I’ve always loved the Okanagan. As a born-and-raised Vancouverite, I’ve been instilled with a lifelong fear of rained out camping trips – which is why I’m often tempted by the reliably sunny, hot and dry interior region in the summer. So when a friend offered me the chance to join him on a road trip to Tulameen, a cozy lakeside town just northwest of Princeton, I jumped at the chance.
The drive from Vancouver to Tulameen makes for a great road trip – leaving the city, we passed through the Fraser Valley (where we made sure to pick up some delish local corn for later) and then onto the windy Hope-Princeton Highway (with the requisite stop at E C Manning Provincial Park, at just about the halfway point).
Once we reached Princeton (about 3.5 hours from Vancouver), we crossed a single-lane bridge and headed up into the hills along a road that seemed to be almost impossibly clinging to the side of the rocky hills. The payoff for the somewhat hair-raising drive, though, is the views it provides of the valley below:
Up next was my favourite part of the journey: about 8km (5 miles) before Tulameen you’ll find the tiny/quirky mining town of Coalmont, BC. The interior of BC is dotted with old mining towns like this, remnants of an era far gone. Coalmont was established in 1912 as a supply point for the nearby mine at Blakeburn, and you can still see the evidence of its 100+ year old roots (and its sense of humour):
Perhaps the best-known of Coalmont’s old buildings is the Coalmont Hotel. It’s been open on and off over the past few years (depending on ownership), but legend has it the hotel is haunted! We had hoped to stop for a (spooky) midday beer in the saloon on our way in, but unfortunately we found it in one of its not-open periods.
Once through little Coalmont, we were just minutes from Tulameen – and the lake! Summers in the interior of BC are HOT, and there’s nothing better after a few hours in the car than jumping into a fresh, cold lake.
Summertime in a lakeside vacation town means water activities galore – you’re likely to see everything from kayaks to jetskis on the lake at any given time. There are also two public beaches: one at the south end of the lake, and one further north inside Otter Lake Provincial Park (where you can also camp). The water is cool and clean – the perfect respite from the dry, hot afternoons.
But hanging on the lake isn’t the only thing to do in these parts – many also take to the hills for offroading & ATVing, plus hiking and biking (there’s a great little bike trail around the lake – it’s part of the Trans-Canada trail). On our second day there we headed to the hills ourselves, to check out Tulameen Falls. The Falls aren’t the easiest to get to, but luckily we had the escort of a group of stalwart Tulameen locals (including these two pups):
After a 45 minute drive up into the logging roads west of Tulameen, full of pretty mountain and valley views, we arrived at the river-side trail that would take us to the falls – which we’d heard were well worth the journey. And they most definitely were.
The Falls being a bit off the beaten path meant we had the place to ourselves – which made for a perfect afternoon of swimming and picnicking. My friend and I even managed to climb up them – an experience I would have expected to have more in a Costa Rica-type locale, rather than right here in BC. It was pretty amazing!
Tulameen is also a great jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding area: on the first night, we drove to Hedley, BC, a historic mining town, for a super tasty meal at the Hitching Post Restaurant – which, like many others in the area, is a historic building (built in 1903). (Also, if you’re in Hedley and have time, definitely check out the Mascot Gold Mine, which is well worth a visit for the views alone).
Tulameen is also a short drive from the Similkameen Valley, which just happens to be one of BC’s up-and-coming wine regions – and we managed to squeeze in a full day of wine touring, which was definitely a highlight (read more about our wine tour of the Similkameen Valley). Even better, just off Highway 3 between the Similkameen Valley and Tulameen, lies one of my favourite spots of the entire area: Bromley Rock Provincial Park, which might just be home to the best little swimming hole in the province.
All in all, our Tulameen trip was the perfect laid-back summer escape from the city – and I’ll definitely be back. It’s also a fantastic winter destination, especially if you’re into snowmobiling. For more info (including accommodations), check out the community website.
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