A Roadtrip through British Columbia and the Okanagan Valley

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A summer road trip took us through Alberta and into British Columbia. Our first stop in British Columbia was Golden. We travelled there from Banff because my travel partner knows the owner of Glacier Raft Company and we wanted to test the waters with his crew.

We chose to stay at the Golden Municipal Campground and RV Park after checking out one other campground that we didn’t love. When we first arrived at Golden Municipal Campground we were given a site in the middle of the campground with no privacy between sites. We took a short walk and discovered several beautiful, and empty, spots. After a quick trip back to the office, here is the site we were given:

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Golden Municipal Campground and RV Park

This was a beautiful site, and the campground had two different bathrooms with showers available. The bathrooms that are connected to the main gate are very nice and new, with pay showers. The campsite backs Kicking Horse River, and just on the other side of the river is the railway track, so there was definitely some noise throughout the evening and night. However, we were told that you can’t really go anywhere in Golden without hearing the trains, so I wouldn’t let the railway track stop me from staying at this campground again.

After we had supper at the campsite, we went for a walk. It took about 15 minutes to get to The Wolf’s Den where we stopped for a couple of drinks and an absolutely brilliant nacho platter. We had been told that this was the place to go for burgers, and the menu sure did make our mouths water. We can’t wait to go back here with empty stomaches.

 

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The Wolf’s Den

The next morning, we drove up to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort as neither of us had been there before. There are opportunities to ride up the mountain on either the chair lift or the gondola. There is also a Grizzly Bear refuge where you can try and spot the grizzly that was orphaned as a cub and now relies on food from the refuge workers. We didn’t have a lot of time, so instead of taking a tour, we ate a quick lunch at one of the resort restaurants, and then headed back down the mountain.

Our next stop was Glacier Raft Company for our afternoon adventure. The owners, Ryan and Carmen, and the rest of the guides make this business so welcoming and comfortable that it’s hard to leave! We enjoyed an afternoon of high water rafting on Kicking Horse River, and would go back again and again if we could! At the end of the day, we even got to share a local beer around the campfire back at shop. This was my first time riding level 4 + rapids and it was definitely an adventure to remember.

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You have to buy the shirt!

We ate a wonderful dinner at Eleven 22 restaurant (seriously, so good) and then headed out of town, towards Revelstoke. We used iMaps to find campsites along the route. We were nervous about finding a place for the night, but brave enough to turn down a one or two after a quick drive through them. We really wanted to find something beautiful.

And did we ever! Illecillewaet Campground was the hidden gem that we had been searching for! What a gorgeous front-country campsite this is. The only drawback? It didn’t have showers. However, we knew we would only be there the one night and the surroundings- and the fact that this was the first campground of our entire trip that did not have a fire ban on- so we were more than happy to stay even without showers. The woods surrounding these campgrounds were gorgeous, a lush cedar and hemlock forest, with a river cutting right through it, providing the most peaceful and natural wilderness setting.

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After setting up camp, we took a very short drive across the river to what remained from the original CPR railway “loop” bridges that were necessary to allow the trains to pass through this section of the Selkirk mountains. They were huge and we were in awe of the work that must have gone into these structures. It took four years to complete the construction of these “loops!”

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Unfortunately, after returning to our campsite, it started to rain. We spent some time inside the truck before ducking into the tent for the night. The rain continued throughout the entire night and into the morning. When it briefly broke in the morning, we got up and immediately started a fire and began to cook breakfast- we were so anxious to make bushpies!! Unfortunately, it did start to drizzle again, but we already had our fire going and were able to enjoy a delicious campfire breakfast before packing up camp and moving on.

Here’s a couple other things about Illecillewaet campground; like all campgrounds in Glacier National Parks, reservations are not available. Sites are first come, first serve, and require a self check-in which means you grab an envelope, fill out your information, and leave your money. Also, as mentioned, there are no showers here but there are both outhouse-style washrooms and some gorgeous washrooms with running water complete with granite countertops! This was our favourite campground of the trip, which is saying something as we stayed at half a dozen over the 10 days! It could have been our excitement of finally being able to have a campfire, but most likely it was the surroundings that made this the highlight, even in the rain.

After a fuel stop in Revelstoke the next morning, we continued on to Crazy Creek Resort. We had been to Crazy Creek the previous winter, and weren’t sure what to expect of the hot pools during the summer. We were pleasantly surprised and still enjoyed our time in the hot pool even though it was warm out. We took a plunge into the freezing pool to cool down between time in the hot pool, and then got the bonus of a free shower afterwards.

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We drove West through Salmon Arm before dropping South and entering into the Okanagan Valley. As we drove towards Armstrong we repeatedly saw signs advertising the Log Barn rest stop, so when we got to it, we decided to stop and take a look around. It is quite a strange place. Originally it started as a roadside fruit stand, but over the years has become much more. They sell all kinds of sweets and treats. Although the food was expensive, it was certainly delicious. Without a doubt, Log Barn falls under the title of “tourist trap,” but we were, after all, tourists!

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The Log Barn rest stop is also home to Dave’s Goat Walk. Does the name seem a little strange? Well, it is. You kind of have to see it to believe it, but I will describe it the best I can.

Dave’s Goat Walk is literally a platform high above the ground, where goats can walk right from their outdoor pen, all the way up a ramp and onto the platform to look down on us. What makes the goats want to go up? Well, the corn. Tourists pay 25 cents for a handful of corn that you put into a little bucket, and then using a pulley-system, relay it up to the goats. The goats are smart enough that they can actually turn the pully-system themselves and get the bucket to the top and reward themselves with the treats inside. Check out our pictures:

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After this exciting stop, we made it all the way down to Kelowna, wondering the whole way where we would spend the night. We did stop at one hillside campground that offered gorgeous views of the lake, but no privacy or shelter, so we made the decision to keep driving, which had us both nervous.

We arrived in Kelowna and after numerous phone calls and a couple more stops, we finally settled on Willow Creek Campground. This was a very urban campground, the kind of place that many people call home as they have their RV set up year-round. It was right beside a main city street, which meant a lot of traffic (including motorcycles and semis) all through the night. Really, we knew to expect this from a campground in the city, so we shouldn’t complain too much. It was still an incredibly affordable way to stay right in Kelowna, it had showers, and it was close to a beach that we took an evening stroll along (before the campground locked it’s main gate and we could no longer enter or exit).

The next morning, we got out of the campground as quickly as we could. We had a brilliant breakfast at Bohemian Cafe and Catering Co. and then enjoyed some of the sites of downtown Kelowna.

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Bohemian Cafe and Catering Co.

And, finally, what you’ve probably been waiting for this entire time- the wineries and vineyards! 11:00 was the earliest tour we could find, so we headed up to Quail’s Gate winery to learn all about the process of making wine. We would definitely recommend going on at least one winery tour while in the Okanagan. It was informative and interesting, and of course ended in a wine tasting. Yum!

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We made one more winery stop in Kelowna at a place called The Vibrant Vine. This was recommended to us by a friend who had never even been there, but had heard great things about it. I searched it online, and agreed that it did look very cool, so that was winery tour stop #2.

Going to The Vibrant Vine was a very psychedelic experience for all senses! It hosts not only great wine, but also some amazing art work. It seems like the place you would want to go and spend your evenings listening to the musical performances that take place on the small stage set up outside. And did I mention the wine? It was awesome. The gal working there told us all kinds of stories about each of the wines, and even the labels. One of our samples was of a dessert wine, and you drink it out of a chocolate shot glass, which you then get to eat. So tasty!

After we bought our few bottles of wine, we were given a pair of 3D glasses so that we could fully appreciate the art work on the bottles! Take a look at the picture below to see the style of art I am referring to.

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Chocolate Shot Glasses at The Vibrant Vine

With that, we began winding our way through the vineyards on our way to Summerland. We stopped at one or two more wineries, but had to be careful because those tiny samples do add up, and someone had to do the driving in between!

When we got to Summerland we went to the much-talked-about Dirty Laundry Vineyard. It was the busiest vineyard we had been to, but had a lot of character and we could see why it was so popular. We enjoyed the wine and the atmosphere here, had our samples, bought our wine, and were on our way.

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Wine IS fun!

After Summerland, we continued on to Penticton. I haven’t mentioned this yet so I should here- the drive through the Okanagan Valley is gorgeous. The hills and lakes make for breathtaking scenery. Everyone should drive this area at least once (a year!).

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By the time we got to Penticton, we were a little scarred from our Kelowna campground experience, so decided to really splurge and get a hotel room. On short notice, we ended up paying quite a bit (more than all of our campground passes combined) but we were thrilled to have a night away from the air mattress (did I mention it went flat on night three and we spent a night on the ground?). Plus, our room had a small kitchen so we were able to empty and clean out our coolers over night. Bonus!

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Welcome to Summer! Penticton, BC.

As tempting as it was to spend the entire evening on the comfortable hotel bed, one of my close friends that I grew up with lives in Penticton, so we arranged plans to meet for dinner that night.

We had a delicious meal at Hooded Merganser. This restaurant was right on the water and offered gorgeous views along with their fantastic drinks, mains, and dessert!

After dinner we were so full that we decided to take a walk along the pier to try and work off some of that amazing meal. Again, more beautiful views.

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The next morning, we headed out of Penticton and were homeward bound. My only regret of this trip was that we didn’t take advantage of the 30 degree weather and tube down the river that connects the Penticton lakes. This is a huge favourite among locals and tourists. Next time I go to Penticton, I will definitely be going river-tubing!

As we wound our way out of the Okanagan Valley, we stopped at a few more vineyards and a fruit stand. We left BC with our tummies, hearts, and truck full!

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