Boundary Country Road Trip
Don’t miss out to explore the amazing, historic Boundary Country in Southern British Columbia. It’s a region that is missed in many Canadian travel guides.
Visit Boundary Country, stop at the communities on the way and listen to the tales the locals have to tell.
Boundary country is where the 49th parallel divides the nations of Canada and the United States. It’s also where the Kettle River flows some 282 km from its source in the Monashee Mountains until it passes the community of Christian Lake, and where historic trails stir visions of an era of steam trains and explorations.
The land of the Boundry is rich in natural resources and fertile ranch land which makes it obvious why early gold and copper-seeking prospectors, Doukhobors, and cattle ranchers were drawn to this region and settled down. Feel their legacy and history when you move across the land and take in the culture and heritage that shaped the land and its people into what they are today.
Glimpse into the past
The history goes back to the beginning of time with the Sinixt First Nations. The first inhabitants of the Boundary Country were the Sinixt First Nation people, long before the white man took over the land. These early people followed the seasons, hunted for food, and fished Christina Lake and the Kettle River. Part of their stories is captured in ancient pictographs along Christina Lake’s eastern shore, north of Texas Point. Take a guided kayaking expedition or hike at Gladstone Provincial Park to learn about the first people who came to this land.
Kettle River was the site of one of Canada’s earliest Gold Rush of 1859. More than 5,000 prospectors were hoping to stake their claim and make their fortune. The gold rush only lasted a short period; today gold still can be found in the river and I suggest taking your pan along.
The railroad was an important part of the prospectors. Stop at Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Railway and explore the railroading past at the Kettle River Museum, Midway’s original station house.
Don’t be surprised to find borscht soup on the menu of local restaurants. It’s impossible not to notice the influence of Doukhobor that settled in the area.
More than 8,000 pacifists settled in Grand Forks between 1908 and 1912. Those people established farms and orchards and lived communally in Doukhobor villages and slowly integrated into the community. Stop at Grand Forks’ Boundary Museum and talk to a tour guide to learn more about the Doukhobor way of life.
How to get there
Boundary Country lies halfway between Vancouver, BC, and Calgary, Alberta; an area between the South Okanagan Valley and the West Kootenay. It begins just south of Kelowna on BC Highway 33 and the Crows Nest Highway and includes the communities of Beaverdell, Carmi, Westbridge, and the Christian Valley. At the junction of BC Highway 33 and the Crow’s Nest Highway, you’re at the former gold rush town of Rock Creek. From this junction head west to Bridesville, or venture east to Midway, Greenwood, Grand Forks, and the community of Christian Lake.
10 Things To Do In Boundry Country
- Paddle the north shore of Christina Lake and discover ancient pictographs left by First Nation people a long time ago.
- Canoe or kayak along Jewel Lake and watch Great Blue Herons fish from the shore.
- Hike or mountain bike on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and other heritage trails.
- Discover the provincial parks in the area and camp under the stars.
- Play in the Kettle River and pan for gold
- Join the locals at one of their events, like music festivals and fall fairs.
- Visit Farmers’ Markets, roadside farm stands, flour mills, and cheese makers. And don’t forget to try borscht somewhere on the way.
- Great skiing and snowshoeing in winter and paradise for hiking and biking in summer at Big White, Phoenix Mountain, and Mount Baldy.
- Explore Boundary Country on horseback.
- Take a self-guided walking tour of Greenwood’s colourful downtown heritage buildings.
Boundry Country Communities
1. Christina Lake
Christina Lake is the first community you get to when coming from West Kootenay. Some call it a hot, sunny oasis in the mountains, with views you want to see with your own eyes; a camera just can’t do justice to the real experience. Spend time along the almost 45 km shoreline where you have the Monashee Mountains as a backdrop.
It’s here where the historic Columbia and Western Trail Trail, part of the Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) and Dewdney Trails merge, calling for the great outdoors.
This place is laid back and summer days revolve around water and mountains. You don’t come to Christina Lake to shop, but what you find here are lodges, cottages, RV parks and campgrounds, B & Bs, resorts and motels, and tranquillity.
2. Grand Forks
Grand Forks is Boundary’s largest city with a population of 4,000 plus and a special charm you don’t want to miss. Stay around for a while and listen to stories of the gold rush and how the Doukhobors ended up in the area. Stroll through the downtown core, stop in at the galleries and shops and get a feel of the vibrant arts scene.
Enjoy the beautiful architecture and buildings. Gallery 2, the Grand Forks, and District Heritage Cultural Centre were once the courthouse. City Hall was the post office in 1913. The Boundry Museum will give you an in-depth look at the history of Grand Forks and the surrounding area. While you’re there explore the Great Trail and the Kettle and Granby Rivers for your outdoor adventures.
You have a variety of places to stay in Grand Forks, including hotels, motels, B&Bs, and campgrounds. If you’re just travelling through, make sure to stop at Kokomo’s Coffee House for a freshly ground and brewed espresso.
Greenwood was a thriving mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s and became an incorporated city in 1897. In the 1940s it almost became to be a ghost town. Once Proclaimed a city, it can never lose its designation, even if the population decreases. That’s what makes Greenwood today with a population of 700, Canada’s smallest city.
The little city is full of history and old tales, like one of the infamous American outlaws, John Jarret, who is buried in the Greenwood cemetery. Take a self-guided Heritage Walking tour through the downtown core and marvel at the 60-plus collection of heritage buildings dating back to the late 19th century. At the Greenwood Museum and Visitor Centre, you will learn about Greenwood’s colourful history and get information on other things to do in the area.
Greenwood also became to fame for having the best tap water in the entire world after taking part in an International Water Tasting competition in 2012.
For accommodation, you can find RV and camping at nearby provincial parks and private park/campgrounds as well as three motels and B&B.
Before fur traders, prospectors and settlers began to move through the valley, the area had been traditional Salish hunting and gathering grounds. Once the International Boundary Line was surveyed in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the majority of the First Nations people of the area were moved to a reservation near Colville, Washington. The entwined trees in the park in Midway still remind us of that time.
Midway’s past could fill a history book; many signs of its colourful past are still evident in the present day. Looking around makes it easy to imagine what this place was like in the old west.
Midway, originally known as Boundary City has a population of 621. The village sits right at the international border with the United States, which makes it a great stopping point if you’re travelling in Boundary Country. It’s where you’ll find Mile 0 of the famous Kettle Valley Railway, the halfway point between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
To get the feel of life in a small town, settle down for the night at a heritage inn, motel, or RV park.
5. Rock Creek
Rock Creek became a frontier town in 1859 when the gold rush took place. Today, the streets are quiet, and people come here for outdoor recreation. Hike, bike, ride a horse, snowshoe, or cross-country ski on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR), part of Canada’s iconic Great Trail. One of the best swimming holes in Boundary Country is at the Kettle River Recreation Area, just outside of town.
In Rock Creek, the Crowsnest Highway intersects with Highway 33. Travelling west will take you to Birdsville and Osoyoos, and heading north on Highway 30 you will get to Beaverdell and to Kelowna.
Private campgrounds, RV resorts, and two provincial recreation areas near town provide a great opportunity to camp under the stars and cook dinner over a campfire.
Westbridge is a small community just 13.5 km north of Rock Creek and 35 km south of Beaverdell on Highway 33. It’s surrounded by lush forests and open meadows and opportunities to see bears, deer, and moose grazing along the highway.
Camping is available at several parks in the area, or you can choose to stay at a ranch house instead.
51 km north of Rock Creek and 78 km from Kelowna on Highway 33 is the unique town of Beaverdell. Filled with history and backcountry adventure makes it a worthwhile place to stop for a while. Originally known as Beaverton, silver was discovered here in 1897 and mining was going on till 1987. The 350 locals have many stories and information about the surroundings to share.
Beaverdell is known for hiking and biking along the Great Trail and camping along the Kettle River. Bring your tent and camping gear or rent a cabin for a night.
In the early 1850s, Bridesvlle boasted a general store, a hotel, the Great Northern Railway station, a customs office, a blacksmith’s shop, a post office, two rural mail routes, and a sawmill.
Birdsville is surrounded by rolling hills and pristine mountain views and is a great place to stop and enjoy the mountain scenery. The town is located 15 km west of Rock Creek and 36 km east of Osoyoos on Highway 3. There are B&Bs and a guest ranch in the surrounding area.
Provincial Parks in Boundry Country
Conkle Lake Provincial Park
Located near Rock Creek and Westbridge with 34 vehicle-accessible camping spots for wilderness camping.
Kettle River Provincial Recreation Area
Located near Rock Creek and the most popular destinations in Boundary Country all year round. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail runs right through the park for great hiking and biking. Try to pan cold or come for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in winter. There are 114 vehicle-accessible campsites available, 78 of them wheelchair accessible.
Johnstone Creek Provincial Park
A small, forested campground just off Highway 3, less than 10 minutes from Rock Creek and Kettle River Recreation Area. There are 16 campsites with pit toilets and hand-pump water available. Pet-friendly with great hiking opportunities.
Boundary Creek Provincial Park
Located just outside of Greenwood you can camp near an abandoned copper mine. There are 17 vehicle-accessible campsites available.
Jewel Lake Provincial Park
Located near Greenwood with beautiful beachside trails, fishing and swimming, ice fishing and cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in winter. There are 26 vehicle-accessible campsites in the Park.
Grandby Provincial Park
This park is located near Grand Forks, a rugged and vast wilderness location. Be prepared for wildlife encounters, including bears. There are no vehicle-accessible campsites at Grandby Provincial Park, but free to bike to a wilderness campsite.
Gilpin Grasslands Provincial Park
Located near Grand Forks and Christina Lake, the park is rich in wildlife. Come here for mountain biking or search for hidden geocaches. The park has an outhouse but the park doesn’t permit overnight camping.
Boothman’s Oxbow Provincial Park
A peaceful place between Grand Forks and Christina Lake and great for kayaking, swimming, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Christina Lake Provincial Park
Located near the community of Christina Lake, the park has a golden sandy beach and parking for over 200 vehicles, which means you won’t be there alone. The lake has a reputation as the warmest in all of Canada with plenty of shade trees and picnic tables near the beach. Swim, kayak, canoe, fish, paddleboard through the summer, or come for winter sports in winter.
Camping facilities are located at Gladstone (Texas Creek) campground, 10 km east of Christina Lake.
Gladstone (Texas Creek)
Located on popular Christina Lake, Gladstone Provincial Park boasts 48 km of self-guided hiking trails as well as backcountry horseback trails. Drive or hike to the wilderness campsites, surrounded by an untouched landscape and the Monashee Mountains as a backdrop. This is the only area along the eastern shores of Christina Lake where you find pictographs along the shore.
Baldy Mountain Resort
Enjoy a scenic mountain getaway at Baldy Mountain Resort, a hidden gem among the mountains. Mount Baldy boasts one of the highest base elevations in the province. The resort is known for family-friendly skiing and snowboarding and offers a variety of runs for every level. Baldy Mountain resort also has a terrain park with rails and jumps if you prefer a freestyle thrill.
Usually, by the middle of June, Baldy Mountain Resort turns into a hiker’s paradise. Try the hike to the top of Sugarlump, an easy hike for everyone.
You will find Mount Baldy 25 minutes north of Bridesville on the westernmost edge of Boundary Country.
Big White Ski Resort
Fun in the snow in winter at Big White, but pack your hiking boots for summer adventures. Great for downhill biking and hiking in summer.
Big White is 56 km from the Kelowna International Airport (YLW), you can access the resort via Highway 33 from Highway 97 at the airport or Highway 3 from the sough.
Phoenix Mountain Ski Area
If you want to experience a local family-friendly feel without the crowds head up to the Phoenix Mountain Ski Area. Phoenix provides terrain for all skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Ski rental is offered at the resort. Close to the Phoenix Mountain Ski Area you will find groomed Marshall Lake cross-country ski trails. In summer this is an excellent hiking terrain.
Phoenix Mountain is nestled in the mountains just northwest of Grand Forks.
The Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR) is the longest rail-trail network in British Columbia and weaves its path through the historic Boundary Country. The trail connects rural communities and is full of aboriginal culture and railway history.
You can experience the trail on your own or as part of an organized tour, with sections ranging from family-friendly day trips to overnight legs for experienced riders.
Whether you hike or bike you will be awarded by natural beauty and an ever-changing amazing landscape.
There are campgrounds at Midway, Grand Forks, and Christina Lake.