Drive or fly into Kelowna, the largest city in the Okanagan Valley. The Kelowna international Airport is served by nine airlines and offers regular daily flights. Rent a car from one of the four on-site car rental agencies.
From Kelowna, journey north along Route 97 to Vernon. Vernon’s proximity to both Canada’s largest salmon run in the Shuswap and the Okanagan harvest makes fall one of the best times to explore this North Okanagan community.
Vernon in the fall means taking in autumn colours along its many lakes and trails. Stroll through brilliant golden foliage along the north shore of Okanagan Lake at Kin Beach and go for lakeside nature walks in Kalamalka Lake and Ellison Provincial Parks. Enjoy an easy walk or bike ride along the Okanagan Rail Trail, which connects Vernon to Kelowna.
Embrace the harvest season at the annual Apple Harvest Festival in September at Davison Orchards, or check out October’s month-long Vernon Fall Festival, which brings fall-flavoured fun from wild mushroom foraging and winemakers’ dinners to family-friendly farm events and even pumpkin boat races. Don’t miss Planet Bee Honey Farm & Honeymoon Meadery to learn about bees and to sample honey and mead by donation.
Departing Vernon north along Route 97, you leave behind the sagebrush and vineyards of arid Okanagan Valley and transition into the lush farmlands and forests of the Shuswap. This drive takes you through Armstrong and Enderby—charming small communities full of local character and autumn colours. Continue along 97A to the lakeside town of Sicamous and connect with the TransCanada, Highway 1. Heading east toward Revelstoke, make the short stop at Craigellachie where you can see the Last Spike, signifying the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. Continue 45 km (28 mi) east before arriving in the mountain town community of Revelstoke.
A visit to Revelstoke is not complete without a tour of the Revelstoke Railway Museum, a tribute to the workers that built the nation’s transcontinental railway through the difficult mountain passes. Explore the unique shops, restaurants, and breweries in Revelstoke’s historic downtown core.
East of town, Highway 1 passes through Mount Revelstoke National Park, famous for its inland rainforest. Stretch your legs on a short nature walk along the Giant Cedars Boardwalk or the Inspiration Woods trail. Continuing east through Glacier National Park, marvel at one of BC’s great mountain crossings: Rogers Pass. Adjust your clock ahead one hour; you’ve crossed from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. You are also now officially in the Canadian Rockies.
The mountain town of Golden sits alongside North America’s largest wetland, the Columbia River. The river is popular for paddling and for fishing, and for incredible bird watching. 15,000 migrating waterfowl (up to 250 species) pass through here in the autumn months. Summer season lingers until late September at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort where you can tour a grizzly bear refuge or enjoy lunch at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Canada’s highest-elevation dining experience at 2,347 m (7,700 ft). Travelling south of Golden along Highway 95, visit a working farm at the Columbia Wetlands Outpost to see how organic hops, apples, and honeybees are cared for in an area of international importance for wildlife. Continue south following the Columbia River through the Rocky Mountain Trench for 78 km (48 mi) before arriving in Radium Hot Springs.
Highway #1, east of Golden, will have extended, 24-hour closures starting September 21, 2021. Please see the up-to-date schedule of closures and be prepared to take detours via Highway 93 & Highway 95, which may add up to 1.5 hours to your journey.
Radium Hot Springs
This ruggedly beautiful spot located just inside Kootenay National Park is surrounded by the towering rock faces of Sinclair Canyon. Beloved by hikers in September for its alpine trails of golden larch, Kootenay National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. You may even spot some of Radium’s best-know residents, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. 37 km (23 mi) south of Radium Hot Springs along Highway 95, Fairmont Hot Springs provides the opportunity to stay overnight and enjoy a soothing soak on a crisp fall day. Continue south for 96 km (60 mi), taking Highway 95A to Kimberley.
Kimberley was made to be explored in the autumn months, where mountains of fall foliage greet visitors who venture in September and October. Kimberley Nature Park, a 840 hectare nature park in the foothills of the Purcell Mountains and its adjacent 200-hectare Horse Barn Valley Interpretive Forest, provide 50 kilometres (31 miles) of trails of forested wilderness and panoramic views, including easy to moderate hikes to see golden larch. In downtown Kimberley, take in the cozy fall ambiance of the village filled with unique shops and restaurants. Stroll through Cominco Gardens to admire any late season blooms.
A short distance south of Kimberley is the city of Cranbrook, with excellent hiking opportunities to admire the fall colours. Explore the Cranbrook History Centre, which features the only complete set of rail cars from the luxurious 1929 Canadian Pacific Railway Trans-Canada Limited.
Ktunaxa first Nation
The region’s Indigenous population, the Ktunaxa First Nation, is also celebrated here, and there are many quaint 19th century heritage homes throughout the area offering great photography opportunities. Continue southwest along Highway 3 for 105km (65 mi) to the orchard town of Creston.
Situated on a fertile bench between the Purcell and Selkirk mountains, it’s immediately evident as you arrive in Creston that this is a major harvest region in BC’s Kootenays, with its many roadside farm stands, orchards and vineyards. Now with four wineries, Creston Valley is considered to be Canada’s next wine region. Explore the town with its quirky storefronts full of local flavour. Take in the weekly farmers market, or visit the Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre, a major wetland conservation area known for its birding and biodiversity.
Enjoy the commanding views of Kootenay Lake you head north along Highway 3A. Stop off at the scenic lookouts and enjoy the slower-paced cottage country feel along this lake shore drive. The highway ends 80 km (50 mi) later at Kootenay Bay where you’ll board the 35-minute Kootenay Lake Ferry across to Balfour on the west shore of the lake. Then, it’s only 33 km (20 mi) to Nelson. Be sure to drop by Kokanee Creek Provincial Park for a short stop. In September, keep your eye out for kokanee, a lake-dwelling cousin to the Sockeye salmon, who return to these streams every fall to spawn.
Prepare to be charmed by Nelson where mountains of fall foliage meet 350 heritage buildings along the shore of Kootenay Lake. Grab a cup of freshly roasted coffee at Oso Negro, a local institution and one of Nelson’s many excellent eating establishments. Be sure to take the free, self-guided walking tour of its historic architecture, including the beloved Hume Hotel. Ride Streetcar #23 along the waterfront, stroll down Baker Street, and tour the studios and galleries of Canada’s finest small town arts community. For panoramic views over Nelson, the steep hike up Pulpit Rock is worth the effort.
After Nelson, continue on Highway 3A to explore Castlegar, rich in history and Doukhobor culture; enjoy some time at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre. Take a short excursion south on Highway 22. In Trail, the Columbia Gardens Vineyard & Winery offers guided tours of the wine making facilities and serves up samples at the tasting bar. In Rossland, take in the spectacle of fall colours as you explore its charming historic downtown. Drive on Highway 3B/3 to Hwy 97 through the tiny mountain communities of Boundary Country.
Arrive in Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley.
Experience desert life in the autumn season at the southern end of the Okanagan in Osoyoos. Immerse yourself in local Indigenous culture at Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, learn about the antelope-brush ecosystem at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, then leisurely tour the region’s many award-winning wineries and restaurants such as Moon Curser and BC’s first Indigenous winery, Nk’Mip Cellars. Enjoy the slower pace of the autumn season along the shores of Osoyoos Lake.
Venture further north along Hwy 97 into the heart of the Okanagan Valley, BC’s largest wine region and a major harvest destination in the fall. Travel through the vineyards, orchards and wineries of Oliver and Okanagan Falls, and through the lakeside communities of Penticton, Summerland, and Kelowna, the largest city in the Okanagan. Stop off at as many roadside farm stands as you can for fresh, seasonal Okanagan fruit and vegetables.
Time your visit with the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival in October to partake in some of the 80 wine-filled events, including tastings, live music, food pairings and sommelier battles. Work off the seasonal treats with a cycle along the Myra Canyon Trestle or hike up to Kelowna’s Knox Mountain for autumn views of the city and Okanagan Lake.
After your stay in Kelowna, return your car at the Kelowna International Airport or continue on your drive home.