Plan a Camping Trip to British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley
BC Parks reservations can be tricky to come by for a summer weekend, so when we snagged a last minute reservation for Stemwinder Provincial Park in BC’s Similkameen Valley we were excited to get out and try a new campsite.
Previously we have camped at nearby Bromley Rock Provincial Park (see our blog) so we had an idea of what the area would be like. The campsite at Stemwinder consists of 28 vehicle accessible campsites sandwiched between Highway 3 and the Similkameen River. The campground is generally laid out on two levels, the top level is right beside the highway and the sites are fairly open. The lower level, beside the river, is more treed. Our site was located right on the corner where you drive from the upper bench to the lower bench, so while it was surrounded on three sides by the campground road it still managed to be decently private since we really only had one neighbour.
The campsite at Stemwinder has pit toilets and one hand pump (on the lower level) for water. There are two short trails leading from near campsites 12 and 13 to access the river. Caution is advised, though, as Poison Ivy lurks just off the established trail! When we visited it was still quite early in the season and the Similkameen River was high. Later in the season the water would be lower and exploring the shoreline would be an option, although BC Parks cautions that the river runs fast and excellent swimming skills are required for anyone venturing into the water at this location. For a more relaxing swimming destination, head to Bromley Rock.
Stemwinder Provincial Park makes an excellent location to use as a base to explore the surrounding area. On our trip, we spent our first day visiting nearby Keremeos. Keremeos offers a huge selection of orchards and vineyards. Pick up a winery and cidery passport at your first stop of the day, and then visit a total of either three or five locations in order to be entered to win a Similkameen Wine Lovers Package. On our visit we focused on the Similkameen cideries and had a great time visiting each location and sampling their offerings.
There are plenty of opportunities to travel back in time in Keremeos. The Red Bridge, originally built in 1907 as a railway bridge, is one of the only covered bridges left on the west coast. Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens is a provincial heritage site home to a functional water wheel from 1877. The site offers workshops, a restaurant, heritage gardens, an RV campground, and lots more.
Before heading back to our campsite, we made sure to pop in at some of the many fruit stands in Keremeos. Fresh fruit and samosas were on the menu for us and both were delightful!
Stemwinder Provincial Park is a great weekend or stopover destination when travelling through the Similkameen region. There is a lot to experience, whether you prefer sampling from vineyards and orchards, exploring a heritage site, or getting out for a hike such as the one at nearby French Mine (see blog).
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Spring Activities Abound in the Okanagan
In the mountains there is still plenty of white stuff, but in the valleys, once the snow melts, the trees start to bloom and the leaves turn green.
There are a variety of activities available in early spring, especially because the temperate climate of the Okanagan is so warm early in the season. Consider indulging in some of the following if you’re looking to get camping this spring:
If you’re a fan of wines and brews, consider taking one of the area’s many wine tours. In Kelowna, you can take the Lakeshore Wine Route, starting at Sperling Vineyards to CedarCreek Estate Winery. Home of the award-winning restaurant, Home Block, CedarCreek is a popular way to enjoy the valley and the views of Okanagan Lake. As your day winds down, you can head back to Apple Valley Orchard and RV Park for a good night’s rest. The next day, you’ll be geared up to head down to Penticton to explore one of the province’s mighty Ale Trail destinations. In fact, Penticton was recently named Canada’s Craft Beer Capital!
You’re wise to spend several days using Kelowna as your home base, especially in spring. The flowers are out and the birds are singing, so it’s a great time to visit. Plan to spend a day visiting the Kettle Valley Railway in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, where you can enjoy biking, hiking and walking across the 18 trestles that still exist from the decommissioned railway line.
Of course, spring skiing is still an option if you’re so inclined, with Big White Resort, located just 60 kilometres east of Kelowna, a short day trip away. Other great accommodations in the Kelowna area include Okanagan RV Park, West Eagle Campground and Holiday Park RV & Condo Resort.
It’s a great time of year to visit the South Okanagan, as the fruit trees are in bloom in early April. Their heady scent permeates the air. In Penticton, you can enjoy time at a variety of different campgrounds and resorts, including Oxbow RV Resort, South Beach Gardens Campground or Barefoot Beach Resort. While in Penticton, you can enjoy all kinds of different activities and events. In fact, Visit Penticton has a great events calendar you can enjoy year round. Some favourite activities around the Penticton area include a day trip on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland (and don’t forget to swing by Summerland Sweets while you’re in town, or to indulge the adults’ sweet tooth, consider a visit to Bottleneck Drive. You’ll have a chance to enjoy breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries, all in close proximity to each other).
As you wind your way south, golf, swimming, boating and hiking are top activities to enjoy. Outside the busy summer season, there are many places to see and things to do that are just waiting to enjoy. Book a spot at Gallagher Lake, where you’ll enjoy amazing views among the ponderosa pines any time of year. If you plan on staying in sleepy Oliver, consider booking at Lakeside Resort, a full-service year-round resort that’s budget friendly. It’s also near Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course, if you’re looking to practice your swing. Also in Oliver is Fairview Mountain golf course, which is known to be open (weather permitting, of course) 11 months of the year! While you’re in town, swing by the Oliver Visitor’s Centre, as there are events going on all year round in Canada’s Wine Capital.
Closer to the border is Osoyoos, known as Canada’s Warmest Welcome, where – if you’re not careful – you could drift across the American border, which bisects Osoyoos Lake. In town, you have a variety of options for accommodations, including Brookvale Holiday Resort and Cabana Beach Resort.
Stationed in Osoyoos also allows you to head east into Boundary Country or west to the Similkameen on day trips. Each are wonderful (consider visiting the Rock Creek Fall Fair, and don’t forget Keremeos is known as Canada’s Fruit Stand Capital) and are close enough to stay in Osoyoos, the only true desert in Canada, while exploring all the Okanagan has to offer.
For campgrounds in the Okanagan and elsewher in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.
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Published: February 27th, 2020
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