A small town on the edge of Highway 1 in British Columbia, Revelstoke is often overlooked by travellers heading between Vancouver and Calgary. But this is a mistake. I know that because I’ve made it too, I can put my hands up to that!
The truth of it is that Revelstoke should be the destination, not the rest stop – read on to discover 18 must do Revelstoke attractions and activities that prove it.
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The Lowdown on Revelstoke
Revelstoke is a town in the interior of British Columbia, home to around 7000 year round residents. It is located right on Highway 1, almost halfway between Vancouver and Calgary. Despite being so well connected, Revelstoke still feels amazingly remote.
Revelstoke is a town that has real community. Speak to a couple of people and you’ll soon realise that people absolutely love living here (you could even say they’re ‘stoked’). And it’s easy to see why.
Perched on the edge of the Columbia River and surrounded by the Monashee and Selkirk mountain ranges, Revelstoke is a beautiful outdoor playground. Skiing, hiking, paddling, climbing and more, you can do it all here. And do it well, I should add. This isn’t a town that puts half effort in anything.
The best things to do in Revelstoke
To experience the best of this adventurous town, here are 18 of the best Revelstoke attractions and activities. I’d recommend to spend at least four days doing as many as you can (as the season allows, see below for more info).
Only have a day or two to see Revelstoke? Pick three or four of the below list and resolve to come back to Revelstoke ASAP.
Many of the must do Revelstoke attractions below can be done year round, or at least May to October (dependent on when the snow flies). Revelstoke may be best known for winter activities, but the town is actually an ideal summer destination too.
Indeed, on our recent late summer trip, we were blown away by the amount of cool things to do in Revelstoke at that time of year. This list is based on our own experiences plus recommendations from the many friendly locals who were happy to share their favourite adventures.
With scenery as beautiful as this, hiking is a must do Revelstoke activity. Not only is there is a huge amount of trails close to town, but the variety is wide too. Think summit trails, alpine meadows, river valleys, temperate rainforest and more. Revelstoke has it all!
Revelstoke Mountain Resort offers some excellent (and easily accessible) alpine hiking. A 11km return heads to Greely Lake while the Stoke Climb travels uphill to the alpine region of Mount Mackenzie (14km return).
Plenty of exhausting but rewarding hikes await in Glacier National Park, about 30 minutes drive from town. The Abbott Ridge trail, for example, offers incredible views to hikers who make the effort.
For an overnight hike, consider the trip to Eva Lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park. Most of the elevation to this beautiful alpine lake is completed on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, allowing for a relatively flat hike through the wildflowers.
Pipe Mountain Coaster
Ridiculously fun no matter how old you are, the Pipe Mountain Coaster launches you on a 42km/h journey down the slopes of Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
The brakes in each car are individually controlled by the rider so you can go as fast as you like. The track really whips around the trees and features a number of sharp corners. I absolutely love fast rides and found myself using the brakes a couple of times.
This must do Revelstoke attraction has really put the town on the map in the last few years, especially since it is one of only three in Canada.
On your own visit to the Pipe Mountain Coaster, however, don’t forget to make the most of the other activities and attractions Revelstoke Mountain Resort has to offer. The alpine hiking (and views) at the top of the Revelation Gondola are particularly fabulous.
If you like cross country mountain biking, you’ll definitely fall in love with Revelstoke. And you don’t have to go far to access it. Close to town, the Mount MacPherson trail network has more than 55km of singletrack on offer.
An epic ride through alpine meadows, the Keystone Standard Basin Trail is Revelstoke’s iconic single track alpine adventure. Originally a backpacking trail in the 70’s, this run is especially pretty in August when the wildflowers are out.
For the ultimate in mountain biking in Revelstoke (a bucket list ‘must do’ Revelstoke activity if you will), consider a helibiking tour. Descend as much as 3000m in one day after being dropped close to the summit of Mount Cartier.
If I had to choose one of these must do Revelstoke activities to go to the top of your list, it would have to be paragliding. Revelstoke has the highest paragliding descent on offer in Canada and the experience is nothing short of amazing.
Paragliding must be one of the most relaxed ‘extreme’ sports out there. As a tandem passenger, it’s basically a scenic ride (albeit hundreds of metres above the ground) in a very comfortable chair. There is also the opportunity to steer the glider and even try some exciting aerial manoeuvres.
With JR not being a big fan of heights, he was initially a little reluctant to go paragliding in Revelstoke. Arriving our landing site, the first thing he said to me was ‘can we buy our own?’ That says it all. Contact Revelstoke Paragliding to try it yourself.
Glacier National Park
Not to be confused by the American park of the same name, the boundary of Glacier National Park is 45km east of Revelstoke. Highway 1 winds directly through this rugged park, offering drivers a chance to see some of the snowiest terrain in BC.
In summer, the park is a favourite of adventurous hikers and campers, while in winter it is a magnet for backcountry skiers.
If you don’t have the time for hiking, I’d recommend at least a stop at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre on your way through. Located in a replica of an old railway snowshed, the centre explains the incredible effort that is required to keep Highway 1 safe to drive in winter. Spoiler: it involves artillery weapons.
If waterfalls are your jam, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Revelstoke. There are numerous awesome (and easily accessible) waterfalls close to town to visit. Here are some top picks:
- Sutherland Falls – Powerful and dramatic 13 metre waterfall dropping into a canyon
- Begbie Falls – Short hike to a misty multi-layered waterfall
- Moses Falls – Lesser known but impressive cascading waterfall
The Meadows in the Sky Parkway, Mount Revelstoke National Park
Revelstoke National Park may be one of the smallest National Parks in Western Canada but it is definitely one of the most accessible. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is a 26km paved driving route that travels all the way from Highway 1 through cedar and hemlock forests into the alpine of Mount Revelstoke.
Alongside the way, there are viewing platforms and short hiking trails to explore. One of the first stops is the historic Nels Nelson ski jump, the only place in Canada where ski jumping records have been set.
The finale of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway is the summit hiking area, which is beautifully carpeted with wildflowers in summer.
For a short loop hike, head to the upper area (shuttle bus or 1km uphill hike) and take the trail to the historic firetower. Take in the impressive views of the valleys and mountains surrounding Mount Revelstoke.
The First Footsteps Trail shares local First Nation culture alongside more beautiful panoramas. Look carefully around the rocky areas; you may be lucky enough to see a tiny pika (an alpine mammal related to the rabbit).
With so many other incredible outdoor activities in Revelstoke, it seems only natural that there would be climbing opportunities in the area as well. There are currently around 20 climbing areas with 500 total pitches.
One of the most popular places to climb is Waterworld, located literally on the edge of Lake Revelstoke. This unique climbing spot is accessed from above via a very short approach (about five minutes). The wall itself is 90m high and offers adventurous and technical climbs ranging from 5.8 to 5.11.
A town bordered by water, Revelstoke hosts a number of great paddling spots. One of the most accessible (and picturesque) is Lake Revelstoke, just north of town. Actually a reservoir created by the Revelstoke Dam, this lake is an incredible 130km long.
We launched at Five Mile Boat Launch just beyond the Revelstoke Dam. Our short but rewarding paddle took us past a secret waterfall (not visible from the highway) and in sight of many snow capped mountains.
If you don’t have a kayak of your own, consider renting from Natural Escapes in town. For stand up paddleboards, check out Fine Line SUP. They have inflatable SUPs which are both easy to paddle and pack down into a reasonably sized bag for transport. Another option is to take a guided paddling tour with Natural Escapes.
Sampling local drinks
The people of Revelstoke love to be outside….and also to drink local brews. This has undoubtedly been enabled by Mt Begbie Brewing, which has been perfecting beers in Revelstoke since 1996. One of the owners has a PhD in nuclear physics and has found a way to utilise his scientific background in production. The swish new brewery building just outside of town offers tours and tastings as well as a sunny patio with views of namesake Mount Begbie.
The sign outside Monashee Spirits on Mackenzie Ave cries out ‘free gin!’ with both confidence and generosity. Thinking it would be rude to take them up on their offer, we accepted a free tasting of four remarkably different hand crafted spirits. We then watched as our unique cocktails were mixed with a flourish (and fresh botanicals).
Exploring downtown Revelstoke
As someone who isn’t much of a browser, I don’t often recommend the virtues of shopping in a destination. But Revelstoke is a little different, especially if you love (or even just like) outdoor gear.
Revelstoke’s core downtown area constitutes an easily walkable four block radius. Mount Begbie looms behind, occasionally visible on crosswalks.
Almost every store in Revelstoke’s core downtown area is an independently owned boutique store or restaurant of some kind.
There is a high concentration of outdoor clothing and equipment stores, with quite a variety within this singular category alone. Think specialist ski boot shops and bike repair stores trading alongside and more general (hiking/camping) outdoor offerings and more.
In the summer, you can combine browsing (and patio drinking) with live music. The Revelstoke Summer Street Fest presents free live outdoor music every night of the week from the end of June to late August.
Learning about Revelstoke’s history
Part of the traditional territory of four First Nation groups (Okanagan, Sinixt, Secwépemc and Ktunaxa), Revelstoke has only been known as such since 1886. The townsite was officially founded when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was built through the region and was once of the most prominent communities in the interior of British Columbia.
The Revelstoke Railway Museum gives background to the town’s significance as an important CPR hub. The connection to the railway still remains strong today.
In addition to exhibits and artifacts, the Railway Museum hosts a full size steam locomotive and railway carriage (open for exploring) inside the museum. A caboose and huge railway plow sit outside with other rolling stock.
We weren’t able to fit in a visit (have you seen the size of this list already?!) but the Revelstoke Museum and Archives features two floors full of exhibits and interactive displays in a 1920’s Post Office building. They also offer cemetery tours in the spring and summer, filled with interesting tales about Revelstoke pioneers.
Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre
Revelstoke is home to one of the biggest and most powerful hydroelectric dams in Canada. Opened in 1984, the construction of the dam on the Columbia River created a huge 130 kilometre long reservoir now known as Lake Revelstoke.
The Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre exhibits are surprisingly reflective, showcasing the brainstorming, construction and benefits of the project alongside the negative. The latter is explained within an engaging First Nation section that includes opinions and cultural insights from the Secwépemc, Okanagan and Ktunaxa First Nations.
The flagship attraction of the visitor centre is undoubtedly the lookout point at the top of the dam. Gazing out from 35 stories up (about 175m), you really get a sense of how massive this project was.
The Revelstoke Dam is located on Highway 23, a very short drive north of Revelstoke itself. To approach the dam property itself, you’ll need to show photo ID at the security booth. Bags and purses are not allowed into the visitor centre but there are free lockers you can use.
Soaking in hot springs
One of the more unique Revelstoke activities is the chance to soak in natural hot springs. There are a few different options within a short distance, with my favourites being Halfway, Halcyon and Nakusp. Despite all three being relatively closely located, each offers a unique hot spring experience.
Halcyon Hot Springs
Used by local First Nation people for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, the springs at Halcyon are said to have the highest concentration of lithium in North America. The soaking experience here is calming, with soft spa music, sunbeds and a spectacular view over Upper Arrow Lake. There are two hot pools (one which is perfect for floating), a cold plunge pool and a huge seasonal swimming pool.
Halfway Hot Springs
Accessed via a fairly well maintained gravel road, Halfway offers one of the most natural hot springs settings in BC. A short downhill walk from the parking lot leads through the forest to a basic changing room and several small hot spring pools. There is another, cooler, pool located just around the corner. A fairly fast moving river is close by, ideal for a refreshing dip if you need one.
Nakusp Hot Springs
The furthest south of the hot springs mentioned here, Nakusp sits somewhere in the middle when it comes to experience. The pools are not as natural as Halfway Hot Springs and the facilities a little less elegant than Halcyon but the forest setting is wonderfully relaxing even so. The pool is separated into two, with the smaller section being hot and the other warm.
White water rafting
The Illecillewaet River is host to numerous Class II, III and IV rapids, perfect for white water rafting. We joined Apex Rafting for a three hour, 26km long trip down the Illecillewaet and loved every exhilarating second.
Not only we did get to do battle with huge waves and get very, very wet (always the sign of a successful rafting trip), but this adventure also offered the chance to see Mount Revelstoke National Park from a different perspective.
With the water level having a direct effect on the type of rapids on the river, each rafting trip down the Illecillewaet is a little different. During the spring melt, for example, the rapids are bigger and more frequent. Apex generally runs rafting trips from June to early September.
Apex Rafting take care of almost everything on the trip, from wetsuits, water shoes and transport to paddling instruction, snacks and photographs. There’s even a chance to buy drone footage of your paddling trip.
Tasting the local food scene
Small town eating this is not, with Revelstoke being the host of many incredibly modern, diverse and inventive eateries. It’s impossible to mention them all, but our favourites included:
For inventive cuisine accompanied by a huge choice of draught craft beer from across British Columbia, you have to go to Craft Bierhaus for dinner. Designed to be shared, the dishes at Craft Bierhaus are seasonally focused and made from scratch with local ingredients and plenty of flair. Amazing!
Located on the ground floor of the Regent Hotel, 112 Restaurant offers one of the finest dining experiences in Revelstoke. Think high quality steaks cooked exactly to your liking (JR received his perfectly blue as desired, a rare occurrence), halibut, ahi tuna and more. An outstanding experience.
Offering big city food and style in a small town, the Quartermaster Eatery specialises in fresh, seasonal, local dishes with an emphasis on smoke and fire (slow cooking and grilling). I loved my ‘daily catch’ special (salmon) but was definitely tempted by the unusual vegetarian options.
If you’re craving sushi, I’d highly recommend a trip to Kawakubo Revelstoke. Service was quick, the sushi fresh and the decor atmospheric. There are plenty of vegetarian options if you don’t eat fish. The lunch specials are fab too.
A firm local favourite for breakfast and lunch is La Baguette, an organic bakery with two locations. The main, and original, location is on Victoria Road.
Another good option for lunch is the Taco Club, with affordable and authentic meat and vegetarian burritos, enchiladas and tacos (naturally). The Taco Club is also open for dinner.
For lunch on the go, check out Mountain Meals. Tasty sandwiches, salads, pies and more can all be boxed up and eaten on the trail, mountain or anywhere else you may fancy. Large choice of vegetarian options.
Skiing and snowboarding
Revelstoke is undoubtedly best known for skiing and snowboarding and rightfully so. The surrounding mountains receive more than ten metres of snow every year. But it’s not just the quantity that is impressive, but the quality too. Dry and fluffy powder is the name of the game in Revelstoke.
Despite being a fairly recent build (2007) , Revelstoke Mountain Resort has earned a formidable reputation for steep and deep terrain. With North America’s greatest amount of vertical (1,713 metres), the longest run here is an incredible 15.2km. Despite already offering over 3000 acres of terrain, the resort has ambitious plans for growth over the next ten years.
Beyond the resort, there are numerous heli and cat skiing operations poised to take experienced skiers and snowboarders into the surrounding Monashee and Selkirk mountains.
Using skidoos to access the best winter powder has been growing in popularity all over North America and Revelstoke is no exception. Revelstoke’s relatively moderate winter temperatures, easy accessibility, high snowfall and wide choice of riding areas make it an awesome place to snowmobile. There are both guiding and rental snowmobiling options.
And there we have it, 18 must do Revelstoke attractions and activities that prove why this small town should be top of your travel list! I’m already considering a return visit in winter to find some more must do cold weather activities…
Where to Stay in Revelstoke
We stayed at the incredibly central Regent Hotel on 1st Street. This stylish family owned and operated hotel (one of the oldest in Canada!) has large, well appointed rooms. Breakfast is included and features the best hotel buffet I’ve had anywhere in British Columbia.
Being located right downtown and walkable from so many places, the Regent Hotel’s location was ideal for us. Apex Rafting’s office is located downstairs, too, so it was especially convenient when we went rafting for the day.
Alternative Revelstoke accommodation options:
If being close to the ski slopes is important, you can’t get much better than the Sutton Place Hotel. Overlooking the Revelation Gondola at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, this hotel exemplifies high end ski-in, ski-out accommodation.
On a previous visit to Revelstoke, I stayed at Swiss Chalet Motel. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to downtown but the prices are exceptionally reasonable, especially if you’re visiting in a group.
A modernist approach to accommodation, the Cube Hotel offers compact rooms with shared (but private) shower rooms and kitchen. Close to downtown, this is a great option if you want to save money on accommodation for activities instead.
For camping, both Martha Creek Provincial Park and Blanket Creek Provincial Park are close to Revelstoke. If you don’t need many facilities, I’d recommend checking out Echo Lake. It requires some driving on gravel roads to get there but is completely free.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada