The Nicola Valley's landscape varies dramatically, from the wind-blasted cliffs of Windy Canyon near Merritt, to the glacial shore-lines of ancient lakes and the rolling grasslands lining Highway 5A. There are even ancient lava cliffs in Monck Provincial Park. With such a diverse environment, an abundance of wildlife and vegetation flourish throughout the Nicola Valley. Bears, deer, and moose are found throughout the region, while elk and mountain goats are less common, but still present. The forests surrounding Merritt harbour a wide variety of tree species from lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir in the highlands to Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine in the benchlands.
The land here is active and adventurous; visitors of the valley are never bored. There's excellent mountain-biking from steep-pitching single track to cross-country riding through grassland meadows. The trails at Lundbom Commonage, home to Laurie Guichon Memorial Grasslands Interpretive Site, offer excellent hiking for all skill sets. The Nicola Valley is also a fisherman's paradise with over 200 bountiful lakes and streams. Back on land, birdwatchers visit Harmon Lake to view some of the area's 200 species of bird. Finally there's the golfing. Golfers tee off in a peaceful atmosphere with immaculately conditioned courses that offer a variety of holes, making golf in the region an unforgettable experience.
The main highways serving the Nicola Valley are the Coquihalla Highway 5, Highway 5A, Highway 97c and Highway 8. The Coquihalla, in particular, is one of the most scenic drives in all of BC. It ascends the Great Bear Snow Shed to an elevation of 1,240 m (4,068 ft), crosses the Thompson Plateau, before finding lake dotted countryside.
Merritt, with a population of 7,000, is the gem of Nicola Valley. In Merritt, the roads come together, the grasslands sway in the summer breezes, the lakes teem with fish, and history meets the present while remaining true to its roots. Merritt carries the title of ‘Country Music Capital of Canada', for good reason. The Merritt Mountain Music Festival in July attracts more than 120,000 people; The Merritt Walk of Stars; Nicola Valley Rodeo Fair Days and Merritt Country Christmas week are just a few reasons to visit
Monck Provincial Park is a wonderful destination for the entire family. It is located on the shores of Nicola Lake, a 15-minute drive from Merritt. The park offers camping, fishing, water-skiing, windsurfing and hiking. This is one of the two parks in BC where you can trek along lava beds while enjoying the countryside. The park is also home to three archaeological sites as the First Nations people have inhabited the area for over 10,000 years and have left behind many rock paintings and pictographs.
A lake a day as long as you stay' is not just a slogan for the Nicola Valley region - it's a fact. With over 150 lakes in the area, this region is unrivaled for its sports fishing. In particular, Nicola Lake is notorious for its great variety of fish. It is said to contain an incredible 26 different species! Angling is the most popular form of fishing here but enthusiasts are also successful with fly and ice fishing. Alleyne and Kentucky Lake are the two largest lakes in the region and are constantly visited by campers hoping to get away from the rush and stress of modern day living.
Visitors can also enjoy other recreational activities including canoeing and hiking. The Nicola Valley offers a rustic open country feel rich with history and fantastic wintertime recreational opportunities. Traces of the old west can be felt across the valley through its historic attractions and working ranches such as Western Canada's largest, Douglas Lake Ranch. Explore the area's rich logging, mining and First Nation's history at the Nicola Valley Museum and Archives featuring the James A Teit Gallery. Historic Baillie House and Merritt's most famous land-mark, The Coldwater Hotel (circa 1909), are two the area's original structures you must visit. The beauty of the Nicola Valley is just as spectacular when covered with snow - snowmobilers love it here. There are a variety of snowmobiling adventures from Thyne Mountain for the novice to challenging hill climbing at Honeymoon Range. There are also 40km (24mi) of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.
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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia