Feast on fall adventures in Castlegar and Arrow Lakes
Fill your fall days with paddles, hikes, wine and food around Castlegar and Arrow Lakes. The flavours of the harvest season come to life in this lesser-known BC region full of adventures.
It all starts in Castlegar, where highways intertwine over the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers, and become your gateway to adventure in the Arrow Lakes area - there’s a reason they call it the Heart of the Kootenays. Of course, you can’t set out on an empty stomach so this story actually begins at The Lion’s Head Smoke and Brew Pub.
With a dozen BC craft beers on tap and a delicious smokey, barbecue-y lineup of menu items from brunch to dinner, this Tudor-style pub has two outdoor patios with either a view of the Columbia River or a 45-metre-high rock wall where you’ll often find climbers making their ascent.
Fueled up and ready to go, your next adventure could be a hike, a bike, or in my case: a paddleboard! With rivers, creeks, and lakes all around, the possibilities for paddle locations are seemingly endless. You can drive up past Robson, BC, to Scotties Marina on Arrow Lakes and rent a craft for an hour or four. The waters are clear and the golden fall colours on the shore pop against the backdrop of the mountains.
Another great spot to hit the water, or hike, near Castlegar is around Syringa Provincial Park, just a bit further up the lake from the marina. Sandy shores, tall cedars, Selkirk Mountain views, raptors soaring overhead - it’s a pretty spectacular part of our province.
Taking one of those aforementioned intermingled highways, my next adventure was up along the Kootenay River with a sharp left on Highway 6 over to Crescent Valley along the Slocan River.
When Laurel Giasson and her husband (and business partner) Matt Theoret drive down the highway and see Frog Peak come into view, she knows she’s home. She loved the scene so much that she named her business after it.
We sat at a picnic table outside her Frog Peak Cafe one morning, surrounded by eclectic art pieces, clasping hot mugs of coffee while the aroma of freshly-baked rosemary focaccia wafted from the kitchen.
Giasson is one of many small business owners in the Arrow Lakes region that serves up hearty meals, a place for community - you should see the kids' play area by the patio - and welcomes visitors from all over to share in the beauty of this part of the Kootenays.
Winding my way up the highway a little further, my next stop was Camp Cafe in Silverton where, as the sign on Lake Ave says, you’re “In the middle of nowhere, and the centre of everything.”
Owner Julie Sekulich, from Edmonton, has been visiting the Silverton area for years with her family for vacation. Over time, she fell in love with the area. On a recent visit she saw a ‘for sale’ sign in the window of the local cafe. The experienced hospitality pro put in an offer and as she says, “just kind of made it happen!”
The cafe serves up savoury and sweet baked goods like spanakopita quiche, paninis, peanut butter bars, their popular oat bar, and the best carrot cake around! You can shop local artisans inside the cafe as well. There’s a selection of books, soaps, art, knitwear and more on display.
My next stops were a meadery, cidery, and a winery. And no, I didn’t hop over to the Okanagan, this is all still in the lush Slocan Valley.
At Mithril Meadery in Nakusp, Daniel Abraham has some good things brewing. He’s got 20 acres, a guest accommodation and an up-and-coming meadery that’s made a splash so far at the local farmers market with his Orange Cranberry Metheglin.
The name of the meadery combines two of his favourite things: the beautiful place in which he lives and his love of fantasy novels. Mithril is a fictional metal invented by author J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s like silver, which (as my previous stop in Silverton might imply) was abundant in this area. Look for great things next year when the tasting room opens!
Looping back down through Nakusp and along the shores of Upper Arrow Lake, I stopped in to feed the sheep and pet the barn cats at Burton City Cider. They have a lovely tasting room and kitchen serving up their locally-grown craft cider with handmade pizzas - but the best part is the outdoor sitting areas.
Circle around a cracking fire pit or sip your tasters under the shade of cedars with views of the orchard all around you. I tried the Classic, which was crisp and smooth, the Spiced Apple, which I then purchased to bring home for Thanksgiving dinner, and the Apple N’ Rye aged in oak barrels. The cidery has six mainstays and a rotating cidermaker’s special - the artisans there are always coming up with new craft creations inspired by the land around them and the apples they grow.
From the orchard to rows and rows of Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grapes in the emerging Kootenay wine region, Valley of the Springs Winery in Nakusp produces crisp and aromatic handcrafted wines where the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee mountains meet in the Arrow Lakes Valley. Stop in for a tasting (by appointment in the off season), or book a room at the bed and breakfast on site and stay a while.
I ordered a charcuterie board to pair with my tasting as I sat by the fire, sampling their estate-grown Gewurztraminer and their Vista white blend with Siegerrebe, Ortega, Auxerrois, and Osceola Muscat. The bottle I bought to bring home was their Trailhead Red, a silky smooth blend of Gamay and Zweigelt.
At the end of the day my travel partner and I checked into Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, perched above Upper Arrow Lake, just up the road from Nakusp. It’s a luxurious accommodation for those who want to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, have a little adventure, soak up a relaxing spa getaway, or folks like us who were passing through and took advantage of the opportunity to soothe tired muscles.
The resort has chalets, cottages, and cabins, a spa - of course - and is home to the renowned Kingfisher Restaurant. At dinner we sat between tables of honeymooners who were so ecstatic to be there, in this beautiful location, to celebrate. We ordered a glass of Valley of the Springs Trailhead Red, and toasted our day as well.
After dinner, we changed and flip-flopped down to the lodge in our comfy robes for a soak. We spotted some of the honeymooners in the pools and a groom looked over to us as we dipped our toes in the hot pool (41C/107F) and said: “Welcome to Heaven on Earth.”
We submerged our shoulders, sat back against some jets, and looked up. Clouds of steam danced like kite ribbons in the wind and when they parted, they revealed a sky full of stars.
WHEN YOU GO
- Castlegar is located in south-central BC, a 7-hour drive from Vancouver or Calgary. It’s also a 3-hour drive from Spokane, Washington.
- There are multiple hot springs in the Arrow Lakes region including Halcyon, and Nakusp.
- The village of Nakusp is 100km from Revelstoke and requires a free ferry ride at Galena Bay. From Vernon, it’s 200km and requires a free cable ferry ride at Needles.
- Air Canada flies into the West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar five times a week.
For more ways to #ExploreArrowLakes read on: