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Top 5 Underrated Towns in British Columbia for Outdoor Adventure

Love outdoor adventure but prefer to stay off the beaten track and away from the crowds? We do too! After spending a good few years exploring British Columbia, we’ve found what we believe to be the best and most underrated outdoor adventure towns in the province.

If you love to explore nature, these are the towns you must visit while exploring this beautiful province. Check out our picks below and get inspired to adventure somewhere new!

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Manning Park hiking views - Choosing Working Holiday Travel Insurance
canoe at vaseux lake okanagan valley bc

Golden, Kootenay Rockies

Golden must have one of the most enviable locations in British Columbia.  This small 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.

In regards the latter, Kicking Horse Resort is well known to feature some of the most challenging terrain in the province. 

Mountain range with some snow capped peaks
Kicking Horse mountain range near Golden, British Columbia
Rec Site camping near Golden, British Columbia
Campsite view near Golden

Powell River, Sunshine Coast

Two ferries are required to get to Powell River from Vancouver. 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. It is also possible to reach Powell River via a ferry from the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. 

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.

Looking to book a stay in beautiful Powell River?

Westview Centre Motel – Great views

Oceanside Resort – Good value

Beyond Bliss Suites & Spa – Highly rated on Booking.com

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lund harbour bc last day desolation sound kayaking
The small harbour village of Lund, just north of Powell River

Penticton, Okanagan Valley

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.

Top 5 Underrated BC Towns for Outdoor Adventure-penticton-town-winter-hiking-munson-mountain
climbers at upper buttress skaha bluffs penticton
The excellent climbing at Skaha Bluffs is just one reason why Penticton is a great place for outdoor adventure

Nelson, Kootenays Rockies

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 the town of 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.

Crossing a bridge while hiking in Valhalla Provincial Park, near Nelson
Valhalla Provincial Park is not far from Nelson, British Columbia

Campbell River, Vancouver Island

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.

Tent on island looking out to lake
Camping on the Sayward Canoe Circuit near Campbell River
Canyon and falls at Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River

Do you agree with my choices? Revelstoke, Smithers and Invermere were also on my shortlist!

Love outdoor adventure but prefer to stay off the beaten track and away from the crowds? We do too! After spending a good few years exploring British Columbia, Canada, we've found what we believe to be the best and most underrated outdoor adventure towns in the province. Click here to discover our picks! offtracktravel.ca

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Underrated Towns in British Columbia for Outdoor Adventure”

  1. Hi, great blog, but you missed one of the most under rated towns…Port Alberni….Great hiking. Great biking. Close to the west coast. Kite boarding. SUP or canoe big lakes…. Just awesome. I moved here from the west coast 9 years ago. It’s been a great secret but it’s time to let some of the folks know that it rocks!!! Check it out next time you are coming through! take care!

    Reply
    • Port Alberni would be a great addition to this list! We’ve had quite a few adventures in that area including a canoe and hike trip to Della Falls last summer. Awesome to hear that you’re loving living there!

      Reply

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