Here are the top parks to visit in the Okanagan Shuswap region. While there are about 60 provincial parks in the region, and hundreds of municipal parks, most visitors (or even residents) don’t have enough time to visit them all. Of course your park preference will be decided by your preference for either total wilderness or civilized leisure (or somewhere in the middle).
Here are our picks for the top parks in the region, listed from north to south:
Adams River/ Roderick Haigh-Brown Provincial Park
North of Highway 1 past Squilax Bridge, Chase
This 988 hectare park is popular not only for its stunning scenery but its wildlife. 10 million salmon climb up this river every four falls (most recently in 1998) to spawn and lay their eggs. In other years the salmon run is less dramatic (but still about 200,000 salmon). By the time the salmon have completed the 485 kilometre swim from the sea, their silver bodies have turned a bright red.
Shuswap Lake Marine Park
Various spots along Shuswap lakeshore
This park is spread around 14 sites around the perimeter of Shuswap Lake and includes stretches of shoreline along the Anstey and Seymour arms. Please note that overnight mooring of boats is not permitted in the park areas, but is allowed elsewhere along the lakeshore.
Mabel Lake Provincial Park
3638 Lumby-Mabel Lake Rd, Lumby, BC V0E 2G6
(35 km east of Enderby)
This park lies in a steep glacier carved valley where the Shuswap highlands meet the Banshee Mountains. The vegetation reflects the transition from dry plateau to moist/snowy mountain terrain. There are both ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests, which make for great rainbow trout fishing.
6 km west of Vernon
This community was the northern terminus of barges and steamers on the Okanagan Lake until 1936, when the arrival of highways. Visit Paddlewheel Park, which commemorates the history of paddlewheelers to the area, with the SS Naramata on display. This park also has a great /beach on the northern end of Okanagan Lake.
Silver Star Provincial Park
Silver Star Rd, 19.5 km east of highway 97, Vernon
This 8,714 hectare day-use park offers 80 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and 25 kilometres of snowmobile trails in the winter time.
south of Vernon
Kalamalka Lake is known for its unusual emerald green color. The lake is actually named for the Indian Chief Kalamalka who lived at the head of the lake. The north shore of the lake has a sandy beach. On the northeast corner of the lake is Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, a 978 hectare park (Day use only) with great hiking and birdwatching (watch out for rattlesnakes!).
Knox Mountain Park
up Knox Mountain Rd, at the end of Ellis Street, north of downtown
This park is known for not one but two lookout point over Kelowna, the Lake, the floating bridge, and Westbank on the opposite shore. The Mountain is famous for both great picture taking and as a lover’s lane. Great for hiking and picnicking. At the foot of the park is an underwater diving park called “Paul’s Tomb, complete with a 7 metres long model of Ogopogo, 8 metres below the surface.
Abbott Street at Bernard, Kelowna
This downtown park is the focal point of Kelowna’s marriage to the Lake. There is a children’s waterpark, a couple of interesting statues (including one of Ogopogo). The park is also where the MV Fintry Queen paddlewheeler is moored.
Mission Creek Regional Park
2363 Springfield Rd, Kelowna, BC V1X 7N7
(south of Springfield Road, Kelowna)
This 230 acre park runs alongside Mission Creek to the south of Kelowna’s downtown. This creek has a recreational trail that extends from Lakeshore Road to Springfield Road, about 6 kilometres. The park continues upstream, until it eventually joins the Scenic Canyon Regional Park. The park has many recreational uses, and commemorates the first white settlement in Kelowna on the Creek. In the fall, the Creek is home to 12,000 spawning fish.
Antlers Beach Provincial Park
Highway 97 south in Peachland at Hardy Street
(just south of town)
This park is on both sides of highway 97. One side has a sandy beach, the other has a waterfall of Deep Creek. The creek is a kokanee spawning run after mid-September.
Giants Head Park
9296 Milne Rd, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z7
(Giant’s Head Rd, off Rosedale Avenue, Summerland)|
The 910 metre Giants Head Mountain overlooks Summerland, looking like (what else?) a giant man’s head, with great views of the lake, and has picnic areas.
Sun-Oka Beach Provincial Park
Okanagan Hwy, Summerland, BC V0H 1N0
(10 km north of Penticton, on Highway 97)
The name of this beach says it all, being shortened from “Sunny Okanagan.” This is one of the most popular and most-used beaches and park areas in the valley, with its nice southern exposure. This beach is the site of the Summerland Kinsman Polar Bear Swim each January 1.
Okanagan Lake Park
Along the lakeshore of Penticton
This park is on the southern end of Okanagan Lake, has a pleasant north-facing beach and a brick pathway along it length, from the Marina on the east, past the Penticton Art Gallery, Rotary Park, and the SS Sicamous sternwheeler to the Penticton Rose Garden and the Okanagan River Channel on the west. You can rent inner tubes and rafts, and take a leisurely ride down the 7 kilometre long Channel to Skaha Lake. You can also jog or ride a bicycle along the recreational trail that runs beside the Channel.
South Beach Drive
This park has a south-facing beach along Skaha Lake. Its well -treed for shade, and has a boat rental shop a the eastern end. There are handy shops close-by, and its far enough away from the airport not to be distracting.
Nickel Plate Provincial Park (Apex Mountain Provincial Recreation Area)
32 kilometres west of Penticton on Green Mountain Rd.
From Green Mountain Road, follow Apex Mountain Road through Apex Mountain Village to the Hedley Creek/ Nickel Plate Forest Service road. Follow this for about 4.5 km. Turn at the big rock and follow this road for 1/2km to reach the camping area. Access by four-wheel drive vehicles only. This 575 hectare recreation area is known for three 2,00 metre summits including Apex Mountain, Beaconsfield Mountain and Mt Riordan. From this park, you can see the Cathedral and the Manning provincial park areas.
Okanagan Falls Provincial Park
Green Lake Rd, Okanagan Falls, BC V0H 1R0
(just south of the Christie Memorial Park)
This 2 hectare park has 22 campsites open April to October. The park is at the fringe of deciduous trees in the Okanagan and features a large bat population, with 14 species in the Okanagan.
Harrison Way (370 Ave), off 69th St heading east
Tugunuit Lake, just to the east of the Okanagan River is a spring-fed lake. There is a public beach on the lake.
Vaseux Lake Provincial Park
(14.5 km north of Oliver on Highway 97
About 25 km south of Penticton on Hwy 97)
This federal wildlife and bird sanctuary lies alongside a 4 kilometre-long shallow and weedy lake with nice sandy beaches. The lake is named for the French word for muddy. The lake is a resting point for birds coming through here on their spring and fall migrations, and attracts some species not sighted anywhere else in Canada: the canyon wren, white throated swift and the white-headed woodpecker. On the southwest end of the lake is McIntyre Bluff, named for one of the Overlanders in 1862. There is no power boating allowed on the lake. The nearby Wildlife Centre, with its trails and blinds, provides opportunities to view California bighorn sheep and some of the area’s unique flora and fauna. There is a Provincial Park with 14 campsites beside the Wildlife Centre.
Federal Ecological Reserve (Pocket Desert)
east on Road 22, 7.5 km north of Osoyoos
This 100 hectare desert is the northern extreme of the American Great basin Desert, which extends all the way to Mexico. Since 1921, much of the area has been transformed by irrigation, except for this reserve of unspoiled desert. The climate supports several rare plants and animals. Look for burrowing owls, turkey vultures, pacific rattlesnake, bats, black-headed grosbeaks, antelope bush, sage, rabbitbrush and prickly pear cactus.
8 km west on Crowsnest Highway 3
This 12 hectare lake has heavy dissolved concentrations of various minerals including copper, silver, gold, sulphates, and epsom salts. These rise to the surface into plates that “spot” the lake’s surface. Natives called the lake “Klilok” or medicine lake, and believed that a soak brought both youth and wisdom. Unfortunately, today, the lake is on private property.
Keremeos Columns Provincial Park
Keremeos, BC V0X 1N0
4 km north on Highway 3A (east at cemetery)
This undeveloped 20 hectare park requires a short route over private property (pleas ask permission), and then requires a steep, hot 8 kilometre hike (bring water in canteens). At the end of the hike you are rewarded with 30 metre high, 100 metre wide basalt columns formed by volcanos 30 million years ago. The Columns are on private land, which is closed to the public
Cathedral Provincial Park
Ashnola River Rd, off Highway 3, 5 km west of Keremeos
This 33,272 hectare park is 21 kilometres down the road, past small ranches. The park offers 32 kilometres of wilderness hiking trails with views of various immense peaks with strange shapes (and stranger names like Devil’s Woodpile, Grimface Mountain, Macabre Tower, or Stone City) and lots of wildlife. The area has bighorn sheep, golden eagles, hawks, mountain goats, mule deer, pika, squirrels, and plenty of fish in the water. It is also the starting point for the Centennial Trail to Manning Provincial Park.