Summer days in Penticton are the best kind of difficult. There are simply too many things to do.
Visitors know it too, with thousands of people heading to the town to swim, hike, float, wine tour, paddle, sunbathe and climb over the warmer months.
As the sun disappears, the crowds disperse. What they miss, however, are all the awesome experiences Penticton has to offer during the winter.
Personally, I think it’s one of the best places to be in Canada in the winter! The weather is pretty mild (as per Canadian standards), the scenery is breathtaking and there’s plenty to do.
Read on for a taste of the top things to do in Penticton in winter, all ideas tried and tested by a local.
Here’s an overview:
- Penticton in winter: what to expect
- The best things to do in Penticton in winter
- Go wine tasting
- Follow the BC Ale Trail
- Skate through the trees
- Go bouldering
- Check out the views from Munson Mountain
- Take a hike
- Attend a Penticton Vees ice hockey game
- Try snowshoeing
Published 2017, updated November 2022. There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Penticton is located on the traditional territory of the Syilx/Okanagan.
Winter in Penticton: What to expect
Winter is a bit of a mixed bag in Penticton. Yes, there’s snow, but not a lot. And it doesn’t hang around for long either.
Thanks to the Okanagan’s reasonably mild winter temperatures and low precipitation, we really only see snow on the ground at lake level from late December (just before Christmas) to early February. And even then, it comes and goes.
This is partly due to wind, which Penticton has a lot of. Sitting between two lakes, the city of Penticton is a bit like a wind tunnel. Wind is actually more of a challenge in winter than snow.
We also get a lot of sun here. The Okanagan Valley has a reputation for cloud cover in winter, but Penticton is actually clearer than most other towns. I believe this is, again, due to the dual lake situation.
So it’s very normal to have a dump of snow and it to be blown away or melted by the afternoon or the next day.
In terms of temperature, the thermometer hovers around freezing level during the day in both December and January. February is a couple of degrees warmer. Of course, the wind can make it feel colder.
Having said that, there is usually at least one week long stretch of very cold weather every winter. We’re talking -10°C to -15°C and even colder with windchill.
In the winter of 2021/2, this very cold weather snap lasted almost four weeks (a record!) The coldest day was -22°C, down to -30°C with windchill.
The best things to do in Penticton in winter
With all that in mind, let’s get on with our recommendations for the best things to do in Penticton in winter!
Go wine tasting
Though the majority of Naramata Bench wineries close up shop after harvest in October, there are still a few that offer tastings year-round.
Run by a lovely down to earth Canadian/British couple, Upper Bench Winery and Creamery is one of our top spots to visit for their bold wines and rich cheeses.
If you like bold, French-style soft cheeses, you simply must try the Okanagan Gold.
Upper Bench Winery and Creamery is open daily throughout the winter (with the exception of some holidays), which leaves no excuses not to get your winter wine and cheese fix!
Follow the BC Ale Trail
For a relatively small town, Penticton’s brewery scene hits well above its weight. Penticton actually has five breweries located within just a few downtown blocks of each other, with a total of eight breweries within city limits.
There are two more breweries at the other end of town as well (Tin Whistle and the Barley Mill). If you want to complete the tour, head to Abandoned Rail Brew Co on the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail.
Read More: A Local’s Guide to Penticton’s Breweries
Skate through the trees
A short drive from Penticton into the mountains will bring you to a skating experience like few others.
A world away from any ordinary rink, Apex Ski Resort’s Skating Loop offers a bit of old-fashioned winter magic. The loop route winds through a cathedral of snowy trees for a distance of 1km.
Located close to the main entrance to Apex’s parking lot, a small cabin (perfect for changing shoes) signifies the start of the loop.
Tickets to skate the loop are only $5 plus tax. It’s definitely a unique experience that is difficult to find elsewhere in British Columbia. If you don’t have your own skates, they can be rented for $17 plus tax.
While some hardy locals do climb at the world famous Skaha Bluffs all year long, most take a break over the winter months when the rock is too frigid to touch.
Thanks to the enterprising folks at Hoodoo Adventures, it is also possible to winter climb in Penticton at their climbing gym on Ellis Street.
Small but challenging and fun, the gym happens to be right across the street from Cannery Brewing’s taproom.
I doubt this is a coincidence but it is an unbeatable winter afternoon combination. Hoodoo also put on winter events such as the Santa Rec Run.
Check out the views from Munson Mountain
Penticton’s most accessible viewpoint is Munson Mountain. It’s also home to the iconic Penticton sign.
Just a short drive from downtown Penticton, Munson Mountain offers beautiful panoramas of Okanagan Lake and downtown Penticton. It’s also possible to see Skaha Lake!
The parking lot is found at the end of Munson Mountain Road, which is a short, narrow winding turnoff from Munson Ave, the main road leading to the Naramata Bench from downtown Penticton.
From the parking lot, it’s only a two minute walk along a flat, paved path to the first viewpoint. This path can get quite icy in winter so be sure to tread carefully. My mum actually fell and broke her wrist here after slipping on black (clear) ice. A pair of Nanospikes would likely have prevented this.
Depending on the amount of snow and ice around, you may feel comfortable to continue up the hill. There are benches and better views as you climb.
Take a hike in Penticton
Snow doesn’t have to mean a hiking break; some of our favourite Penticton hikes are still perfectly accessible in winter.
The Kettle Valley Railway Trail, with its easy grades and well packed down pathways, makes for a perfect short winter walk.
Walking along the Okanagan Lake promenade is another of my favourite winter activities, especially when the sun is out.
For a hike with a view, head to the Canyon View Trail. This easy 1.5km loop features panoramic vistas of Okanagan Lake and the city almost immediately. The trailhead is a 10 minute drive from downtown.
When there’s less snow on the ground, we’ll often go to Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland or G-Spot here in town. The latter offers a 10km loop with excellent views of Penticton and Okanagan Lake.
I swear by Kahtoola Microspikes for winter hiking on snowy trails.
For more information on all of these featured hikes, check out our complete Penticton hiking guide.
Attend a Penticton Vees ice hockey game
Penticton is host to one of the best Junior “A” hockey teams in British Columbia. The Penticton Vees won the Fred Page Cup in 2022 for the 13th time, with 16 straight wins in the playoffs.
Current success aside, Penticton has a strong hockey legacy. The Penticton Vees represented Canada at the IIHF World Championship in 1955 and beat the Soviet Union in the finals.
Penticton is home to the original Okanagan Hockey School. Running since 1963, this hockey camp counts hundreds of former of former and existing NHL players as alumni.
The Vees usually play at the South Okanagan Events Centre every other Saturday during the winter months. Check the schedule on the Penticton Vees website to time your winter visit right.
Tickets are very reasonably priced at $17 for adults and $15 for seniors. From time to time, local businesses will give away cheap tickets as well. I’m not a huge hockey fan but last year I was pretty happy to score four tickets for $2 each!
After a fresh fall of snow, most of the aforementioned hiking trails require snowshoes to access.
Our favourite local trail to snowshoe is the Canyon View Trail, which is located in the hills above Penticton. As noted above, it offers wonderful views of the city and Okanagan Lake. The best viewpoint is located about two thirds along the loop route (going clockwise), on a side trail.
Other snowshoeing opportunities await further up Beaverdell Road (past the Canyon View trailhead) at the Carmi Recreational Trail Network. The The 7km long Okanagan Vista Loop is my top pick of the trails here, but there are shorter options.
If the snow is thin on the ground near town, we head up towards Apex Mountain Ski Resort. 22.5km of maintained snowshoe trails can be found at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre. This is a particularly ideal place for beginners to go as rental snowshoes are available.
The Okanagan Vista Cross Country Ski Trails System is also located in this area. Our favourite trail here is the Snowflake Loop, which provides access to Nickel Plate itself via the Lake Connector Trail.
Go alpine skiing or snowboarding
For those needing a winter adrenaline hit, Penticton has a couple of great options.
A hidden gem of BC resorts, Apex is just a 50-minute drive from town. You’ll be welcomed by near non-existent lift lines, challenging runs, plentiful powder and incredible summit views.
If one day just isn’t enough, there are a few different accommodation options to check out, ranging from slopeside hotel-style rooms to cosy lodges with hot tubs.
A little further away is Baldy Mountain Resort. While Apex already offers a fantastic skiing to lift wait ratio, Baldy is a whole other level. When visiting on weekdays, the experience is a bit like having your very own ski resort!
The exceptionally friendly welcome, affordable ticket prices, truly local vibe and proliferation of blue runs are the icing on the top of this great ski hill. Baldy is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so the best day to go, if you can, is Thursday.
Looking to book somewhere to stay in Penticton?
Lakeside Villa Inn and Suites – Great value option on Skaha Lake, ideal for walking on the KVR Trail
Penticton Lakeside Resort – Awesome location on Okanagan Lake, very short walk to downtown
Wesbert Winery and Guest Suites – Upscale property on the Naramata Bench, ideal for romantic winter getaways
Have you been to Penticton in winter?
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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