From wineries to high desert trails
Leaving the Shuswap, we turned west to follow the scenic South Thompson River down towards the city of Kamloops. Surrounded by dazzlingly barren hills, Kamloops sits at the confluence of the South and North Thompson Rivers in a stunning landscape of hoodoos and grasslands, lush vineyards and craggy gulches, and sparkling lakes and golden rolling rangeland. And with a bustling downtown full of great shops and cafes, you'll find plenty to do in the city as well.
LAC DU BOIS GRASSLANDS
We fell in love with the landscapes around Kamloops, and especially so with the open terrain of the Lac du Bois Grasslands. Home to important species like bears, bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, and nesting birds, the Protected Area plays an integral role in conserving some of BC's important grassland biomes. With sweeping vistas, dry montane forests, spectacular cliffs and canyons, there is a lot to see in the park, and few better places to start off than with a hike to Battle Bluff.
At the southwestern edge of the park framed by rugged mountains, Battle Bluff offers expansive views of the lake and surrounding hills. It's a moderate-to-easy trail, meandering from the Dewdrop Flats through a little meadow then up a short sparsely-forested ridge where you'll get your first glimpse of the lake. Bare rolling hills and sagebrush steppe fan out in all directions, and to the east is a contrasting cliff of columnar basalt hinting at the area's ancient volcanic past. From here its a short descent into the sage and a quick climb to the summit where the full vista awaits.
KENNA CARTWRIGHT PARK
For something a bit closer to town, check out the beautiful Kenna Cartwright Park. The largest municipal park in BC, there are a web of trails to explore and we hiked both the Tower Trail and the popular Sunset Trail. The Tower is short but relatively steep, offering views over the city, and the Sunset Trail takes you a out along the ridge to an expansive vantage overlooking Kamloops Lake. Both are stunning hikes, and perfect for an evening outing.
MONTE CREEK RANCH
Just east of town on a scenic bench above the river, Monte Creek Ranch Winery is the newest addition on the Kamloops Wine Trail. With a beautifully modern tasting room that nods back to the area’s early pioneers (and train robbers!), Monte Creek is also a working cattle ranch, with berry fields and beehives and horse trails alongside the organic vineyards.
Nestled among the hills of the North Thompson Valley, Privato Vineyard & Winery is a hidden gem. Specializing in Burgundy style wines including their flagship Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, stop by for a personalized wine tasting, or take a stroll in the garden.
From spring through fall, swing through downtown Kamloops for the Wednesday and Saturday morning farmer's markets. It's a fun way to pick up some food, help support local farmers and producers, and maybe even meet some friendly neighbours. And with fresh coffee and delicious baked goods on offer, it can also be a quick and easy breakfast on the go.
For a unique slice of the area's history, the abandoned sanatorium at the edge of town is a fascinating excursion. Called Tranquille (or sometimes Padova), it was constructed as a hospital during the tuberculosis outbreak of 1907 and soon grew into a sprawling little self-sufficient village. There were 40 buildings spread across almost 200 acres, including 4 state-of-the-art hospitals, a firehall, massive steam plant, large kitchen and laundry facilities, residences, and a network of underground tunnels connecting everything. By the late 1950s tuberculosis was on the sharp decline, and in 1959 the provincial government turned it into an asylum to treat the mentally ill. The institution shut its doors for good in 1984, marking the end of an era for the almost century-old hospital. Given its storied history, it isn't surprising that many people believe it is haunted.
In its heyday, Tranquille also included a bustling little farm with orchards & vegetable gardens, substantial cellars and canneries, dairy cows, and a piggery and abattoir, producing food for almost 1000 staff and patients. After a couple decades of abandonment and decline, today Tranquille continues that tradition as an urban farm with plans to become a master-planned and sustainable village community on Kamloops Lake. Tours are available through Tranquille Farm Fresh.