Victoria day camping trip to the Okanagan

Back in February, I managed to snatch the last 3 campsites for Victoria Day long weekend in the entire Okanagan region. They happened to be located in the Okanagan Falls Provincial Park, just steps from the town of the same name. Each site can accommodate 4 adults (strictly enforced) and up to 4 children. I haven’t camped there before, but I knew it to be a nicely treed, quiet, and relaxing campground. The reason to camp in the Okanagan in the spring? Victoria Day long weekend is traditionally rainy in Vancouver, but the Okanagan Valley should be sunny and warm at this time of year. After our especially long winter, we longed to catch some sun, so our group of 12 adults (and one child, my son) met up at the campground in Okanagan Falls.

Day 1  – Friday, May 19

My 6-year-old son learned how to ride bike sans training wheels last summer, and I was hoping for an opportunity to explore some easy trails in the Okanagan. I also got an Electra cruiser bike for myself last year and was eager to put it to good use.

To be more precise, I wanted to ride a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway trail, a former rail bed, where the slopes are never more than 2% incline. So, off we went with bikes mounted onto the trunk. The Highway 3 drive to Okanagan Falls was uneventful. We stopped for a quick lunch at Blue Moose Café in Hope (the trendiest coffee shop in that little town) and finally arrived at the campground in the evening, where we met up with the rest of our group.

Day 2 – Saturday, May 20

This morning we drove about an hour north to Westbank for a quick walk along the shore of the Okanagan Lake in Kalamoir Regional Park. This little gem has many pleasant features, including a swimming area and a lakeshore trail along the grassland benches.

Kalamoir Regional Park in Westbank

After that, we were supposed to hike on Knox Mountain in Kelowna, but it turned out the trails were closed due to an auto rally. So instead we hiked Mount Boucherie in Westbank, another iconic Okanagan hike. It was a great hike – I really liked it!

Here is a more detailed description of the Mount Boucherie hike.

Some pictures from the hike here:

Mount Boucherie – view of Kelowna

 

Ponderosa pine forest

 

Balsamroots on Mount Boucherie hike

After the hike, the plan was to relax for a couple of hours on the city beach in Kelowna. Unfortunately, it turned out the entire beach was closed. The city of Kelowna was in  danger of flood and these inflatable flood barriers were put in place to hold off the water. Driving along the lake, we noticed that the water levels was unusually high, but didn’t think it was that serious.

Inflatable dams on Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Anyways, that made the beach (or lack thereof) a little unappealing, so we headed back to Penticton.

It was (almost) unanimously decided by our group to minimize campground cooking to free up some time for more fun activities. So, for dinner, we were going to eat out at Bad Tattoo Brewing Company in Penticton. It’s a really cool brewery/pizzeria, and I have to say that their beer and pizza were great. Unfortunately, we had to wait over 2 hours in total, first to be seated and then for our food to arrive, and that dampened my enthusiasm for the place.

In the evening, our big group gathered around the fire, and we talked and sang songs in Russian. It was great. Singing in a group is good for your soul.

Day 3 – Sunday, May 21

Today, we went on another hike – Pincushion Mountain near Peachland, via Trepanier Creek approach. The approach was somewhat unusual, as we didn’t start from the Pincushion trailhead, but rather did a portion of the hike on the (very nice) Trepanier trail. Some websites will tell you that there is no longer a connection between these two hikes, but it’s still doable, you just need to cross on an abandoned golf course. For the description of the hike, click here. The highlight of the hike: a very photogenic spot over Okanagan Lake with a huge Canadian flag!

Read about the hike in more detail here: Pincushion Mountain via Trepanier Creek

Trepanier Creek Trail

 

Pincushion Mountain – view over Okanangan Lake

This time, we had dinner in the campground. In the evening, I went for a bike ride on the portion of the KVR trail along Skaha Lake. This portion is completely flat and runs between Okanagan Falls and Penticton. The trail is accessible directly from the campground. I didn’t go as far as Penticton of course; only a few kilometres before it started to get dark.

KVR at Skaha Lake

Day 4 – Monday, May 22

Today we rode bikes in the beautiful Myra Canyon near Kelowna. Myra Canyon is part of the Kettle Valley Railway trail, an abandoned railway that was converted for recreational use. A feat of engineering in its heyday, the railway was constructed over steep mountain terrain using the route of the least resistance, meaning that the grades were never more than 2.2%. Between 1920s and 1950s, the KVR allowed heavy trains to traverse the mountain country between Hope and Midway, and in the modern days, it provides hikers and cyclists with access to this amazing high-country landscape. With 2 tunnels and 17 trestles, Myra Canyon is arguably the most scenic and interesting portion of the KVR trail.

I immensely enjoyed cycling in Myra Canyon; it was a truly special experience and one of those moments that become a highlight of a year. It was neither hot nor cold; I was riding a bike with my son on high-altitude, but nearly flat route through the Okanagan mountains; the trestles and the tunnels were awe-inspiring.  I have no words to describe the aura of this place. Suddenly, the chatter or the world falls away, and you are just there, in this moment, your body involved in a pleasant, not overly exerting physical activity, your mind in silence and peace. It was such a profoundly positive, magical experience that at some point I felt almost transcendent.

For some practical considerations, read my separate post about Myra Canyon.

Myra Canyon  portion of the KVR trail – tunnel

 

Myra Canyon trestle

 

Leave a Reply