Sip and Savour in BC's Okanagan: An Accessible Getaway
5-7 days / 340 km (211 mi)
A food and wine road trip for travellers with mobility challenges.
The Kootenay Rockies, in the southeastern corner of BC, is a region of lakes, glaciers, jagged peaks, and historic towns once home to a silver-mining boom. There are four national parks here, and the area is renowned for its natural hot springs. As you cruise past the mountain scenery, watch for the abundant wildlife that can often be spotted from the highway, including mountain goats, elk, deer, black bears, and grizzlies. This route is especially scenic in early fall when autumn colours dot the hillsides.
Trans Canada Highway (Hwy #1), east of Golden, will have overnight closures and up to 30-minute delays during the day. Please see the up-to-date schedule of closures and be prepared to take detours, which may add up to 2 hours to your journey.
Please note: The information below is based on research and conversations with businesses at the time of writing. For current information—and to ensure that your particular needs can be met—we strongly recommend that you contact each business directly.
Begin your journey along this circular route from any point, but if you’re flying in you’ll likely want to start in Cranbrook, served by the Canadian Rockies International Airport. From the airport, Enterprise Rent-A-Car may be able to provide a car with Adaptive Driving Devices if arrangements are made well in advance. Currently none of the local taxi companies provide lift- or ramp-equipped vehicles.
In Cranbrook, Elizabeth Lake Lodge offers accessible rooms and a par 70 mini golf course on site that’s fully accessible. Best Western Cranbrook, Super 8 by Wyndham, and Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort Cranbrook all have a limited number of wheelchair-accessible rooms, so we recommend booking well in advance.
Formerly a railway town, Cranbrook is chockablock with attractions steeped in history. In the region’s largest city, you can explore the Cranbrook History Centre‘s award-winning collection of railcars, the Cranbrook Museum, Paleontology Gallery, Royal Alexandra Hall, and the Model Railway exhibition. The Railcar Collection Exhibition is the only stop that is not wheelchair accessible.
Nearby, the six-hectare (15-acre) Elizabeth Lake in Confederation Park is a wildlife sanctuary that is home to painted turtles, migratory birds, and more. The picnic area and approximately 90 per cent of the trails (all covered in mulch) are wheelchair accessible. Note: Check with staff to see which trails are best for exploration.
For a destination resort experience, visit St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino, located between Cranbrook and Kimberley. It offers a day spa, casino, restaurants, and the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre, which often hosts special events. The lobby, casino, restaurant, and Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre are all wheelchair accessible (a few of the guestrooms are as well). Most activities, including Indigenous beading workshops, moccasin-making workshops, and Ktunaxa Interpretive Tours, take place indoors. Legends Nights, however, are set around a fire at Haqaⱡpaⱡniʔnam, (the Speaking Earth tipi camp at St. Eugene), accessible by gravel trail.
In Kimberley, there are two accessible rooms at Trickle Creek Lodge.
Head north to Kimberley. If you’re travelling with kids, consider a detour northeast on Hwy 95 to Fort Steele Heritage Town, where actors playing shopkeepers, townsfolk, and politicians bring to life a reconstructed 1890s boomtown year round.
Heading north on Highway 95A, stop for a photo at Marysville Falls en route to the alpine city of Kimberley (note: a small section of the trail leading to the bridge is gravel, so access is weather dependant). Check out the wheelchair-accessible North Star Rails to Trails, a paved 28-km (17-mi) all-purpose trail between Cranbrook and Kimberley. The gentle grade makes it perfect for wheelchair travel.
In winter, Kimberley Alpine Resort has runs and terrain suitable for all alpine disciplines, and the on-mountain Kimberley Athlete Training Centre offers athlete training and sporting events for people with disabilities.
Prefer something a little less taxing? Tour the city’s nearly 100-year-old Cominco Gardens, visit the Kimberley Heritage Museum, check out boutiques and restaurants, and be sure to drop a coin into Canada’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock to watch “Happy Hans” emerge and yodel.
Accessible accommodation is available at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
Journey north on Highway 93/95 towards Fairmont Hot Springs. This route along the Columbia River Valley is famous for its towering mountain peaks and rich wetland ecosystem. Tip: Travel in fall when the foliage is spectacular.
The Fairmont Hot Springs—with its year-round, mineral-rich hot springs pools—have drawn travellers for more than a century. This full-service, four-season resort, with views of the Columbia and Rocky mountains offers guest rooms, camping, RV hookups, restaurants, and spa services together with a wide range of outdoor adventure possibilities year round.
Continue north to Invermere at the top of Windermere Lake, where you can hit the beach or browse in the Pynelogs Cultural Centre, a visual arts gallery that is home to theatrical productions, concerts, and workshops throughout the year. Nearby, Panorama Mountain Resort is a four-season destination that offers stellar skiing, hiking, biking, a spa, and a big mountain-view pool. BC Adaptive Snowsports operates out of the resort.
In Kootenay National Park, just north of Invermere, Radium Hot Springs boasts two outdoor mineral pools, tucked against the sheer walls of Sinclair Canyon. Watch for bighorn sheep as you soak, and finish with a massage at the on-site day spa. The hot pool is open year round.
Head to nearby Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and whet your appetite at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Canada’s most elevated dining experience. The Eagle’s Eye is wheelchair accessible, including the route to the gondola, to the restaurant, and inside at the tables; there is a family/WC-accessible washroom in the restaurant as well. Note: The restaurant is accessible in summer only, when paths are clear.
From Golden, take Highway 1 west to Rogers Pass, a National Historic Site in Glacier National Park. Stop at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre to learn more about the area’s railway and mountaineering history, and hike to the ruins of Glacier House, the first mountain resort in Canada.
Just west of Rogers Pass, stop at Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail for a short 400-m (1,312-ft), barrier-free rainforest trail experience—a legacy of Rick Hansen’s 1987 Man in Motion World Tour visit.
Continue west to Revelstoke, where a wander through the alpine city reveals some 60 restored period buildings and the fascinating Revelstoke Railway Museum (the first floor is accessible). Open in summer, the BC Interior Forestry Museum and Forest Discovery Centre features a replica of a vintage forest fire lookout cabin, complete with a panoramic view of the Revelstoke Dam and the Columbia River Valley. Nearby, take in the alpine meadows in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
From Revelstoke, follow Highway 23 south along Upper Arrow Lake to Shelter Bay, where a free ferry takes you across the lake to Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, a full-service, four-pool resort with abundant lake and mountain views, a spa, a restaurant, and a range of cabins, chalets, and cottages. The hot pools are open year round with wheelchair lift; the resort rooms, however, are not accessible.
About 60 km (37 mi) down the road, the lakeside village of Nakusp features a waterfront promenade, complete with a sandy beach and a Japanese garden. A short drive away, the picturesque Nakusp Hot Springs, operated by the village of Nakusp, is a low-key facility with two year-round pools; camping and chalets are nearby. North of Nakusp, there are accessible hiking and biking trails at Mt. Abriel, where people with restricted mobility can challenge themselves along adaptive mountain-bike trails.
Just under an hour away further south on Highway 6, New Denver and Silverton are set along the eastern shore of Slocan Lake. Both villages feature museums, artisan studios, and plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking and biking along the Galena Trail, a level route which follows an old rail line. In New Denver, visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, a National Historic Site and museum that pays tribute to Japanese Canadians interned in the area during World War II.
Enjoy proximity to major relaxation and spend a night in the accessible suite at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort.
Follow Highway 31A to the tiny Edwardian village of Kaslo, on the shores of Kootenay Lake. Here, the Kaslo River Trail System, built by the Kaslo Trailblazers, features a covered pedestrian bridge with spectacular views of the Kaslo River. The 1.2-km (.7-mi) section on the north side of the river is wheelchair friendly. Another must-see? The S.S. Moyie, a National Historic Site that features the lovingly restored vessel—originally launched in 1898—that ranks as the oldest intact passenger sternwheeler in the world. (Note that only the freight deck is wheelchair accessible.)
Continue south to Ainsworth Hot Springs and sink into soothing mineral waters. This unique hot springs has a horseshoe-shaped cave full of stalagmites and stalactites. Explore the cave or relax in the main pool overlooking Kootenay Lake. Although the pool level can be accessed by outdoor ramp or elevator, there is no lift access into the pool (there are steps). The resort has accessible guestrooms.
Make time to explore the lakeside city of Nelson, known for its heritage buildings and thriving arts scene. From Balfour (just south of Ainsworth Hot Springs), ride the free Kootenay Lake ferry across to Crawford Bay, a lively artists’ community.
For a nature-filled day trip, follow Highway 3A along the east shore of the lake to Creston and visit the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, a refuge for more than 250 bird and waterfowl species (the Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre and the trails and boardwalks are accessible).
From Cranbrook, you can return your rental car and fly home, or keep exploring BC.
Header image: Revelstoke | Nolan Gale
Last updated: August, 2022
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