Note: This story was originally published in 2021.
Quirky wineries, historic railway trails, and fertile orchards are all part of the sweeping landscape along Highway 3 east of Hope. Also known as the Crowsnest Highway, this scenic route runs through the Similkameen Valley in the Thompson Okanagan and continues into the Kootenay Rockies.
If you’re coming from Vancouver or the Lower Mainland, your trip begins by following the Trans Canada Highway 1 east through Burnaby, Surrey, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack, before arriving in Hope. There is also the option to follow the BC Scenic 7 along Highway 7 east from Coquitlam.
Fuel up with a big breakfast at Blue Moose Coffee House in Hope, then head into E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Covering over 83,000 hectares (205,000 acres) of thick forest, wildflower-carpeted alpine meadows, lakes, and the Cascade Mountains, this park is a recreational hub for all seasons.
Manning Park Resort has a multitude of trails for hiking and interpretive excursions, including Wildflower Walks with a naturalist; the lakes offer fishing and non-motorized boating. Spend a day exploring, then unwind with a meal at the resort’s Pinewoods Dining Room before renting one of the resort’s beginner Celestron FirstScope Telescope to do a little stargazing before bedding down in the lodge, cabins, or campsites.
Stop in Princeton for some outdoor recreation, and a history lesson. Long before the arrival of gold miners, loggers, and fur traders, the area around Princeton is home to the Smelqmix (Similkameen) First Nation. Pick up a gold-panning map from the Visitor Information Centre and try your luck in along the sandy shore of Two Rivers Park.
Reward yourself with a flaky butter tart or a hearty bowl of homemade soup at Thomasina’s, a bijou bakery and cafe housed in Princeton’s 1920s silent movie theatre, before heading to Hedley and the Hedley Museum. Or spend a summer afternoon floating down the Similkameen River—you can pick up a rubber tube from Hedley Country Market.
This is also the perfect area for a picnic. Join the line-up at Doug’s Homestead to buy smoked meats, jerky, and pepperoni, and load up on piles of fresh fruit in Keremeos, where fruit stands line the highway selling cherries, apples, and apricots in season. Look out for the red-roofed Parsons Farm Market, selling delicious tree fruits, squash, and heirloom veggies from the family farm since 1908.
Pitch a tent or park your RV at The Grist Mill & Gardens near Keremeos to explore the 1870s working flour mill, and don’t miss the tea room for buttery scones and jam with a view of the Victorian-era gardens.
Designate a driver and stop at some wineries along the way. Orofino Winery in Cawston is Canada’s first “strawbale” winery. Need a place to stay for the night? Check out Orofino’s suites, built on top of the barrel room. Continue your wine tour at Seven Stones Winery, where winemaker George Hanson pipes classical music into the wine cave as vintages age in the barrel. Enjoy a Chardonnay-based chicken soup at Crowsnest Vineyards, then drive to the top of Mount Kobau for a hike.
Continue the cheers with a wine-tasting tour in Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country.
As you drive from Osoyoos towards Christina Lake, plan on stopping at Market Place Ice Cream in Grand Forks! Their selection of sweets and hand rolled ice cream make it an ideal place to take a break.
Note: The area around Osoyoos gets very busy in the summer. If you plan to spend the night nearby, check accommodation availability in advance.
Grab your sunscreen and beach towel and head to Christina Lake, which claims to be Canada’s warmest with hot springs deep in the lake. Relax in the sand and soak up stunning mountain views, and rent paddleboards, kayaks, and more at the Christina Lake Marina.
Outdoor opportunities don’t end at the lake—Christina Lake is home to Kettle Valley Railbed, one of the most popular sections of the Trans Canada Trail. Hike or bike along the gentle grade that passes over wooden trestles and through tunnels dug through rock. One of these tunnels is over 1 km long. Didn’t bring your bike? Wild Ways has a variety of rentals. Just outside of town, Owl Mountain Ranch offers guided horseback trail rides, and sites to pitch your tent and sleep under the stars.
This small mountain town in the heart of the Kootenays offers a mix of arts, culture, and outdoor adventure. Castlegar is known as the “sculpture capital of Canada” thanks to its outdoor installations. Every year, from May to October, local and international artists compete in Sculpturewalk, and many of the pieces are leased or purchased by the town to be displayed year round. Castlegar is also home to the Kootenay Gallery of Art, a public gallery showcasing a wide variety of mediums.
Learn about the Doukhobors, a group of Russian pacifists who migrated to the Kootenays in the early 1900s, at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre. Take a guided tour of the grounds with its indoor and outdoor displays, interactive educational exhibits, and historical artifacts. Downtown Castlegar is home to the CPR Station Museum, housed in a 100+ year-old station. On Saturday mornings in the summer, the museum hosts the Castlegar Crafter and Farmers Market.
No trip to Castlegar is complete without taking advantage of its pristine natural surroundings. Hiking, biking, golfing, and paddling are some of the many outdoor activities you can enjoy in the fresh mountain air.
The Windborne Bed & Breakfast is the home of Inspiring Minds Fine Art Gallery, a place to treat your soul and inspire your mind. The bed & breakfast was built in 2008 on a beautiful riverfront property; here, overnight accommodation includes elegant rooms and a full breakfast feast.
History buffs love Cranbrook, a town that came to be in large part because of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Cranbrook History Centre documents the importance of rail travel with the largest collection of train cars in North America. Before the railway, there was the gold rush. Fort Steele Heritage Town is a living museum that lets you experience life in the late 1800s with old-time trade demonstrations, steam-train rides, and Clydesdale horse-drawn wagon tours. Take in live theatre or wander amongst the town’s historic buildings and structures.
Like most Kootenay mountain towns, Cranbrook offers an abundance of outdoor activities. Biking and hiking trails abound, and hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams make this an ideal fishing spot. There are several golf courses in the area, including St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino. Home to a Les Furber-designed championship course, the resort offers a hotel, dining options, a casino, and the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre where guests can learn about the Indigenous Peoples of the Ktunaxa Nation through historic artifacts, contemporary art, archival photographs, and displays containing examples of traditional stone, bead, hide, wood, and cloth work.
Welcome to Fernie, a laid-back town surrounded by mountains and filled with adventure seekers. For a unique view of this beautiful area, take a guided rafting tour. Adrenaline junkies can tackle steep canyons with enormous rapids, and those who prefer a calmer ride can watch for wildlife on a gentle float trip. These same rivers are shared with fly fishers, who know the best spots to catch cutthroat trout. Hiking and biking trails range from the short and leisurely to all-day excursions. Want to walk or bike down the mountain without having to work your way to the top? Try the chairlift at Fernie Alpine Resort.
If outdoor adventure isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of options. Fernie began as a mining town and you can learn about its fascinating history at the Fernie Museum or by taking a guided walking tour. For those who prefer to learn on their own, a map for a self-guided tour is available. Or if you just want to relax, head to one of the many spa, yoga and wellness studios in town.
For an overnight, consider Island Lake, named “One of the most Unique and Authentic places to stay in Canada” by National Geographic Traveller Magazine. Experience the amazing lodges, hiking trails, spa, gourmet dining, lake, and Rocky Mountains setting, just a short drive from downtown Fernie.
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