Three unique trips through the Thompson Okanagan
One of the most common questions that I get asked is, what is the best way to get from Vancouver to Jasper? Many visitors fly into Vancouver and then out of Calgary - but what should you do along the way?
I’m going to talk about this journey in the context of British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan region, which is the main region you’ll pass through on your way to Jasper. Here are my recommended routes and a few highlights along the way.
There are three main ways that I recommend getting from Vancouver to Jasper:
1. The scenic mountain road North through Whistler and Highway 99 (890 km)
2. The fastest route through the Lower Mainland to Kamloops (800 km)
3. Lake and wine country through the Similkameen Valley, Okanagan Corridor and Kamloops (1,130 km)
Regardless of which route you take, there are numerous places to stop and enjoy your road trip. However, if you have the time, my preferred route is the third option through the Similkameen and Okanagan since you get a ton of variety.
So, for Route #3 here are the main highlights along the way:
East of Hope you’ll encounter the Similkameen (Smelqmix) Valley. This burgeoning wine region is home to rugged mountains, an abundance of organic produce and the Similkameen River.
● Manning Provincial Park - a lush green park located just east of Hope
● Orofino Winery - Canada’s first eco-friendly strawbale winery
● Harkers Organics, Rustic Roots Winery & Cidery - a one-stop-shop for amazing local organic treats
Starting from Osoyoos, drive north through the Okanagan (Suqnaqinx) Corridor and pass through Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon (amongst many other wonderful small communities). Here is where you will find wine and lake country heaven.
● Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre - an interpretive centre dedicated to sharing the stories of the local Syilx people
● Spotted Lake - take a tour with Swiws Spirit Tours and learn about the cultural and geological significance
● Burrowing Owl Winery - a leader in sustainability and (of course) delicious wine
● One of these amazing Penticton Breweries - these guys are seriously committed to local, quality craft beer
● Kelowna’s Drop Bike System - a great fuel-free way to see the downtown
● Davison Orchards - Local & fresh produce including incredible apple pie
Kamloops (Tk'emlups) is a recreation hub - known for hiking, mountain biking and a bold local flavours, this city is a great stop before continuing north.
● Monte Creek Ranch Winery - produces wine, haskap berry jam, organic honey and grass-fed beef
● BC Wildlife Park - 40+ indigenous species, wildlife education centre, bird of prey demonstrations and more
● Secwépemc Museum & Heritage Park - 5-hectare heritage park with guided tours of a residential school and archaeological sites
● Sun Peaks Resort - located 45 minutes northeast of Kamloops, this resort community is a recreation hotspot all year round.
Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park
The abundance of waterfalls at Wells Gray Park is unmatched. There is so much to do here and in the nearby town of Clearwater, make sure to set aside a few days.
● Wells Gray Waterfalls - all year round, these waterfalls should be a bucket list item
● Murtle Lake - this non-motorized lake is a paddlers dream
Valemount & Mount Robson Provincial Park
Stock up in the town of Valemount before heading towards Mount Robson Provincial Park. The stretch of highway between Valemount and Mount Robson Park is one of the most scenic of this entire drive. When you turn the corner and see the park’s namesake, you’ll know you’ve hit Canada’s epic Rocky Mountains.
● Valemount & Area Museum - preserving items that might end up in landfills, this museum features household items which are 50 - 100 years old
● Mount Robson Visitor Centre - a great stop to learn about the park and things to do
● Three Ranges Brewing - this beloved local taphouse is all about fostering community
For information on road conditions visit DriveBC.
For camping and provincial park information, visit BC Parks.
For other touring routes visit Destination BC.
Have a safe road trip and feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghan Reading is a Canadian travel photographer. She grew up in the rocky mountains of Alberta but now calls British Columbia home. While she looks forward to continuing to explore the world with her camera, her favourite destination will always be her own backyard.