Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Vernon to Osoyoos – Okanagan road trip itinerary
The whole journey from Vernon to Osoyoos can be done in one day or however long you want it to be. Apart from enjoying the glorious views, you will find many special places to stop along the way.
Take your time to enjoy the many beautiful Okanagan parks, sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. Check the access points to the Rail Trail, perfect if you bring a bike, or plan to venture on some of the spectacular hiking trails I mention. You will find plenty of fruit stands along the highway and car turnouts to enjoy the view.
Tips for the Vernon to Osoyoos Route
And did I mention that the Okanagan Valley is recognized as a world-class wine region? At any of the wineries you visit, you will have an authentic wine experience. However long you choose to wind up on this adventure road trip, here’s how to make the most of the ride.
Highway 97 Road Information
The direct drive from Vernon to Osoyoos is 173 km, and you can drive it in 2 hrs 25 mins in normal traffic according to Google Maps. Although it’s highway driving, the lake views on this route are spectacular.
Scenic Westside Road
Westside Road is an alternative route between Vernon and West Kelowna. If you travel from Vernon to Osoyoos and back to Vernon, you might want to take Westside Road one way.
How to get to Vernon, the starting point
FLY IN – The Kelowna International Airport (YLW) is 30 minutes south of Vernon and provides national and international flights daily. Several airlines fly in and out of the Kelowna International Airport, which serves all the communities within the Okanagan Valley.
CRUSE THE HIGHWAY – Getting to Vernon by car, RV or bike is easy. Vernon is located in the heart of North Okanagan. Highways 97 and 6 intersect at Vernon and Highway 1 (Trans Canada) is 45 minutes north. Vernon is located 441 km from Vancouver, BC, 556 km from Calgary, AB, and 184 km from the US/Canada border.
RENTING OR BUYING A VEHICLE:
- What you should know about car rental in Canada
- RV and Camper Rental Guide
- Car buying Tips for tourists
18 Best Stops between Vernon and Osoyoos
1. Start in Vernon – Vernon to Osoyoos Road Trip
In Vernon, you won’t find the Okanagan glamour you will find in Kelowna. Maybe it has to do with the weather. Winters are harsher here in the North Okanagan and wineries are few. Still, Vernon has its own charm and is surrounded by three lakes, Kalamalka, Okanagan, and Swan.
There is lots to see and do in Vernon. Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park is great for swimming and fishing with beautiful beaches and hiking trails. Visit Davison Orchard where you get a great view of Vernon. Next door is Planet Bee where you get a free tour of a working honey farm.
Vernon is your getaway to Silver Star Mountain Resort, don’t miss the 20-minute drive to the resort. Detour up to the Aberdeen plateau for some good fishing lakes and solitude.
Step back in time and visit the historic O’Keefe Ranch, just a short way north of Vernon.
Read More about how to have a great time in Vernon:
2. Kekuli Bay
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park is located off Highway 97, 11 km south of Vernon, my first stop on the Vernon to Osoyoos road trip. This may be the first stop on your way south. Next to a beautiful bay on the west side of Kalamalka Lake, it is a perfect destination for waterskiing and boating.
A day-use and picnic facility is located just off the boat launch parking area.
Even if you’re not staying at the campground, use the 2.6 km of gravel walking trails which take you through the grassland around the campground. From Kekuli Bay you also get access to the Okanagan Rail Trail.
On the opposite side of the Highway, you have Commonage Road, which leads to Predator Ridge, the famous golfing resort, that also offers hiking, swimming and more.
A bit further on is Sparkling Hills Resort, the luxury getaway with European-inspired saunas and dining.
3. Oyama and Gatzke’s Farm Market
If your time permits for a little detour, exit Highway 97 approximately 15.7 km from Kekuly Bay and take Pelmewasch Parkway to Oyama to get to Gatzke’s Farm Market. Oyama is in the Lake Country District.
Prior to 2013, the road along Wood Lake used to be the official Highway and I used to stop at Gatzke Orchard’s every time I drove from Vernon to Kelowna. This bustling over 90-year-old Farm Market attracts locals as well as visitors from around the world.
It’s open from May to September offering farmers’ market shopping. Try out Grandma Gatzke’s Vintage Recipe for a superb pie or just have delicious ice cream on the patio.
There is a Coffee shop, Pizzeria and e-bike rentals, located on-site.
While in Oyama, drive out to Kaloya Regional Park on Trask Road (off Oyama Road) on the southern shore of Kalamalka Lake. The park has a swimming area, covered picnic area, walking trails, lily pond, playground, and boat beach.
After exploring Oyama, continue on Pelmewash Parkway along Wood Lake to Lake Country where the road joins up again with Highway 97 at the south end of Wood Lake.
If you’re up for a hike, stop at Spion Kopp Trail Head along Pelmewash Parkway before heading back onto Highway 97.
Spion Kopp Trail:
There are many trails to explore on Spion Kop Hill. The Trailhead starts 3.8 km from Oyama south on Pelmewash Parkway. Park in the Pullout on the east side of Pelmewash Parkway alongside Wood Lake. This is a beautiful trail with lots of ups and downs and a steady incline to the top where an astonishing view is waiting for you. From the summit, you will be able to see Okanagan Lake, Ellison Lake, Wood Lake, and a bit of Kal Lake.
Download AllTrail App for Free and get directions for this trail and other trails in the area.
Continue to Windfield, the largest community and the commercial centre of the Lake Country area. Lake Country calls itself the Apple Capital of Canada, producing a large percentage of all apples grown in Canada. It’s also known as the Banana Belt of the Okanagan.
Winfield is a good place to stop if you’re looking for a bite to eat because of its various restaurant options.
Winfield is the getaway into the backcountry and the Dee Lakes area. It is quite a long side trip on the Vernon to Kelowna Route. Shortly after Winfield, you will come to the Beaver Lake Road turnoff. Driving 16 km into the hills will take you to Beaver Lake Resort where you can camp for the night. Further on there are many small fishing lakes and Recreation Sites. This is pure wilderness country. Therefore, be prepared well if you choose to head out that way.
- The side trip to Beaver Lake is also mentioned in the Kelowna itinerary.
5. The Jammery
I remember stopping at the Jammery during a bad snowstorm to get off the treacherous highway during a Vernon to Osoyoos trip but mostly I just stop for a break and to browse through the cute store. The world’s first and only Jammery is located on Highway 97, approximately 13 km from Oyama, or 2.5 km from Winfield.
Many products are made right at the Jammery, and the gift shop offers a variety of local food products and unique gift items.
Breakfast and lunch all day and lunch are offered at the restaurant. Enjoy the air-conditioned restaurant or the enclosed sunroom during the Okanagan heat wave.
A few minutes after leaving The Jammery you will be passing Kelowna’s International Airport on the left. It’s a hub for connecting domestic flights and direct flights from Seattle.
A 21 km drive after leaving the Jamery will take you to Kelowna’s downtown marina.
Kelowna is the largest city on the Vernon to Kelowna Route. Located approximately 600 km from Calgary and 400 km from Vancouver it makes it a good halfway stop.
The city has a beautiful waterfront and an attractive downtown. If you are not able to avoid all the big cities on the way to the backcountry, Kelowna is worth a stopover.
Kelowna has more to offer than fine wines, good food, and sandy beaches. Visit Myra Canyon trestles and tunnels while you’re here. The scenic portion of the Kettle Valley Runway (KVR) runs along impressive steep-walled canyons. The railway was built by hand at the turn of the last century and today you can hike it or bike it.
7. West Kelowna – Westbank First Nation
To continue your Vernon to Osoyoos road trip south from Kelowna, drive across Kelowna’s famous floating bridge, the only floating bridge in Canada. This will take you to Westside, as the locals like to call it. You can sip your way along the Westside Wine Trail where you will find winery tasting rooms, restaurants, spectacular views, outdoor music concerts, art showings and wine education events.
- Drive the Westside Farm Loop for an agricultural experience.
- Walk along the sandy shores of Willow Beach or zipline into the sparkling waters of Lake Okanagan down at the Gellatly Bay Waterfront. The pathway goes from the Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park to Rotary Beach.
- Hike The Boucherie Rush trail on Mt. Boucherie, a 60 million-year-old dormant volcano.
- Just blocks from downtown West Kelowna you can get to a beautiful waterfall in Glen Canyon Regional Park (South).
- Take a drive along Scenic Westside Road and stop for a stroll at Bear Creek and Fintry Provincial Parks.
Sign up for AllTrails for FREE to get information and directions for all West Kelowna Trails.
Peachland, the small town 25 km from Kelowna is surrounded by sloping hills, colourful orchards, picturesque vineyards, and large ponderosa pines. Stroll along the lakeshore and have a good break after getting through the traffic nightmare of West Kelowna.
What is there to see and do around Peachland? Soar high above Deep Creek Gorge on Canada’s highest freestyle zipline at ZipZone Adventure Park.
A visit to Hardy Falls is a great adventure any time of year. The trailhead is located on Hwy 97 South at Hardy Street. Turn off Highway 97 onto Hardy Street and follow it to the parking lot.
From the parking lot, it’s a beautiful, easy walk through the forest, over bridges and along the creek ending with the view of the waterfall. It’s a great place to watch the salmon spawning in the fall. Sign up for Free for AllTrail to get directions and info about Hardy Falls.
Summerland is a small, but vibrant town next to sun-drenched hills, vineyards and orchards and beautiful beaches along the shores of Okanagan Lake. Having a dear friend living in Summerland gave me the opportunity to explore the town and its surroundings. If you feel like getting away from busy Osoyoos, staying at Dogwood Bed ad Breakfast in Summerland might be a good choice for you.
The large library is worth a visit and offers an excellent Internet connection. Stop in at the indoor flea markets and find some treasures, check out Granny’s Bakery and the Beanery Coffee Shop before heading out for a walk on the nearby Trans Canada Trail.
- Climb aboard the vintage Kettle Valley Steam Railway for a 16 km trip back in time.
- Don’t miss visiting the beautiful 6-hectare Summerland Ornamental Gardens (entry by donation)
- Learn more about the origins of Summerland at the Museum and Archives
- Hike up to Giant’s Head and marvel at the views of Summerland and Okanagan Lake.
10. Sun-Oka Beach Park
Sun-Oka Beach Park is one of a string of four provincial parks located between Summerland and Penticton and has one of the most beautiful beaches in South Okanagan. All four parks, Sun-Oka, Pyramid, Soorimpt and Kickininee are open to public access year-round.
Sun-Oka is the shortened version of “Sunny Okanagan.”
Apart from the stunning beach, the park is suitable for water activities, is perfect for a picnic and offers fantastic views down Okanagan Lake. Here you will find old-growth cottonwood trees and trails along Trout Creek that take you to the edges of the old-growth.
So many times I passed by here on the Vernon to Osoyoos trip without stopping. This time I did, also it was late in the season and it was a cloudy day. But, having the beach for myself I enjoyed a break and a walk in the sand.
Off-season travel has its advantages if you like solitude, and don’t mind cooler temperatures.
11. Pyramide Provincial Park
You will recognize Pyramid Day-Use Park by the mound of clay seen from the highway. The picnic area in the park includes a good selection of picnic tables, some in the shade of Cottonwood Trees. It provides an excellent place to stop and have a rest, go swimming or have a picnic. It features some little sandy beach areas with great swimming spots.
There are not many amenities in the park, but you can freely use the picnic tables and public washrooms.
12. Soorimpt Provincial Park
Soorimpt Provincial Park is another popular rest stop located shortly after you leave Pyramid Park. The park features public washrooms, picnic areas, as well as beautiful coves with beaches perfect for swimming.
It is day-use only and is a great place to stop and stretch after a long road trip through the scenic Okanagan Valley, BC.
You can easily launch your kayaks or paddleboards from here to head out and explore the area via water.
The park is named after Chief Sorimpt, who was an indigenous Okanagan tribal leader who battled against the Europeans that arrived to colonize the area.
13. Kickininee Provincial Park
Kickininee Provincial Park is the last of the four parks between Summerland and Penticton and is my favourite. The Kickininee Day Use Park includes three grassy areas at different elevations. The upper part is next to the large parking lot, is shaded and includes a few picnic tables with great views. A short paved path leads down to the middle space where you get to more picnic tables. From there, take the short path down to the pebbled beach area.
The beach includes a roped-off swimming area. What an incredible place just off Highway 97!
Penticton is not as hectic as Kelowna but has much to offer to visitors. From beaches and lakes and the channel float, markets and orchards, and an incredible culinary scene, to arts and culture, family fun, cycling and mountain biking, and limitless outdoor recreation opportunities. It also has craft breweries, distilleries and cideries.
Summers here are long, hot, and sunny, and the winters are mild. Skaha Lake Park is a wonderful lakefront park and is one of Penticton’s main attractions.
On the south end of Penticton’s waterfront, you will find the SS Sicamous Museum, a perfectly preserved steam sternwheeler from 1914. Here you will get a taste of what luxurious ship travel used to be.
Head up to Munson Mountain, which can easily be seen from town. It is where you will see the giant letters spelling out Penticton on the hillside. From this public park, you will get expansive views over the Okanagan Valley, the city, and the lake below. The park is free to enter and offers a variety of walking trails.
Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park is the place to go rock climbing. The park attracts climbers from all over the world.
Kaleden is a small, picturesque town 13 km south of Penticton, on the western shore of Skaha Lake. With stunning views of Skaha Lake, you have the opportunity to visit the town’s vineyards and orchards in beautiful surroundings. With fine beaches and the Kettle Valley Rail Trail close by, this is a historic town you don’t want to miss on your Vernon to Osoyoos Okanagan road trip.
The town is home to two historic buildings, the General Store, and the famous Hotel Kaleden. Although the hotel resembles a skeleton of a building that has been burned down, this is not the case. The hotel got closed around the time of World War One because of financial problems. It was subsequently salvaged of all reusable material, leaving only a concrete, eerie-looking shell.
16. Okanagan Falls
You will arrive at Okanagan Falls, also known as OK Falls, 11 km further south on the southern tip of Skaha Lake.
The biggest attraction in this small town is an ice cream parlour called Tickleberries. It’s a family-owned business that started back in 1990. Stop for the best ice cream far and wide. If ice cream isn’t your thing, Tickleberry makes its own chocolates, fudge, candies and much more.
Afterwards, park near the lakefront at Christie Memorial Provincial Park on 7th Avenue on the south shore of Skaha Lake. There is a well maintained beach, plenty of benches, picnic tables and washrooms.
Next to Christi Park is the OK Falls KVR (Kettle Valley Railway) Bridge. It connects to the Kettle Valley Railway Trail on the North end, which runs along the West shore of Skaha Lake. It’s a great place for a walk and a chance to see plenty of waterfowl and wildlife.
There are many wineries to stop in around Okanagan Falls, like See Ya Later Ranch, Blue Mountain Vineyard and others.
Okanagan Falls Provincial Park is a place to camp. You’ll also see signage for sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ, which is the name for Okanagan Falls in the local indigenous Sylix language. The park is operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Notice Indian Head’s ragged cliffs to the southwest of Okanagan Falls, some of the most unusual rock formations in the Okanagan. Check out the hiking trails.
From Okanagan Falls, you have the option to take Green Lake Road to Oliver, past the Provincial Park and See Ya Later Ranch, a spectacular drive. Read more: Oliver BC – Outdoor Travel Guide
17. Vaseaux Lake
10 km before you arrive in Oliver, stop at the Vaseux Wildlife Centre. Hike to the Bighorn National Wildlife Area and the Vaseux Lake National Migratory Bird Sanctuary for viewing tons of birds, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and some of the 14 species of bat. Even the lake itself is a gem, framed by granite cliffs.
If you’re not in a hurry, explore the small roads on the east side of Skaha Lake between Okanagan Falls and Penticton and visit wineries and enjoy great views.
From Vaseaux Lake it is 14 km to Oliver, a town full of character with many historic buildings, restaurants, coffee shops and all basic services.
The Oliver area is perfect for touring local wineries and sampling Okanagan wines in the tasting rooms. While wine is certainly the “name of the game” in Oliver BC, there’s also a great option for beer lovers as well. Check out the basement of the Old Fire Hall, a special landmark in Oliver.
Fruit stands are lining the highway all through Oliver and you’re close to many biking and hiking trails along the Okanagan River and into the hills to idyllic fishing lakes.
For a backroad drive, take the stunning Black Sage Road which joins Hwy 97 via Road 22 just north of Osoyoos.
Read more: Oliver BC – Outdoor Travel Guide
Over the 20 km drive between Oliver and Osoyoos, on Hwy 97 you drive through orchard after orchard, earning it the name “The Golden Mile”. You see plenty of roadside stands and many places will let you pick your own fruit.
Osoyoos is close to the USA border and the dry, desert-like landscape makes you feel like being in the Carribic somewhere. Osoyoos Lake is one of the warmest lakes in Canada. That, together with the sandy beaches makes it ideal for water sports. Osoyoos is known for extremely hot summer temperatures and a dry climate. Many campgrounds and motels rent out kayaks, canoes, and small boats. Osoyoos offers all the services expected from a resort town.
There is a lot to see and do in Osoyoos. Make sure you visit the Osoyoos Desert Centre and consider taking a guided tour, it’s fully worth it.
Just about 3 km from Osoyoos east on Hwy 3, look for Spotted Lake, a weird natural phenomenon. In the heat of the summer, the lake’s water begins to evaporate. This causes its high mineral content to crystallize and leave white-rimmed circles of green on the water.
After spending time in Osoyoos, what’s next?
Continue Hwy 3 West and it will take you through the rugged Similkameen Valley to the cute town of Keremeos, surrounded by orchards. About 30 km west of Keremeos is Cathedral Provincial Park, a place for great backcountry adventures and backcountry camping.
If you decide to return to Vernon from here, take the Scenic Westside Road Route from West Kelowna back to Vernon for another epic road trip experience.
What about a horseback adventure and some cowboying? I have some options for you.
🔗 LINK YOUR TRIP ➔ Scenic Westside Road Vernon to Kelowna
Other links you may like
|25 Best small towns in BC to Visit||Hiking suggestions for the Okanagan|
|12 Top Things to Do in the Okanagan Valley||Ultimate Canada Camping Guide|
|Guided Tours in Canada – All you need to know||Backcountry Destination Guide|
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|TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES|
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