Cool Snowshoe Fun in the Thompson Okanagan, BC

The Thompson Okanagan in British Columbia’s interior encompasses a varied landscape of valleys, lakes, orchards, vineyards, golf courses, beaches, and naturally, mountains. Break it down into eight sub regions, and you will discover hidden and not so hidden snowshoe destinations. The difficult part is choosing – rugged off the beaten path exploration or booking a cool tour complete with chocolate fondue and a crackling fire along the groomed trails! Decisions, decisions…

Central Okanagan: Situated along the Okanagan Valley and Okanagan Lake, this area is a popular tourist destination for everything from winter sports to summer fun. Comprised of Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country, and Oyama, there are many opportunities to explore winter wonderlands on snowshoes.

Crystal Mountain Resort in West Kelowna (formerly known as Westbank), offers twelve kilometers of guided snowshoe trails, and a fantastic variety of packages to choose from.   Trails and guided tours are designed by Selah Outdoor Explorations. From a ‘Starlight Snowshoe Hike & Fondue’ (complete with chocolate fondue, hot apple cider, and blazing fire) to a ‘Sunset Winter Woods Snowshoe Hike & Cookout’ (complete with cookout on the trail), these packages are sure to push your snowshoeing experience to the next level of enjoyment. Visit www.crystalresort.com for further details.

Gold Country: Referred to as Gold Country, this area runs from Cache Creek south down to Ashcroft, Logan Lake, Lytton, Spences Bridge, and east to Savona. This aptly named region (due to its gold rush history) rests peacefully in a desert-like climate. For those looking for a quiet escape off the beaten path, this is a good choice for reflective exploration.

Mile High Resort, 15 minutes outside of Logan Lake, would make a romantic snowshoeing getaway for the active couple. This quiet, restful resort also offers very affordable trail fees. Just be aware there is a four-night minimum on all cabins Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Check out all they have to offer at www.milehighresort.com, and let the sparks fly!

Kamloops Country: This area includes the City of Kamloops (four highways junction here), and smaller communities of Barriere, Heffley Lake, McLure, Falkland, Monte Lake, Heffley Creek, Knutsford, and Pinantan Lake. You will find yourself in friendly ranch country here, also surrounded by a plethora of ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

Sun Peaks Ski Resort is an easy 45 minute drive north of Kamloops center. With no reservations required for a snowshoe pass, an interpretive guidebook and trail map are included in your day pass to enjoy trails at your leisure. Snowshoe tours are also an option. ‘Moonlight Snowshoe and S’mores’ and ‘Snowshoe Golf’ (how much fun does that sound like?) are two great tour options, sure to make your adventure that much more invigorating. Visit www.sunpeaksresort.com for many more fun tours to suit your snowshoeing desires.

Nicola Valley: With grasslands and canyons, this area begins over an hour’s drive south of Kelowna down Highway 97C, to Merritt, Douglas Lake, Quilchena, and Tulameen. This proves to be a stunning mountain drive, to say the least.

The Nicola Nordic Ski Club, based out of Merritt, is situated 18 km outside the town in the Kane Valley. In spite of the lack of official snowshoe trails, this area offers extensive wilderness trails, with the caveat of keeping off the groomed ski trails. And use at your own risk. Loosely translated? Use your common sense, and look both ways for skiers flying by before crossing a trail. Check their website out at www.nicolanordic.ca.

North Okanagan: The North Okanagan begins where the Central Okanagan ends after Oyama, and goes from Vernon up to Silver Star Ski Mountain, north to Armstrong and Enderby, and east to Lumby and Cherryville. More orchards, agricultural land, and endless outdoor activity abound throughout this area.

Sixteen kilometers of snowshoe trails beckon up at Silver Star Ski Resort, an amazingly short 35 minute drive up from Vernon town center. You have the option to choose a trail pass or a tour with Outdoor Discoveries, conveniently based out of Vernon. With tours called ‘Chocolate Dreams’ and ‘Starlight Cabin Rendezvous’, as well as special event tours that fill up fast, good times are just asking to be booked. Visit www.skisilverstar.com for further details.

Shuswap: This extremely popular recreation destination encompasses Salmon Arm, Blind Bay, Celista, west to Chase and Sorrento, and east to Mara and Sicamous. Summer or winter, these are bustling, charming areas to visit. Salmon Arm basically runs midway between Calgary to the east and Vancouver to the west.

East of Salmon Arm, approximately 15 km, you will find Larch Hills snowshoe trails. Trail fee is by donation since the Larch Hills Nordic Society is volunteer run. You are free to explore at your whim, and an online map is available to print by visiting www.skilarchhills.ca.

South Okanagan: Extending down from Penticton stretches the South Okanagan area, with tiny villages of Apex Mountain Village, Christina Lake, Grand Forks, Greenwood, Hedley, Kaleden, Keremeos, Midway, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osooyos (borders the US), Princeton, and Rock Creek. From an abundance of wineries to taste test wines in BC wine country to a ski hill, you can fit a lot of merriment into one day.

Snowshoe rentals and trails are found up at Apex Mountain Resort, only 33 km west of Penticton. Group rates and customized tours (for a minimum of 20 people) are available and include chairlift rides and hot chocolates – yum! Check out www.apexresort.com for more information.

Wells Gray to Mount Robson: One and a half hours drive north of Kamloops and three and a half hours drive south from Jasper, Alberta, will find you in this region of BC. This is rugged country is made up of Blue River, Little Fort, Valemont, and Clearwater.

Wells Gray Provincial Park is a beautiful British Columbia destination for your snowshoe trip. If you’re looking for a travel experience rich in local history, by all means, book your trip here. Local businesses offer a variety of packages for exploring the amazing trails in this provincial park. Make it a winter vacation by staying at a bed and breakfast, in a cabin, or a local hotel. Discover more at www.wellsgray.ca.

Wherever you decide to begin your next snowshoe adventure, be sure to outfit your vehicle with snow tires and a healthy respect for winter driving conditions. Safety first! For more options in this vast area, contact Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association toll-free at 1-800-567-2275 or by emailing info@totabc.com. Happy snowshoe trails!

Photos: Outdoor shots from the author while snowshoeing Sovereign Lake Nordic Center trails outside of Vernon, BC, in the North Okanagan sub region.

About the author

Tara Panrucker

Kelowna, BC, CANADA

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