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The Southern Interior
This covers a lot of territory, and the interior of BC is extremely diverse from desert to rain forest. There is something about the Canadian Wilderness that can't be duplicated anywhere else. Those who have sat in a boat on an Alpine Lake early in the morning, fishing rod in hand, mist rising off the water, with the haunting sound of the loon in the distance, will know what I mean.
From Vancouver, there are 2 routes to the Interior. You can go up Highway 99 through Squamish, Whistler , Pemberton and join Highway 1 at Lytton in the Fraser Canyon. Alternatively, you can take Highway 1 to Hope. From here you have 3 choices. Avoid Highway 5, this route is not as scenic as the others, and it is a toll highway. This leaves you 2 choices, Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon or Highway 3. Both are scenic in different ways. If you do decide on the Fraser Canyon route, take a 10 km side trip along Highway 3 first, to see the Hope Slide (see link under Hope, BC in the table below for a picture). The Fraser Canyon route follows the Fraser River and then the Thompson. From Hope to Cache Creek, the landscape changes from West Coast rain forest to desert. The Thompson river is also a favorite location for white water rafting. Its not as exciting as the Zambezi, but well worth the $100 it costs for a one day trip. See links below for companies. Continuing north of Cache Creek, you enter the Cariboo region. This is a large ranching region of rolling hills. Its possible find guest ranches, horseback riding etc. Alternatively from Cache Creek, you can head east to Kamloops and then south into the Okanagan or east to Banff.
The other route from Hope, is Highway 3 to Princeton. Other than the Coquihalla Toll Highway, this is the fastest route to the Okanagan valley described in the next paragraph. My favourite spot along this highway is Lightning Lakes. The turnoff is to the right, just past the Manning Park Lodge about 60 km from Hope. These are a series of 4 very picturesque lakes that are probably the closest to your image of Canadian Alpine Lakes you will find. There is a government campsite here and one at nearby Coldspring. Note: You need to make reservations to get into Lightning lake campground in July & August. It is possible to hike up the lakes, and its a good one for families, since there is little altitude gain. If your headed to the Okanagan Valley, you have another choice of routes at Princeton. Highway 5A north of Princeton Intercepts 97C which then joins the main Okanagan Highway at Peachland. I am particularly fond of Highway 5A. It has several very pretty lakes along its route. Unfortunately 97C is very dull. The other alternative is to continue on Highway 3 to either Ossoyoos or Keremeos and head north into the Okanagan or east into the Kootenays.
Lightning Lake, Manning Park , 60 Km E. of Hope on Hwy. 3
Those who like warm, sunny weather, lakes and good wine won't be able to do much better than the Okanagan Region. This is a semi-arid area, stretching from Ossoyoos at the U.S. Border to Kamloops, and is one of favourite areas of the Province. There are over 40 Wineries in this area and most have tours. (see links below) BC wines are a major success story. 20 years ago they were only good for cleaning paintbrushes, now they are recognized as being some of the best in the world. The Okanagan is also known for its large clean lakes, which offer a contrast to the almost desert landscape. There are many campgrounds in the area, but this area is very popular and it can be difficult to find a vacant one in July-August. The area is also noted for its high temperatures in summer, usually in the mid to high 30's C and sometimes exceeding 40 C. (90 to 105 F)
Okanagan Lake itself is interesting , as it is home to Ogopogo, a lake monster that supposedly lives in the lake. Evidence for this particular creature is quite strong. Hundreds of sightings have occurred over the last 100 years. There have been many sightings by more than one individual at the same time, which makes this particular monster somewhat more believable. The largest occurred in September 1926 when 30 carloads of people simultaneously watched it. The creature was well known to the natives of the area who had a healthy respect for it. The lake is over 100 miles long and is over 1000 ft deep in many areas, so its certainly possible it contains something other than fish. A friend of my parents saw it, when water skiing a few years back ,and never went in the lake again. There is actually a 2 million dollar reward to anyone who can come up with indisputable proof of its existence. Here is a link to extensive information on the creature, if you are interested: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/ogopogo/
If you are into biking, check out the Kettle Valley Railway. This Railroad was an incredible feat of construction which used to run from the Okanagan Valley to Vancouver. The Railway became uneconomical in the 60's and was abandoned. The tracks were removed, leaving just the right-of-way and an incredible number of trestles and tunnels. You can now bike long stretches of it. It is best accessed at Princeton, Penticton or Kelowna. The biggest trestles are near Kelowna, and look just like those you see in the old Western Movies. These have been resurfaced for bike use. There are also some large ones up above Penticton near Chute Lake, which are in their original state and quite scary to cross. The tourist information centers in these towns can provide maps and direct you. Personally, I think abandoning this line was a big mistake. Had they put some steam trains on it, it would have been one of the biggest tourist draws in North America. Unfortunately, even though local bike groups are maintaining stretches of it, a lot of the right-of way is deteriorating over time. A short section of the railway complete with tunnels has been turned into a tourist attraction near the town of Hope, 160 km east of Vancouver at the junction of Hwy's #1, #3 and #5. (See links in Table under Kettle Valley and Hope)
To the northeast of the Okanagan is the Shuswap area centered around Shuswap Lake which is located east of Kamloops. This area is less arid than the Okanagan and Shuswap lake is beautiful lake with many camping opportunities around its shores. A popular summer pastime is to rent a houseboat on this lake for a week or two. This is also the area of the famous Adams River salmon run in late fall where you can view thousands of spawning salmon. There are two links to sites specializing in the Shuswap area in the table below.
If you have always had an urge to try the western lifestyle, and being on a horse is your idea of a good time, you won't do much better than the Douglas Lake Ranch near Merritt (Junction of the Coquihalla Hwy and 97A). This is a 3 hour drive from Vancouver. Accommodation here ranges from cheap bring your own tent camping (about $15), to lodge accommodation (about $140). You can horseback ride, boat, or experience some of the best fly fishing around. See the link in the table below for details, or if you live in North America, phone toll free at 1-800-663-4838.
Campsite at Okanagan Lake 30 km north of Penticton on Hwy. 97.
A little further north is the Kamloops region. It is possible to rent a houseboat on Shuswap Lake, east of the city. To the north along Highway 5, there is Wells Grey Park, near Clearwater. This park boosts some spectacular waterfalls.
Heading south of the Okanagan and east along Highway 3 will take you into the Kootenay region. This area has many lakes, campgrounds and areas of historical interest.
There are several Hostels in Southern BC, both those run by Hostelling International & others. There are links to them in the table below.
|Sunny Okanagan||Website dedicated to the Okanagan valley-Accommodation/Things to do/etc.|
|Shuswap Lake||Excellent site, including maps|
|Shuswap Lake||Guide to the Shuswap area east of Kamloops|
|Elk Valley Hostel||Located in Fernie, in the Kootenay Region.|
|Fernie Hostel||Same as above, but this is the hostel's own web site|
|Kamloops Hostel||Located in the Thompson region, Kamloops is a large center|
|Kelowna Hostel||Kelowna is in the Okanagan Valley. This Hostel is likely popular|
|Vernon Hostel||Vernon is in the Okanagan Valley|
|Shuswap Lake||Suswap Lake is a large recreational Lake east of Kamloops|
|Bigwhite Hostel||Bigwhite is a ski area near Kelowna|
|Penticton Hostel||Penticton is in the Southern Okanagan Valley. This Hostel is likely popular|
|Cranbrook Hostel||Cranbrook is in the Kootenay region|
|Nelson Hostel (HI)||Nelson is in the Kootenay region|
|Nelson Hostel||Another Nelson Hostel|
|http://www.accommodationskootenays.com||On Line Booking - Kootenays|
|http://www.accommodationsokanagan.com||On Line Booking- Okanagan|
|Hope, BC||Info on Fraser Canyon, Kettle Valley Tunnels, Chainsaw Carvings, Hope Slide|
|Cycling Kettle Valley RR||Guide to cycling the Kettle Valley Railway|
|Fraser River Rafting||1 or 2 day white water rafting trips on the Thompson (class 3 and 4)|
|REO Rafting||More challenging Rafting (class 5) on the Nahatlatch River|
|Kumsheen Rafting||Another recommended rafting company|
|Wineries||List of some of the Okanagan Valley wineries|
|Wine route Map||Map, showing how to get to Wineries in the Okanagan.|
|Douglas Lake Ranch||Ever want to go to a Dude Ranch? This is the one. Its near Merritt.|
|Okanagan B. & B.'s||Directory of Okanagan Bed & Breakfasts|
|Kootenays||Guide to the Kootenay Region|
|Kodiak Timber Lodge||Winter Ski resort near Kamloops (Sun Peaks)|
|Clearwater British Columbia||Information on this area & Wells Gray Park|
Helmekin Falls in Wells Gray Park near Clearwater.