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Van Life Road Trip in British Columbia: Unveiling the Charms of Salmo

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Welcome back, fellow meanderers, to the fourth installment of my 2023 Summer Van Life Road Trip! As a retired, solo, female traveler, I've been loving the freedom of the open road and the joys of van life as I travel through the stunning landscapes of British Columbia. If you've been following my journey, you'll know that I've already explored the picturesque Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, ventured into the serene Boundary Country in the Kootenays at Christina Lake, and savoured the beauty of the Columbia Garden Winery vineyard above Rossland. Now, it's time to carry on along the highway to my next stop, the

captivating town of Salmo, where history, natural beauty, and warm hospitality intertwine.

Salmo, tucked away in the south central area of British Columbia, very close to the US border, has been a favourite stop for many travellers along this route. While others drive right on past. Today, I will share my experiences and discoveries from this gem. Whether you stop for coffee or choose stay over in one of the guest houses or in the municipal campground, Salmo is a place that holds stories and wonders waiting to be explored.

In this blog post, we'll embark on a journey to unravel Salmo's history, delve into its vibrant present, and uncover the activities and attractions that make it a fabulous stop-over for road trippers. I'll also be reviewing the Salmo KP Park Municipal Campgrounds, ensuring you have all the information you need to plan your own stay.

The journey, so far

Summer Van Life Road Trip: Getting to Salmo

After rising early in the picturesque vineyard hills above Rossland (see previous post), I set my sights on the next destination: Salmo. This quaint town is a gem worth uncovering. As I hit the road in my trusty converted Sprinter van, Wanda, I soon settled into the drive through BC's winding and scenic Crow's Nest Highway crossing the Kootenay region. The drive itself was a delight, with panoramic views of mountains, forests, and wandering rivers. Along the way, I couldn't resist stopping at several lookout points, where I was always treated to a marvellous view.

Salmo is nestled at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains, one of the large mountain ranges in central BC. The most direct eastward route from Rossland is to take Highway 3B. This well-maintained road leads you through several small towns and offers stunning landscapes along the route.

One thing I've come to appreciate about van life is the freedom to take detours and explore off the beaten path. So, don't hesitate to follow your instincts and stop at that viewpoint, take that scenic side road, or discover a hidden trail along the way. It's these unexpected adventures that often lead to the most remarkable memories.

Salmo's Rich History

Salmo proudly sits on the traditional territories of the Sinixt and Ktunaxa peoples, who have inhabited these lands for thousands of years. When the European settlers arrived in the late 19th century, Salmo became an important hub for trade and transportation. The town is named for the Salmo River which provided a lifeline for early settlers and an abundance of natural resources.

Salmo was especially important during the heyday of the mining and forestry industries providing a vital link between the Kootenay region and the rest of the province. During these boom times, the town was a center for commerce and trade and bustled with activity as settlers flocked to the area.

Another fascinating aspect of Salmo's history is its role in the development of the railway system in British Columbia. The construction of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway in the late 19th century brought prosperity and growth to Salmo, connecting it to neighbouring communities and allowing for easier transportation of goods and resources.

Exploring Salmo today offers glimpses into its storied past. Meandering through the town, I admired the beautifully preserved heritage buildings that harken back to the days of yore. The local museum was an absolute treasure trove of artifacts and stories from the lives of Salmo's early residents.

Present-Day Salmo

I walked through the town and was struck by its small town charm with small businesses lining the main street. Salmo has evolved into a charming community that manages to embrace its roots while still adapting to the times.

As I explored the town's streets, I found myself greeted with smiles and cheerful hellos from locals going about their day -- although I admittedly saw few people on this quiet day following the long weekend. Many of the stores were closed or were operating on short hours.

Salmo is known for its thriving arts and culture scene, with many residents also talented artisans. There are several galleries and studios showcasing intriguing artwork. From paintings to sculptures, jewellery to pottery, there's sure to be something that will catch your eye.

The Rock Murals you see around town are courtesy of the "Rock Project" started in 1990. A local quarry owner established the Stone Masonry Training Institute where student masons learned how to create the murals under the direction of master muralist, Charlotte Planidin.

You can even visit what is billed as the World's Largest Penny (however Google tells me there are other places that make the same claim.) This 8 feet tall penny was dedicated on July 1, 1995, as a tribute to local resident, Penny Power. Penny started a campaign to collect hoarded pennies to donate to the Canadian government of Canada to apply to the national debt and locals decided this sculpture was a worthy representation of her efforts.

Tucked away on Main Street, the Dragonfly Cafe invited me in with its cozy and inviting atmosphere. From the delightful aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the warm smiles of the staff, and the cozy decor, it is a truly welcoming place. Not only is the coffee exceptional, but the cafe also has a delectable menu of homemade baked goods, sandwiches, and light bites. I added their signature Dragonfly Muffin to my coffee order. It was a delectable blend of locally sourced ingredients. The cafe also has vegan and gluten-free options available.

Outdoor enthusiasts will also appreciate Salmo's natural surroundings. The Selkirk Mountains have many hiking and mountain biking opportunities. The nearby Salmo River is popular for fishing, kayaking, or simply enjoying a peaceful stroll along its banks.

Active Adventures

Beyond the town boundaries is a wealth of tourist activities and natural wonders to explore. If you're an adventure seeker or a nature lover, this region offers a plethora of options to satisfy your wanderlust.

Salmo's proximity to the Selkirk Mountains makes it an ideal base for outdoor adventures. Put on your hiking boots and trek along on scenic trails that wind through the forests, past waterfalls, and up to breathtaking viewpoints. Some notable trails include the Idaho Peak Trail, Erie Creek Provincial Park, and the Lemon Creek Falls Trail.

Idaho Peak Trail - image by West Kootenay Hiking

For adrenaline junkies, Salmo offers thrilling adventures to get your heart pumping. Embark on an exhilarating mountain biking excursion, tackling challenging trails and enjoying panoramic views along the way. Try your hand at rock climbing, testing your skills on the rugged cliffs that surround the town. Or, for a unique experience, book a guided off-road ATV tour, exploring the backcountry and venturing off the beaten path. I didn't do any of these things -- not really my style of travel.

Salmo KP Park Municipal Campground

As I've done in previous posts, I will use the same criteria for reviewing the campground with 5 "tents" being the highest. I arrived at the KP Park Municipal Campground on the last day of the long weekend. KP Park hosts a major baseball tournament over the Canada Day weekend, and the park had been crowded with both campers and day visitors. Garbage was piled everywhere -- some left in the campsites and many trash bags were piled up high next to the overflowing bins. I chose the cleanest site and settled in. (The trash was cleaned up first thing on Tuesday morning.)

Location: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️

The campground is one block from the main street, tucked into the trees at the far end of a large community park with a large baseball field and a children's playground. The camp host lives in a house near the campground and will visit campers to collect the fee ($20) and share the bathroom code.

Amenities: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️ There is no serviced sites. The park does include a wash house for campers that includes clean flush toilets and free hot showers. Potable water is available from a pump at the edge of the campgrounds. Cell reception is good. Firewood can be purchased from the park host. I lucked out and previous campers left some chopped firewood and kindling behind.

Campsite: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️

The site itself was level. It included a picnic table and a fire pit. Previous campers left some firewood, already split into kindling -- a real bonus that I appreciated. As mentioned, the site also had a bag of trash left behind but their clean-up crew had the weekend off, so this wouldn't be a common experience. The sites established sites are shaded, with some trees between each offering some privacy. No reservations are accepted and there are no serviced sites. There were several campers parked on an open area which is usually considered an overflow area but was perfect for group campers. Potable water is available at a pump.

Nearby Activities and Services: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️

The town is easy walking distance but most non-town activities will require driving. The town is small and quite charming with all the services a traveller might need: a grocery store, coffee shops, banks, a laundromat, hardware store, and a craft beer pub.

Noise Levels: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️

It is a quiet location surrounded by residences. I was more than a little concerned when I pulled in that this was going to be a party location -- and I imagine it was the night prior but I experienced a quiet and restful night.

Aesthetics: 🏕️ 🏕️ 🏕️

KP Park Campground is a very nice municipal campground. It had a lovely treed area that was cool in the heat of the day. There are no stunning views but they've made the most of the campground by placing it at the edge of the park, away from the open fields.

Final Thoughts

I felt embraced by the genuine warmth and friendliness of the locals. Whether you choose to spend a couple of nights camping at the Salmo Municipal KP Park or simply take a quick walk-through town while on a road trip in the area, Salmo is sure to leave an impression.

I invite you to follow my travels by subscribing to this blog. You'll receive notifications whenever new content is posted. You can also stay connected through my Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, Instagram, and my newly created Threads account, where I'll be sharing more snippets, photos, and stories from my ongoing road trip.

Salmo offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and warm hospitality that sets it apart. Whether you're captivated by its rich heritage, seeking outdoor adventures, or simply craving a connection with a welcoming community, Salmo has something for everyone. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on your own adventure to discover the wonders of Salmo, British Columbia.


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