Words and photography by Jim Bamboulis
I met the good people from Sun Peaks Tourism pretty serendipitously in the Spring of 2019. It was over dinner, on the final night of a travel conference. Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Sun Peaks before that dinner but after our conversation, I was intrigued, eager to research more about it and over time, actually couldn’t wait to visit.
As it were, my collaboration with Chevrolet Canada was coming together and a trip to BC was being planned. Our itinerary would see us criss-cross the entire southern portion of the province over 12 days, with Sun Peaks square in the middle. Before long, we discovered for ourselves that this not-so-hidden-gem (anymore) is not only Canada’s second-largest ski area but it’s also home to alpine hiking and biking in the summer.
That said, here are five experiences in and around Sun Peaks that re-confirmed that sometimes serendipitous conversations turn out super amazing!
First thing’s first – Settle in!
There are several exceptional places to stay in Sun Peaks that give you a front-row seat to all there is to see and do. That includes the Sun Peaks Grand, a luxury hotel complete with a health club, three outdoor hot tubs, and a heated outdoor swimming pool, among other beauties.
Mantles Restaurant & Lounge located inside the Grand serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Pacific Northwest flavour. Dine in, take your drink to the patio and enjoy it with mountain views and/or get comfortable with fluffy down duvets and thick Terry robes in your room. Whatever your pleasure, getting zen is step one and all part of the process of fully enjoying Sun Peaks!
Explore the Village
Charming, cute and quaint, Sun Peaks village has a distinct Euro feel with a calmness, realness and a down-right authenticity to it. Friendly people with local shops, you can easily spend the day window shopping and people watching.
Despite is cozy size, Sun Peaks is home to nearly two-dozen cafes and restaurants, including Bolacco Cafe, an institution in these parts. Owned and operated the wife-husband team of Elzbieta and Konrad Glowczynski, this Rockies-rustic spot is not only a great place for a coffee, pastry and, conversation but its walls are adorned with memories that have helped embed the couple into local folklore.
Head to the Top of the World
Mountain bike, canoe, kayak, SUP, and/or golf. Sun Peaks offers all that and more. Here’s the more. Hiking they say is the great equalizer and if you’re willing and/or able to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views and gorgeous blossoms. Yes, hiking at Sun Peaks will take you all day and will make you sweat. And although you may have second thoughts, in the end, it’s all worth it!
From the village, take the Sunburst chairlift and start your hiking adventure from 6,000 feet above the Shuswap Highlands below. There are 18 hiking trails here that make up 40km of maintained hiking and alpine sightseeing. They range from relaxing strolls to exhilarating summits. During parts of the summer, enjoy the hike with blooms of Indian Paintbrush, Tiger Lilies, and Fireweed. Take the #5 Top of the World Trail and when you get to the top, go the extra half kilometre, do the #6 Juniper Ridge Loop Trail and stand on the edge, between both the Caribou and Monashee Mountains!
Go Mountain Cross Carting
Sun Peaks is home to North America’s first (and only!) Mountain Cross Cart course. A main attraction, its 512 meter long course and 52 meter vertical descent allows you to reach speeds up to 35km/hr. If you’re a fan of tackling hairpin turns, at a high speed, while going down a mountain, then this is your jam.
Everyone gets four trips up and down and each run is timed, allowing you to both race the clock and your friends for best time. However, if you’re me, you’re super cautious the first time around. Somehow, you’re cautious the 2nd and 3rd time down, too. So cautious in fact that you supposedly break the record for slowest finishing time since inception. It took me over 3 minutes to come down – making me a running joke among other guests, staff and of course, my lovely lady who kicked my butt the first 3 runs.
No matter, this is a super exciting thrill that anyone 14+ and over 5 feet tall can enjoy. And despite high speeds and a winding, gravity-fed course, the carts themselves offer precise control and a high level of safety thanks to powerful disc brakes, four-point seat belts, roll bars, and padded seats.
Canada’s Waterfall Park – Wells Gray Provincial Park
Drive 1.5 hours north along BC’s Yellowhead Highway and enjoy a day trip like no other. Wells Gray Provincial Park is a massive park that has something for everyone but most notably, it’s known for its waterfalls. Nicknamed “Canada’s Waterfalls Park”, it’s home to at least 39 waterfalls within its boundaries, including Helmcken Falls, Canada’s 4th largest!
If you’re hungry after a day or two of water falling, head to Clearwater’s most popular joint, the Hop ‘N’ Hog Tap + Smokehouse. This place is known around the province as having some of, if not the best, Kansas City style smoked BBQ grub.
Be it the Loaded Smokehouse Nachos or award-winning Beer Fest Brisket Bun, it’s best to bring your appetite and your total willingness to order just about everything on the menu. It’s THAT good!
Hey y’all. I’m Jim. That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to working with brands to promote travel, food, and cultural experiences.
I’ve created content and collaborated with everyone from Chevrolet, Lonely Planet, Trivago, Nevada Tourism and The Weather Network to New Brunswick Tourism, Yellow Pages, Tourism Toronto, and Airbnb. Safe travels, y’all.
I’d like to thank Chevrolet Canada for supplying the vehicle for our travels around central BC including of course, Sun Peaks. Bright and beautiful, #TheNewBlazer in cherry red gave us the chance to #FindNewRoads, including the one that led us to this year-round gem of a city!
Thank you also to Sun Peaks Grand for having us for 2 whole nights! What a room, what a place, what a town, thank you!