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BC Road Trip Itinerary: Boundary Country

This BC road trip follows a route from the Cascade Mountains along the Crows Nest Highway into Boundary Country in the Kootenay Region. It explores picturesque landscapes, orchards, wineries, small towns, and intriguing history. Follow the suggested route meticulously in 3 action-packed days or slow down and spend more time in the towns along the way to create a more personalized adventure.


And your road trip doesn't need to end there. Extend your road trip seamlessly into other regions, using other road trip itineraries found on this blog. From the Vancouver, add on the Fraser Valley Loop or the Gold Rush Trail. Head to the Sunshine Coast or drive along the stunning Sea to Sky route. For those with an affinity for island exploration, Vancouver Island beckons with its Pacific Marine Route, Wild Pacific Way, Comox Valley, and Vancouver Island North routes. These itineraries can be combined to start in Hope, Vancouver, Osoyoos, or Nelson, the possibilities are vast so visitors can explore the Shuswap, Okanagan, and Kootenay regions of BC, or start a cross-country adventure into Alberta via Banff National Park.


an apple orchard at the foot of a sparsely treed mountain.
Boundary Country Orchard

 

Table of Contents


 

Preparing for A BC Road Trip

A solo road trip through the scenic wonders of British Columbia is a thrilling adventure, and the key to making it truly enjoyable lies in meticulous preparation. Here are my essential tips to ensure your journey through Boundary Country is not just seamless but also filled with joy and unforgettable moments.

Vehicle Readiness

Whether you're hitting the road in your personal vehicle or opting for a rental, it's crucial to prioritize safety. If using your own vehicle, refer to my previous post on "Tips for Solo Female Road Trip" for insights on getting your car road-ready. If renting, explore options in Metro Vancouver with the help of the "RV and Campervan Rental in Metro Vancouver" guide.

Packing Essentials

Your home on wheels, whether it's a campervan or an RV, should be equipped with all the essentials for a comfortable journey. Refer to my post on "Van Life Essentials" for a guide on what to pack.

Digital Preparedness

In the age of technology, having the right apps, maps, and entertainment at your fingertips is crucial. Download offline maps, navigation apps, and playlists to keep you entertained during the drive. This not only ensures a smoother journey but also prepares you for any unexpected cellular dead zones. The essential BC driving app is DriveBC with real-time traffic and accident reports, road closures, and other important information for travellers.


A red toy car on top of a map
image credit: Erika Wittlieb - pixabay

Research and Reservations

Plan your route, research attractions along the way, and reserve accommodations in advance. Whether you're seeking the charm of small towns or the convenience of well-equipped campsites, knowing where to stay and play enhances your overall experience. For summer travellers wanting to camp you may want to reserve your spots in advance. While most provincial parks do accept first-come first-serve campers, the most popular parks may have very few of these spots. If travelling in the winter, be aware that few campsites and attractions are open year-round. Snow tires are required.

Snack Smart

Long drives call for delicious and nutritious snacks. Pack your road trip snack box with the help of my "Healthy Travel Snacks" guide. Keeping a stash of energizing snacks ensures you stay fueled and ready for every adventure that comes your way.

Aan assortment of snacks including sausage rolls, carrot sticks, pretzels, fruit, and granola bars.
My road trip snack box

About Boundary Country

Boundary Country boasts a rich history that echoes through its charming towns and landscapes. Once a hub for prospectors during the Gold Rush, this region retains an authentic frontier spirit. As promises of fortunes drifted away, the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the discovery of rich copper ore attracted workers and pioneers, including persecuted Russian Doukohobours. During WWII, Boundary Country was the home of internment camps for Japanese Canadians forced from their homes in coastal communities.

A map of Boundary Country
map credit: BoundaryBC.com

Today the economy of this region is based on agriculture (including craft breweries, cideries, wineries, and fresh fruit) and outdoor tourism. Boundary Country is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking trails, fishing spots, and opportunities for serene contemplation amid nature's wonders


3-Day BC Road Trip Itinerary: Boundary Country

Although this itinerary begins in Hope, most visitors to British Columbia will arrive in Vancouver. Hope is located about 150 km east of Vancouver, following Highway 1 (The TransCanada Highway). For those with more time, check out my Fraser Valley road trip to discover some interesting stops along the way.

a map showing all the locations discussed in this blog
Boundary Country Road Trip Route

Day 1: Hope to Osoyoos (247 km, 2 hrs 46 min)

On this first day, you'll encounter a stretch of road that winds through stunning landscapes, charming towns, and outdoor wonders. From Hope, follow Highway 3 (The Crows Nest Highway). Much of this mountain highway is a 2 lane winding road. Sections of the highway will not have any cellular connectivity. Notice and respect the speed limits especially when approaching curves, you'll find some of the turns much tighter than you imagined.


The glorious views and winding roads attract all sorts of vintage car enthusiasts, cyclists, and motorcycle riders. Settle in and enjoy the drive.


Hope-Princeton

Details about the first section between Hope and Princeton, including the Hope Slide site and Manning Park, can be found in the Hope Princeton post. After Princeton, the highway continues through the mountains into the Similkamen Valley and onward into Boundary Country in the Kootenay Region.

A wooden plank foot bridge over a creek with mountains in the background
Manning Park

Keremeos/Cawston

Keremeos (kair-ah-mee-uhs) Keremeos is a quaint town nestled in the heart of the Similkameen Valley known for its orchards, vineyards, and friendly community. This is a fruit orchard and wine country. Stop at one of the many local fruit stands to sample fresh produce. Explore the vineyards for wine tastings or to spend the night.


Take in some local history at the Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens. This heritage site showcases a working waterwheel-powered flour mill, beautiful gardens, and historical artifacts.

A working wooden water wheel attached to a wooden grist mill
Keremos Grist Mill

A great little diner to consider is Boboys Pizza and Donair. I have tried multiple menu items including pizza, calzones, and baked pastas. I have enjoyed every meal (plus the takeout items I bought to enjoy as road trip snacks).


Close to Keremeos is the small town of Cawston. This small community is often overlooked but is another great stop for wineries and orchards. Orchards stretch as far as the eye can see. Spring offers a delightful spectacle of blossoming fruit trees and verdant fields. The town is renowned for its organic produce, and you'll find lots of opportunities to indulge in farm-fresh delights at local markets and roadside stands. For wine enthusiasts, Cawston boasts a growing wine scene that rivals its more famous neighbours. Those who enjoy artisan crafts will find charming boutiques and galleries along the main road.

Town Welcome Sign with words "organic farming capital of Canada. Cawston. Put your roots down here"

Osoyoos

About 10 minutes before arriving in Osoyoos, look for a sign on the side of the highway marking "Spotted/Kłlilx’w Lake. The multi-coloured spots in this sacred lake are created by mineral deposits that appear as the lake evaporates. The spots become more pronounced as summer passes. While you cannot get close to the lake without an invitation from the local First Nation band, it can be viewed from the highway.

A lake in a scrub desert. The lake appears white with multicoloured circular spotts
Kłlilx’w Lake

In Osoyoois, spend most of your day exploring the Nk'mip Desert Cultural Center. Enjoy a tasting at the Nk'mip Winery, play some golf, or ride horses. There is a campground on site, too.

A metal ssculpture of a First Nations warrior on horseback.
Nk'mip Desert Cultural Center

Osoyoos has some wonderful beaches, so plan on spending some time swimming in the warm waters or working on your tan.

Lake front beach with people sitting on the beach or swimming .
Osoyoos Lake

Check out my post on Canada's Desert Oasis for details on activities, accommodations, and places to eat.

Day 2: Osoyoos to Grand Forks (125 km, 1 hr 30 min)

This section of the itinerary takes us into Boundary Country as it continues along the picturesque Crows Nest Highway, passing several small communities before arriving in Grand Forks where you'll spend the night.

Rock Creek

When gold was discovered in 1859, a stampede of people poured into British Columbia. Thousands arrived in this spot where Rock Creek meets the Kettle River, creating a boom town. While those rollicking days have passed, the town still shows signs of its former glory days. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR), part of Canada’s iconic TransCanada/Great Trail, runs straight through Rock Creek. Visitors can bike, hike, horseback ride, or cross-country ski. Motorcycle riders will want to check out the annual Boogie Bash event which attracts hundreds of visitors during the BC Day long weekend at the beginning of August.

A trestle bridge over a creek
Rock Creek Trestle Bridge

Grab a coffee at Rags, Relics and Rutabagas, a unique store full of fun, with items from clothing to camping items, cosmetics to jewellery and even includes an ice-cream counter and post office.


Midway

Midway, located at the halfway point between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean is where the Kettle Valley Railway began. This small town sits right on the Canada-U.S. border with a rich railroad history. Competition between Canadian and American rail companies resulted in multiple skirmishes between rail workers. At the Visitor Information Centre, ask for a brochure outlining a self-guided walk around the town viewing heritage buildings. The local Kettle Valley Museum has exhibits outlining the history of the area -- including artifacts surrounding the establishment of the 49th parallel as the border between Canada and the USA. The grounds outside of the museum include a vintage CPR caboose that visitors can climb on.

A small train station with a caboose parked in front. The sign on the station says "Midway"
Midway Museum

Midway hosts several festivals throughout the year, so check out the village website to decide if you want to linger a bit longer.

Greenwood

Greenwood is known as Canada's smallest city. It was a thriving town in the late 1800s but when the gold ran out, the city began to turn into a ghost town. Once a place has been declared a city, it never loses that status, which is why this small community of about 700 residents is still called a city. During WWII, Greenwood experienced growth when it was chosen as one of the internment camps for Japanese Canadians forced from their coastal homes. More than 1200 people were placed in the empty hotels and homes in the area. When the internees were allowed to return to their homes after the war, some chose to stay and make Greenwood their home.

A red truck parked in front of a 2 -story brick building.
Greenwood

The best place to learn about Greenwood is the Greenwood Museum or following the map provided by the Visitor Centre for a self-guided heritage walk around town. Outdoor recreation is king in Boundary Country. There are trails, provincial parks, ski resorts, and recreation sites with snowshoeing, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. An easy local trail is the Jubilee Mountain hike which will treat visitors to an incredible view of the valley and the city below.


Fabulous coffee shops, unique clothing stores, and enticing bakeries now occupy the main street. A highlight is the Deadwood Junction & Trestle with great coffee and treats but also sells antiques and artisan crafts.

Outside of early 1900s wooden building with signs outside "deadwood Junction" and Micro bakery"n
Deadwoood Junction, Greenwood

Mama's Pacific Grill is sure to please with its menu of comforting and generous dishes and decadent desserts.


Phoenix

Between Greenwood and Grand Forks are the sites of two ghost towns. Eholt is little more than a marker on the road beside Highway 3 and is incredibly easy to miss. There is little to see beyond the marker and some building foundations. This is the easy drive along Highway 3. Visitors can also choose to follow the unserviced and bumpy Phoenix Road from Greenwood that leads to the Phoenix Mountain Ski Area and the remnants of the town of Phoenix.


In the early 1900s, more than 7,000 tonnes of copper ore were mined weekly from the Phoenix mines, representing more than the combined tonnage of all other BC mines. That year, Phoenix had more than 10 hotels, 3 churches, an ice rink and a brewery. It also had a hospital, a theatre, a newspaper, and a school. Following WWI, the major mining company decided to close the mine. Most residents left in search of work. The town limped along for years with chronic unemployment, poor mining results, and a declining population. All operations ended in 1978. Today all that remains of Phoenix is an unused quarry now full of water, a flag pole, a World War I cenotaph, and a cemetery. The few remaining homes crumble in ruins around the perimeter of the quarry.



The Phoenix Ski Area bills itself as the "Best Little Mountain in BC". Winter day visitors can enjoy alpine and Nordic skiing with 15 downhill runs and multiple cross-country, snowshoe and snowmobile trails Summer visitors can walk along the snowshoe and former rail trails. I have also enjoyed exploring the Phoenix Forest and History Trail self-guided drive.

Grand Forks

Compared to the small towns previously visited, Grand Forks is a bustling metropolis. It is the largest city in Boundary Country. This agricultural hub also has a history of mining and has become a vibrant community with well-preserved architecture.


An important group in the history of this area is the pacifist Russian Christian sect known as Doukohobours. In the early 20th century, Doukhobours faced persecution in Russia due to their refusal to bear arms and their commitment to communal living. Seeking religious freedom and a refuge from conflict, many Doukhobour families migrated to Canada. Grand Forks became one of the key settlements. The Doukhobours brought with them their tradition of communal living. In the area surrounding Grand Forks and Castlegar, they established communal villages, emphasizing shared resources and a collective lifestyle.


A cutout figure of a white dove in flight attached to a barn wall
Dove of Peace - a Doukhobour symbol
Things to Do

Whether you are into culture, food, history, or incredible nature, you will have a wealth of choices in Grand Forks.

Visit the Fructova School, once a schoolhouse for Doukhobor children, now home to the Boundary Museum. Listen to the storytellers at the Pride of the Valley Heritage Flour Mill.


The exterior of a flour milll building with the flour silo protruding from the roof
Flour Mill credit: USCC Doukhobours

Visit the town market at Gyro Park on Tuesday and Friday mornings.


Spend some time in Gallery 2. This community art gallery not only showcases local and regional talent but also delves into the history and culture of Grand Forks.


Get your camera charged up and take a Mural Walk. The murals depict outdoor adventures, history, and unique scenes downtown and around. Use the map below to find the locations of all the murals.


A great trail to follow is along the former C&W rail tracks uphill towards Eholt. This 23 km (one-way) route isn't too steep and winds through tunnels and past lookouts. You will likely spot eagles, hawks, and deer along the way. Pick up trail maps at the Visitor Information Center or download this PDF file. A tour that I especially enjoyed was the Rock Candy Mine which offers tours led by geologists and the opportunity to find your own flourite treasures to bring home.


Places to Eat It would be a shame not to enjoy some Russian cuisine while in Grand Forks. Traditional dishes such as borscht and pyrahi are widely available in local restaurants. The Borscht Bowl is my favourite.
a bowl of borscht soup with a dollop of sour cream, garnished with fresh dill
Borscht image by Iva Balk - pixabay

For a pub-style meal, consider the Grand Forks Station Pub. The Marvelous Munchies Bakeshop is my pick for morning coffee and yummy treats.

Places to Stay

There is a wide selection of accommodations available including nationally branded hotels, roadside motels, B&Bs, and RV parks. Open your favourite booking site and read all recent reviews carefully. I had a great stay at the Grand Forks Municipal Campground. It is within walking distance of the town and located in a park beside the river.


Day 3: Grand Forks to Nelson (137.1 km, 1 hr 32 min)

Day 5 continues to follow Highway 3 and Highway 6 to the edges of Boundary Country in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia. Nature travellers will want to kayak on Christina Lake or walk along the TransCanada/Great Trail paths. History and culture buffs can delve further into the fascinating Doukhobour sites and visit local art exhibits. Foodies will be happy with the range of craft beverages, locally sourced foods, and generous serving sizes

Christina Lake

Christina Lake is where the historic Columbia and Western Rail Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail, and Dewdney Trails merge. Christina is the warmest tree-lined lake in all of BC and makes a great place to linger if you have more time.

Lakefront beach with volley ball net with mountains in background
Christina Lake Beach

There are many trails in the area from gentle wanderings to challenging multi-day experiences, whether you choose to hike, ride horseback or cycle. Walk the longest trestle on the Kettle River to take your picture above Cascade Falls.

A trestle bridge crossing a mountain gorge
Cascade Gorge, near Christina Lake

Since this is the warmest BC lake, it makes sense to enjoy the water activities. Enjoy the beach and a refreshing swim. Rent a kayak or canoe to look for ancient pictographs along the eastern shore of the northern end of the lake.

a series of marine animals painted on a rock face
Christina Lake Pictographs image credit: Grand Forks Gazette

Whether you choose to hang out at Christina Lake or carry straight on to Castlegar, make sure to stop at the food truck Baba Kabab parked at the corner of Highway 3 and the turn off to Christina Lake. There are only 2 foods on the menu (falafels and kebabs) but both are absolutely tasty.

A food truck/trailer painted red and white under a wooden shelter with a sign "Baba Kabob Middl asteern Street Food. kabab aand falafel"
Baba Kabab -- you want to stop here

Castlegar

Like most of Boundary Country, Castlegar's origins are connected to mining and transportation however, the Doukhobor legacy is deep in Castlegar. Today, Castlegar is a large town with modern amenities, a thriving arts scene, fabulous year-round outdoor activities and tremendous pride in its culinary scene.


Things to Do The Kootenay Doukhobour Village Museum is a living museum of a Doukhobour commune. Located just outside of Castlegar, this museum features artifacts, exhibits, and reconstructed historical buildings.
a 2 story brick house with a wrap-around porch and surrounded by trees and lawn
The Doukhobour Discovery Centre

The Brilliant Suspension Bridge was originally constructed by the Doukhobours in 1913 as a part of their efforts to connect their communities across the Kootenay River. For a deeper look see my post about the Doukhobour legacy in the area.
A view along the length of a wooden suspension bridge.
Brilliant Suspension Bridge
Castlegar calls itself the "Sculpture Capital of Canada" and proudly presents an annual Sculpture Walk. The exhibits change every year with prizes awarded through public voting. Drop by the Visitor Information Centre for the latest brochure and map.
Places to Eat

The Nineteenth, located at the Castlegar Golf Course, is a great choice if you are looking for an excellent pub-style meal. Their menu is dynamic but always includes burgers, steaks, pasta, and vegan/vegetarian options. There is an extensive beverage menu of craft beers, ciders, and local wines. I loved the Brussels sprout appetizer I ordered. It is closed during the winter months. The Lion's Head Pub, also in Castlegar, is a favourite for the menu, the charm of the historic Tudor building, its incredible location, and its extensive craft beer and cider choices. Choose a seat on one of the patios to enjoy a smoked meat meal that will live in your dreams days after consuming.

a tudor styel pub with a large covered patio at the base of a mountain
image credit: Lion's Head Pub

Castlegar's The Humble Bean Coffee Company is my choice for a coffee break or light lunch in their cozy games and book room. Not only is there the usual assortments of coffee drinks but they also have a wide selection of teas.


Nelson

Tucked amid the majestic Selkirk Mountains, Nelson is a charm sparkling with history, culture, and vibrant modern life. Today, Nelson seamlessly blends its historical legacy with a progressive and vibrant present. The town's historic buildings, charming streets, and waterfront coexist harmoniously with a lively culinary scene, local festivals, and a commitment to sustainability. Its Indigenous heritage is honoured, and its modernity is rooted in community values. For a detailed post about the places to stay, play and eat, read Discovering Nelson - Cheesy Escapades to Streetcar Rides.

The yllow paainted, art nouveau styl 1939 Adventure Hotel on the main street.
Nelson, BC

Final Thoughts

As we conclude this segment of our BC road trip through Boundary Country, the landscapes traversed, and the stories uncovered form a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the historic roots of Greenwood to the serene charm of Grand Forks, the Doukhobour and Japanese Internment legacies and onto the artistic ambiance of Castlegar and Nelson, each stop along Highway 3 has added memories of this intriguing region of British Columbia. From Nelson, you might choose to extend your road trip to follow the Hotsprings Trail, making your way to Yoho and Banff and onwards east into Alberta or loop around into the Shuswap or Okanagan area via Highway 6. Alternatively, check out the other road trip itineraries on this blog to discover your next adventure.



Whether you follow this itinerary to the letter or choose to meander along your own path, may your BC road trip be a journey of joy, discovery, and connection with the diverse landscapes and communities that make this province a captivating destination.


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