A family of four people walk across the Golden Skybridge between two mountains and over canyon below. There is another suspension bridge behind them in the distance.

5 Days to Transformation: Kelowna, Wine Country & BC Rockies

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Golden Skybridge | Kootenay Rockies Tourism/Mitch Winton

Kelowna’s central location makes it an ideal starting place to branch out and find diverse experiences and landscapes on a summer road trip. Translation: Wider exploration means deeper connection. Follow routes far into the mountains and soak in healing waters that filter from cracks and crevices of the earth; journey into sprawling and sunny wine country; explore the base of one of BC’s tallest peaks or one of Canada’s highest waterfalls; or wander sweeping ranchlands and Canada’s only desert in BC’s interior. Explore deeper—and connect more—by following new paths in BC.

Kelowna: Begin Your Journey

(Minimum 2 Days)

This vibrant city is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, vast wine and grassland country, and northern landscapes. Spend a few days in Kelowna wandering among more than 40 vineyards with award-winning wines and dining experiences, hike the trails that surround the city, cycle the Myra Canyon trestles, or lounge on sandy beaches that dot Okanagan Lake. With Kelowna as your starting point for your getaway, the mountains, the views, and the experiences continue to expand—and your perspective expands along with it.

East to Picturesque Mountain Towns and Hot Springs

(Loop – 5 Days Minimum)

Head northeast from Kelowna and getaway towards the vibrant mountain town of Revelstoke, a year-round outdoor destination at the doorstep of the Canadian Rockies. Adventure-seekers can explore Mount Revelstoke National Park. Head up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway to access hiking trails that wander through alpine expanses and lakes. Follow the 5.8-km (3.6-mi) Miller Lake Trail, a favourite day-hike destination, or tackle the more difficult 10-km (6.2-mi) Summit Trail to the top of Meadows in the Sky Parkway to view the park’s wildflowers.

For more adrenaline, mountain bike the downhill trails at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The famed Fifty Six Twenty is a 15-km marathon trail winding from the alpine to the village base, named for Revelstoke’s 5,620 ft of vertical. For a different way to get downhill, ride the 1.4-m (0.9-mi) track of twists and turns on the Pipe Mountain Coaster, reaching speeds of up to 42 kph (26 mph).

Head farther east in the town of Golden, surrounded by six national parks on the doorstep of the Canadian Rockies, and test your fear of heights at the Golden Skybridge, Canada’s highest suspension bridges. Consisting of two bridges set at 130 m (427 ft) and 80 m (263 ft) above the canyon, the experience offers unique views of the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges. 

Golden’s small mountain town is a wilderness paradise of roaming elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, and more; be prepared for bear sightings, too. Keep your eyes peeled to spot these creatures from a safe distance. Or head to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to see the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat. The Grizzly Bear Refuge is home to resident grizzly bear Boo, who can be viewed as part of an interpretive tour in the summer.

Finish this route by soaking in the spiritual, healing waters along the Hot Springs Circle Route. This route takes you through the Kootenay Rockies and back to Kelowna. Along the way, soak and soothe in Radium Hot Springs, located in Kootenay National Park, and Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs, farther south. Head for Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort, 50 minutes north of Nelson, owned and operated by the Ktunaxa Nation. Here, explore the horseshoe-shaped cave of stalagmites and stalactites, towards the heat source of the springs, before plunging in the cold dunk.

Journey back to Kelowna via the lakeside village of Nakusp, with stops at Halcyon Hot Springs and Nakusp Hot Springs, for more rejuvenating soaks.

South Along the Wine Route Loop and Beyond to Eclectic Nelson

(Loop – Minimum 4 Days)

On this trip from Kelowna, follow the southern wine route loop through fertile, south-facing rolling hills to experience wine region bliss. Stay in the quaint and quirky town of Nelson, then finish the loop back to Kelowna through Vernon.

Take Highway 97 south to visit 23 wineries in Peachland, Summerland, and Penticton, many with tasting rooms and patio vistas overlooking Okanagan Lake. Don’t miss a visit to the Naramata Bench, just northeast of Penticton, for one of the most densely populated winery regions (think: easy to explore). Continue south where even more wineries await in Okanagan Falls, Oliver, and Osoyoos.


While in Osoyoos, learn about desert ecology, habitat restoration, and the conservation of endangered ecosystems in the South Okanagan at the Osoyoos Desert Centre. Visitors here can explore this 67-acre nature facility on guided tours along elevated wooden boardwalks. Wander the native plant demonstration forest, and explore the interpretive building for hands-on learning and exhibits. 

Head eastbound to Nelson, stopping at Christina Lake—one of Canada’s warmest—for a little rest and rejuvenation beachside. In Nelson, the outdoor recreational opportunities are endless. Rent a mountain bike and explore the Morning Mountain trail network. Or pack your hiking shoes and head to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, just north of Nelson, to explore over 85 km (53 mi) of hiking trails that take you deep into the mountains. Be sure to stroll the Baker Street shops and myriad restaurants in this funky heritage town before lounging at Rotary Lakeside Park on Kootenay Lake.

Travel north to Nakusp for a soak in Nakusp Hot Springs and Halcyon Hot Springs Resort before taking the free ferry across Upper Arrow Lake and back to Kelowna via Vernon, stopping in at Burton City Cider and Tony’s Craft Cider Company along the way.

North to Wells Gray Waterfalls and Iconic Rocky Mountain Peaks

(Loop – 4 Days Minimum)

Start your road trip headed north toward Vernon, stopping to experience a part of the 50-km long Okanagan Rail Trail; hop on bikes or walk the expanse, overlooking jade-hued Kalamalka Lake. Make a detour just outside Vernon to SilverStar Bike Park to ride at one of the best downhill bike parks in BC. 

Continue north to Kamloops for an overnight in this sagebrush city. Here you can spend a day wandering the downtown shops, cafés, and breweries. Or hop on a mountain bike and explore the trails of Pineview, Kenna Cartwright Park, or the Kamloops Bike Ranch.

Next, head to Wells Gray Provincial Park to hunt for waterfalls; here, you’ll find more than 41 fallsincluding 140-metre (459-foot) Helmcken Falls. 

In Valemount, adventure seekers can book a shuttle to access 45 downhill trails at the Valemount Bike Park. This tiny mountain town—surrounded by giant mountain peaks—is also home Mount Robson Whitewater Rafting Co. Be sure to book a Class 3 rapid thrill ride or a gentle and scenic float on the Fraser River. 

Continue north to Mount Robson Provincial Park to stand below the tallest—and most impressive—peak in the Canadian Rockies. Mount Robson pierces the sky at 3,954 m (12,972 ft) tall, towering above those exploring its hidden valleys and meandering trails. There are opportunities to explore the park and surrounding area on foot, bike, or horseback, or paddle on the calm, glacial-fed lakes in the area. A few of the lakes are accessible from campground areas in the park, including Moose, Yellowhead, and Whitney lakes.

From here, head to Prince George to explore this wilderness city. Mountain bike; fish the streams, lakes, and rivers; or hike through old-growth forests before making your way to downtown breweries and eateries. 

Travel south again via Quesnel and Williams Lake and make your way back to Kelowna. Stop to see the tiny artist enclave town of Wells, and explore nearby Barkerville Historic Town.

Travel West Toward Ranch Country and Grasslands for Outdoor Connections

(2 Days Minimum)

Head west from Kelowna to the grasslands of Merritt. This town—long touted as a country music star haven—is home to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Honour. A collection of plaques are dedicated to Canada’s top stars, all housed in one of the oldest heritage buildings in the area. Stop for a bite of Indigenous cuisine at Kekuli Cafe Coffee & Bannock, where frybread tacos and bannock-wich melts are on the menu.

Journey on through Ashcroft and Cache Creek, home to rolling ranchlands. Book a two-night stay at Sundance Guest Ranch, home to 100 horses, for a scenic horseback riding adventure and ranch experience. Just north of Cache Creek, visit Historic Hat Creek Ranch and go back in time to experience what life was like during the 1860 Gold Rush. Book a guided tour of the ranch and the nearby Secwépemc (Shuswap) First Nations Village. 

Follow Kamloops Lake, stopping at Tobiano Golf Course for a round of 18 holes among the sagebrush, or enjoy dinner at The Black Iron Club & Grill with sweeping views of the lake and rolling, golden hills. Continue to downtown Kamloops and walk the extensive trail network in Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, or cycle the Kamloops Rivers Trails along Aviation Way and along the North Thompson River. Head to Paul Lake Provincial Park for a day of hiking over 7 km (4.3 mi) of trails—including the steep climb to Gibraltar Rock.

 Follow the Kamloops Wine Trail to check out Kamloops’ three wineries, or stroll downtown and the North Shore to hop among five different breweries.

Head back to Kelowna via Shuswap, stopping at the little towns that dot the lakes in the area, including Chase, Blind Bay, and Salmon Arm. 

Make It Happen

These Kelowna road trips are best experienced by car. You can find a variety of car rental options in Kelowna or in Vancouver (approximately 4.5 hours southwest). Kelowna International Airport (YLW) services most major Canadian cities, including Vancouver (YVR), Edmonton (YEG), Calgary (YYC), and Toronto (YYZ) with direct flights from multiple airlines, among them WestJet and Air Canada. Direct flights to Kelowna from Seattle (SEA) are available from Alaska Airlines.

Looking for even more transformational travel experiences? Check out 5 Days to Transformation itineraries, starting in Victoria or Vancouver.

Originally published in April, 2022.