Travelling self-contained in a recreational vehicle opens up a whole new world of independent travel possibilities in the Thompson Okanagan where summer camping vacations are a tradition dating back to the mid 1950’s. This tour is specifically designed to link up with northbound travellers heading for either the Alaska Highway, or heading east into Jasper and Alberta. Campers in British Columbia make use of two primary types of accommodation; select “Tourism BC Approved” campgrounds run by private owners, and the government-operated BC Parks system. Camping is a very popular summer activity in this region and so reservations are highly recommended during July and August.
For a selection of campground/RV information and reservations:
- Discover Camping
- Camping BC
Day 1 — USA Border/Osoyoos to Kelowna (3 hours)
Once you cross the Canadian border just south of Osoyoos on Highway #97, you’ll find yourself in the world-famous ‘Pocket Desert’, a small patch of a Sonoran-like desert that extends all the way from Mexico into BC’s Okanagan Valley. Spend the morning at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, an ecological interpretive centre on a protected portion of this habitat. Stroll the elevated boardwalk and learn about desert ecology, ecological restoration of damaged portions of the landscape, and the flora and fauna which inhabit this unique ecosystem.
Spend the afternoon at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos. This state-of-the-art venue celebrates thousands of years of Okanagan First Nations habitation. The Centre provides on-site cultural tours, interpretive programs, and interactive displays reflecting the unique and contemporary experience of the desert and its relationship to the local First Nations people. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy Nk’Mip Cellars next door — it is Canada’s first aboriginal winery.
Route #97 is the heart of the BC Wine Route, an oenophile odyssey that takes in literally dozens of wineries from Osoyoos up to Salmon Arm. Some of the most famous ones are clustered along what’s known as the “Golden Mile” just north of Oliver. From south to north, there’s Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, Inniskillin Winery and Jackson Triggs Winery.
From the US border right through to Salmon Arm, RV’ers will notice dozens of seasonal fruit and vegetable stands which sell the very best produce in the Okanagan. Located just a few minutes from downtown Summerland, Summerland Sweets is an easy pull-off from the main highway. Enjoy free samples while watching a video then tour the factory. The country gift store offers ice cream cones, assortment of distinctive Okanagan fruit products, local pottery, candles and dried fruit arrangements.
Camping: towns and cities in the Okanagan all boast a multitude of campgrounds; indeed, there’s never a lake, river, swimming pool, or water slide far away. In Oliver, try the Nk’Mip Campground & RV Resort or the Lakeside Resort on motorboat-free Tuc-El-Nuit Lake.
Further north about 50 kilometres is Okanagan Falls. Here there is both a North and South campground at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, which as its name suggests is right on the water. Okanagan Falls Provincial Park offers a pretty, secluded campground where the rushing waters of a man-made waterfall calm the soul after a long day on the road. At twilight, this is a terrific place for viewing bats. Not far away is a private RV and campground on Skaha Lake called Sun & Sand RV Park & Campground.
Further north on Highway #97, the Summerland Campground and RV Park is not far from the town of the same name. Not far from here is the terminus for the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. This is a chance to ride an authentic steam train from the turn of the century on a meandering 20 kilometre orchard valley journey with beautiful views! Kelowna offers a myriad number of possibilities. Close to downtown and right across from a major city park is where you’ll find Hiawatha RV Park on aptly-named Lakeshore Road. The Holiday Park Resort just north of town on Duck Lake features tennis courts, shuffleboard, an outdoor and indoor pool, as well as the Okanagan’s very best lake for waterskiing and wakeboarding. For a more remote wilderness experience, try the Dee Lake Wilderness Resort east of Kelowna. This historic lodge and campground is a huge favourite with anglers!
Route #97 is studded with provincial parks all the way from the US border right through to Kelowna. Haynes Point is right on Osoyoos Lake, just south of the town of the same name. Inkameep and Vaseux Lake feature an easy roadside pullout off Route #97 between Oliver and Penticton. Okanagan Falls is a pretty, secluded campground where the rushing waters of a man-made waterfall calm the soul after a long day on the road. There is both a North and South campground at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, which as its name suggests is right on the water. Across the lake from Kelowna, (on Westside Road), Bear Creek Provincial Park is a locals’ favourite.
Travel Trade Partners:
Day 2 — Kelowna to Shuswap Lakes (2 hours)
In the morning, explore art galleries, boutiques, and cafes of Kelowna’s Cultural District. The Turtle Island Gallery offers a diverse range of quality artwork by established and emerging Western Canadian artists. The gallery adjoins a fine crafts gift shop offering photographs and exquisite clay, glass, woodwork and jewellery from BC artisans.
While in the neighbourhood, the BC Orchard Industry Museum and the BC Wine Museum are both located in the Laurel Packing House, a former fruit processing facility. Tour the BC Orchard Industry Museum and discover what a day in the life of a Kelowna pioneer was like. The centerpiece exhibit is The Learning Tree, a fifty year-old Macintosh apple tree from K.L.O. Orchards.
Up in to the rolling bench lands of east Kelowna, we suggest a stop at Okanagan Lavender Farms. Originally planted as an orchard and for nursery stock in the 1950’s, the one acre property was re-planted in 1994 with lavender and now boasts over 18 varieties. You can pick your own lavender or browse their gift shop featuring many different types of lavender products. The fragrant fields overlook Okanagan Lake and the hustle and bustle of Kelowna far below.
Onward to the north Okanagan and whether you’re attempting to back in a thirty-foot Class A motor home or pitching a humble dome tent on a shady patch of grass, there are plenty of campground options on the route from Kelowna to Kamloops. Just south of Vernon, Dutch’s Campground is close to the jade-green waters of Kalamalka Lake, one of the prettiest in all of BC.
Drive north further past Vernon on Highway #97A to Armstrong. Stop and visit The Village Cheese Factory which prides itself on using traditional techniques in creating award-winning, export quality cheese.
Continue on to Salmon Arm and discover the rich history of the area at the. RJ Haney Heritage Park. Stroll through a pioneer Victorian home, school house, church — even a blacksmith shop, and the town’s first gas station and fire department are located here.
Take a detour onto Highway #6 and the Creighton Valley Road (near Lumby) and head for the Echo Lake Fishing Resort, which offers both cabins and a lovely campground, right on the shores of a productive fishing lake. Golfers will love the Royal York Golf Club and RV Park located in Armstrong. Described as “unique and deceivingly difficult”, the course is a full length 3200 yd. par 35, nine hole course and also features a full service restaurant, pro shop, practice facilities, rentals and 24 fully serviced RV sites. The Shuswap Lakes region of this region vies with the Okanagan for offering a truly outstanding camping experience, and the Blind Bay Resort offers the convenience of a lakeside location and a championship golf course!
Shuswap Lake Provincial Park and Herald Provincial Park are on the north side of Shuswap Lake, just east of Chase. There’s a pretty trail to a cascading waterfall at Herald Provincial Park, and Shuswap Lake is known for its lovely beach and family-friendly environment. Fishermen will enjoy wetting a line at White Lake Provincial Park near Salmon Arm. Adams Lake Provincial Park is popular in the fall, with the return of the sockeye to their home spawning streams.
Head west from Salmon Arm on Trans-Canada Highway #1 and stop at Quaaout Lodge Resort, where First Nations traditions come alive. Tour the resort and visit the kekuli (winter home), sweat lodge, and teepees.
Travel Trade Partners:
Quaaout Lodge and Talking Rock Golf Resort
Day 3 — Shuswap Lakes to Clearwater (4 hours)
Depart the Shuswap Lakes vacation area for Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park along the Yellowhead Highway 5 acation area for Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park along the Yellowhead Highway 5 north.
Located 15 kilometres east of Kamloops, you simply cannot get any closer to BC’s renowned wildlife than at the BC Wildlife Park. See native species including grizzly bears, timber wolves, cougars, moose, mountain goats, birds of prey at this spacious 50 hectare park. Daily activities include wildlife encounters, interpretive talks, animal feedings, and even a wolf pack demonstration. The award-winning Discovery Centre includes the BC Eco-Discovery Gallery where guests explore the many habitats on which BC wildlife depend — rainforest, grasslands, mountains, the Interior plateau and the North. An outdoor amphitheater hosts the BC Wildlife Encounters Festival.
Before departing Kamloops, visit the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park and experience the rich cultural history of the Shuswap First Nations. Attractive museum exhibits, outdoor cultural displays, and a unique gift shop make this a can’t miss destination. Take a ride behind the 2141 steam locomotive on a heritage train operated by the Kamloops Heritage Railway in downtown Kamloops.
Head north on Yellowhead Highway #5 for further adventures in the Clearwater area and world-famous Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Camping: The Clearwater Valley Resort & KOA Campground and Alpine Meadows Resort are two of the most popular RV parks in the area. Combine camping with golf at the Wells Gray Golf Resort & RV Park located 20 minutes drive from the entrance of the park. The incredible Trophy Mountains provide a majestic backdrop as you play in this little paradise. The Dutch Lake Resort and RV Park has pedal and paddle wheel boats for exploring its placid waters.
Myriad camping opportunities abound in Wells Gray Provincial Park. If you wish to stay closer to Clearwater, North Thompson Provincial Park is right on the Thompson River and provides an excellent base camp for exploring the area.
Day 4 — Clearwater to Valemount (3 hours)
You’ll need almost a full day to explore Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC’s fourth largest park and with over 515,785 hectares (1.3 million acres of wilderness). Drive into the heart of the park and explore its many magical waterfalls. Spahats Creek Falls are the first you will encounter. Spahats Creek tumbles over a 61 metre cataract into a canyon of the Clearwater River far below. Farther along, Dawson Falls is Wells Gray’s ‘mini Niagara,’ where the 91 metre-wide Murtle River cascades over an 18 metre cliff. A few kilometres downstream from Dawson Falls, the muffled roar of Helmcken Falls is distinctly audible well before you get there. Watch in awe as the Murtle River plummets 137 metres into the plunge pool below!
Continue north following the North Thompson River on Highway #5 towards Valemount, where three major mountain ranges converge — the Monashees, Cariboos, and the Rocky Mountains.
Camping: Get a spectacular view of Mount Robson at the rustic Mount Robson Guest Ranch. Nearby Mount Robson Provincial Park is another option, with its world famous hiking trails, amazing lakes and falls. RV’ers bound for Alaska will be deadheading back west for approximately two hours to make this worthwhile detour.