North Okanagan & Shuswap

It is hard not to sound like a tourist brochure or a travel commercial when describing British Columbia’s North Okanagan and Shuswap region. If water is your weakness, it has lakes of every size that include over 1,000 kilometres of lakeshore, hundreds of sheltered bays, and sandy beaches. Moving waterways range from placid rivers to white-water streams to roaring creeks and spectacular waterfalls. If you prefer to keep your feet on or close to the ground, the inventory includes paved highways, gravel backroads, abandoned rail grade, alpine trails, and white-knuckle cliffs. If you can’t decide whether you’re a party animal or a hermit, you can satisfy the requirements of either indulgence and go from one extreme to the other in a matter of an hour or two. Wine festivals abound. The birdwatching is spectacular. You can turn wildflower photography into art. Hiking, cycling, horse riding, backcountry exploring, cross-country skiing, and alpine skiing are just a few ways you can keep fit.

The Land and the Details

The North Okanagan forms a transition zone between the hot, dry southern reaches of the Okanagan Valley and the wetter, more moderate Shuswap region. The physical division between the two drainage basins, however, is barely percep-tible. If it were not for a geographical marker alongside Highway 97A north of Armstrong, most travellers would not notice the change.

The North Okanagan region offers many unique recreational opportunities. Silver Star Ski Resort ranks among the best in British Columbia and western North America. The skiing and snowmobiling trails here become hiking, bik-ing, and horse-riding trails in mid-summer, presenting opportunities to explore subalpine forests and alpine meadows. South of Vernon, less than an hour from Silver Star, the semi-desert rocky ridges and emerald green bays of Kalamalka Provincial Park present a sharp contrast to the forested alpine. With sheltered, sandy beaches and 10 kilometres of trails through the grasslands, it is an attractive recreation destination.

Somewhere between the two climatic extremes lay several other parks. Ellison Provincial Park, southwest of Vernon on Okanagan Lake, also has rocky bluffs, sheltered bays and sandy beaches, but it has a few more trees to keep it a touch cooler in mid-summer. Mabel Lake Provincial Park, higher and farther into the Monashee Mountains, north of Lumby, has sandy beaches and clear water in the heart of the forest. Monashee Provincial Park, still farther to the east, is dominated by 2,697-metre-high Mount Fosthall, part of the rugged Monashee Range of snow-capped peaks.

northwest of Vernon, is open all year-round for a glimpse of the area’s colourful past. If you are interested in a bit of culture, the Caravan Farm Theatre near Armstrong presents unique plays in an outdoor setting year-round. The museum in Vernon, the Armstrong Fair, and a host of other diversions will also keep you enjoyably occupied.

While researching and writing this book, it quickly became apparent that the Vernon region could easily fill a book of its own, thus what we offer here is only a brief glimpse at what lies off the beaten track. May it whet your appetite long enough to keep you exploring until that book is written.

May we meet along the way?

credit: Okanagan Trips & Trails, by Judie Steeves and Murphy Shewchuk

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