Flowers in the Thompson Okanagan, Photo Allen Jones
The Similkameen River is the heart of the Similkameen Valley. Its waters nourish the lands and farms and also provide recreational opportunities, particularly throughout the summer when the temperatures soar. Cooling off in the waters, paddling, tubing, river rafting and fishing are all popular pastimes as is just relaxing on the beach. For the more energetic, hiking or biking the China Ridge Trails and Kettle Valley Rail Trail provides stunning views and access to cool lakes and roaming wildlife. History, heritage, orchards, wineries, fruit stands and in the winter skiing and snowboarding are just some of the reasons to visit the Similkameen Valley.
Located at the Junction of Highways 3 and 3A, west of Osoyoos and Penticton, Keremeos, known as the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada” offers wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables as does nearby Cawston, the “Organic Capital of Canada”. These communities are famous for the many fruit stands that showcase an abundance of fruit and fruit-related products grown right in the Similkameen Valley. The roadside stands overflow with cherries, peaches, plums and more and you cannot pass through these communities without stopping to stock up on their offerings.
While in the Similkameen, find time to sip and savour some of the award-winning wines and ciders on offer. Pair the wine with some local fruit and relax by the river or lake – what better way to recharge your batteries.
When in Keremeos, a tour of the Grist Mill is a must where you can explore a working 1877 waterwheel powered flour mill and enjoy the heritage plants and herbs grown in the gardens. Follow this by partaking of lunch made with their own breads and local produce in the Kitchen.
West of the town is Keremeos’ Red Bridge. A heritage landmark over the Similkameen River it is the gateway to Cathedral Provincial Park and the Ashnola Recreation Area. The bridge was built in 1909 and is the last remaining covered bridge in Western Canada. It is also one of the most photographed sites in the Similkameen Valley.
Located further west from Keremeos on Highway 3 is the unique and tiny historic village of Hedley. It’s very easy to drive straight through but it is fun to stop here and wander through Hedley Museum and see how the locals lived and worked during the gold mining days. Look up and you will see clinging to the side of the mountain the old Mascot Mine where miners toiled for gold back in the 1930s and 1940s.
Heading further west towards Princeton is Bromley Rock, a striking rock bluff along the Similkameen River where you can enjoy a refreshing dip in a quiet pool or go tubing. Hiking in the area affords good views of the Similkameen Valley.
Princeton is the largest community in the Similkameen, surrounded by mountains and valleys, ranchlands and rivers, it is at the confluence of the Similkameen and Tulameen Rivers. Fish for mountain whitefish and rainbow trout, float down the river or kayak on a quiet nearby lake. You can also try your hand at gold panning. Take a drive up to Tulameen and spend a fun day at the beach at Otter Lake. Hike or bike the China Ridge Trails or cycle the Kettle Valley Trail and see the amazing hoodoos.
The Similkameen Valley is also popular in the winter. At Cathedral Lake Provincial Park there is excellent cross-country skiing and Apex Mountain Resort, near Penticton, has great Okanagan powder providing some of the best skiing in British Columbia. Snowboarding, sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, and other activities add to the winter fun.