Head for the hills for alpine hiking, stand up paddle boarding, plus more this summer

It’s a blazing hot Saturday in July as I embark on my road trip from Vancouver to Sun Peaks Resort. Located a mere 45 minutes from Kamloops, the resort exudes a bucolic charm, thanks to its European-inspired architecture and environs. Ringed prettily by three mountains, it offers ample opportunities for thrilling escapades and stress-free respites (think Whistler, but on a much cozier scale). And while its biggest summer attraction might be its Bike Park, which has over 65 km of lift-access trails catering to different technical levels, there are a plethora of other activities that shouldn’t be eclipsed.

With B.C. currently in Phase 3 of its Restart Plan, travelling within the province does come with important guidelines for individuals, such as wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and keeping a safe physical distance from others. Sun Peaks Resort is serious about preventing the spread of COVID-19, too: During my three-day visit, I observe that hand sanitizers are provided at store entrances; bright orange posters on shopfronts inform shoppers on the maximum number of people allowed in at any one time; and rental equipment and restaurant tables are sanitized regularly. All these efforts provide peace of mind and a sense of security throughout my stay.

Here’s what to do and eat and where to stay for a fun-filled weekend getaway from the city…

 

1. Go for a guided alpine hike

alpine hikeFrolicking and singing in fields of alpine wildflowers sounds like something right out of The Sound of Music, but it’s a possibility I entertain quite seriously as I trek along the switchbacks on trail #5, dubbed the “Top of the World,” on Tod Mountain with my guide, Ken Sommerfeld. Alpine flowers like the lavender-hued arctic lupine and orangey-red Indian paintbrush are in peak bloom from mid-July to mid-August, and their vibrant colours are a welcome distraction from the heat (and flies). From trail #5, connect to trail #6, the 15-minute “Juniper Ridge Loop,” for a spectacular view of the snow-capped Canadian Rockies on the horizon.

On the Sunburst Express Chairlift ride up, I spot a deer grazing right below my dangling feet, and Ken tells me that there are bears, foxes and marmots on the mountain too. Tip: although it’s hot in summer, temperatures can drop drastically as you progress to a higher altitude, so layer up. Don’t forget insect repellent, either!

Book a two-hour guided hiking tour (inclusive of a hiking lift pass) in advance here.

2. Explore a secluded lake on a stand up paddleboard

2If you’re looking for a physically distanced activity that gets you a good workout and a sun-kissed tan at the same time, put stand up paddle boarding (SUP) at the top of your list. Paddle Surfit is owned and operated by Bodie Shandro, a veteran SUP competitor and instructor, and he offers SUP rentals from a private dock at his home on Heffley Lake, a 15-minute drive from Sun Peaks Resort.

Whether you’re a novice—like I am—or a seasoned paddler, Bodie puts you at ease immediately with clear instructions and guidance on how to SUP safely and confidently. Heffley Lake is suitably large enough for a two-hour-long SUP expedition. Paddle over to a shallow bay and plunge in for a cooling dip, or meander along and keep your eyes peeled for eagles nesting in treetops. Before you go, note that there is no phone connectivity and no changing room facility in the area, and reservations (capped at a maximum of six participants) must be made in advance.

Call 250-578-8979 or email bodie@paddlesurfit.com to make a reservation

 

3. Take a leisurely canoe ride

3Reconnect with nature at McGillivray Lake, a 10-minute drive from the resort. Relying on Google Maps to get there is tricky, so it’s best to make your way there using a map that Guest Services in Sun Peaks’ Village Day Lodge provides when picking up your rental equipment. All the equipment and boats offered by Discover Sun Peaks Adventures are sanitized daily in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines.

During my visit to the lake on a Sunday afternoon, there are only three other groups of people around, which makes physical distancing a breeze. McGillivray Lake is much smaller than Heffley Lake is, and is the perfect spot for drifting lazily on its calm waters with a book in hand.

Get more information on booking a canoe or kayak here

 

4. Re-centre yourself at yoga class

4Sun Peaks Yoga, a short five-minute drive from the resort’s main village, opened last December and offers everything from hatha and vinyasa to pre-natal and yin/meditation classes. Earthy, natural tones fill the entire space, and the studio’s wood-panelled walls convey a calm, restful vibe. Owner Kayla Alfred, who did most of the designing herself, tells me about other thoughtful touches in the studio, such as heated floors to make walking barefoot comfortable in the winter. There are several COVID-19 measures in place as well: class capacity is reduced to eight students; classes must be pre-booked; and you should bring your own mat and props.

There are clear markers on the studio floor to indicate where each mat should be placed when you come for class, and everyone in my hatha yoga class is appropriately distanced from each other even though there are only four people in total. We go through a series of deep breathing exercises and warrior poses, and by the end of class, I feel mentally lighter and more relaxed. 

Pre-register for a class at Sun Peaks Yoga here

 

5. Snooze in affordable comfort

5There are a host of attractive accommodation deals at Sun Peaks Resort this summer. My pick? The Sun Peaks Lodge, located right in the heart of the village and a stone’s throw away from the chairlift, shops and restaurants. I check into the deluxe studio in the lodge’s new wing, which comes equipped with a kitchenette, a king bed and a sofa bed. The furnishings may be simple, but it’s more than enough room for a couple or small family. The kitchenette, too, is well-stocked with plates, cutlery, a coffee machine and a microwave.

Because of COVID-19, no housekeeping service is provided during your stay. The hotel has also removed decorative non-essential items in rooms, such as throw pillows, and other amenities like the hot tub and sauna are closed for the moment. Still, a room here is quite a steal, location- and price-wise!

Book a stay at Sun Peaks Lodge here

 

6. Bask in the sun at restaurant patios

6The Cahilty Creek Kitchen & Taproom has plenty of outdoor seating and a pretty extensive menu to boot. Tuck into hearty, flavourful fare like halibut and chips or kang phet curry (a medium-spiced Thai curry), and order the new craft beer flight to sample local creations. Our server’s recommendations: The Mt. Begbie Kolsch from Revelstoke; the Iron Road Pale Ale and Red Collar IPA from Kamloops; and the Hoyne Dark Matter from Victoria.

Another great lunch or dinner option is Masa’s Bar + Grill. Besides its sizeable outdoor patio, it has the largest selection of draft beer in Sun Peaks. Its all-day summer menu happily satisfies diverse tastebuds, like a delectable butter chicken bowl and a crispy pork belly BLT.

 

7. Stock up on fresh fruit and groceries

7Every item in Ohana Deli Market is curated with the utmost care and attention, from the meats it sources locally to its homemade sauces, soups and frozen baked treats. Take home a bag of homemade blueberry granola and apricot croissants, or pick up a charcuterie platter and a fruit tray to snack on in the comfort of your hotel room—mine came with a wonderful selection of cheeses and a deliciously tangy chutney, Greek yogurt topped with local honey, as well as cherries, strawberries, and blueberries.