Travel Back in Time in The Thompson
When Route 97 stretches its arms northwest through the Thompson Region you can’t help but think of the old west. Take a road trip through an ancient landscape carved by glaciers and rivers and smoothed by the ages. Your Thompson adventure has a variety of road trips. Choose from the North Thompson/Columbia Ice Fields Loop, the Gold Country Loop, and the Shuswap Loop.
The Thompson region is an ever-changing landscape of hoodoos, ranchlands, valleys, lakes, and mountains, and is home to the Nlaka’pamux and Secwepemc Nations. It is northwest of the Okanagan and is accessible via Hwy 1, Hwy 5, Hwy3, and Route 97. It consists of Gold Country, Kamloops, and the North Thompson Valley. It stretches from Gold Country and Merritt in the south to Mt. Robson in the north, the highest mountain peak in the Canadian Rockies.As you travel northwest from Falkland’s lush farmland you’ll see the rounded slopes of the Monashee Mountains. Then the scenery changes to the bunchgrass and sage grasslands surrounding Kamloops and Cache Creek. Look up as you approach the city of Kamloops. Those same gentle slopes now sweep even higher here. This is where you’ll find some of the best skiing in the BC Interior.
When travelling to the Thompson west of Vernon on Route 97, you’ll come to the picturesque town of Falkland in a narrow part of the Salmon River Valley at the base of Tuktakamin Mountain. This lush land is known for the Falkland Rodeo in May. Continue north and you’ll intersect with Hwy 1 at Monte Creek on the South Thompson River, where you can visit a historic working ranch with a winery.
As you follow the river and the highway west you’ll notice the lush lands transform into bunchgrass and sage grasslands. The North and South Thompson rivers converge in Kamloops. There are more than 200 lakes in this area brimming with kokanee and rainbow trout. Pull over and cast your line, there are ample opportunities for fishing here.
Should you forget your rod, don’t worry — the Kamloops Visitor Centre will loan you one! Come and hike the windswept hoodoos when the alpine meadows are in full bloom. Imagine yourself standing amidst a rainbow of wildflowers. Another path will take you high atop a 10,000-year-old sandstone rock formation. Breathe deep and drink in the views all around you.
Kamloops — Wildlife, river, lakes, heritage, golf and more!
Kamloops is a vibrant city with a focus on outdoor adventure. Take part in watersports, horseback riding, golfing, mountain biking, skydiving, agritourism, fishing, whitewater rafting, and more. Kamloops has several parks, including BC Wildlife Park where you can meet Clover, a rescued spirit bear. Visit the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park. Learn about the indigenous history and marvel at the remains of a 2,000-year-old village.
In August, plan to experience the Kamloopa Pow Wow, where you will see world-class dancers and the bright beautiful colours of their regalia. Hear the heartbeat of the drum as it echoes throughout the city at one of the largest celebrations of First Nations culture and heritage in Western Canada.
While in Kamloops, you may receive a warm cowboy welcome from the Kamloops Mounted Patrol. You’ll see them from March to December on the streets, in the parks, and up at Thompson Rivers University. Kids will love the Big Little Science Centre where they can have lots of hands-on experiments and experiences.
History buffs will love the walking tour and Kamloops Heritage Railway. Beer lovers will enjoy the self-guided walking brew tour while wine aficionados can take a tour of area wineries.
Kamloops has a thriving arts and theatre scene with eight art galleries including the Arnica Artist Run Centre. Take the Back Alley Art Gallery tour for a variety of full-scale murals. Check with the local visitor centre to find out what shows are currently running at the live theatres.
Warmer weather means getting out and enjoying what the area has to offer. Visit both of their farmers’ markets for locally grown fresh goodness. You can also get your greens on one of Kamloops eight golf courses.
The Doorway to Gold Country
To find Gold Country, follow the sagebrush and tumbleweeds west from Kamloops to Cache Creek. It’s here where you can follow in the footsteps of dreamers and prospectors on the Gold Rush Trail. This is Route 97’s northern most community in the Thompson Region. This area is rife with treasure of a different kind. There are hundreds of geocaching sites scattered along the Gold Rush Trail. Learn about our earliest explorers and settlers, and our robust First Nation’s culture along the way. Uncover our western roots and gold rush legends at a historic ranch. Then head north toward Alaska or south to Vancouver.
Beyond Route 97 — The Yellowhead Highway
Want more adventure? Drive north of Kamloops along the Yellowhead Highway (BC Hwy 5) for an iconic drive. Now you’re driving under the shadow of ever-taller mountains through the North Thompson Valley. This is the gateway to Jasper, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.
There are plenty of experiences to be had along this seemingly endless stretch of highway. Rest your head for the night at a ranch in the Barriere area. In the morning, awake refreshed and hike the wildflower meadows in the mountains. Get your fill of waterfalls at Wells Gray Provincial Park. Try your hand at white water rafting on the Clearwater River. Journey further north to Blue River where Murtle Lake beckons you to explore by kayak or canoe. In the winter there’s always deep powder skiing. Want even more adventure? Then keep your vehicle pointed north to Valemount and Mount Robson Provincial Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site will challenge your hiking skills against the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Need to Know:
|Distance Vernon to Cache Creek:||155km/96mi|
|Duration to drive:||Minimum two to three hours|
|Best time to drive:||Year round|