Hiking to French Mine Near Hedley in British Columbia’s Okanagan
While recently camped at Stemwinder Provincial Park we were searching for a hike in the region. A quick search on AllTrails brought up the Nickelplate French Mine Loop, a 6.3km circular trail near Hedley BC.
We departed Stemwinder early in the day to avoid the heat as best we could and headed east to Hedley. Hedley is a very small community located between Princeton and Keremeos along Highway 3. Hedley has a rich mining history, and from the highway you can see the remains of the old Mascot Gold Mine stretching up the mountainside. Visiting the Mascot Gold Mine has long been on my bucket list, and thanks to an $800,000 grant from the province as part of a COVID relief program, the mine is slated to reopen to visitors in 2023. In the meantime, however, we thought we would head into the backcountry to explore the French Mine.
To access the French Mine site, head east past Hedley and turn off on the Hedley Nickel Plate Road after about 3 kilometres. The Nickel Plate Road, sometimes called the Corkscrew Road, is aptly named. As we wound our way up the mountainside, we enjoyed spectacular views of the valley below.
Eventually we reached our designated start point and parked our truck and headed out on foot. We chose to hike to the Lower French Mine site first, which turned out to be a beautiful walk along an old road. As it turned out, the access road to the lower French Mine could probably be considered vehicle accessible. However, I was happy we decided to park the truck and walk in as it gave us the opportunity to really enjoy the views.
When we arrived at the Lower French Mine site we spent some time looking at the old mining infrastructure. An old ore chute and a concentrator are on the main level, and a short walk up a trail just past the concentrator takes hikers to an open shaft that heads back into the mountainside. When we visited, I was shocked by the serious wind tunnel effect when I stood in front of the mineshaft as ice-cold air poured out of the tunnel around me.
AllTrails indicates that there is a loop hike, and all we needed to do was head uphill and we would come to the Upper French Mine. I 100% do not recommend the scramble between the two mine sites unless you are an experienced scrambler or are part mountain goat. Alas, we did not know this, so as we climbed upwards, I was crossing everything I have that this was the correct trail, and I wouldn’t have to turn around and go back the way we had come up.
Fortunately for me, after 20 or so tense moments, we re-emerged on level ground, scooted along a couple narrow ledges, jumped down a small cliff, and arrived at the Upper French Mine Site. As it turns out, this site is also vehicle accessible. Seriously – skip the scramble linking the two sites and from the Lower French Mine, just walk back the way you came then drive up to the Upper French Mine and save yourself the stress!
Anyway, at the Upper French Mine I was amazed to discover a massive network of tunnels and mineshafts in the mountainside. These shafts have a completely different feel than the one at the lower mine site. The main entrance is enormous, and shafts branch off in every direction imaginable. We stayed in the enormous central cavern, but I’m sure people more adventurous and better equipped than us could spend a lot of time exploring the area.
Since we were parked at the bottom and there was no way I was going back the way we arrived, we returned to our vehicle by hiking out the access road to the Upper French Mine, then down a portion of the Hedley Nickel Plate Road. All in all, our hike was around 7km and took about two hours. Both the Lower and Upper portions of French Mine are worth visiting, but as I have emphasized above, I would do it as two separate trips and not try to link them via the scramble described online.
I am always fascinated by the marks humans leave on the landscape and the French Mine area is a perfect example of this, making it a worthwhile daytrip in the Similkameen area.
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Visit Bromley Rock Provincial Park in BC’s Okanagan Similkameen
The long, hot summer days in BC’s interior call for white sand, cool water, and plenty of places to recline in the shade. Bromley Rock Provincial Park, located 20 kilometres east of Princeton on the shores of the Similkameen River, offers the perfect destination for a day trip, or if you are lucky, a weekend getaway.
Bromley Rock Provincial Park is a small and extremely popular campsite in the south Okanagan. Offering just 17 sites, Bromley Rock can be tricky to get into, but for an earlier summer trip there we were fortunate to get a last-minute Discover Camping reservation. This allowed us to extend our annual day use visit and spend a few days relaxing under the shade of Douglas Firs along the banks of the Similkameen River.
Bromley Rock is well known as a popular entrance spot for floating the Similkameen River. Every afternoon, our peaceful riverside retreat became a liquid highway as people of all ages paddled and floated by in/on all manner of watercraft. From traditional black inner tubes to gigantic party unicorns and from inflatable row boats (complete with oars) to enormous rubber ducks (complete with giant inflatable sunglasses), there is no doubt that in the afternoon, the Similkameen is where the party is.
If floating is not your cup of tea, the day use area west of the campground that serves as the float launch point makes a pretty great destination all on its own. With a huge white sand beach, a deep and relatively calm pool for swimming, and a cliff perfect for jumping, it quickly became obvious that this is one of the most popular destinations in the area on a sunny afternoon. The day use site has 30 parking spots, but when we were there cars were parked all along the access road. If picnicking is more your speed, Bromley Rock’s day use area offers 19 shaded picnic tables overlooking the river and near the parking lot, making it an excellent place to stop for lunch on a quieter day.
In general, we prefer a laid-back and less populated travelling experience, so we found afternoons at the main beach a bit on the overwhelming side. This was quickly resolved when we realized that we could easily walk down to the main beach each morning and evening when there was scarcely another soul around. In the afternoons, we took our lawn chairs down one of the many paths leading from the campground to the riverside. Here, we were able to soak up the sounds of the river in relative isolation, as nearly the entire campsite appeared to head for the beach each day at 11 and not return until late afternoon.
Whether you are seeking a beach party or a relaxing day at the river, Bromley Rock Provincial Park has something for everyone. With a mix of exposed and shaded campsites, a large day use area, and the extremely appealing riverfront location, Bromley Rock Provincial Park is certainly worth adding to your summer bucket list.
For other camping options in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia go to our Camping Map.
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Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park near Merritt, BC Offers Lots to Explore plus New Campsites
I have many fond camping memories from my childhood. Countless weekends spent in tree-shaded sites, camping dinners eaten around the picnic table, falling asleep in my family’s tent – and later, when we upgraded, our 1975 tent trailer. One camping memory, however, stands out in my mind and this little adventure occurred at a place called Kentucky-Alleyne.
Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park is located just off Highway 5A between Merritt and Princeton. Surrounded by rolling ranch land, Kentucky-Alleyne boasts two sparkling turquoise lakes that draw anglers from near and far. This is how my family ended up there. Our neighbour down the street, an avid fisherman, recommended the site. My parents packed up the tent trailer, threw in the fishing gear, and loaded my brother and I into the vehicle for a weekend in the wilderness.
Two main things stand out to me from that trip: the spectacular beauty and the incredible heat. Merritt in the summertime can be a hot place, and my child’s memory of this trip is akin to being baked alive under a white tarp that failed spectacularly in its job to provide a shady place to recover from the heat.
So, it was with some minor trepidation (and a close eye on the weather forecast) that I packed up the same tent trailer and headed back to Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park this year, determined to give the site a second chance. After all, my neighbour from all those years ago said it was one of his favourite sites.
What I found delighted me. A mix of lakefront, wide-open, and treed sites (the treed offerings only to be improved when the beautiful and brand new 33-site Forest Loop opens Canada Day weekend), shimmering waters that made me believe at times that I had been transported someplace tropical, and a breeze that kept even the most exposed campsites comfortable in the early-June heat.
We set up our home away from home in the terraced Alleyne portion of the campground. While the Kentucky Lake campground offers a number of reservable, lake front sites, Alleyne is first-come first-served. For those looking to travel this summer, the new Forest Loop site will also be first-come first-served for the remainder of 2019.
The beautiful setting of the park that I recalled from my childhood had not been exaggerated. From the terraced Alleyne campground, we had a gorgeous view down the lake and beyond to the rolling hills of Douglas Lake Ranch. From our site, we had just a short walk to the waterfront where we launched our canoe and kayaks and spent hours on the water. For those interested in land-based activities, a four kilometre trail circles Kentucky Lake and the new Forest Loop campground makes for a great walk or bike ride.
The park features lakes that are clear and cold and perfect for fishing. Both Kentucky and Alleyne Lakes are stocked annually with rainbow trout from the Summerland Trout Hatchery and are limited to boats with 10hp motors. While we were there, numerous anglers trolled quietly back and forth across the lake, but on the water it never felt crowded. The East and West Ponds, located between Kentucky and Alleyne Lakes, are also stocked and are limited to those under the age of 16, creating a unique opportunity to encourage children to take up fishing.
One unique feature of Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park is its annual toad migration. Each summer, usually in late July or early August, tens of thousands of Western Toads migrate from their breeding ground in the West Pond to the surrounding forests. At this time, some trail and campsite closures in the park may occur in order to ensure maximum safety for this at-risk species. If you visit during this time, please respect the wildlife that calls this protected area home: view the migration from a distance and follow all directions from park staff.
Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park is an undeniably beautiful location. The cold turquoise waters are the perfect antidote for the often relentless summer sun of BC’s interior. The addition of the new Forest Loop provides more capacity in the park and increases the number of sites offering shade. The recent upgrades in the park, coupled with 33 new first-come first-served sites for 2019, makes Kentucky-Alleyne a perfect park to explore this summer.
Looking for other campgrounds in BC? Check out the Camping Map.
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Exploring Four of the Best RV Parks in the South Okanagan, British Columbia
On a crisp, sunny morning last spring, I headed to the Okanagan from Coquitlam to attend the Interior RV Consumer Show in Penticton. I make this trip annually to distribute camping directories for British Columbia but this year decided to take my time and explore some RV Parks in the southern region of the Okanagan Valley.
My destination on the first day was Osoyoos. I headed through the Fraser Valley on Hwy 1 to Hope then took the Crowsnest Hwy (Hwy 3) which is a gorgeous scenic drive over mountain passes and along rivers into the lush agricultural lands of the Okanagan with an abundance of orchards, vineyards and more.
Along the way it’s worth taking a break at Manning Park. In the picnic area you’ll see marmots scurrying in and out of underground burrows and bold whiskey jacks looking to share any snacks you are eating. Further on is Princeton which has several family style cafes, pubs and bistros to suit everyone’s taste. I recommend a stop here if you are wanting refreshments.
On your way to Osoyoos you will pass through the quaint mining town of Hedley and the self-described “fruit capital of Canada” Keremeos. April is a little early to buy local fruit but the many fruit stands are open and worth a visit. Leaving Keremeos you head southwest to Osoyoos passing through Oliver. Check out the blog Take a Break Along the Crowsnest Hwy for more things to see and do along this route.
I arrived at my first overnight stop of Nk’Mip Resort in Osoyoos. This is a popular RV park with some 350 sites including 120 lakefront sites on the beach, 30/50 amp service, tent sites, convenience store, marina with equipment rentals, boat launch and more.
This resort is a wonderful spot to stay as it has so much to offer. In addition, the Restaurant at Spirit Ridge serves fabulous food, then there is the Solstice Spa, Desert Cultural Centre, Nk’Mip Cellars, Vineyard & Winery, Sonora Dunes Golf Course. And it’s only a short 2 km walk or drive to the main street in Osoyoos.
After a good night’s sleep, I left Nk’Mip to head back to Penticton. Before leaving Osoyoos I decided to try the local neighbourhood café, JoJo’s, which is situated on the main street. What a great find. They make everything from scratch and if you are craving a muffin, cookie or eggs benny this is the place to go.
After enjoying a tasty breakfast I headed to Gallagher Lake Resort in Oliver. They have several lovely camping cabins near the beach and over 140 campsites. There are many amenities available including RV hookups, a convenience store, laundry, plus for the energetic – tennis, pickleball, volleyball court, and for the less strenuous – horseshoe pits. The campground is right on Gallagher Lake with their own private sandy beach.
Whilst in Oliver I also dropped in on The Orchard at Oliver, an RV park & motel. The campsites are set in a beautiful orchard and is a great place to relax and take in the laid-back atmosphere that is the Okanagan. You can also try something different and rent one of their rustic cabanas.
After leaving Oliver, I stopped for a quick snack in Okanagan Falls at Tickleberry’s. I had never visited before, so it was a special treat. This is a family-run business known for its delicious homemade ice cream of over 50 flavours, homemade fudge, chocolates, kettle korn, and a wide range of gifts and local crafts to purchase. This is a fun experience and well worth the stop.
The last campground I visited on this trip was Barefoot Beach Resort in Penticton. This is a fairly new resort opposite Skaha Lake offering Yurts and tenting sites. Each yurt comes with a deck, two chairs and BBQ and lovely landscaped grounds. You can also enjoy the Barefoot Beach House Restaurant and Beverage House, relax on the roof top patio and enjoy fresh, Spanish-inspired cuisine, with a frosty margarita in one hand and some fantastic food in the other. They also offer a juice bar, second scoop ice cream and a rental hut and beachwear for all your needs.
From Barefoot Beach Resort I headed to the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre for the Interior RV Show. It was a whirlwind visit to the South Okanagan and next time I shall visit longer and take a few side trips to local wineries.
Roadtrekking in British Columbia’s Southern Interior
Recently we took our Roadtrek van on a camping trip “Roadtrekking” through some of the not so well-known but delightful smaller towns in the Okanagan area of the southern interior of British Columbia. The first day, we left the Vancouver area and headed up Highway 1 and the Crowsnest Hwy 3 to Princeton. We spent the first night in the Princeton municipal park campground which has full hook-ups with free Wifi and is located right beside the Similkameen River on Highway 3. It is a great place to stop overnight. Another camping option is the Princeton golf club across the road with free Wifi and firewood for campers.
The next morning, continuing on Crowsnest Hwy 3, we headed to Keremeos, locally known as ‘the fruit capital of Canada’, and along the way visited the small, historic town of Hedley. This is well worth the stop as you can take a tour of the old Mascot Gold Mine and discover the life of a gold miner through modern technology of light and sound. You can also visit the Discovery Centre and explore the museum and gift shops. Once in Keremeos we stayed at the Eagle RV Park located on Hwy 3.
Much in need of some exercise after our drive, we walked the hiking/biking trail to the historic Red Bridge, the sole survivor of five covered railroad bridges that serviced the gold mining industry around the Hedley-Princeton area in the early 1900s. If you head east on the trail, it takes you to the town centre past many of the fruit stands. During the season, make sure you pick up some of the local fruit and veg to eat on your trip or to take home. Also worth a visit in Keremeos is The Grist Mill and Gardens, a BC Heritage Site.
On day 3 we headed east to the resort town of Osoyoos, a favourite destination for campers seeking beaches, swimming and boating in scenic Osoyoos Lake. We then drove north on Hwy 97 to Oliver where we stopped for lunch. On the main street we discovered a small bakery called the “Artisan Shop” run by a lovely lady from Montreal. The delicious lunch was a spinach and feta quiche, a mushroom filled bun and for desert, a pear filled danish and raspberry tart. Oliver also has a beautiful hiking/biking trail on an abandoned railway bed which is part of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail that will take you to Osoyoos. It is about a 50 km round trip that makes a great day outing.
Continuing north through Okanagan Falls (you must stop for an icecream at Tickleberry’s) our day concluded in Peachland with an overnight stay at Todd’s RV Park located on the main road in downtown Peachland. This is a great family friendly place that has been in business for 60 years, has full hook-ups and is right across from the beach. We spent the evening strolling along the beach, investigating the shops and enjoying the beautiful view across Okanagan Lake. The next morning, we visited the Art Gallery and Tourist Information Centre located in the old school house on Beach Avenue. They have a live video feed of the bat colony that roosts in the attic every summer. There is a great selection of bat themed t-shirts, hats and they even have bat guano for sale to fertilize your garden. The next time we are in the Peachland area, we will be checking out the Stave Pipe and Trepanier hiking trails and Parrot Island sanctuary.
After a great few days of camping, we headed home via the Hwy 97c connector that runs from Peachland to Merritt and then down the Coquihalla Hwy 5 to Hope. With so many unique towns in British Columbia we will soon be off to do more exploring in beautiful British Columbia.
Published: September 8th, 2016
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