Situated near the top of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Vernon is best known for its three spectacular lakes, dry, rugged landscape and consistently warm summer weather.
Hiking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to take in the true beauty of this gorgeous region.
If you’re looking for some of the best short Vernon hiking trails, this is the list for you.
All of these Vernon hikes are easy in difficulty and short in distance (less than 8km). This makes them a perfect morning or afternoon activity while visiting Vernon.
Alternatively, these hiking trails offer a great opportunity to see more of Vernon while on a day trip from elsewhere in the Okanagan Valley.
I’ve put these Vernon hiking trails in preference order to help guide you better. Middleton Mountain is my favourite of all and features at the very top of the list.
Thank you to Tourism Vernon for hosting us during our three night stay in Vernon. This post includes affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Finding Vernon hiking trails
Use the map below to locate the trailheads of these Vernon hikes. The closest hike to downtown Vernon is only 2km away and the furthest 24km.
Usually, we use Maps.me for trail navigation but not many of the following Vernon hiking trails are featured on the app. Luckily, all of these Vernon hiking trails have maps or signage at the trailheads so finding the right way to go is easy.
These hiking trails are located on the traditional territory of the Syilx/Okanagan People. Be sure to Leave No Trace and respect this unceded territory.
Length of hike: 2km – 3.5km loops
Trail condition: Mostly flat after initial elevation gain (100m), some rocky sections, dusty
Trailhead location: Mt Ida Drive or Mt Tanner Place, Coldstream
Facilities: Maps, navigational signs, benches, interpretative boards
If you have time for just one Vernon hike, I’d highly recommend Middleton Mountain. The open grassland summit of Middleton Mountain offers spectacular sweeping views of Kalamalka Lake, Swan Lake, downtown Vernon and beyond. It’s an ideal way to orient yourself when visiting Vernon for the first time.
There are two access points to Middleton Mountain, both of which ascend around 100m before reaching four different hiking loops at the top. We’d heard that the steps at Mt Ida Drive were shut so hiked the switchbacks from Mt Tanner Place instead.
No matter the route, there is absolutely zero shade once you start hiking so be sure to start early in the day and wear plenty of sunscreen! We hiked the perimeter loop (3km), which features magnificent 360 views all the way around as well as plenty of Prickly Pear cacti.
Grey Canal (Turtle Mountain)
Length of hike: 8.5km out and back
Trail condition: Mostly wide path, with one narrow, steep section and one set of stairs (details below)
Trailhead location: End of Blue Jay Road
Facilities: Navigational signs, benches, bins
Curving around an ancient lava flow wall, this section of the historic Grey Canal Trail provides stunning vistas of downtown Vernon, Swan Lake and also Okanagan Lake. It’s a very close second to Middleton Mountain for our favourite Vernon hike!
Starting from the dedicated parking lot at the end of Blue Jay Road, the trail is wide and meandering, with gentle elevation gain. There are excellent views almost immediately.
Around the 3.3km mark, the path narrows and slopes downhill. Watch your step for loose rocks and old piping equipment here. Not long after, a short but steep hill leads into the Turtle Mountain development. Cross the road and climb the stairs to reach Rocky Ridge Park, where 360 degree panoramas await! Return via the same route.
It is possible to hike this trail in the other direction, starting from one of the two small parking lots on Turtle Mountain Boulevard. This is also the ideal location to park if you don’t have the time or energy for a 8km hike. From here, it’s just 200m to the Rocky Ridge Park stairs.
Upper Turtles Head Point Lookout
Length of hike: 2.5km loop
Trail condition: Some short ascents on dirt paths, rocky sections
Trailhead location: Twin Bays parking lot, Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park
Facilities: Outhouses, maps, navigational signs, benches, bins
Turtles Head Point juts into Kalamalka Lake and is an incredibly scenic spot to take in panoramic views and watch boaters on the water. On sunny days it’s even possible to spot Kalamalka’s distinctive turquoise colours from here.
The hike to Turtles Head Point (also known as Rattlesnake Point) is a combination of trails in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. From the Twin Bays parking lot, follow directions for the Crest Trail. The trail starts to ascend after the dog beach trail turnoff, with some switchbacks.
The lookout itself is very exposed but can be wonderfully breezy, even on the hottest days. To complete the loop, descend the short staircase and follow the Juniper Trail. There’s a side trail to the lower Turtle Head lookout.
Be sure to make the detour to Juniper and Jade beaches – they are ideal spot for a post-hike swim!
Okanagan Lake Lookout Loop
Length of hike: 3km loop
Trail condition: Some short ascents/descents on dirt paths (steep at times), rocky sections
Trailhead location: Birdie Lake Drive, Predator Ridge
Facilities: Maps, navigational signs
Predator Ridge is a golf resort community located just south of Vernon. Though that may initially sound like an odd place to go hiking, it all makes sense when you see the spectacular setting above Okanagan Lake. There are over 35km of well maintained multi-use trails on this 1,200 acre resort.
We chose to first hike the Okanagan Lake Lookout trail, a 3km circuit also taking in panoramas of Predator Ridge itself. Rated as ‘difficult,’ this trail does have some steeper sections (with loose rock) but they never last long. The payoff is definitely worth it.
It would be easy to extend your hike at Predator Ridge, with many of the trails intersecting. Click for a complete guide to the best Predator Ridge trails.
After your hike, I’d highly recommend a late breakfast or lunch at the Range Lounge. This casual restaurant, overlooking part of the golf course, serves upscale cuisine using local ingredients when possible. It’s a gorgeous setting, matched by excellent food.
Ridgewalk, Silver Star Ski Resort
Length of hike: 2km one way
Trail condition: Downhill dirt trail, narrow in parts and featuring loose rock
Trailhead location: Summit of Silver Star Ski Resort
Facilities: Maps, navigational signs (washrooms and other facilities in village)
For some of the most breathtaking views in the Vernon area, consider a trip to Silver Star Ski Resort to hike the Ridgewalk trail.
Continuing on from the Attridge Scenic Loop at the top of the mountain, this hiking trail features extensive wildflower meadows as well as sweeping panoramas of the Okanagan Valley and Monashee Mountains on a clear day.
The village elevation is 1,609m, which usually means that Silver Star is a few degrees cooler than Vernon. This makes Silver Star a practical place to go hiking when it’s just too hot in town!
The Des Scheumann Summit Express Gondola runs on summer weekends and provides a shortcut to Silver Star’s alpine trails (no uphill hiking required!)
On Monday, Thursday or Friday, there’s the option of taking the Comet Express (additional hike required) or hiking all the way up and down the mountain. If you choose the latter, be sure to pick up a complimentary hiking trail day ticket first.
Okanagan Rail Trail
Length of hike: As far as you like!
Trail condition: Wide path, almost entirely flat, can be dusty
Trailhead location: Various
Facilities: Washrooms, kilometre markers, bins
Once utilised to bring the produce of the Okanagan Valley across the country, the discontinued Kelowna Pacific Railway line is now the area’s most exciting recreation project – the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Thanks to the low grade of the railway, the path is resoundingly flat and wide all the way along. This enables excellent accessibility for everyone.
As well as connecting communities (and providing a link to the past), the 52km route between Coldstream and Kelowna also showcases some stunning Okanagan scenery.
The section closest to Vernon follows the shore of Kalamalka Lake, offering hikers an opportunity to see the wildlife as well as the distinctive colours of the water.
Use this excellent Google Map to help you plan a hike or bike rail on the Okanagan Rail Trail. Kekuli Bay Provincial Park is one of the access points. If you start at the northern terminus, consider a stop at the Rail Trail Cafe for locally roasted coffee as well as freshly baked cakes and pastries.
Length of hike: 700m return
Trail condition: Mostly flat, 60+ stairs to view waterfall
Trailhead location: Tillicum Road
Culminating in a surging waterfall, this short Vernon hiking trail has an excellent reward to effort ratio. From the trailhead, simply follow the creek 350m to the top of a staircase. BX Falls lies in a cool canyon below. The water flows from Silver Star Mountain and can be raging in spring.
Shaded by forest and kept fresh by the creek, this hiking trail is perfect for hot summer days. The trip to BX Falls is very popular with families.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, climb back up the stairs and continue along the trail. The path follows the creek downhill, steeply at times. There is ongoing maintenance (August 2020) that restricts hiking the full length of the 3.3km trail to the Star Road trailhead.
Loop Trail, Swan Lake Nature Reserve
Length of hike: 1.8km loop
Trail condition: Almost entirely flat, damp in places
Trailhead location: Off Old Kamloops Road
Facilities: Interpretive boards, signage
Shallow and marshy, Swan Lake is an important wetland area. Over 200 species of birds are found here, as well as many amphibians and mammals. This interpretive loop trail offers the chance to spot some of these creatures in their native habitat.
While this short Venon hike stays a respectable distance from Swan Lake itself, the surrounding views are still worth the time to see. Depending on the time of year, there can be beautiful wildflowers growing along the trail. Flooding is common in May and June.
Despite being only a few minutes from from downtown Vernon, the Swan Lake area is exceptionally peaceful. On that note, it’s important to know that dogs are not allowed on this trail.
2021 update – There is now a viewing platform located approximately half way along the trail.
BX Creek Delta Trail
Length of hike: 3km return
Trail condition: Almost entirely flat, boardwalk sections
Facilities: Signage, maps
If you’re looking to stretch your legs while in the middle of Vernon, the BX Creek Delta Trail offers a great solution. It’s unquestionably an urban path but provides a pleasant shady escape.
Starting near the corner of 20th St and 48th Ave, this boardwalk trail follows the creek through surprisingly dense forest, emerging occasionally to cross a few streets. You emerge from the woods a few times to cross a few streets.
The most northern part of the trail (near Rona) has been relocated for construction. For this reason, I’d recommend turning around at the corner of 20th St and 52th Ave at the current time.
Even more fast and fun hikes in and around Vernon
I’ll be adding more Vernon hiking trails to this post as and when we hike them. Some of the Vernon hikes on my to-do list include:
Parabola, Lookout and Wall Loop, Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park
Cosens Bay Trail, Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park
Nature Trail, Ellison Provincial Park
Essential tips for hiking in Vernon
- Remember to Leave No Trace when visiting any of these Vernon hiking trails. This means staying on trail at all times and taking care to pack out everything you bring in (including trash)
- Most of these trails are exposed, with very little shade. When hiking in Vernon during the summer, be prepared to start early (before 9am) for a more comfortable experience
- Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a sunhat to stay cool during the warmer months
- April, May, September and October are great hiking months in Vernon, with cooler temperatures and quieter trails
- All of these Vernon hikes are within cell phone range but it’s still a good idea to tell someone where you’re going as well as your expected return time
- Ticks are commonly found in tall grasses in spring and early summer. Cover up and be sure to check your clothing and skin after your hike
- Poison ivy is present on some of these Vernon hikes – know how to identify and avoid (look for the three leaves)
- Leashed dogs are allowed on most these trails – follow all signage and be careful to pick up after your dog
- Rattlesnakes are present in the Vernon area and can occasionally be seen on trails. Carefully detour around them and continue. These rattlesnakes are not aggressive and will only strike as a last resort
Social distancing on hiking trails
The Vernon hiking trails featured in this post are short, with low technical difficulty. They are all located close to urban areas.
Most of these Vernon hikes have wide paths which allow easy adherence to British Columbia’s current social distancing guidelines.
As well as following social distancing, it is recommended to:
- Stick to the trail
- Hike in a small group
- Stay within your limits
- Avoid peak periods (holidays, 10am-4pm on weekends)
Social distancing is important in parking lots too, so be aware of other trail users from the start of your adventure and right to the end.
Where to eat (and drink) after your Vernon hike
For breakfast and brunch, my top pick has to be Eatology in downtown Vernon. It’s a modern yet cosy place, where all of the Canadian classics are made with fresh, local ingredients. The Caprese (pesto, tomato and mozzarella) eggs benedict has to be one of my all time favourites anywhere.
An awesome option for lunch on the trail is a charcuterie board from Wedge Cheesery. Available for one, two or four people, the ‘to go’ picnic box includes several specially selected cheeses, crackers, fruit, nuts and locally made condiments. Meat can be added too. The highlight of our box was the Saint-Nectaire, a nutty French semisoft cheese.
Treat yourself after a hike with a trip to BX Press Cidery. Set alongside the orchard, the BX Press patio and garden is the perfect place to relax with a cold glass of cider. Tasting flights are available, as well as wood fired oven pizza (Thursday-Sunday). I loved the understated British style ciders but I think there would be something for most tastes.
If cider just isn’t your thing, check out Marten Brew Pub. This stylish downtown joint has an extensive range of craft beers plus home brewed kombucha and plenty of Okanagan wines. The menu is pretty varied too, with the Key Lime Pie being the highlight for us.
Where to stay in Vernon
I’d recommend the Prestige Vernon Lodge for anyone visiting Vernon from out of town. Featuring a three story tropical atrium and natural creek, it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever stayed in Canada! A restaurant, indoor pool and hot tub sit in the middle of it all. Only the pool is open at the moment, but I imagine that this would be a particularly wonderful place to hang out in the winter.
The location of this hotel is excellent for anyone looking to get out and explore Vernon and the surrounding area. The highway provides quick access to all of the Vernon hiking trails mentioned here. There are a number of restaurants and bars within a couple of blocks and downtown Vernon is a short 15 minute walk down the street.
Check out these other Okanagan posts next:
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