Horseback riding in Rock Creek in BC's Boundary Country

Secret Getaways: BC’s Boundary Country Just North of Washington State

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The Wild West may be a thing of the past, but you can still get that feeling of open adventure in BC’s laid-back Boundary Country. Just above Washington State and the U.S. border, between the arid Okanagan Valley vineyards and Kootenay Mountains, it’s a place of river-cut valleys, alpine lakes, and grassy pastures. You can still pan for gold, paddle, fish, and horseback ride into the hills in this mineral-rich area with a pioneer past. While wine and golf destination Kelowna and family-friendly Big White Ski Resort are popular draws, there are still plenty of under-the-radar spots. Here’s where to go and what to do.

Greenwood, in Boundary Country | Darren Robinson

Get into the Old West in Greenwood

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into High Noon in Greenwood, known as “Canada’s smallest city” (pop. 665) and the movie set for Snow Falling on Cedars. A booming copper-ore frontier hot spot in 1895, the village main street is lined with vintage storefronts, including the library, city hall, and museum.

Join Friday-night bingo at the community centre, linger over drinks at the old-time saloon and, if it’s open, overnight at the heritage Windsor Hotel. Take a day trip east to the old mining ghost town Phoenix and then on to Rock Creek, where you can pan and shovel for gold flakes at Canyon Creek Ranch. Every July, the working ranch hosts a Cowboy Campfire showcasing Western music and cowpoke poetry. 

The Kettle Valley Rail Trail near Westbridge | Darren Robinson

Pedal the Railway Line Near Grand Forks

Looking out for mining relics, mountain bike the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, part of Canada’s Great Trail and once BC’s main artery for transporting copper ore. The decommissioned 1915 rail line winds through steep canyons and tunnels and over hair-raising trestles. You can also hike one of 70 trails, including the easygoing Riverwalk Trail from Midway skirting the Kettle River or the Lower Granby Trail from Grand Forks along rock bluffs and waterfalls. Stay at no-frills Johnny’s Motel in Grand Forks or bed down at a ranch. In this traditional agriculture area with Doukhobor heritage, you’re likely to meet descendants of the 19th century Russian religious pacifist immigrants who still grind grain the old way in the historic Pride of the Valley Flour Mill.

Sightseeing on horseback in Boundary Country | Boundary Country/Allen Jones

Ride the Range near Christina Lake

Cowboy camp under the trees and trek on horseback at Christina Lake’s 100-acre Owl Mountain Ranch, a family-owned, retro-style operation. Take a two-hour hack along the Kettle River and up for a view of the Cascade Falls gorge or try the River Tour ride on a hot summer day where you get to swim your steed across belly-deep water. Then go on a mineral collecting expedition to Rock Candy Mountain, a 1917 fluorite mine where today you can dig up barite, fluorite, and quartz crystal geodes.

Kayaking on Christina Lake | Darren Robinson

Paddle and relax at Christina Lake

Flowing down from the Monashee Mountains, the Kettle River feeds long, narrow Christina Lake, unlike the area’s mostly glacier-fed water bodies. With a huge sandy beach, it’s pretty and tranquil and, some say, BC’s warmest tree-lined lake. Go in spring or fall to beat the crowds and stay near resort town Christina Lake, about 20 km (12 mi) east of Grand Forks at the chalet-style waterfront Sunflower Inn B&B. Or camp at Gladstone Provincial Park where you can hike and fish. Then rent paddleboards at WildWays, or a boat or kayak at the marina, and get out on the water. Make time for a trip way up to the lake’s northeast corner to see the centuries-old Sinixt First Nations pictographs, visible only from the water.



Find more Boundary Country travel ideas.

Feature image: Horseback riding in Rock Creek. Photo: Boundary Country/Allen Jones 

Updated from original publication February 7, 2018.

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