Now is the time to stay small and stay local, exploring with those in your immediate household. Here are some of the great outdoor activities you can enjoy with the kids as you #exploreKelownalocal through the Christmas break.
A couple of years ago over winter break my husband and I hiked into Myra Bellevue Provincial Park with sleds and our two kids in tow and spent a couple of hours zooming down snow-covered trails normally used for hiking.It required a bit of effort but the payout was awesome: our family was rewarded with adrenalin thrills, lake views under blue skies, and a pileated woodpecker making a racket at the top of a tree.
We still remember that day and wonder why we don’t play outdoors even more; after all, Kelowna’s winter days usually come with mild temperatures and a side of soft snow. There are the obvious ways to enjoy that light Okanagan powder (skiing, anyone?), plus a bunch of other fun things to do and a few that are free (minus the sweat equity I was talking about, of course). Here are some of our favourite ways to spend winter days in Kelowna.
1. Snowshoe Myra Canyon Trestles
Photo by: Meghan Reading
You'll need to have your own snowshoes, but the drive up to Myra Canyon to snowshoe along the most spectacular part of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, with views of Okanagan Lake and the snow-frosted trees in the valley below, is well worth it. The path is high above town and snow usually stays on the ground all winter. Start at Myra Station parking area, which is about 1km from the first trestle; you’ll cross about 10 more trestles, plus pass through two tunnels, in about the first three kilometres. Older children should be able to make it this far (that’s about 6 km return) and if you’re worried about kids wearing the contraptions remember this: if they can walk, they can snowshoe. Tip: be a rock star parent and bring a thermos of hot chocolate and cups, and snacks, of course.
2. Hike to see frozen waterfalls
What kid doesn’t love a giant mass of icicles hanging from a house’s eave, or better yet, the edge of a cliff? In Bear Creek Provincial Park, over the bridge in West Kelowna, it’s an easy hike to gape at frozen waterfalls. Just follow the Bear Creek Nature Trail on a 2.1-km loop that passes multiple viewpoints over Bear Creek. Not only will you get some great lake views, you’ll also see waterfalls turned to ice as if Elsa from Frozen has touched them with her magic hands. The hike is steep in sections so wear boots with good treads or bring ice cleats or grips to wear over hikers in case the trail is slippery.
3. Sled at a local park
Pack a crazy carpet or two into your car and hit the hills in the parks around town. Kelowna locals all claim to know the best spots for careening downhill like Clark Griswold on his oiled saucer sled in Christmas Vacation, but we have the down-low on where to go. In Glenmore you can’t beat Jack Robertson Memorial Park—its toboggan hills are complemented by a playground. Curlew Park in Kettle Valley, behind Chute Lake Elementary, boasts a steeper hill for daredevils and a more gradual slope for younger tots. In West Kelowna, Hudson Road Elementary has hills for sledding that graduate from easy to challenging. Finally, we’ve had a lot of luck in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park in southeast Kelowna—any steep hiking path turns into a toboggan trail when the snow flies!
Check the snow forecast ahead of time. Kelowna typically only sees a small amount of snow accumulate at a given time, but there are times it can snow a lot, which leads to perfect sledding conditions.
4. Visit a winter resort to ski… or dog sled!
Both Big White Ski Resort and SilverStar Mountain Resort are a quick drive from Kelowna and great places to go downhill skiing. They offer lessons for kids and adults, plus all equipment rentals if you don’t have the gear. What’s more, they’ve rounded out the winter experience with other activities, though some on are hold due to COVID-19 so be sure to review what's happening on the hills this year. Big White even offers dog sledding or snowmobiling tours from the Happy Valley Adventure Centre.
No matter how you choose to spend time outdoors, you're sure to have fun but remember to keep COVID-19 health and safety top of mind. Learn more about ways to explore safely in Kelowna here.