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Along the way: sightseeing en route to skiing

Discussion in 'Canada' started by sly_karma, Oct 28, 2019.

  1. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Every season there are questions in here about sightseeing opportunities along the way to the various ski resorts of Western Canada. There are only a handful of key routes so I thought I'd tackle them one by one and provide a centralised list of the various roadside attractions and nearby highlights. I won't bother listing great views, those are so widely abundant that it can be assumed that any route has them. I think the tourist attractions in starting cities like Vancouver have been well covered in various threads in the past.
     
  2. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 1: the TransCanada Highway (TCH) crosses the country on a roughly east-west axis. It is one of only four road routes that connect metro Vancouver to the interior. The TCH uses the deep, narrow canyon of the Fraser River to pierce the Coast Range at relatively low elevation, making it the least vulnerable to winter conditions, but certainly not immune from them. One of the most interesting features is the dramatic shift from wet coastal rainforest in the lower Canyon to the arid rain shadow just a few km to the east. As the Coast mountains are left behind, the climate gradually regains moisture and the Interior wet belt is well established as the highway passes through Revelstoke and crosses the formidable Rogers Pass.

    Lower Fraser Valley:
    • sturgeon fishing. Huge white sturgeon live in the Fraser and can grow to 4 m long and 500 kg weight. There is a year round catch-and-release fishery with numerous guides operating out of Mission, Chilliwack and Hope. Big game fishing without traveling far offshore and not expensive either.
    • Harrison Hot Springs. About a 30 minute detour off the TCH at Chilliwack, resort community on the shores of Harrison Lake. Several hotels catering to those seeking out the natural hot springs.
    • wineries. Roughly 30 of them in the Langley-Abbotsford area taking advantage of mild temps and long frost-free season. Still very cool climate and varieties grown reflect this.
    • Fort Langley: restored Hudsons Bay Trading post dating back to the 1830s. National Historic Site.
    • Sasquatch mountain resort. Formerly known as Hemlock Valley, this is a regional ski resort located north of the Fraser. It's about an hour drive from the TCH, leaving from either Chilliwack or Abbotsford. Sasquatch has 400 m vert accessed by two triples and a couple of surface lifts. Mostly green and blue terrain, attracts mainly local families and school groups. Tends to get either huge snow base or rained out due to mid level elevation (summit is 1400 m).
    • Mt Baker. Leaving the TCH at Abbotsford, it's 1 hr15 to Mt Baker ski resort, plus whatever time it takes to cross the US border. This is generally considered to be the snowiest resort in the lower US/Canada combined. They average 660 inches annually - almost 1700 cm. Although the vert is less than 500 m, there are 8 quads and it's a well developed day resort. No accoms on the mountain, though.
    • Hope. Busy transport centre of 6,000 people with two railways and four highways all converging there, so there are lots of motels, petrol stations and restaurants. The first Rambo film was shot almost entirely around Hope, devotees can find access to many of the locations. And of course fans of TV show Highway Through Hell will recognise it as the home base of Jamie Davis Towing.
    Fraser Canyon (Hope to Lytton):
    • Thompson Yale. Small village now, was a bustling centre during gold rush days when it was the head of navigation on the lower Fraser. Lots of historic buildings in various states of repair.
    • Alexandra bridge. Disused highway bridge built in 1926 in a small provincial park just off the current highway. Site of an older bridge dating back to the 1860s. Amazing engineering in dauntingly steep narrow canyon.
    • Hell's Gate tram. Aerial tram that descends 300 m and crosses the Fraser at the notorious Hell's Gate rapids, a choke point where the entire river must pass through a slot only 35 m wide. Best views of the canyon, everywhere else you are forced to view from the side of the canyon. Zillions of salmon visible when a run is in progress as they congregate in the back eddies gathering energy to throw themselves up and over the rapids.
    • Boston Bar. Transition point from coastal to interior climate and vegetation. Old gold mining town dating to the 1850s.
    • Cisco bridges. About 10 km south of Lytton, 1 km off highway to viewpoint of two railway bridges crossing both the Fraser and each other. In the 1880s, CP Rail chose this spot to cross from the right bank to the left. Thirty years later, CN Rail engineers were forced to cross the opposite bank to avoid the CP right of way.
    • Lytton. Great viewpoint of the muddy brown Fraser meeting the darker blue water of its largest tributary, the Thompson. Peaks here tower to 3000 m. Arguably the hottest place in Canada and the nation's biggest centre for white water rafting.
    Thompson Canyon (Lytton to Kamloops)
    • Ashcroft. Driest place in Canada, genuinely arid with no forest visible until far up the mountain slopes where temps and evaporation rates are significantly more favourable.
    • Cache Creek. Key highway junction with hwy 97 heading north to the Cariboo region, Prince George and eventually Yukon and Alaska.
    • Horstings Farm. 2 km off the TCH on Hwy 97. Superb bakery and farm produce. Nice cafe with good coffee and home made soups and chilli.
    • Grasslands. Rolling grassland country fills most of the valley of the Thompson between Ashcroft and Kamloops Lake. This has been prime beef country since Europeans first arrived in the mid 1800s.
    • Kamloops Lake. Deep but warm lake 29 km long bounded all around by steep slopes and natural semi-desert vegetation. Popular boating and fishing destination. Good place to watch the amazingly long freight trains on both transnational lines.
    • Kamloops. Sited at the junction of the North and South Thompson rivers. Largest inland BC community for almost a century until overtaken by Kelowna in the 1990s. Mecca for mountain biking, dozens of movies made here. Jumpoff point for Sun Peaks (50 km). Music, arts/culture and sports all thrive here. The city styles itself as Tournament Capital of Canada and has hosted national and international level events in many sports.
     
  3. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 1, continued:

    Kamloops attractions:
    • Sagebrush Theatre. Wide range of live theatre events. Home to the Kamloops Symphony.
    • Kamloops Heritage Railway. Unused section of track hosts a steam railway with engine restored by local volunteers. Runs during July, August and Halloween.
    • Kamloops Bike Ranch. City-owned bike park using steep dry canyons and surrounds unsuitable for development. Extensive XC trail network, pump track, DH runs, jump park. Super easy shuttling on four lane paved road. All year. Loads of local bike shops, some offer rentals. Because of its low elevation and dry climate, Kamloops is often snow-free in winter despite SP having good cover. Going bike riding on its renowned trails is an interesting diversion from a nonstop ski holiday.
    • Blazers hockey. The region's major junior franchise plays home games from September to March, playoffs following. Best grudge match is always against the Kelowna Rockets. Book well ahead to get tickets for that one.
    • Secwepemc museum. First nations heritage displays, ethnobotany, cultural artifacts. Exhibition/tour focused on the notorious Indian Residential Schools takes you into one of the buildings of the old Kamloops residential school.
    • BC Wildlife Park. Large zoo with lots of Canadian wildlife species. Great Christmas lights display in December.
    • Harper Mtn. The other Kamloops ski hill, only 20 minutes from town. Just a triple and a T Bar but still over 400 m of vert. Great for families, would be a good prize for Aussies on your list of obscure ski areas visited.
    Shuswap/Monashee (Kamloops to Revelstoke):
    • Roderick Haig-Brown provincial park. Situated on the Adams River 5 km off the TCH at Squilax. Every October you can view millions of bright red and green sockeye salmon gathering to spawn along 11 km of gravel beds on the Adams. Bears, eagles and other predators and scavengers gather to feast. Viewing platforms and trails along the river banks allow for a great look at this wonder of nature.
    • Shuswap Lake. This multi-armed lake has hundred of km of shoreline and is a huge tourist draw in the warm months. The various arms and branches penetrate deep into the surrounding mountains so the tourists spread out quickly. This is Canada's houseboating capital, probably because of the relatively warm water and the ease of finding a quiet bay for overnight anchorage. Numerous small lakeside communities service the summer visitors. The lake also provides an important transport route for logging operations in the surrounding mountains.
    • Salmon Arm. Farming/logging/railway community of 18,000 right on the TCH. Lots of motel/hotel and food options if time or weather dictate an overnight stop. The local hockey team is the Junior A Salmon Arm Silverbacks, the next level down from the WHL. Every year a few players from this league are drafted into the NHL, so it's still very good quality hockey. Salmon Arm hosts a huge blues festival every August with a good slate of international performers.
    • Sicamous. Nice lakeside town with busy summer action. Last overnight stop if you're heading toward Revelstoke and the weather is looking ominous. The road east into the Monashee Range follows the Eagle River and crosses the pass of the same name. This pass has easy grades and curves but gets a lot of snow; numerous avalanche paths cross the highway, so it often closes for control work and debris removal.
    • Malakwa. Tiny sawmill community. Jump-off point for Mustang Powder cat skiing and favoured place for the sledding crowd.
    • Craigellachie. Worth taking a couple of minutes off from driving to stretch the legs and take a look at the Last Spike monument. This is where the two ends of the Canadian Pacific Railroad finally met in 1885: 500 km from the Pacific, 3000 km from the Great Lakes. Gives you an idea of the differences in terrain...
    • Crazy Creek. Side-of-the-highway resort with viewing platforms and suspension bridges over waterfalls, hot pools. There are ten or so accoms units and the resort is open all year, but I'm sure beds would be snapped up quickly in the event of a road closure.
    • Three Valley Gap. Not far from the summit of Eagle Pass is a pretty lake surrounded by mountains and at one end of the lake is a 200-room chateau-style hotel with attached railway and heritage museum. Of note to skiers is that this hotel is closed in winter; no overnight respite from a blizzard here.
    • Revelstoke. Regional centre of about 10,000. Logging, transportation and tourism are the main industries. If you're passing through in winter, this is the only fuel and lodgings available for a substantial distance in any direction. Next services are 150 km to the east (Golden), 75 km to the west (Sicamous) and two hours (100 km plus ferry) to the south (Nakusp). You are strongly advised to stop and check www.drivebc.ca for road conditions/closures before proceeding.
     
  4. KneeDeep

    KneeDeep One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Hi Sly, you been approached by The Lonely Planet yet?:whistle:
     
    #4 KneeDeep, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
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  5. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 1, continued.

    Revelstoke attractions:
    • Ski resort. Biggest vert in nth america, etc. Most readers will have done their research already.
    • Cat and heli skiing. World's greatest concentration of cat and heli skiing operations, at last count there were 6 operating in the surrounding mountains.
    • snowmobiling. Big attraction, sledders from all over the PNW and particularly Alberta come here to ride the big mountains. Several operators offer tours and/or rentals. Be careful! Avalanches kill several sledders every year in BC.
    • Revelstoke Dam. One of the last hydro electric facilities built on the Canadian portion of the Columbia. 5 km north of town, tours April to November.
    • Mt Revelstoke National Park. The smallest and most westerly of the string of national parks established along the CP Rail corridor around the turn of the 20th century. In the snow-free months, the Meadows in the Sky Parkway takes drivers up a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends to alpine meadows studded with wildflowers. Just off the TCH east of town are two eco-viewing sites, Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk and Giant Cedars Boardwalk. Both nice opportunities to stretch the legs and learn something about the rare interior temperate rainforest eco system.
    • Mt Begbie Brewing: small batch craft brewing since 1996.
    • historic downtown. Logging industry downturn in the 1990s led to the city securing funding to start a downtown renewal project. Lots of historic buildings were restored and there's a well signposted walking tour that takes you to most of them. The town centre is compact and there's lot of ski and bike shops to tempt you off the path as well.
    • Railway museum. Excellent displays of retired locomotives and rolling stock, housed under cover on a siding beside the main line. Revelstoke sits in the centre of some of the most challenging terrain for railway operations in the world, and rail culture is still very much a thing here. Over 130 years of railway history to be viewed. Recommended.
    Selkirks, Purcells, Rockies (Revelstoke to Lake Louise):
    • Lots of info out there about Glacier National Park. This park contains over 130 glaciers, but it's best known for Rogers Pass. Every day, thousands of cars and trucks and dozens of trains pass through the park, which has responsibility for road maintenance and avalanche safety. There is no entry fee charged unless you stop and park, then it's $8/day adults, kids 17 and under are free. Numerous jumpoff spots along the highway for backcountry skiing and hiking.
    • Canyon Hot Springs. Open May-October. Cabins and camping around a natural hot spring just off the TCH. Closed in winter.
    • Rogers Pass. The summit of the highway through the Selkirk Mountains and the linchpin of the route selected for the CP Rail in western Canada. The pass is at 1300 m and is overlooked by peaks of more than 3000 m - one of the most spectacular mountain sites in Canada. In summer, this is a very popular place to stop for the views. In winter, snowfall is frequent and heavy, so the summit viewing area is not cleared but you can get off the road at the National Park visitors centre. The Pass receives over 9 metres of snow each year, so be aware of what you might be driving into, especially as Revelstoke and Golden are both much lower in altitude. Please note the old summit lodge and gas station have both been demolished, but the park visitors centre is open year round. The railway no longer crosses the Pass, at least not on the surface. After years of delays and expense due to heavy snow and over 200 workers killed in avalanches, CP built an 8 km tunnel under the pass in the 1920s, lowering its elevation a little and avoiding the worst of the weather.
    • time zone change. At the east boundary of Glacier National Park, the time zone changes from Pacific time to Mountain time. Both sides observe daylight saving from March to November.
    • Heather Mountain Lodge. Just east of the park boundary, home to Great Canadian Heli skiing in winter. Open to the public for lodging and meals in summer. Less than 1 km off the highway if you have an emergency.
    • Northern Lights Wolf Centre. 4 km off the TCH at Blaeberry (10 minutes west of Golden). Captive breeding wolf program, featuring daily 'walk with the wolves' during their exercise period. Open all year.
    • Golden. Another railway/highway/logging/tourist town on the Columbia. Lots of accoms in town if the TCH is closed for avy control or a road accident. Some nice restaurants and pubs in downtown proper (2 km off the highway), the strip along the TCH is all fast food joints and cheap motels. Sits at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers.
    • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Not quite the biggest, but probably the meanest of the interior resorts. Ridiculously large swathes of expert ridges and chutes, basically heli ski terrain with lifts. 1300 m of quality vert - summit is the highest in BC at 2500 m. Just 15 minutes off the TCH and clearly visible as you drive past. The gondola and summit restaurant are open in summer.
    • whitewater rafting. Very popular activity around Golden in summer. Early season trips can be intense as the snow melt is still running hard.
    • Columbia wetlands. South (upstream) of Golden, the Columbia's river bed is sloped very gently, forming a meandering channel flanked by extensive wetlands and numerous side lagoons and channels. Beyond this, the same Rocky Mountain Trench geography forms a similar wetland in the upper reaches of the Kootenay River. Taken together, the Columbia Wetlands is a 300 km long stretch of wildlife habitat almost completely intact. Its value to migrating bird species is incalculable. Best visited during spring and fall when birds are migrating between boreal forest and subarctic habitats to the north and their winter ranges to the south. Excellent tours and casual viewing opportunities right out of Golden.
    • Golden timber bridge. This is a covered pedestrian bridge built over the Kicking Horse River by a collection of local and visiting artisans and volunteers in 2001. Superb example of heavy timber framing and joinery, not to mention cooperation amongst workers of many nationalities and backgrounds.
    • Mount Seven lookout. Summer only for this one. Drive 5 km south from the TCH and then 12 km of steep logging road to a lookout at the top of Mt 7. Paraglider launch platform provides amazing views of the Trench, the Rockies proper to the east and the Purcells and KHMR to the west.
    • Kicking Horse Canyon. Immediately east of Golden, the Kicking Horse River passes through a deep narrow canyon. Railway and highway must both share this passage, be extra careful driving as this is a notoriously high accident piece of road. Serious accidents and their subsequent investigation can close this section for hours at a time and there is no meaningful detour, so check www.drivebc.ca for details before leaving Golden. The road has been improved in some of this section, but the narrowest part of the canyon is a nightmare for engineers and complete reconstruction will take years and billions.
    • Yoho National Park. This park is a sister to Banff national park, directly neighbouring it along the Alberta border but lying completely in BC. The highway here too is maintained by Parks Canada. After the tricky Kicking Horse Canyon, the road east is smooth and relatively straight and fast until the town of Field. Yoho has numerous natural attractions within it, visitors are well advised to research these on the Parks Canada website. Wapta Falls and Takkakaw Falls are both stunning but only accessible June-October.
    • Field. Small village entirely within the Park. Gas station/convenience store is open year round but runs bankers' hours in winter. Safer to fill up in Golden or Lake Louise.
    • Emerald Lake Lodge. 10 km off the TCH at Field. Privately run luxury lodge within Yoho National Park with spa facilities and excellent dining. Open all year. Excellent option if you're planning to ski Lake Louise as it's only 20 minutes away.
    • Kicking Horse Pass. Finally, the crossing of the Continental Divide at a little over 1600 m. Although considerably higher and steeper than the Yellowhead Pass (near Jasper), this pass was the key to a considerably more direct southerly route for CP Rail in the early 1880s.
    • Spiral Tunnels. The original rail grade through the Kicking Horse Pass was exceptionally steep at 4.5%, and it used a series of laborious switchbacks where the entire train had to be pulled onto a dead end siding and reversed down the next section. This was a temporary solution forced upon CP in the rush to connect the two coasts amidst massive construction budget overruns. This temporary section stayed in service for almost 25 years, finally being replaced by a set of expensive spiral tunnels that turn as they climb, deep inside the mountain. The 110 year old tunnels still form part of the CP mainline and carry dozens of trains daily. Today, the railway's former "Big Hill" section forms the alignment of the TCH. There is an excellent viewing area overlooking the tunnels with a convenient pullout and parking right off the highway. During winter, access may be limited by debris from snow removal.
    • Icefields Parkway junction. Just west of Lake Louise is the turn north for highway 93, the famous Icefields Parkway. This runs north parallel to the divide for 230 km to Jasper. You must have a Parks Canada pass to use this road and there are toll booths at both ends. Commercial trucks are not permitted to use this road. There is only one exit point from Hwy 93, at Saskatchewan River Crossing roughly halfway to Jasper (this is the only fuel available on the route as well). The Parkway is at high elevation for its entire length and can be a very inhospitable route in bad weather - travel is not recommended. In winter, there are few vehicles to be seen and there is no mobile phone coverage. Careful checks of weather and road conditions are essential before taking this road in winter conditions, as are a 4WD vehicle with good winter tyres and an emergency kit.
    • Lake Louise. The ski area is 4 km northeast of the TCH, whereas the village of LL is just to the south of the highway. There are no accoms at the ski hill. LL village has a gas station and small shopping centre with supermarket, liquor store, cafe and a few specialty stores. Close by is the Parks Canada visitors centre. Located up high on the bench 4 km to the southwest is the lake itself. There are XC ski/walking trails but most people drive as the climb is steep and long.
    • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. A piece of classic CP Rail architecture, the Chateau sits on the shores of the opal-blue Lake Louise as it has for a century. It's expensive but one of those Experiences that's worth it. Royalty, billionaires and movie stars have all passed this way.
    • Lake Louise Railway Station. The old station is a restaurant these days. Good value, good ambience. Recommended.
    • Lake Louise Ski Resort. Well known to readers here and lots of threads. Big vert, lots of lifts, high quality powder but still a day only venue. For the most part you're either staying in LL village or driving from Banff each day. (There's West Lake Louise Lodge and Field/Emerald Lake too, limited options).
     
  6. Sbooker

    Sbooker One of Us

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    @sly_karma
    Wow. Great info.
    Next winter I plan on flying into Seattle (to go to the Boeing factory) before heading toward Sun Peaks for our first couple of days of skiing (over Christmas). This info gives me some great ideas about what to do on the way. We'll not lock in any other accommodation and/or ski hills before we hit up Whistler for a couple of week days in mid January. We'll be knocking around the areas you speak of in between ski hills so will be sure to check out some of your recommendations.
     
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  7. zac150

    zac150 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    @sly_karma this is all great but Gin man, tell us about gin!

    seriously though this is awesome, I’ve added fort Langley to our trip this year as we head back in to Vancouver
     
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  8. Legs Akimbo

    Legs Akimbo Grumblebum Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great info. My experience is that some Canadian tourist traps go into hibernation. If you have your eyes set on a particular attraction check ahead to make sure it is open.

    I would also add the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. It's about 120 km north east of Calgary, but if you are a palaeonerd it is heaven on a stick. Also (subject to winter accessibility) the Burgess Shales in Yoho National Park.
     
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  9. gareth_oau

    gareth_oau Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sly you really need to go outside and build something LOL
     
  10. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    The Burgess did pop up in my head but never made it to the keyboard, thanks for the reminder. I believe access to the site is with guided group hike only, tours run June-Sept.
     
  11. Summit

    Summit Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks for the detailed info Sly.

    I was lucky enough to see plenty of the sights mentioned so far from late August to mid September. Like most independent travel, many of the highlights were unexpected. I only spent two nights in Revelstoke, and had hoped to get back later that trip...another time for sure. Loved the drive south from Golden through the Columbia Wetlands, staying two single nights in Radium Hot Springs and playing three days of golf on the eastern ridge above the wetlands.
     
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  12. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 3: aka the Crowsnest Highway. This route runs across southern BC and stays relatively close to the US border. It begins at Hope, BC and runs east to the Alberta border and beyond, crossing the Rockies through the Crowsnest Pass. Along the way, the road crosses seven other summits - the penalty paid for east-west travel in a region where the mountains run north-south. This highway sees less traffic than the TCH and has accordingly fewer four-lane and passing lane sections. It is for the most part a good two-lane road with some sections of slow, tight-radius corners in the mountains. Balancing this are plenty of wide, straight areas where overtaking is safe and easy, and less traffic to contend with in either direction.

    This route is the obvious choice if your itinerary includes resorts in the South Okanagan (Apex, Baldy) and West Kootenays (Red, Whitewater), or if you want to do a loop route to or from the Rockies. Or you could be coming out of Calgary and heading to Fernie and/or Kimberley before connecting on to other Powder Highway resorts.

    Hope to Princeton: this road was opened in 1949, and it transformed life in the Southern Interior and West Kootenays; before this, these communities had only rail connections to the coast. The route has a lot of climbing and descending in its crossing of Allison Pass (1342 m) and Sunday Summit (1248 m), and there are numerous slow corners in its 140 km run. Compared to the nearby Coquihalla Pass, the Hope-Princeton receives much less snow despite similar summit elevations. This is mostly due to aspect: The Coq faces southwest, acting like a funnel for the storms that often come in from that direction. The route from Hope to Allison Pass runs southeast, meaning the storms pass across the valley rather than along it. The grades are also more relaxed on highway 3, with the steepest section (7%) being early in the climb and therefore quite low in elevation and less susceptible to snow. Nonetheless, this is a mountain highway and as such demands respect. There is only one gas station between Hope and Princeton, and phone service is almost non existent. Be sure you have plenty of gas and daylight available before leaving Hope, and of course check road conditions on Drivebc.
    • Hope Slide. At the top of the long 7% climb known as Seven Mile, the valley opens dramatically and the huge landslide is very apparent still, even after more than 50 years. Four travelers were killed in the slide and the highway was rebuilt on slide debris, about 50 m higher than the previous alignment. There's a viewpoint just off the highway with good turnaround and sweeping views of the scene.
    • E.C. Manning Provincial Park. This is one of BC's largest provincial parks, with numerous campsites, hiking trails and other backcountry opportunities. The highway is inside park boundaries for almost 60 km.
    • Engineers Road. Roadside Heritage sign tells you about a remnant piece of the old wagon road built by the Royal Engineers in 1861. Highway 3 follows the general route of this road for about 80% of its 800+ km.
    • Skagit Bluffs. The road clings to the cliffs here, with steep faces above and below the road. This is the upper reaches of the Skagit River, which flows into the Pacific about 100 km south of the US border. A series of dams on the Skagit provides water and power for the Puget Sound/Seattle area.
    • Allison Pass. A highways maintenance yard and gravel pit mark the summit and the road more or less levels out. Drivebc has webcams located here and they provide a good assessment of road conditions.
    • Manning Park Resort. Lodge/hotel located across the highway from the park visitors centre. Restaurant/pub and coffee shop/gift shop and washrooms open all year. This is the halfway point of the Hope-Princeton and is a popular stop. In summer, kids and adults alike are fascinated by the large, active population of Columbia Ground Squirrels (gophers). Accoms are available if you want to get off the highway for the night.
    • Manning Park ski resort. Another small mid elevation (1800 m summit) day ski area, no accoms at the base. 400 m vert, one quad, one double. Good family area, no crowds, usually reliable snow. Manning Park Resort runs a shuttle bus to the lifts (10 minutes).
    • Cascades Lookout. Turn off the highway opposite from the Manning Park Resort and climb 500 m in under 8 km into alpine wildflower meadows. Road open in summer only.
    • Eastgate. The only fuel available between Hope and Princeton. Open 9-5 most of the year, longer hours in summer.
    • Sunday Summit (1248 m). Somewhere down below, the Similkameen River must enter a very nasty gorge, because the highway climbs hard from river level up to this summit, only to descend back down through a series of hairpins and steep hills to rejoin the river in Princeton.
    • Princeton. Cattle ranching, forestry and mining are the industries in this community of 3,000. The Copper Mountain mine has operated in various forms since 1927. A big redevelopment reopened the mine in its current form in 2011. Princeton has several motels, hotels, pubs and restaurants. There are two 24-hour gas stations.
     
    #12 sly_karma, Oct 29, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
  13. Crystal

    Crystal Sand skier extraordinaire Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Love all the info thanks @sly_karma , often we drive through these areas and wonder what else there is to see :)
     
  14. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 3, continued.

    Similkameen-Okanagan (Princeton to Rock Creek)

    The highway is now firmly in the dry rain shadow east of the Cascades. Here the most obvious tree species is the Ponderosa Pine with its distinctive long straight needles and red tesselated bark. The deep glacial valleys of the Similkameen and Okanagan rivers are bordered by very rugged mountain terrain. This is the warmest part of Canada, and the core of its winegrowing industry. With degree-day counts equal to or exceeding those of most French regions, it's not surprising that there are hundreds of wineries within a few kilometres of the highway.
    • Hedley. This old gold mining village is close to - but not quite - a ghost town. Two very rich gold mines in the mountains high above the town sent their ore down tramways down to the valley 500 m below for concentration. Remains of these facilities can still be seen. The old Mascot Mine buildings are visible to the sharp-eyed, perched on an impossibly steep mountainside far above. In summer there is an excellent bus/walking tour to view the restored building. Visitors should be reasonably fit as there are almost 600 stairs to descend, and the same again to climb coming out.
    • Hedley-Nickel Plate Rd. Turn 2 km east of Hedley for the rather lively back road up to Apex. Any south island NZ ski field would be proud of this one. Gravel, dozens of hairpins and steep grades, 4WD strongly recommended, winter tyres essential. You'll pass the Nickel Plate gold mine (closed 1996) and Nickel Plate XC lodge and trail system on the way to Apex.
    • Apex Mountain Resort. 600 m vert, top elevation 2100 m. One detach quad, one triple, one T Bar. Local favourite and much loved by visiting experts. Over 50% of runs are black or double black. Lots of on-mountain beds but can be tricky at times to find something for rent, most owners use their place themselves.
    • mountain goats. A series of steep screes fall from the north face of the valley down to the highway. Sharp eyes may spot white dots moving around on these inaccessible slopes; these will likely be Rocky Mountain Goats.
    • Cathedral Provincial Park. Unbelievably beautiful high alpine meadows and peaks, 50 km of gravel road from the highway. Cathedral Lodge is open May to October. Day and multi-day walks. Great views south into the US Pasayten Wilderness.
    • Keremeos. Styles itself as Fruit Stand Capital of BC, and there are many for sure. Lots of fruit and veges grown here as well as grapes. Gas station stays open 24 hours. Also home to Benja thai restaurant, arguably the best in BC, definitely worth the trip. The huge peak known as K Mountain towers over the town.
    • Penticton. Turn onto Highway 3A at Keremeos, 40 minutes east. Largest community of the south Okanagan and best situated for wineries, lakes and beaches, arts/culture, dining and shopping. An hour's drive south from Penticton on Hwy 97 puts you back on the Hwy 3 route.
    • Cawston. Scattered farming community straddling the highway just south of Keremeos. About a dozen wineries are within cooee of the highway.
    • Nighthawk. If you leave Hwy 3 and follow signs 4 km south for "US Border Crossing", you'll come to Nighthawk/Chopaka border post, the least busy in both Washington and BC. It's open 9-5 daily and a couple of dozen vehicles cross on a good day. Border staff get lonely/bored and are apt to be quite chatty.
    • Richter Pass, 650 m. The road climbs sharply away from the Similkameen before cresting and descending into the Okanagan Valley. The summit is the highest point on the bike leg of the annual Ironman Canada long course triathlon, hundreds of fans gather here on race day to encourage the 2500 racers.
    • Spotted Lake. Just east of the Richter summit is a very unusual lake. It has no outlet and evaporates heavily during the dry summer. This repeating process has resulted in highly mineralised water and these minerals precipitate out and form a salt crust with circular pools of open water; literally a spotted lake. There's a good overlook point right beside the highway. This is a revered sacred site for First Nations people and is now back in their ownership.
    • Osoyoos. Bustling tourist and agricultural town of 7,000 (probably 50% greater in summer). Lots of hotels, motels, golf courses, shops, food outlets and fuel available around the clock. If you're coming from or going to Seattle, this is the easiest place to enter/leave Canada. The Oroville border crossing is open 24/7 but nowhere as busy as the major crossings in metro Vancouver.
    • Osoyoos Lake. The warmest lake in Canada; about a third of it lies south of the Washington border. Hugely popular with tourists in summer, water sports of every kind. Every August, hundreds of thousands of sockeye salmon run up the Columbia and Okanagan Rivers to hold in the lake until falling water temperatures in September entice them to go upstream to spawn in Skaha Lake near Penticton.
    • Okanagan wineries. The best red wine grapes in BC come from this almost-desert area jammed tight against the US border. Long, hot daylight hours and cool nights produce red and white wines with high sugars, good acid retention and lots of complexity. There are over 200 wineries in the 70 km stretch of hwy 97 from the border to the Penticton area.
    • Nk'mip Cultural Centre. Award winning architecture showcases local First Nations culture, history and the ecology of the area, considered to be the far northern tip of the Great American Desert. Walking trails, reconstructed indigenous tipis and pit homes, rattlesnake research program and demonstrations. Open year round.
    • Anarchist Lookout. The highway snakes and twists up the steep slopes of the Okanagan Highlands east of Osoyoos, forced onto very difficult terrain by the nearby US border and a government demand for an all-Canadian route. About 5 km east of town is a spectacular roadside lookout with first class views in three directions. Two mountain ranges off to the west is Snowy Mountain, 2585 m and in the centre of its own newly minted provincial park. Note: the Lookout is only accessible from the eastbound lanes of the pass. Westbound travelers can get similar views from higher up, or can descend past the lookout and find a safe place to turn around and climb back up to the Lookout.
    • Anarchist Summit, 1236 m. The steep early climb has eased and you're on the rolling forested plateau of the Okanagan Highland. Still a serious elevation gain since crossing Osoyoos Lake (275 m).
    • Mt Baldy ski area. Great family resort with excellent snow quality, no crowds and cheap tickets. 400 m vert, 1 quad, 1 double, 1 T bar. 19 km off the highway on good 2WD gravel road.
    • Rock Creek. Small village with gas station, former gold rush site. Turn north here on Hwy 33 for access to Big White (120 km) or on to Kelowna (150 km).
     
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  15. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Brilliant thanks @sly_karma. You've written the itinerary for our BC road trip next May!

    And the tip to use the Osoyoos crossing to go Seattle is brilliant. We are going there in Dec for an Xmas party and will use this route.
     
  16. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Um if you're living in metro Vancouver area you'll be driving 4.5 hours to Osoyoos and then it's the same again back to Seattle. Yes the Peace Arch and Pacific Truck Crossing can get big lineups, but surely not worth going 6 hours out of your way and crossing the Cascades twice?

    Easiest way to cut the wait at the lower mainland crossing is to avoid peak times. Really early morning or after dinner time, avoid weekends and holidays. Or go east on the TCH and cross at Aldergrove.
     
  17. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Oh duh on me. Yes, I'll be stuck with the metro Vancouver crossings. I got too excited by the short lines references!
     
  18. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Next spring, take that route anyway. Come and visit us in Penticton, check out the wines and then head south across the line at Oroville and into Washington. A few days exploring the old cowboy town of Winthrop and the North Cascades highway (WA route 20) is highly recommended. Most scenic crossing of the Cascades/Coast Range there is - and all of the other roads are pretty spectacular in their own right. Road gets absolutely buried by snow, only open May-November.
     
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  19. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Fingers crossed our early May timing works with the roads!
     
  20. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Depends on the season. Usually mid May opening. Look on the WSDOT website for updates as the time draws closer.
     
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  21. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 3, continued.

    The Boundary Country (Rock Creek to Christina Lake): The highway follows the Kettle River for a stretch, before the river dips south of the border. This is one of the few east-west rivers in the province, so the roadbuilders and railway builders before them took advantage of relatively easy terrain.
    • Midway. This small logging town was the eastern terminus of the famous Kettle Valley Railway, a subsidiary of CP Rail. Defunct since the 70s, this route ran west to join the main line at Hope. Today, the rails are gone and the right of way is part of the Great Trail that connects all three of Canada's coastlines, open to all forms of non-motorised transport. Every year, thousands of cyclists ride and camp their way the 215 km to Penticton or even further. It's a superb access route into the very rugged mountain terrain with grades maxing out at a very comfortable 2.2% and for the most part well away from paved roads for a real wilderness feel. Numerous tunnels and bridges remain, being maintained to sufficient standards for pedestrian and cyclist safety. The original Midway rail station is now an excellent museum dedicated to KVR history.
    • Greenwood. This old mining town dates back to the 1880s, saved from ghost town status by the highway being driven through in the 1950s. Lots of mining history and ruins in varying degrees of preservation. The old Mineshaft pub remains open and makes a good lunch stop. One motel open all winter.
    • Eholt Summit, 1000 m. Low pass between Greenwood and Grand Forks. Easy grades, almost never a concern for winter travel as the area is fairly dry.
    • Phoenix Ski Hill. Turn off at the summit for 8 km of gravel road to "The Best Little Mountain in BC." 250 m vert, one T Bar, one rope tow. If you go, you'll have one up on me. Not the riskiest investment ever at $39 for a day pass.
    • Grand Forks. Logging town with long mining and railway history. The Kettle River has returned to the Canadian side of the border for another short stretch. This area has a sizeable population of people descended from 19th century Russian and Ukrainian immigrants from the non-Orthodox Doukhobor sect. You'll still find authentic Borscht, pierogies and other Doukhobor foods in the cafes and restaurants around Grand Forks. The small city has plenty of motels and hotels if you run into bad road conditions and need to spend the night at short notice; 24-hours fuel as well. It is also possible to cross into Washington here as the border is only 2 km south of town on WA hwy 21; good connections southeast to Spokane and the US interstate system.
    • Christina Lake. This beautiful lake is surrounded by mountains and can be truly sapphire blue on a sunny day. Very popular in summer for boating and fishing, it has many cabins and resorts around its shores. The little village is located at the lake's outlet into the Kettle River, which immediately turns southward into the US, eventually joining the Columbia. State Highway 395 provides a fast, easy route south to Spokane (190 km) and the major east-west road I-90. In Christina Lake, there is decent food at the roadside Time and Place pub. Gas station is daylight hours only in winter. This is the last stopping point before the rugged Blueberry-Paulson section into the West Kootenay region, which can be formidable in winter due to steep grades and high snowfall. Be sure you're fuelled up and have plenty of windscreen fluid.
     
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  22. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 3, continued.

    West Kootenays (Paulson Summit to Kootenay Pass):
    • Paulson Bridge. If the weather is OK, it's worth a stop at this spectacular steel arch bridge. The deck is 85 metres above the creek and the old KVR grade alongside. There's a good pull out area, provided it's not choked with snow.
    • Paulson Summit, 1446 m. The climate has changed again, and the western slopes of the Kootenay Mountains are much wetter than the Okanagan and Boundary regions. The road climbs hard up from Christina Lake for a gain of almost exactly 1000 m in less than 25 km. There are some passing lanes, but for the most part this is a two lane mountain road that sees high snowfalls and has several avalanche paths crossing it.
    • Nancy Greene Lake. Nice roadside rest stop in a provincial park surrounding a small subalpine lake and wetland. Lots of bird species to be seen in warmer months. XC trails near by. This is the turnoff to take if you're heading to Red Mountain (26 km) and Rossland (29 km).
    • Castlegar. At the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers, hydro power, timber and pulp mills keep this town going. Fuel is available around the clock and there are plenty of places to stay if needed. The airport here provides connections for inbound visitors to Red and Whitewater, but its deep valley location makes it prone to poor visibility and canceled flights.
    • Nelson. Not actually on highway 3, but 44 km away on highway 3A, this is the culture, arts and food centre of the Kootenays. In the past it was a silver mining town, and its former wealth can still be seen in the century-old merchant buildings of the downtown area. There is a wealth of dining, craft beer and artisan produce to be found here. It's a popular weekend destination for visitors from Canada and the US most months of the year. If Kootenay Pass is closed due to a vehicle accident or avalanche control work, you can detour through Nelson and cross Kootenay Lake on the free vehicle ferry and connect to Creston and the East Kootenays from there. Of course, everyone else will do the same thing so it will be crowded and slow due to the limited capacity of the ferry.
    • Trail. Largest centre in the West Kootenays region, Trail has been a hotspot for mining and smelting for 130 years. Like Nelson, it's not right on the highway but there is a deviation route that adds only a few kilometres to the through trip. They have a Junior A hockey team, the Trail Smoke Eaters. Easy 30 km drive along the Columbia from Castlegar.
    • Bombi Summit, 1215 m. Highway 3 climbs again after it leaves Castlegar and the Columbia, cutting off some distance on the way to Salmo. Easy grades and wide smooth roads, not usually a problem.
    • Salmo. Former mining town's current claim to fame is the Shambhala electronic music festival each August. Turn north onto highway 6 here for Nelson (40 km) or Whitewater (38 km). Last chance to fuel up before tackling the crossing of the Selkirk Mountains.
    • Kootenay Pass, 1775 m. The highest highway pass in BC receives a lot of snow and has extensive exposure to avalanche paths. Closures are common in winter, so be sure to check the current conditions and web cams on www.drivebc.ca. The road itself is smooth and well graded, and there are no sharp corners to speak of. There is a nice rest area at the summit if conditions are good and there is no snow bank blocking access.
     
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  23. sly_karma

    sly_karma Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Highway 3, continued.

    East Kootenays (Kootenay Pass to Cranbrook):
    • Kootenay Pass. If you've made it across the top without spending too much time stuck waiting for avalanche control work, the long descent to the east is smooth, relatively straight and not that steep.
    • Kootenay River. Wide river flats and a mild rain shadow area make this a productive agricultural area. Hay and wheat fields spread across the valley floor and there are also fruit orchards and even a handful of vineyards up on the benchlands above the valley bottom. The river is flowing north to empty into the large, deep Kootenay Lake. You can turn here to follow the river and then the east shore of the lake to the ferry crossing at Crawford Bay.
    • Creston. Regional centre with shopping, restaurants, motels, 24 hour fuel.
    • Columbia Brewery. Right on the highway in the middle of Creston, this brewery traces its roots back to 1898. The well known Kokanee lager and Kootenay Traditional Ale beers are made and canned here. Owned by the same multinational that owns Budweiser, but still has a distinctive regional vibe - they've done a good job of avoiding complete corporatisation. Tours available May-October.
    • Goat Canyon. East of Creston, the highway must leave the Kootenay River in order to stay within Canada, so it follows the steep, narrow canyon of the Goat River. Turn off the highway at Canyon-Lister Rd and follow it about a kilometre to a great view of the 50 m high Goat Canyon rail bridge.
    • Goatfell Summit, 900 m. The least obvious of the Highway 3 summits, this is technically the crossing of the Purcell Mountains. You'll barely notice it.
    • Moyie Lake. Busy in summer with tourists but quiet in winter, the highway follows both river and lake of the same name northeast toward Cranbrook.
    • Cranbrook. Largest city in the East Kootenay region, about 20,000. Timber, pulp and railway industries. Excellent railway museum. Shopping malls, ice hockey, live theatre.
    • Fort Steele. This is a restored/rebuilt heritage town dating back to the 1860s operated by the BC government. Staff wear period costume and there are live demonstrations of trades, steam locomotive rides and so on. Open all year, but restricted operations in winter. Highly popular in summer holidays.
    • Kimberley. Located 26 km off the highway, the mining town of Kimberley is an interesting place to visit in its own right. The Sullivan mine was once the world's largest lead-zinc mine, but it closed in 2001. With the foreseeable end of mining operations and the rerouting of the highway away from Kimberley, the town began the process of reinventing itself as a tourist destination back in the 1970s. It styled itself as "The Bavarian Village of the Rockies" and numerous buildings were built or remodeled to the Bavarian look. It's kitschy but somehow it works. A big central square was developed and called the Platzl, and is much used to this day. Plenty of places to stay in quaint hotels and locally owned B&Bs.
    • Kimberley Underground Mine Tour. Narrow gauge railway takes visitors from the centre of town along a pretty valley and into the underground Sullivan mine portal. Demonstrations of mining equipment and techniques and a visit to the mine's century-old hydro power plant. Truly excellent tour, but only open May-September.
    • Kimberley Alpine Resort. 750 m vert; 1 quad, 1 triple, 1 double, 1 T Bar. The ski hill is so close to town it's within city limits and was actually owned by city council for many years. These days it's one of the RCR group (Fernie, Nakiska). Lots of elbow room at Kimberley and a great place to learn to ski trees as the locals have gladed extensively with lots of blue terrain included.
    • "Powder Highway". Head north on hwy 93/95 for connections to Panorama, Fairmont, Kicking Horse, Banff. Cranbrook to Invermere is 130 km/ 1 hr 30. From there, it's 20 minutes to Pano, 1hr 30 to Kicking Horse, or 1 hr 45 to Banff. The road follows the wide valley known as the Rocky Mountain Trench and it's easy driving with little traffic, snow is rarely a problem.
     
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