Ahhh, fall. A time that’s ripe for autumnal adventures (and radiant fall colours) in the valleys and open pastures of Boundary Country and in the mountains and the arid vineyards of the Similkameen. In these lesser-know regions, camping, birding, hiking, and more in the great outdoors promises room to roam, while eclectic menus and sips of wine and cider will tempt along the way. So, pack your hiking boots, a birding handbook, and your appetite when you visit these hidden gems sprinkled along Highway 3 in southern British Columbia.
Boundary Country, in the warm, southern-most reaches of the Okanagan, is home to vast stretches of mountains and farmland, rivers and trails, and storied Gold Rush, Japanese, and Doukhobor histories. It’s an ideal spot, too, for outdoor adventure.
To live the “fewer faces and bigger spaces” lifestyle this fall, set up camp in Boundary’s cowboy country, where you’ll up the al-fresco ante with trail riding and other adventures, all accessed from your tent.
Head to Westbridge, east of Oliver, and lay your claim to one of the Old Cowboy Ranch’s private, spacious sites, where you can pitch your tent or park your RV along the Kettle River. (Group sites are available for your pod.) With the ranch as home base, explore the nearby trails by guided horseback to view the fall foliage in all its splendour. There’s more to discover southeast towards Christina Lake at Owl Mountain Ranch, where genuine cowboy camping (beans not included) promises easy access to horseback trails and ranch-run trail rides, rock climbing, and one of the province’s warmest and loveliest lakes.
Fall, too, is an excellent time to view Boundary’s winged residents, backed by the burnt oranges and copper splashes that mark the season. From Westbridge, grab your binoculars and head south to the wetlands of Rock Creek to spot warblers and grouse; from Owl Mountain Ranch, train your eagle eye in the nature park at the southeast end of Christina Lake to spy nuthatches, butterballs, loons, and more.
Prefer your feet on solid ground? Lace up and head to Cascade Falls (mere minutes from Owl Mountain Ranch). Trans Canada Trail System, accessed off Highway 3 at the 395 entrance, is southeast of Old Cowboy Ranch, near Christina Lake. This system, shared by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, offers an easy 15-minute hike—walk softly, and you may spot wild critters like deer and marmots. When you reach the falls at Cascade Gorge, be sure to view the churning water from the converted bridge.
For more, check out the Columbia and Western Trail that follows the Kettle River between Christina Lake and Grand Forks; the view of Christina Lake from the shoulder of Cascade Mountain at an old railway station won’t disappoint. Other highlights? You can point your camera at the large trestle that towers over the Kettle River or gain access to the historic Dewdney Trail, a 720-kilometre Gold Rush path that’s sure to be gold (and crimson) this time of year. Note: Marked sections of the trail are accessible to the public.
If lakeside lifestyle is to your liking, consider staying awhile at Blue Mountain Lodge on Christina Lake, a family-run, 1.5-acre operation that’s perfect for pods, thanks to fully renovated lodge suites, their cottage and one-room Rose Cabin, and full-service RV sites.
If you’ve worked up an appetite—and we’re sure you have—head to nearby Grand Forks, a community that’s been home to a large Doukhobor population since the early 1900s. Here, The Wooden Spoon offers eggy breakfasts and banh mi and PB&J burger lunches, and the Borscht Bowl signature dishes are a nod to the aforementioned Doukhobor history. To check out farm life, visit Jerseyland Organics, and stock up on cheese, yogurt, and sour cream (for the borscht that you’re taking home).
British Columbia’s Similkameen is home to pastoral orchards, farms, ranches, and family-run wineries. And while there’s plenty here to intrigue, this region is also primed for outdoor play, thanks to more than 40 marked trails that stretch from Manning Provincial Park in the west to the Kettle Valley Railway in the east. Bonus: In fall, these trails glow gold, making for pretty pictures and even prettier views.
In Manning Park, a hike to Lightning Lake promises a leisurely two-foot through the pine trees. (If you wish to linger, consider a stay at Manning Park Resort, where tall trees line the lakeside and wilderness campsites, nature trails, and cozy cabins that are peppered throughout.)
With Manning Park as your base, you can head farther north to the China Ridge Trails, near Princeton. Here, hikers can choose from a host of trail options, like the yellow and auburn pathway along the Tulameen River Valley or the elevated Cascade Range that goes up and up 1,311 metres to the trail’s highest point. Keep an eye out for elk and deer. Travel farther southeast to Cathedral Provincial Park, and you’ll discover an abundance of awesome sights—from seasonal alpine foliage to impossible peaks and jewel-toned lakes that sit 2,072 metres above sea level.
All of this exertion deserves a reward, right? Celebrate your strides, and make a reservation at one (or more) of the region’s family-run wineries and cideries.
Make Corals Cabins in Hedley your home base, and let your designated driver navigate the route to Keremeos (the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada), where you can explore the Bordeaux-style wines of Clos Du Soleil (co-owned by Dr. Bonnie Henry) and the small-batch reds and whites at Corcelettes Estate Winery.
In nearby Cawston, you can take in the mountain views at Crowsnest Vineyards, sample the fruits of Forbidden Fruit Winery’s labours, or learn more about eco-friendly straw-bale construction techniques at Orofino Vineyards. (Tip: Book an overnight in one of Orofino’s luxurious suites that sit atop the winery’s barrel room.)
Like cider? In Cawston, you can sample dry, fruit-forward pours at Klippers Untangled Craft Cider, the tantalizing blend of dessert and traditional cider apples at Twisted Hills Craft Cider, and the 100% certified organic tree fruits that make the cider (and the wine) toast-worthy at Rustic Roots Winery & Cidery. Cheers to that!
Header image: Cathedral Provincial Park | Stirl and Rae Photo
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