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From beautiful hikes to relaxing hot springs, Pemberton is the ideal summer escape
When Tyler Schramm, his wife Lorien, and his brother Jake started wondering what to do with their crop of Pemberton’s finest potatoes, they came up with a simple solution: make booze. After Tyler did a stint in Scotland learning the fine art of distilling, the Pemberton Distillery was born. His first foray into distilling started with potato vodka and quickly branched out to organic gin (potato vodka is the base spirit), absinthe, apple brandy and, finally, an organic single-malt whiskey, which launches this June. Take a tour of the distillery and sample the award-winning spirits at the retail store.
A visit to Pemberton isn’t complete without a stop at The Pony’s rustic environs for a hearty bite (just try to resist the maple BBQ pulled pork sandwich), whether it’s a belly-filling breakfast or a late-evening snack. We like that the food here is unpretentious, but made with fresh, seasonal ingredients grown nearby. And the mountain views from the patio are sublime. Wiling away an afternoon drinking a few beers and watching the birds and bees here is time well spent, indeed.
A glorious way to soak up the spirit of Pemberton is to meet the farmers and purveyors who live, work, and play in this fertile valley. So pack a pannier on your bike (and bring some cash) so you can stock up on just-picked veggies, indulge in some chef-crafted eats, and shop for handmade goods as you pedal to places like Plenty Wild Farms and Camel’s Back Harvest in the Slow Food Cycle. The 11th annual event takes place on Sunday, August 16, with the 50-km route travelling along the mostly flat Pemberton Meadows Road.
The trio of Joffre Lakes (Lower, Middle and Upper) are what hikers’ dreams are made of. This postcard-like provincial park features imposing ice fields and glaciers, untamed alpine forests and lakes so turquoise they look Photoshopped. The hike itself isn’t too strenuous, but it does gain 400 metres in elevation along the 5.5-km route from Lower Joffre Lake to Upper Joffre Lake.
Your first payoff comes quickly: Lower Joffre Lake is just half a kilometre from the parking lot and taste of what’s to come if you tackle the rest of the route. But don’t forget the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. This is the backcountry (there’s no cellphone service for emergency calls or Instagramming), so make sure wear sturdy boots, dress in layers (it gets cold at the top), and bring the essentials in your day pack.
Slow down and pull over: you won’t regret it. Nairn Falls Provincial Park is definitely worth taking a detour off the highway, whether you decide to camp overnight in this forested idyll or stretch your legs a little by hiking the 1.5-km pathway to its namesake waterfall, which plunges 60 metres in an impressive display of power. The park is just five minutes south of Pemberton so civilization is close by if you need provisions, plus it’s a good jumping off point for exploring the region’s trails, many of which are bike-friendly. Although the gorgeous Green River looks tantalizing, its fast current means it’s not safe for swimming, but a woodsy trail will take you the two kilometres to One Mile Lake, which has a designated area for taking a cooling dip.
Did you know that 30,000 gold-rushers passed through this region en route to Lillooet on the gold rush trail? This little tidbit of history, along with more than 2,000 archival images and 400 objects at the Pemberton Heritage Museum help paint a colourful picture of the area’s evolution over the decades. The New General Store exhibit opens this month, and starting July 7, on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. you can also take in one of the summer Tea & Tales programs, where you can nibble on baked goods while watching films like Emily Carr’s PGE Railway Trip in 1933.
The Pemberton Valley area is bubbling with geothermal activity. Although Meager Creek Hot Springs has been closed now for years thanks to a massive rockslide, there are still a couple of unspoiled hot springs intrepid travellers can access via the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road. Before you set out, check here for road conditions. Skookumchuck Hot Springs (formerly known as St. Agnes Wells during the gold rush) features seven soaking tubs and camping in a remote setting along the Lillooet River. Clothing is optional so get comfortable with a little skin (including your own) or look skyward when you soak. And if you travel another eight km farther (caution: the rode can be rough), you’ll reach Sloquet Hot Springs, which also includes seven natural soaking pools and 20 campsites.
If you’re feeling cash rich but music poor, there’s something that’s gonna fix that really good: the 2015 Pemberton Music Festival. Spend four fab days outdoors (Mt. Currie looms large in the distance) gyrating and grooving to the sounds from dozens of bands, including Black Keys, Weezer, Sam Roberts Band, Cut Copy, and more, along with Juno-awarding winning musician Dan Mangan and comedian Tig Notoro. The festival features on-site camping and if you go for the VIP treatment, you get prime positioning close to the action, exclusive access to special areas of the fest, and in some cases, even a queen-size bed.
Out your inner cowboy or girl by hitting the trails at Adventure Ranch on horseback. After saddling up, you’ll spend two hours riding through the diverse ecosystem, surrounded by tall grasses, twisting rivers, coastal forests and rugged mountain ranges, led by one of Adventure Ranch’s very own cowgirls. The trail rides are kid-friendly for tykes six and up (an adult must accompany kids under 12) and equestrian helmets are provided.
The second leg of the gruelling 2015 IRONMAN® Canada Triathlon (held in Whistler on July 26) travels through Pemberton after the elite athletes have already swum two loops of Alta Lake (3.8 km) and transitioned to their bikes for a leg-burning 180-km ride along the Sea to Sky Highway, uphill into the Callaghan Valley though Whistler and into the Pemberton Village. This is the halfway point of the race and there’s an official Pemberton Cheer Section at the community centre, where you can track events live on the big screen.