Penticton is 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 still plenty to do.
And that’s still true whether you love to be active in winter or just prefer to take it easy. For that reason, Penticton is the ideal weekend winter destination.
In this post, I’ll share all the best things to do in Penticton in winter. Each and every idea has been tried and tested by a local – me!
Penticton is our hometown and we live here because we truly love it. I’ll also share our favourite places to eat and where I recommend friends and family to stay.
Here’s an overview:
- Introducing Penticton
- Winter in Penticton: What to expect
- The best things to do in Penticton in winter
- Check out the views at Munson Mountain
- Go wine tasting on the Naramata Bench
- Walk the KVR Trail
- Follow the BC Ale Trail
- Explore Apex’s Skating Loop
- Go alpine skiing or snowboarding
- Where to eat in Penticton
- Where to stay in Penticton
Last updated February 2023. 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.
Introducing Penticton, British Columbia
Penticton is a small town (38k pop) in the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia, Canada. It is one of only two towns in the world situated between two lakes!
Orientation-wise, Penticton is about five hours drive east from Vancouver and eight hours west from Calgary. Kelowna is about 50 minutes north.
Located on the the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx/Okanagan, the name of the town comes from the nsyilxcən word snpintktn which is commonly translated to ‘a place to live forever.’
I have recently heard that a better translation is ‘a place where people have always been all year long.’ This emphasizes that the Syilx have lived in this area since time immemorial (and also that the winters are pretty mild!)
Penticton is best known as a summer destination, enjoyed for the hot, dry weather and choice of recreational activities such as paddling, swimming, tubing, camping, biking, hiking, climbing and cycling.
In my opinion, Penticton is a true year round destination. Winter is still a worthwhile season to visit, whether you love to play in the snow or prefer to relax with a glass of local wine.
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 mid December to late January (and then once in 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! I’ve listed more than 20+ different activities, highlighting our very favourite places and attractions.
Check out the beautiful 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 at the start of winter to 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.
Go wine tasting on the Naramata Bench
The Naramata Bench is one of Canada’s premier wine regions and is less than 2km from downtown Penticton!
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 strong, French-style soft cheeses, you simply must try the Okanagan Gold (my favourite). You really can’t go wrong though.
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!
Walk the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail
With its easy grade, wide path and well used pathway, the Kettle Valley Railway Trail is the perfect choice for a short winter walk.
Built in 1915, the KVR once ran between Midway (in the Boundary Region) to Hope. It is now a multi-use trail providing endless recreational opportunities for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.
The main KVR route runs down the Naramata Bench (from Kelowna), through the downtown area and then north again on the other side of Okanagan Lake (to Summerland). There is also a former branch line running south to Osoyoos.
We have walked many sections of the KVR near Penticton but my favourite is the 5km return route from Vancouver Place to the McCulloch Trestle. The path is almost completely flat and offers sweeping views of the city, Okanagan Lake and surrounding vineyards.
As mentioned, downtown Penticton is snow-free for around half of the winter. This KVR section is located up a short hill from downtown so can retain snow and ice for a little longer than downtown. Bring Nanospikes for grip in December and January (and after any snowfalls in February).
Follow the BC Ale Trail and visit up to seven breweries
For a relatively small town, Penticton’s brewery scene hits well above its weight.
Penticton actually has four breweries located within just a few downtown blocks of each other, with a total of seven breweries within city limits.
The best nachos can be found at Cannery Brewing, while Neighbourhood Brewing is a favourite for Mexican fusion and Slackwater Brewing for burgers and sandwiches. Highway 97 opened in the winter of 2021/22 and is the best brewery venue for live music.
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
Explore Apex’s Skating Loop
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.
Go alpine skiing or snowboarding at Apex and Baldy
For those wanting a winter adrenaline hit, Penticton has a couple of great options nearby.
A hidden gem of BC ski resorts, Apex Mountain Resort 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.
Enjoy a hike with a view
Snow doesn’t have to mean a hiking break; most of our favourite Penticton hikes are still perfectly accessible in winter.
With most of the hiking trails being located in the hills above the city, I’d recommend a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes for additional grip on the snow/ice. Some of these trails will be snow free during short winter periods.
For an easy, quick hike with a surprisingly spectacular view, check out the Canyon View Trail. The 1.5km loop features panoramic vistas of Okanagan Lake and the city almost immediately. The trailhead is a 10 minute drive from downtown.
A longer favourite is the G-Spot Trail. It’s also very close to downtown. The 10km loop is a bigger challenge, but has an excellent payoff. We also love Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland (15 minute drive).
For more information on all of these featured hikes, check out our complete Penticton hiking guide. And don’t forget your 10 Essentials when heading out!
Snowshoe through a winter wonderland
After a fresh fall of snow, most of the aforementioned hiking trails require snowshoes to access.
The Canyon View Trail, as noted above, is a great choice for snowshoeing after recent snow. It is short, however, so you may want to combine the trip with a snowshoe at the nearby Carmi Recreational Trail Network. 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.
For more information on these snowshoeing trails, check out our dedicated Penticton snowshoeing guide.
Never been snowshoeing before? We have a first timers guide plus a buying guide.
Go bouldering at Hoodoo Adventures
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 across the street from Cannery Brewing’s taproom. Highway 97 Brewery is right there too! I doubt this is a coincidence but it is an unbeatable winter afternoon combination.
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!
Stroll the Okanagan Lake promenade
One of my favourite things to do in Penticton in winter is to simply walk the Okanagan Lake promenade.
The paved 1km path along the lakeshore leads from the historic SS Sicamous sternwheeler to the iconic Peach structure. There are rotating art sculptures along the way, as well as many benches.
From the Peach, you can continue along the lake through Rotary Park towards the Kiwanis Walking Pier. After admiring the views, walk towards the Penticton Lakeside Resort and through to Okanagan Lake Park and the wonderful Ikeda Japanese garden.
The red bridge leading into the Ikeda garden is an old Kettle Valley Railway trestle. Marina Way Park is located on the other side of the garden, with more great views and a convenient coffee shop (the Prague Café).
The return distance from the Sicamous to Marina Way is about 5km. We walk it almost every day in winter. Thanks to Penticton’s relatively mild winter climate and the city’s clearing service, the path is snow free about 90% of the time.
Skate for free at the outdoor rink
Opening in 2022, Penticton now has a downtown skating rink. Located just behind City Hall on Martin Street, it is completely FREE to use!
Operated by the not-for-profit Activate group, the skating rink is open every day throughout from December to early March from 8am to 9pm (weather permitting). A Zamboni floods the ice at 8am and 4pm.
Skate rentals are not available at this time, but the group hope to offer them in future. Please note that hockey is only permitted from 6-8pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
It is also possible to skate for free on Lakeside Resort’s small lakefront ice rink. Set right on the beach, the views are spectacular! It is usually open from late November to late March, 10am to 10pm.
The ice rink has space for up to 10 people and can be reserved for private skating ($100/2 hours).
Attend one of Penticton’s winter events
Penticton’s winter season may be quieter than summer, but there’s still quite a few events happening at this time. Here’s just a taste!
Christmas is the busiest period, with many local markets held as well as the Downtown Light-Up Festival and the Santa Claus Parade. You can also go on a self guided Christmas light tour.
Various ticketed events take place at downtown restaurants for New Years Eve. Prior to 2020, the Lakeside Resort always set off fireworks at midnight (I hope this returns one day!)
The Okanagan Winter Wine Festival is held in Penticton in February, with the all-inclusive ticket price covering wine pairings and entertainment.
Apex Mountain Resort annually hosts the Brewski event in early March. Local breweries and distilleries are on hand to provide tastings alongside food and music.
The local pubs and breweries continue to host regular events during the winter, including karaoke, musical bingo and comedy nights. We really like trivia at the Barley Mill Pub on Thursday evenings (also held at Slackwater Brewing on Tuesdays).
Though held just before the season technically starts, I also wanted to mention the Santa Rec Run, one of Penticton’s most unique winter events. More than 100+ people annually don a Santa hat or suit and run 1/5km along the lakeshore in aid of youth recreation programs.
Stay warm at one of Penticton’s indoor attractions
As much as I love to wax lyrical about how mild Penticton’s winters are, cold days still definitely exist! And on those days, you may want to explore Penticton’s indoor attractions.
Up for a challenge? Try to solve one of the escape rooms at EXIT Penticton. Located downtown, there are four different themes to discover.
Just a block over, Landmark Cinemas showcases all of the newest movies. Tuesday is cheap night, just FYI.
Penticton’s downtown is also home to Western Canada’s largest second-hand bookstore. The Book Shop has been in operation for almost 50 years!
If you time it right, there may be a show to enjoy at the Cleland Community Theatre, Tempest Theatre or Many Hats Theatre. Also check the SOEC for visiting bands.
The building hosting the Penticton Library is also home to the Penticton Museum and Archives. As well as permanent exhibits, there are temporary exhibits that usually last three months.
Where to eat in Penticton
For such a small town, Penticton has a lot to offer on the culinary scene. This is particularly true as more and more new restaurants have opened up in the last few years.
We love Cannery Brewing and Neighbourhood Brewing for casual, shared appetisers with drinks. The Cannery pulls inspiration from all around the world, while Neighbourhood is puts a twist on Mexican dishes.
Craving pizza with your beer? Pizzeria Tratto is our favourite in town, with deliciously chewy wood fired pies. If you prefer wine, visit on a Monday or Tuesday to receive a free pizza with a bottle!
Loki’s Garage is a must for brunch, with the best hash browns and hollandaise in town. Coffee fans will appreciate the timed French Press coffee. For something lighter, check out Wayne & Freda.
For sushi, you can’t go wrong with Ginza Sushi & Poke. The elegant upstairs dining area has a wonderful ambience too. Ginza does usually shut down for a short time in January/February so check their website or Facebook before visiting. On the other side of town, KOJO is our go-to.
Upscale dining awaits at Elma (small, shared Turkish plates), Poplar Grove (local produce paired with wine) and the brand new Orolo restaurant at Time Winery (in-house dry aged steak).
Where to stay in Penticton
As a resort town, Penticton has a pretty big choice of accommodation. Think hotels, motels, vacation rentals, B&B, hostels and more.
My top pick is the Penticton Lakeside Resort as it is located right on the waterfront and a short walk from everywhere downtown. It’s just the most convenient and comfortable place to stay.
The motels along Lakeshore Road usually offer great discounts for winter visitors. The location is excellent, with Okanagan Lake just across the road and restaurants within easy walking distance. Tiki Shores is one of the best rated properties in this area.
If you’re planning a romantic winter getaway to Penticton, consider Wesbert Winery and Guest Suites. This small, upscale property is located on the Naramata Bench. Enjoy vineyard views from the rooms and wine tastings downstairs!
Other Penticton articles you may find helpful
A Local’s Guide to Craft Breweries in Penticton
82+ Things To Do in Penticton and the Southern Okanagan
What to Do On a Rainy Day in Penticton
Where to Go Snowshoeing in Penticton
What To Do in Vernon in Winter: A Complete Guide
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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
Saturday 14th of January 2017
Penticton (really the South Okanagan) is beautiful in the winter. Yes, it can be cloudy and windy but you don't need to go south to find a sunshine - just drive up a mountain! Baldy has our heart but there are great things up at Apex and Nickle Plate. Great list :-)
Tuesday 17th of January 2017
So true - we were at Baldy just this last Sunday, soaking up the sun while the Valley remained in cloud! Thanks for your comment Josée, I am loving your instagram feed right now!