As usual, we did a lot of hiking during our stay in the Okanagan Valley. We were based in Peachland, a nice little town just southwest of Kelowna, which gave us access to a large number of Kelowna hikes around the city in both directions. Of course, some of the trails on the far side of Kelowna meant braving their long gauntlet of traffic lights (woe to he who catches that first light on red, it’s all over after that) but even though patience while driving (or doing anything really) isn’t exactly my strong suit we do generally have plenty of time on our hands. We would describe the overall scenery in the Okanagan as serene and expansive, with virtually all hikes near Kelowna including relatively easy trails and big, wide lake views. They aren’t nearly as spectacular as the best hikes we did around Canmore, among the most stunning anywhere in the Canadian Rockies, but they are still very beautiful and enjoyable. It also helps that the weather in the Okanagan Valley is typically much milder than in the mountains, although we did happen to get two (!) big snowstorms during our month in Peachland, which was basically unheard of, but added a unique touch of winter to some of our hikes.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list – there are dozens more. We learned about some from internet lists (wherever do I get my blog ideas?), quite a few from a friend of a friend (thanks again, Murray!) who has done tons of hiking in the area, and some just by scouring the maps on AllTrails. But hopefully this will provide a pretty good selection to work through if you have some time in the area.
Spion Kop – Arrowleaf/Summit/Lupine
6 km / 2.5 hrs / 300m
There are lots of variations to choose from. You definitely want to reach the summit but after that it’s your choice. We did most of the loop shown counterclockwise, cutting over to the Lupine trail on the way back (slightly higher than the bottom of the Summit trail).
Another snowy experience as they either got a lot more snow up around Lake Country than we did in Peachland or it didn’t melt as quickly. In any case, we found ourselves trudging through a couple feet of the white stuff at times. Our hiking poles and crampons came in handy yet again, although on a beautiful sunny day the snow was melting quickly and sticking to our feet in giant clumps that gave us a few extra inches but threatened to twist our ankles. Regardless, it was pretty spectacular – bright sun, bright white snow, much of it falling from the trees as it warmed up, then the impressive view of 3 lakes and a valley from the top. Highly recommended.
Knox Mountain – Apex Trail / Paul’s Tomb Loop
6 km / 1.5 hrs / 350m
Possibly the most popular trail network in Kelowna, there are a number of versions you can choose. We followed the Apex Trail to the top where you get panoramic views of the city and lake (in both directions). Then we continued on and down to the Paul’s Tomb turnoff, where we followed the low trail back to the start to make it a loop. Under normal circumstances this would be a well-marked and maintained trail although we went the day after we got a surprising foot of snow (in October, no less!) which, combined with just enough sun to start the melting, meant it was pretty icy and slippery.
Myra Canyon Trail
24 km / 2.5 hrs / 500m
We did this popular stretch of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail as a bike rather than a hike. That allowed us to cover the entire 12 km one-way to the far parking lot and cross all 18 of the famous Myra Canyon trestle bridges. Upside: we were thrilled to finally get a completely clear, sunny day. Downside: It was still only 0C, tops. Which is mighty cold on a bike. By the end I had my face bundled up like the Invisible Man which, granted, isn’t such an uncommon look these days. Couldn’t feel my fingers, but the scenery was fantastic.
Wildhorse Canyon North Loop
10 km / 3 hrs / 450m
A nice change of pace, getting a look back at Peachland and West Kelowna from directly across the lake. Another gradual climb passing through the remnants of past forest fires before carefully making your way down a rocky creek area (past the sign that says “trail closed”). Eventually you get back to Lakeshore Road and walk along (or on) it with constant views of the lake.
Rooster Tree Lake Loop
5 km / 1.5 hrs / 220m
This hike was one of our surprise favourites, despite the low clouds. It is located just north of West Kelowna and we hadn’t heard anything about, so low expectations were part of it. But still, there were some pretty amazing views, first of Okanagan Lake from the ridge, then of a calm, glassy Rose Valley Lake. Plus, in between those highlights Laynni slipped on a steep slope covered in icy, melting snow, grabbed a tree to save herself, which she somehow managed to snap off at the base and bring down directly on top of her head. An actual tree, like, 6 inches across. And it all happened extremely slowly like a slo-mo Insta reel.
West Kelowna / Westbank Hikes
5 km / 1.5 hrs / 400m
This is one of the newest trails in the area and it offers a pretty easy, scenic climb. A little strangely, it starts with a 1.5 km walk down a gravel road, although it runs right along the lake so the views are pretty good already. Then once you reach the bottom you head up into the hills, eventually reaching a good panoramic spot with a slightly different angle of the lake area nearest Kelowna.
McDougall Rim to Mount Hayman
18 km / 5.5 hrs / 900m or 10 km / 3.5 hrs / 550m or 6 km / 2 hrs / 300m
A long hike if you do the whole thing, although we would recommend going just as far as the 5 km mark (10 km return). It is still a nice trail after that but all the best viewpoints are already behind you and the end of the trail on AllTrails, “Mount Hayman” is in the middle of the forest with no views at all. The elevation gain is certainly significant but it is all fairly gradual so doesn’t seem as hard as you might expect.
There is an excellent viewpoint of Okanagan Lake about 3 km in, so some people stop there. But another, better viewpoint that includes both Okanagan and Rose Valley lakes is waiting at the 4 km mark, then you can continue on to a final one of both lakes and the valley to the north around 5 km (just past the radio tower, or whatever it is). Finally, there is a decent valley view at about 8 km, not as nice as the others but still not bad. No real reason to go beyond this unless you’re mostly in it for the exercise.
4 km / 1.5 hrs / 250m
Located literally just blocks off the highway in West Kelowna, this is a good, quick climb to some pretty cool viewpoints at the top of a former volcano. One of the few viewpoints where you can actually see in all directions, even if some of those directions do include a lot of buildings and quite a bit of construction. There are plenty of different trails to choose from if you want to turn it into a loop.
Glen Canyon Greenway
5 km / 1.5 hrs / 120m
This nice, wooded trail follows a scenic little canyon right in West Kelowna. It runs along a small creek, has a good variety of tree and several sets of wooden staircases to get up and down the steeper parts (although there is very little overall elevation gain).
3.5 km / 2 hrs / 250m
Another iconic Kelowna-area hike that we did in the snow. The bright side, we were completely alone. The downside, it took a lot longer than it normally would have due to all the snow. Even with our crampons and trekking poles it was occasionally slow going and a couple times we ended up off-trail trudging through knee-high drifts. While this was a fun change of pace, it is very unlikely to be your experience. Either way, the views at the top are amazing.
Trepanier Creek Greenway
6 km / 1.5 hrs / 150m
Pleasant, easy and popular, this mostly flat trail follows the Trepanier Creek from the side of a small ridge, leading you through an interesting mix of colourful and burnt trees. There are a few spots with nice views back to the lake and parking areas at both ends.
9 km / 2 hrs
While that distance is for the entire path from one side of Peachland to the other and back, you can choose any portion of it you feel like doing. It is an easy, flat, paved path running between Peachland’s pleasant Beach Street and the lake. You will pass beaches, swimming docks and small parks along the way.
4 km / 1 hr / 250m
A nice loop just above town that follows a lot of switchbacks up to some great viewpoints. A short side spur will take you over to see famous “Ponderosa Pat”, a gigantic 400-year-old ponderosa pine with exactly the dry, wrinkly outer layer you’d expect from a tree that has been around as long as Hamlet.
Paul’s Landing from the Stairway to Heaven
6 km / 2 hrs / 350m (from bottom of stairs)
Not on AllTrails
The Stairway to Heaven is an alternate starting point for the Gladstone Trail and takes you up to a great viewpoint on its own. Following the trail that leads along a fence to the right (north) you will head toward Pincushion Mountain in the distance. Just when it looks like you are almost there the trail splits – the right fork will take you to the start of the regular Pincushion trail, the left will take you up to a ridge between Pincushion and Gladstone. You follow a fire road up the hill and just before it heads left (south) you can go off-trail up the hill to the right to reach the viewpoint at Paul’s Landing (marked on Google Maps). Not straightforward, but some pretty good views from the top.
500m / 10 min / 20m
Hikes don’t get much shorter or easier than this, but it is actually more than just a waterfall viewpoint. There were also some neat little bridges and a crystal-clear stream. We were apparently just days too late but it is typically filled with spawning salmon in the fall.
Fur Brigade Trail
8 km / 2 hrs / 350m
Starts off with an easy incline on a wide fire road until you get near the top where it becomes a little steeper but never particularly difficult. Follows a nice ridge with good lake views in both directions – Penticton to the south and Kelowna to the north. There are two different viewpoints at the top which are different enough to make both worth visiting.
Okanagan South Hikes
Summerland Lakeshore Drive
2 km / 30 min / flat
Just a quick little stroll along the Summerland waterfront with some nice lake views. The spot marked on the map is a small parking lot. From there you can walk north to the cute Crescent Heights neighbourhood, do a short loop and back.
Penticton Lakefront / Riverside
5 km / 1.5 hrs / flat
Much like the one in Peachland, this nice, paved path runs along lake to the Sicamous (a decommissioned ferry now used as a restaurant/bar). From there you can follow a gravel path down river as far as you want to go. Quite scenic, and I can highly recommend a good pee spot in the trees about halfway to the bridge.
7 km / 2.5 hrs / 450m
South of Penticton near Okanagan Fall Provincial Park, this was a nice change of pace. First half in trees, the second half completely exposed (and in our case windy) with a great look at the surrounding hills, including snow-covered Apex Mountain. Eventually you reach a pretty spectacular viewpoint overlooking Marron Valley, Vaseaux Lake and the town of Oliver, where you can sit, shivering, in the wind while you rush through the stale buns you packed for the occasion.
What to Take
It is always important to be prepared when venturing out hiking, especially in the mountains. Obviously, long, challenging hikes require more advance planning and safety gear but even for short hikes you still need to be properly equipped. Dressing properly will make the experience much more enjoyable and carrying useful safety supplies can ensure you are prepared in case mishaps take place (as they tend to). Here is a quick checklist of items we alway carry, wear or use while hiking:
A good day pack is essential. We have recently become big fans of Gregory packs and would recommend the Gregory Miwok 18 for short hikes or when your gear is split between two people. And the Gregory Optic 48 for longer hikes. I know 48L sounds big but it is a super-light and comfortable pack that cinches down smaller when it isn’t full.
Water is obviously important and we go back and forth between using a Camelbak bladder and just a couple of water bottles. We also keep a few Aquatabs with us at all times just in case we ever run low and want to treat some river or lake water. They are tiny and every now and then come in quite handy. It is always a good idea to carry some snacks as well. It never hurts and sometimes hikes end up taking longer than planned.
Laynni always hikes in compression leggings that she swears by for the extra knee, hip and muscle support.
Layers, baby! You never know what kind of weather nature will throw at you so it pays to be ready for anything. Obviously, the forecast might change what you carry but if there is any doubt (and there almost always is in the mountains), bring extra.
And just in case we are so impressed by the scenery that we decide it’s worth a photo with both of us in it we always carry the tiny, extremely handy octopus tripod.
Of course, a comprehensive first-aid kit is key to make sure those “mishaps” are simply inconvenient and don’t ruin your whole day.
Other useful items that we sometimes carry and sometimes don’t, depending on the hike:
Well, that probably covers most of it, although somehow we have even more to say on the matter in our Day Hike Packing List post. Check it out if you’re looking for even more detailed info.
Other useful articles you may want to check out: