Kelowna Parks: Relaxing Like Sweet Okanagan Wine
Mission Creek Greenway
Kelowna, BC, Canada’s wineries did not attract settlers to the area in 1861, miners flocked to Mission Creek in search of gold. Today, walkers, hikers, runners, bicyclists, and equestrians frequent the 17 kilometres of nature trail that connects Mission Creek Regional Park and Scenic Canyon Regional Park. The Mission Creek Greenway zigs and zags along the running waters of Mission Creek, past one 18-hole golf course and ending near two others, and it does so mostly under the cover of towering black cottonwood trees. It’s debatable whether there’s any more gold to be found, however, salmon still spawn, wildlife may be spotted, and the soothing sounds and smells of running freshwater fill the air. Rest stops and interpretative areas along the gravel trail allow travelers to catch their breath and learn about the greenway’s wildlife and eco-system. Like Knox Mountain Park, the Mission Creek Greenway is a wonderful place to spend an active evening or week-end in Kelowna’s great outdoors. After drinking a red, white, sweet dessert, or ice wine at a local restaurant, City Park is a peaceful place to stroll along the waterfront.
Bear Creek Provincial Park
Getting to Bear Creek Provincial Park from Kelowna is as easy as taking a 15-minute drive over the Okanagan Lake Bridge into Westbank; one can ride to a winery from many hotels in about the same amount of time. The park has 400-metres of sandy beaches, 5-kilometres of hiking trails, and it is a popular area for freshwater fishing and camping six months of the year. Boat launches and paved roads provide boats and RVs with excellent access to the park’s facilities and the waters of Lake Okanagan. At the end of their trip, Bear Creek Provincial Park campers will be tempted to take a right – away from Kelowna – and continue on to another date with nature at nearby Fintry Provincial Park.
Today’s peaceful, lakeside stroll along the Waterfront Park Boardwalk is thanks to a carpenter, Stanley M. Simpson, who first moved to Kelowna in 1913. Waterfront Park begins where City Park ends: at The Sails where Bernard Avenue meets the shimmering waters of Lake Okanagan. After meandering past the Kelowna Yacht Club, the park’s boardwalk detours into the gentle Lake Okanagan breeze, circling a lush area of trees and grass before continuing past beachgoers. Waterfront Park ends at the Rotary Marsh, a wildlife conservation area, not far from the sawmill that began as Simpson’s carpentry shop. Behind the mill stands Knox Mountain Park, another great park where one may walk-off the effects of drinking too much wine for lunch at a local restaurant.
Okanagan Mountain Park
Nature lovers held their breath when dry weather and a lightning strike near Rattlesnake Island on Lake Okanagan caused Okanagan Mountain Park to catch fire in 2003. Kelowna’s wineries, as well as wineries on Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive wine route and Penticton’s Naramata Bench stretch of wineries were not impacted. The Okanagan Valley is a beautiful sight from a perch high atop the 11,000 hectare wilderness park of mountains, grassland and fir and spruce forests. In addition to several campsites and boat launches, the park also features sheltered sandy beaches tucked along its 33 kilometres of undeveloped shoreline. Backpackers and horse riders love the many trails almost as much as the Rainbow Trout that can be fished in several of the park’s lakes. Whether for a day trip or an overnight camping adventure, Okanagan Mountain Park is a great place to make a date with nature while in Kelowna.
Myra Canyon Trestles
The whistle of a steam locomotive has been replaced by a quiet calm that can now be enjoyed by hikers and bikers who wish to get away from it all. The Myra Canyon Trestles section of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway contains 12 kilometres of trails that were restored and re-opened in 2008 after the Okanagan Mountain Park fires. Even the tunnels, blasted through mountain rock a Century ago, remain part of the trail, as do the breathtaking views from refurbished railway bridges draped across the valley. One can ride a section of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway to a winery for lunch and to do wine tasting.
City Park’s beautiful lakeside boardwalks weren’t so walkable after a 1997 hurricane-like storm toppled trees, crashed boats and caused millions of dollars in damage in and around the park. City Park has since been restored and continues to be one of Kelowna’s centres of activity: joggers, craft vendors, sun bathers, and lakeside strollers frequent this lush, open green space on a year-round basis. The park is a wonderful place to walk after a restaurant meal, and the towering cottonwood trees that remain make for great shelter from the hot Summer Sun when eating ice-cream. The sounds of music from the ParksAlive! outdoor Summer concert series hosted in Waterfront Park are also within earshot at City Park. Two of the 50 cottonwood trees felled in the 1997 storm were salvaged and transformed into beautiful works of outdoor public art.
Fintry Provincial Park
Mother Nature blazed a trail so that nature lovers could experience the great outdoors at Fintry Provincial Park on the west side of Kelowna. Getting to Fintry requires driving for half-an-hour past log booms and Bear Creek Provincial Park on a narrow, scenic, mountainside road overlooking Lake Okanagan. The 360-hectare park includes 2-kilometres of sandy and pebbled beach waterfront shoreline that provides a perfect setting for campers. Hikers may practice their stair climbing on the Shorts Creek Canyon Trail that cuts through cottonwood forest and deep canyons to cascading waterfalls. California Bighorn Sheep roam free like hikers in the 523-acre Fintry Protected Area that connects with the park. The park is also a great place to get in touch with nature by swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.
Knox Mountain Park
According to The Friends of Knox Mountain Park, nature lovers have three people to thank for Knox Mountain Park’s wonderful walking trails, wildlife and scenery: a convicted felon from Scotland, Arthur Booth Knox; Kelowna’s first medical doctor, Dr. Benjamin deFurlong Boyce; and a local philanthropist, Stanley M. Simpson. More open than the Mission Creek Greenway, Knox Mountain Park is 580 acres of environmentally sensitive, Ponderosa Pine forest and grassland located in Kelowna’s north end. For a workout, drive up to the Stanley M. Simpson Nature Pavilion and hike down, then up, the rocky mountain face back to the car. Only some of Kelowna, BC’s wineries may offer the same breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan that can be enjoyed from Knox Mountain’s Nature Pavillion. There are less intense walking trails at the base of Knox Mountain Park with no less spectacular views of Lake Okanagan, Kelowna and the mountains to the west. There is lots of wildlife and plant life to enjoy when walking on Knox Mountain: Kokanee Salmon are spawning along the park’s Lake Okanagan shoreline and, especially in the Fall, deer roam the hills. Where there is salmon, there are bears: Knox Mountain Park walkers are cautioned to bring a bell, noisemaker or dog to alert them of their presence, particularly in the early morning or late evening.