour.
Smaller Swan Lake, 5km/3mi north of the city centre, offers RV and camping in two private parks.
Silver Star Mountain
Silver Star Mountain, located 22km/12mi by road northeast of downtown, is the highest nearby peak at 1,915m/6,280ft. On average, 700cm/23ft of dry champagne powder snow falls annually, which makes for superb skiing conditions at Silver Star Mountain Resort from late November through March or early April. The summer wildflower show peaks in August with easy access to the subalpine via chairlift.
With a slightly more moderate climate than other Okanagan communities, Vernon experiences four distinct seasons. It's not quite as arid as its most southerly neighbours, and has an average of 410mm/16in of precipitation annually. Summers are dry and very warm. July high temperatures average 26°C/79°F with some days well into the 30°C/90°F range. Winters see some snow and average daily highs around the freezing mark. Spring is marked by an abundance of showy wildflowers, while stands of aspen and cottonwood turn brilliant yellow in autumn.
But variations in altitude make the seasons elastic. It's perfectly feasible to play a morning round of golf in the valley and enjoy spring skiing that afternoon at Silver Star.
Dress in layers year round and especially when visiting the mountains in summer. Temperatures and weather conditions can vary quite dramatically.
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. Winter tires or chains are required on Silver Star Road from Tillicum Road to Silver Star Resort from October 1 to April 30. Driving through this area without proper equipment may result in a fine.