Boundary Country is one of those ‘hiding in plain sight’ destinations. I knew about it but wasn’t sure what was there. And now, after visiting, I know why – people are trying to keep this peaceful paradise all to themselves!
This relaxed, scenic region in southern British Columbia is the ideal destination for a fall getaway.
And with such wide, open landscapes and unlimited outdoor adventure on offer, that peaceful factor isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Discover BC’s Boundary Country
First impressions are important and Boundary Country delivers.
The Kettle, Granby and Boundary Creek rivers snake through a calming landscape of farms and ranchland, backdropped by forested valleys reaching up towards the Monashee and Columbia mountains.
It’s an inviting scene, with the true beauty of this area being revealed to those who wander.
And you don’t even have to go far. Highway 3 traverses right through Boundary Country, providing easy access to many inspiring roadside stops.
All of the trails and attractions mentioned in this post are located within 12km (!) of Highway 3.
Waterfalls, hiking trails, lakes, historical sites and vibrant small towns await, all backdropped by the changing colours of the season and a rich heritage.
Read on to discover why Boundary Country is the ideal destination for a fall adventure and what to do when you get there!
- Where is Boundary Country?
- Best things to do in Boundary Country in fall
- Where to eat in Boundary Country
- Where to stay in Boundary Country
Boundary Country is located within the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa, Sinixt and Okanagan Nations. This post is in partnership with Boundary Country Tourism. We visited Boundary Country in early September 2021.
An introduction to Boundary Country
Boundary Country is a region situated within southern British Columbia, sandwiched between the Okanagan Valley and the West Kootenays. As the name implies, it sits just above the US border.
If you’re still drawing a bit of a blank, think Highway 3 – east of Osoyoos, west of Castlegar. This post will focus on the eastern section of Boundary Country, from Midway to Christina Lake.
Boundary Country’s story starts with the people of the Ktunaxa, Sinixt and Okanagan Nations, who foraged and fished as they migrated through the land.
In the 19th century, the rich natural resources of the area also drew farmers, ranchers, pioneers and prospectors. Prosperity brought success to some and the railways to all.
The Columbia and Western Railway (C&WR) connected Boundary Country to the West Kootenays, and the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) to the Okanagan. Around this time, thousands of Russian pacifists called Doukhobors settled near Grand Forks.
Today, Boundary Country is a quiet little corner of British Columbia. But that’s not a bad thing. If you scratch the surface, you’ll find friendly people, calming landscapes and endless outdoor adventures. Best of all, there are no crowds to overcome!
Grand Forks is Boundary Country’s largest community (pop 4000) and also has the most amenities.
Average driving times are:
- Osoyoos to Grand Forks – 1 hour, 30 minutes (125km)
- Kelowna to Grand Forks – 2 hours, 20 minutes (209km)
- Vancouver to Grand Forks – 7 hours, 20 minutes (523km)
- Calgary to Grand Forks – 8 hours (704km)
The best things to do in Boundary Country in fall
Boundary Country is a four season destination but fall is an ideal time to visit for many reasons.
For outdoor adventure, the temperature is perfect – not too cold, not too hot. Bugs are basically non-existent.
Boundary Country has a dry climate overall, with the autumn months averaging only a handful of rainy days.
And, of course, the colours are vibrant and the trails are that bit quieter!
So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Boundary Country in fall. I have no doubt you’ll be planning a fall trip soon!
If hiking is your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Boundary Country.
With over 2,000km of trails in the region, there’s little something for all abilities, from leisurely rail trails to heart pumping mountain ascents.
When hiking in Boundary Country, be sure to bring the 10 Essentials, know how to stay safe and always Leave No Trace. It’s a great idea to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back as well.
Hiking Boundary Country’s rail trail network
The Columbia & Western Rail Trail and Kettle Valley Rail Trail (both part of the Trans Canada Trail) actually run parallel or close to Highway 3 for long sections, allowing for great accessibility and day trip flexibility.
As former railway routes, the grade is very gentle and therefore easy for all ages and abilities to walk.
If you only have time to walk one rail trail section, I would highly recommend walking the C&WR from Cascade Gorge to the Smitten Trestle in Christina Lake.
This easy 2.5km stretch crosses an impressive canyon with a view of a waterfall and ends at a 153m long restored railway bridge over the Kettle River.
Viewpoints and vistas
For a hike with a little more challenge, check out Grand Forks’ Observation Mountain.
Not only is this trail a great workout (230m elevation gain in 1.25km), but it has an awesome payoff too. The summit offers sweeping panoramas of downtown Grand Forks and the rolling hills beyond.
As you can see, it was a little smoky on our visit but we still had beautiful views to enjoy.
Average hiking time is around an hour for the 2.5km return trip, but there a couple of different viewpoints along the way to spend additional time at if desired. Observation Mountain can also be hiked as a loop.
Other challenging local hikes with views include:
- Goat Mountain Trail, Grand Forks
- Saddle Lake Hill, Grand Forks
- Jubilee Mountain, Greenwood
- Greenwood Grunt, Greenwood
- Red Trail Loop, Midway
The Columbia & Western Rail Trail and the Kettle Valley Rail Trail cut through the heart of Boundary Country, offering incredible opportunities for both short and extended biking adventures.
There are outhouses and picnic tables located along the more popular sections, as well as numerous parking areas. One of my favourite picnic areas was at the Nursery Trestle near Grand Forks. It’s popular to swim in the Kettle River below.
JR and I aren’t big cyclists, but we can definitely appreciate how much this area has to offer for those on two wheels.
Many of the cyclists we spotted were on multi-day adventures, exploring long stretches of Boundary Country’s extensive rail trail network.
Pick up a trail map at one of the local museums or visitor centres. Alternatively, you can download a copy here.
As well as hosting several major rivers, Boundary Country is home to two large recreational lakes – Jewel Lake and Christina Lake. Take to the water on either (or both, if you can!) to enjoy fishing, swimming and gorgeous views.
Christina Lake, said to be Canada’s warmest tree lined lake, is a spectacular 18km stretch of water on Boundary Country’s eastern edge. The water temperature can reach the balmy temperature of 23c in the height of summer! The warmth lingers into fall, making this an ideal time to go paddling.
The presence of two lakeside provincial parks help make Christina Lake ridiculous easy to access and the nearby community of the same name has all of the facilities you may need during a visit. Fishing for Kokanee, small-mouth bass and rainbow trout is a popular paddling activity.
If you’d like to extend your paddling adventure, there are nine marine (water access only) campsites situated on the west side of the lake. All but one have picnic tables and outhouse facilities.
We really loved the long sandy beach at the Axel Johnson site. The solitude increases the further north you paddle but still be prepared for the occasional boat visitor during the day.
Jewel Lake may be smaller than Christina Lake but is no less impressive. It’s a little spot of accessible solitude, only a short drive from Greenwood. Jewel Lake Provincial Park sits on the most northern shore and Jewel Lake Resort on the south, making it easy to get on the water quickly.
Despite being only 3km long, there’s a lot for paddlers to love. Calm conditions almost a given, especially in the morning. We went for a sunset paddle (see photo below) and saw more wildlife than we typically do much further out in the wilderness!
Think Great Blue Herons, loons, bats and even a swimming black bear. The fish were continuously jumping too, confirming the rumours we heard that Jewel Lake is the best place to fish for Rainbow and Brook trout in the area.
The Kettle River is an almost constant presence in Boundary Country, providing opportunities for tubing in Rock Creek and swimming in Grand Forks.
Close to Christina Lake, the Kettle River has formed a dramatic canyon – the Cascade Gorge (once home to the region’s first AC power generating station!)
There are plenty of rapids along this stretch of river but one of the biggest sits just below one of the trestles on to the Columbia & Western Rail Trail (part of the Trans Canada Trail).
Further along the canyon is Cascade Falls, which is a huge torrent of water in spring. It’s still pretty impressive in fall, especially from the clifftop viewpoint.
The access to Cascade Gorge can seem a little hidden but it’s easy when you know where to look! Keep your eyes peeled for the pullout just before the ‘Welcome to Christina Lake’ sign when driving east alongside Highway 3 from Grand Forks. The trestle over the gorge is only a five minute walk from the parking area just below the highway.
Boundary Creek Falls is another roadside waterfall, situated between Midway and Greenwood. Plunging 12m (40ft) into a narrow canyon, Boundary Creek Falls offers an impressive view at any time of the year!
This waterfall is also found just off Highway 3. When driving east from Midway, look for the green ‘Stop of Interest’ sign and subsequent pull-out. It’s about 2.6km before Boundary Creek Provincial Park. There are informal trails here leading southwest along the canyon to the falls.
Waterfalls can be dangerous. These waterfalls are found in canyon areas, with steep drop-offs, loose rock and other natural hazards. Wear appropriate footwear and keep close control of both dogs and children.
Vibrant small towns
Boundary Country just wouldn’t be Boundary Country without its characterful communities.
The towns may be small, but they are mightier than you’d think. Nowhere is this more true than Greenwood, which is Canada’s smallest city.
Incorporated in 1897, Greenwood was once a bustling place, with a population of 3000 people. Many worked at the nearby Phoenix mine site.
The population is now around 700 but the city’s collection of heritage buildings are a striking reminder of the boom days. Pick up a Heritage Walking Tour brochure from the museum for a self guided tour of the city.
Grand Forks is Boundary Country’s largest community but it shares the relaxed atmosphere of the rest of the region.
Even if you’re just dropping in for a bite to eat or to pick up some adventure supplies (there is an excellent outdoor store!), I’d recommend making time for a stroll through Grand Forks’ pretty downtown.
Keep an eye out for the funky murals adorning the buildings as well as heritage interpretive signs.
Visiting on a Tuesday or Friday? Be sure to check out the Grand Forks Farmers’ Market in Gyro Park. It runs until from May to October.
While exploring Boundary Country, before sure to embrace the rich mining, ranching and farming heritage of this region! Learning more will undoubtedly enhance any outdoor adventure in the region.
First Nation artifacts can be found in museums across Boundary Country and on the shore on Christina Lake, where there are ancient pictographs (rock carvings) to admire.
Midway is Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Railway, now the start (or end) of the almost 500km long multi-use rail trail of the same name.
Visit the Kettle River Museum to get the low down on the town’s locomotive past and the building of the KVR. The original station house (built in 1901) is open for exploration, as well as a restored Canadian Pacific Railway caboose.
There’s more to Greenwood than the beautiful heritage buildings that line Highway 3. The Phoenix mine site, located up the mountain behind Greenwood, is also worth a visit.
Another 1000 people used to live here, in Canada’s ‘highest city’ (1412m). There’s not a ton to see besides the old cemetery and a cenotaph, but it’s fascinating to imagine what used to be. The Greenwood Museum has a Phoenix road trip guide.
After the Phoenix mine initially closed in 1919, Greenwood became something of a ghost town. The population was practically doubled when Greenwood became an internment camp for Japanese Canadians in WWII.
The Nikkei Legacy Park and Greenwood Museum share the stories and experiences of the Japanese families who lived here during that difficult time.
More than 8,000 Doukhobor Russians settled in the Grand Forks area between 1908 and 1912. The Boundary Museum & Interpretive Centre, set in a converted Doukhobor school, shares their history as well as the ranching, farming and mining heritage of the region.
The museum was unfortunately closed during our visit so we took a drive along the Hardy Mountain Road instead. It leads to a 16.9 acre property which contains the remains of the Makortoff Doukhobor Village.
Although you can’t physically go onto the property at the moment, it is possible to spot the large two story house (built in 1912) that was used as a communal home for village members.
Fuel your Boundary Country adventure at independent eateries, which showcase classic Canadian cuisine, international flavours and heritage recipes made with locally sourced ingredients.
One of the most distinctive features of the food scene in Boundary Country is the influence of the Doukhobors.
Borscht is a feature on many menus, even in places where you would not necessarily expect a hearty vegetable soup to be served! Be sure to try this regional favourite while exploring Boundary Country.
Where to stay in Boundary Country
Boundary Country is best known for unique, characterful properties, usually in the form of B&Bs, guesthouses, cabins and vacation rentals.
But that’s not the end of the story – you’ll also find small hotels, motels, RV parks and rustic campgrounds.
No matter the type of accommodation you choose, you’re sure to have a memorable stay in Boundary Country. Keep reading for a lowdown on our favourite accommodation options in this beautiful region.
Grand Forks is the main hub of Boundary Country, with the widest choice of restaurants and accommodation.
The location is ideal too, with Christina Lake being a short 20 minute drive in one direction and Jewel Lake, Phoenix Mountain, Greenwood and Midway in the other.
We stayed at Noble House Suites, a luxurious B&B on the banks of the Granby River. The three spacious en-suite rooms (each with a soaker tub!) all have access to a games room/lounge, home theatre, hot tub, patio, bocce court, above ground pool and riverside beach.
It’s possible to walk right from the property to the summit of Observation Mountain. Breakfast is included with every stay and is delivered at a time of your choosing. Choose between frittata (my favourite!), French Toast, pancakes and waffles.
Greenwood, Jewel Lake, Midway, Christina Lake
To truly experience the off the beaten path nature of Boundary Country, consider staying at least one night in the smaller communities outside of Grand Forks such as Greenwood, Midway or Christina Lake.
To get away from it all, consider a stay at Jewel Lake Resort. Well equipped cabins sit just across from the lake and can host up to six people in two bedrooms.
There’s no need to leave the property with rental canoes and kayaks available from the dock plus a choice of nearby hiking trails. Ask about the Dentonia mine nearby – the short, steep trail passes the remains of old mining village buildings on the way to the mine entrance.
Camping in Boundary Country
There are great options for camping in Boundary Country too, with a number of provincial park campgrounds in the area as well as municipal campgrounds and private sites.
Jewel Lake Resort, mentioned above, has 35 campsites, some with power.
- Gladstone Provincial Park sits midway up Christina Lake. The Texas Creek campground has 62 spots available from late April to late September. Reservations are highly recommended here, especially for summer weekends. As well as the vehicle accessible campground, there are also nine water-access backcountry sites on Christina Lake itself
- Jewel Lake Provincial Park is home to a beautiful forested campground, open from mid May to mid September. All 26 campsites only a short walk from the lake. Operating on a first come, first serve basis, the campground usually only fills up on long weekends
- Boundary Creek Provincial Park campground may be small (16 sites) but is exceptionally convenient for road trippers. This roadside campground, located just 4km from Greenwood, is open from late April to late September
Where to eat in Boundary Country
Boundary Country’s food scene is diverse, nourished by the farms and small artisan producers that dot the landscape. Here are our top picks for eating in Boundary Country!
The Wooden Spoon Bistro, Grand Forks
If I had to choose just one place to eat in Boundary Country, the Wooden Spoon would be it! This fun, modern place transforms fresh, locally sourced ingredients into delicious and imaginative breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes.
As a pescatarian (I don’t eat meat), I loved having so many options to choose from – poke bowls, eggs benedict, burgers, scrambles, sandwiches and salads. I’ve heard that the Wooden Spoon is great with other dietary requirements too.
There’s a large indoor seating area as well as a streetside patio. Take-out is always an option too, with the regular menu plus pastries, pies and sweet baked goods too.
The Borscht Bowl, Grand Forks
There are a few places to try traditional Doukhobor dishes in Boundary Country but one of the cosiest has to be the Borscht Bowl in downtown Grand Forks.
Take the chance to try pyrahi (vegetable tarts), voreniki (similar to piegories), nalesniki (pancakes) and kalachi (sweet bread).
Of course, there’s borscht as well, which is orange in colour as it is cabbage and tomato based. Served with bread and butter, it’s a wholesome, hearty dish.
As a heads up, you should know that the prices are a little higher than you may expect for lunch but the portions are large and, as mentioned above, filling.
The Board Room Café, Grand Forks
Grand Forks may be small but it has its very own board game café! And it’s a great one too, with a game library with more than 500 unique titles.
The games are accompanied by an extensive café menu, featuring sandwiches, hot dogs, wraps, Mexican fare and all day breakfast dishes.
We loved the relaxed vibe (there’s no pressure to play games) of the Board Room Café as well as the choice of seating. The streetside patio, for example, is perfect for sunny fall days.
Golden Chopsticks II, Grand Forks
Advised by locals that the family owned Golden Chopsticks II serves the best Chinese food in the region, we had to try for ourselves.
While more research is needed to confirm this, our meal was tasty and flavourful, with the sweet and sour pork and salt and pepper tofu being the stand-outs. Choose one of the combination plates for a little taste of everything!
Grand Forks Station Pub, Grand Forks
Continue your rail trail adventure at the Grand Forks Station Pub, which is situated in the town’s old station building.
Now under new ownership (2021), the food menu features smoked versions of Canadian classics, made with fresh, locally grown ingredients when possible.
The local theme continues on the drinks menu, with wine and beer from the Okanagan alongside fresh fruit cocktails.
Deadwood Junction, Greenwood
Deadwood Junction is more than just a coffee stop! In addition to specialty coffees, this vibrant café also serves bubble tea, fruit smoothies, sandwiches, gelato, salads and sweet baked treats. A BBQ runs outside during the warmer months as well.
Inside, you’ll find local artisan products – paintings, pottery, wooden sculptures and more. Seating is outside, on the covered deck or sunny lawn.
Keg & Kettle Grill
It’s definitely quality over quantity when it comes to dining options in Midway and the Keg & Kettle Grill sets a high standard.
A real destination restaurant in this area, the menu features classic Canadian dishes alongside local favourites (yes, borscht!) Portions are large and well priced.
At the moment, the Keg & Kettle is open for dinner on Wednesday to Monday. Be sure to arrive early as locals start arriving as soon as the doors open at 4.30pm! On sunny days, the patio provides extra seating.
Other places to eat in Boundary Country
While we didn’t get a chance to eat there, we heard great things about Las Chimichangas. Boundary Country locals raved to us about the authentic tacos and chimichangas.
During the busy summer season, there are plenty of choice for food in Christina Lake. After Labour Day, things do quieten down. I would recommend calling businesses to check their opening hours first.
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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