Love outdoor adventure but prefer to stay off the beaten track? Check out my picks for the best underrated outdoor adventure towns in British Columbia and get inspired to explore somewhere new!
Golden must have one of the most enviable locations in BC. The town is situated at a three-way crossroad in the middle of the Rockies, sandwiched between two National Park regions. Glacier has similar views and adventure opportunities of nearby Banff but with a more local and authentic feel. As a bonus, the cost of living (especially accommodation) in Golden is much lower and the crowds a lot thinner.
Golden is a great base for access to the Parks (Glacier, Banff, Yoho et al) as well as off the beaten track hikes and ski trips.
Two ferries are required to get to Powell River by road. For some people, this is a turn-off. For others, it is one of the main attractions. We thought it gave the town a wonderful remote-yet-not-isolated feel.
A paddler’s dream, Powell River is home to excellent sheltered ocean paddling as well the Powell Forest Canoe Route. For those who prefer to stay on land, the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail offers plenty of day hiking and weekend backpacking potential. Powell River also has a growing bouldering and climbing scene.
One of the only two towns in the world located between two lakes, Penticton is known best for its beautiful sandy beaches. Penticton is more than just a destination for sunbathers as it has a multitude of outdoor adventures on offer all year round.
Paddling is a clear attraction here but the rugged hills lining the two lakes offer fantastic climbing, skiing, biking and hiking. Opportunities for the climbing are particularly good, with the world renowned Skaha Bluffs being just south of town. Feel like a beer or glass of wine after a tiring day out on the trails? There are dozens of local wineries and four breweries within a short drive of downtown.
Caught between mountains and river, Nelson is a community surrounded by nature. The town’s location lends itself to a little bit of everything, with rafting, climbing and biking to fishing, hiking and skiing all conveniently close. Just north of Nelson are the impressive Valhalla and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Parks.
An offbeat vibe and strong community feel are the winning factors that allow Nelson stand apart from other great towns in the Kootenay Rockies. That and the many easily accessible hot springs that pepper the local landscape, perfect for an afternoon soak to ease tired limbs.
Last, but potentially my favourite. Campbell River is the gateway to outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island. Mountains, lakes, ocean and islands all meet here.
A huge network of lakes to the west provides a playground of paddling and camping, with the (completely free!) Sayward Canoe Circuit taking centre stage. Strathcona Park is located just beyond, offering as many alpine hikes and climbs as you can shake a stick at. To the east, the coastal peaks provide an epic backdrop to the northern Gulf Islands where you can kayak, fish, beach comb, swim and boat to your heart’s content. The wilds of Vancouver Island lie north – orca whales, windswept beaches, caves and more.