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Road Tripping to Osoyoos: Take the Scenic Route to BC’s Desert Wine Country

Road Tripping to Osoyoos
The Okanagan River brings life to the valley that bears its name.

The fall colours — and the sense of wonder they arouse — will captivate any traveller who arrives in Osoyoos on an autumn road trip. British Columbia’s interior landscape of vineyards, orchards, forests, ranch country, and desert hills is at its glorious peak during the season of harvests and cider.

A resort community, Osoyoos is a popular beach town in summer, when visitors flock for the sweet South Okanagan sunshine, and in the cooler autumn months it is no less attractive, thanks to the vibrant scenery and the joyful residents eager to introduce their culture and activities.

swiws Spirit Tours provides guests with the chance to explore Osoyoos and its area.

For outdoor adventure seekers, hiking and mountain biking are even better in the fall than the summer. Cooler temperatures allow for a more comfortable climate for physical endurance. And, of course, watching those colours of the valley splashing like paint in front of your eyes is an autumnal treat.

Osoyoos Lake provides a dramatic panoramic vantage point to take in the swath of blazing hues. Hitting the lake for non-motorized water fun is certain to compel you to pause for several minutes in order to gaze in tranquility. Whether you’re on a stand-up paddleboard, or rowing in a kayak or canoe, listening to loons and cranes — as well as the rise and fall of your own breath — autumn on the lake is an escape that enriches the soul and rewards your gumption to fling into nature.

After all of that activity, you’ll be pleased to know you aren’t going to go hungry in Osoyoos. The heart of BC Wine Country is among the leading culinary destinations in Canada. Connoisseurs and aspiring foodies will savour seasonal local flavours prepared by renowned chefs.

With more than 40 wineries within a 20-minute drive of Osoyoos, travellers can tour many vineyards during their visit, gaining knowledge of wine and the many varietals of grapes harvested in the valley.

Visitors are sure to learn about the Indigenous communities and how generations of care for the land was integral to the agricultural success the South Okanagan now enjoys. Exploring the cultures and traditions of the Osoyoos Indian Band is among the most enriching things to do on a journey to Canada’s popular desert destination.

Here is a closer look at the routes that offer the most scenic highlights as you get ready for your fall getaway to Osoyoos:

Route 97 South from Kamloops (3.5 hours)

The vineyards of BC Wine Country benefit from their proximity to Osoyoos Lake.

The Okanagan Valley Corridor is one of the most beautiful drives in British Columbia. Much of this section of Route 97 runs parallel to the Thompson River in the north and then beside a series of glorious lakes that flash by your window in a blitz of turquoise and blue. Okanagan, Skaha, Vaseux, and Osoyoos are the names of the large lakes you will glimpse on this sensational drive. On the way you will pass through iconic Okanagan communities such as Kelowna and Penticton that are all ecstatic about their most important commodity: wine.

As you drive south, acres and acres of vineyards line either side of the valley, surrounding those sparkling waters and framing the desert hills. In the distance are mountain summits, some of which will already be dotted with snow as the ski and snowboard season approaches.

During fall, the climate cools, which means the grape harvest begins. The leaves of the vines change colour, showcasing fall foliage so resplendent you will be tempted to stop again and again to observe. When you do, make sure you’re near to one of the many tasting rooms of the South Okanagan. Sample responsibly some of the award-winning wines the area produces and pick up a collection of bottles to take back with you. There is no better keepsake of this part of British Columbia than a vintage you can store at home to pull out one day and let the taste of the region spark fond reminiscences of your adventure. 

Highway 3 from Vancouver (4.5 hours)

The drive on Highway 3 takes travelers into a treasured provincial park.

When heading east towards Osoyoos on picturesque Highway 3 road-trippers will venture through E.C. Manning Provincial Park, a pristine and rugged protected area that covers a remarkable 83,671 hectares — approximately four times the size of Salt Spring Island. The highway, also known as the Crowsnest Pass, rises and winds between the Cascade Mountains.

Once through this thrilling passage, you will come across charming communities such as Princeton and Keremeos where you can fuel up on gas, snacks, and coffee for the rest of the trip. 

Just before arriving to Osoyoos, savour the stunning Similkameen Valley scenery. Lush orchards, organic vineyards, and award-winning wineries and cideries make this rustic area well worth a stop. Travelers can take a break at any one of the truss bridges to snap an Instagram-worthy photo of the landscape, which includes views of the Similkameen River and staggering Snowy Mountain.

Between the Similkameen Valley and Osoyoos, be sure to visit Spotted Lake. Located right off of Highway 3, this small lake, known to the Indigenous community as Kliluk, is rich in a variety of minerals that form large spots as the water evaporates throughout the year. As a sacred site, the lake is off-limits without permission from the Osoyoos Indian Band, but it can be observed in full view from the side of the road. It is one of dozens of culturally significant Indigenous landmarks you will encounter in Osoyoos and vicinity.

Highway 3 from Cranbrook (5 hours)

Fall hikes in the South Okanagan deliver dazzling views.

Winding through the mountains, forests and farmlands of the West Kootenay region, this route features some of BC’s most historic communities, including Castlegar, Grandforks, and Greenwood.

On your way to Osoyoos, stretch your legs at the scenic Kettle River Recreational Area, where the Monashee Mountains are prominent and Ponderosa pine trees dominate. As the road nears Osoyoos, mountain views become ever more jaw-dropping. At the crest of the Anarchist Mountain Summit, prepare your eyes for a panorama of the valley that extends for miles. Pull over at the Anarchist Mountain Lookout point to capture this immaculate scene overlooking Osoyoos and the South Okanagan Valley. 

Fall hikes in the South Okanagan deliver dazzling arrays of colour.

No matter which direction you choose to venture to Osoyoos, one thing is certain: Your fall road trip will be memorable and spectacular. Exquisite autumn hues and endearing B.C. communities beckon with the delights of the season meant to warm and delight you. 

If you’re looking for even more reasons to visit, check out some of these ideas for exploring Osoyoos this fall