Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Travel ideas from Destination British Columbia

Fresh travel ideas from Destination BC on Twitter and Instagram. Follow at @HelloBC.

    Tumbler Ridge: Dinosaur Tracks, Extraordinary Landscapes and now, a Geopark

    Northern BC's Tumbler Ridge may be small in number (population: 2,983), but here, amid the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, all offerings are on a grand scale, including the remains of prehistoric beasts who once roamed the landscape. In this tight-knit, forward-thinking community, locals like to think big, too — a happy fact celebrated by the recent unveiling of a brand new 7,722 square-kilometre (2,981 square-mile) Global Geopark, a designation meant to protect and promote geological heritage and sustainable local development.

    It was Charles Helm, a local doctor, who first saw Tumbler Ridge's potential as a Geopark; fitting inspiration, as it was Helms's son, Daniel, who co-discovered the area's original dinosaur trackway, or footprints, in 2002. To Helm, the designation was a natural fit — Tumbler Ridge's distinctive blend of geology, palaeontology, topography, scenery and human history, combined with a plethora of outdoor adventure options and a top-notch museum, have transformed the former coal mining town into a thriving outdoor adventure playground.

    As BC's first UNESCO recognized Global Geopark, Tumbler Ridge joins a distinguished Global Geoparks Network that includes 111 significant sites across 32 countries. The designation was achieved, in part, because of the community's impressive Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, a repository and scientific hub for the study, assessment and interpretation of fossil treasures unearthed in the Peace River Region. The centre's crown jewel, the Dinosaur Discover Gallery, is an educational draw that displays meticulous palaeontology exhibits, including a full-scale re-creation of a 100 million-year-old dinosaur-track environment, a massive fossil record of Triassic marine fish and reptiles, and an interactive theatre that brings the pre-history of the Peace Region to life.

    And there's yet another feather in Tumbler Ridge's cap: here, southwest of Dawson Creek, adventurers are never far from geological wonders or extraordinary landscapes. Enthusiasts can explore a network of hiking trails that lead to a mammoth 51 geosites, many boasting waterfalls, rock formations, alpine meadows and lakes, mountain summits and caves, canyons and more. Keeners can team up with Wild River Adventure Tours, for example, and jet boat up the Murray River to Kinuseo Falls, a spectacular waterfall that is a neck-craning 19 stories high, or lace up for a heart-thumping hiking tour of the Shipyard (unique rock towers) and the "prow" of Titanic Rock.

    For a final excursion, curious explorers will be compelled to sign on for Dinosaur Trackway Tours, guided one- and two-hour interpretive excursions that shed light on the Flatbed and Wolverine tracksites. (Insider intel highlights little-known facts and cool stats.) The Wolverine site is best appreciated by dino enthusiasts at dusk, via an illuminating lantern-light stroll that reveals footprints and dinosaur skin impressions in all their glory. trgg.ca; wnms.ca; trmf.ca

    British Columbia is Home to Idyllic Guest Ranch Retreats

    With guest ranch experiences that run the gamut — from rustic to revolutionary — home on the range in Canada's westernmost province is anything but ordinary. Saddle up.

    Open skies, grasslands and seemingly endless lakes and forest all ensure British Columbia's Cariboo country was made for in-the-saddle adventure, a reality celebrated at Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, south of Williams Lake. Here, guided horseback, hiking and fly-fishing excursions share the spotlight with the ranch's Royal Baan Thai spa, a soothing respite where western treatments meld with authentic Asian therapies. (For the latter, guests would be wise to choose a traditional Thai massage, an ancient total-body treatment that includes a series of assisted yoga-like stretches.) At Echo Valley, evenings are capped with home cooking that elevates old west favourites, all before cowpokes tuck in for the night at the main house or in one of the ranch's cabins. evranch.com

    The hills are alive further north at The Hills Health Ranch, a down-home retreat known for its riding holidays and health retreats in summer. Here, guests can choose to dip their paddles on a calm lake or revel in hiking and biking trails that take in everything from expansive meadows to soaring mountaintops. Indoors pursuits offer no less with a host of fitness activities sure to elevate the heart rate (a multitude of classes are offered daily), while an indoor pool, gym, hot tubs, sauna, two restaurants and a family lounge provide the ideal après atmosphere. The perfect end? A stay at Hills Health Ranch wouldn't be complete without time spent in the spa, where signature treatments, including seaweed body wraps, will soothe any stay. spabc.com

    Connecting with Mother Nature is the name of the game — or at least the aim — at Chilcotin Holidays, near Lillooet. Here, the outdoor adventure crew relishes the restorative power of the great outdoors, prompting guests to open their minds to adventures that include Guest Ranch Packages (gold panning and bareback riding), Ranch-Based Wildlife Viewing (grizzlies, moose, mountain goats and more call this slice of heaven home) and Mountain Fishing Getaways (a wealth of rivers and streams draw anglers deep into the Chilcotin Mountains). With more than 27 years in the field, this seasoned crew takes its stewardship role seriously, providing hard-earned insight alongside peace of mind. chilcotinholidays.com

    BC's Wilderness Way Adventure Resort, west of Kamloops, is not your typical guest ranch. Sure, wranglers here make city folk feel like they were born for the country, but this adventure retreat, in BC's Thompson Okanagan, offers much more, by way of heart-thumping outdoor play. Here's a taste: six ziplines backdropped by the Cascade Mountains, ATV tours that wind along wilderness trails, archery range target shooting and heli-tours that promise a sky-high view of the Thompson River and the surrounding valley. Only one question remains: which adventure to tackle first? thewildernesswayresort.com

    Further east in the province's Kootenay Rockies region, Three Bars Ranch promises a 14,163-hectare (35,000-acre) expanse ideally suited for life in the saddle. Here, multi-sport adventures reign, with a variety of personalized activities geared for every age group and interest: guests can focus on the finer points with twice-daily horseback rides customized for all levels of riders, while guided hikes, mountain biking, rafting trips, fly-fishing, ATV tours, gold panning and archery are sure to prove equally intriguing. And once the sun sets, hearty family-style dining in the main house and campfires, complete with roasted marshmallows, prove the best settings for newly-minted cowboys to unwind at their home-away-from-home on the range. threebarsranch.com

    Scenic Hikes and Festival Fun Mark British Columbia's Fall Season

    The changing of the season: a time when adventurers feel the pull of Mother Nature, a yearning to explore the wilds. And that's not all — not when cooler months mean like-minded enthusiasts can join together to tempt their taste buds, and stimulate the mind, in a convivial setting.

    Exploration in the Wild
    Pure escapism, not to mention alpine meadows, jade-coloured lakes and ancient trees, draw outdoor adventurers to E.C. Manning Provincial Park, in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Situated three hours east of Vancouver, Manning Park boasts an impressive range of walking and hiking trails, from quick jaunts to multi-day excursions. And while the landscape's challenges are sure to quicken the pulse, it's Manning Park's diverse flora and fauna that are the true stars of the show. On display? Fall proves a fantastic time to view the sub-alpine larch trees that morph from green to glorious gold along the Frosty Mountain Trail, a heart-thumping hike that moves from lakeside forest to alpine reaches, culminating at Manning Park's highest peak. env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/ecmanning

    On Vancouver Island, Goldstream Provincial Park proves an ideal setting to lace up, thanks to a veritable showcase of what makes the outdoors truly great: forests of green, roaring waterfalls and a rushing river thick with salmon. Mere minutes from downtown Victoria — a city truly embraced by nature — Goldstream showcases a mass of criss-crossing trails suited for all skill levels. And those trees: western red cedars, yew, hemlock, arbutus and even 600-year-old Douglas fir all call this area home; the park's arbutus, with its distinct red-dish trunk and peeling bark, is Canada's only broad-leafed evergreen and is found exclusively on Vancouver Island and the southwest coast of BC. As an added draw, the fall chum salmon run, featuring fish that number in the thousands, lures eager viewers to the observation platforms for a bird's-eye view of the annual phenomenon. env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/goldstream

    Speaking of salmon, Roderick Haig Brown Provincial Park northeast of Kamloops is home to one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in North America. Here, fall is a favoured season to view the striking red-and-green fish in the Adams River, not to mention an ideal time to take in a riotous display of seasonal colours. Muted emerald and auburn tones mesh with vivid punches of red and gold, all along trails suited for hiking in summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Explorers can seek out Adams River's rushing rapids and, during the last three weeks of October, opt for a spectacle of a different sort when the spawning salmon will be on full, glorious display. env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/roderick

    In the Kootenay Rockies, the Canyon Creek hike south of Golden holds its own sway, showcasing a dramatically changing landscape, and a delightfully easy pace. This four-kilometre (2.4-mile) local favourite begins in the valley before making its way up and up to the alpine; though not a difficult hike, this journey, that starts alongside an old rail bed built by pioneers for hauling logs, can easily extend into a day-long adventure, complete with pretty views of the valley below. For a change of scenery, the Mt. Fernie hike, further south, may qualify as a quick adventure, but the reward for this two-footed effort is no less satisfying. Spanning four kilometres (2.4 miles) point to peak, this newly developed trail moves through dense forest before making way for incredible panoramas; three-quarters of the way showcases camera-worthy views of Mount Baldy, while those who choose a steeper climb to the top can take in the three rising peaks to the north: Mount Hosmer, Mount Proctor and the Three Sisters. goldenhikes.ca/trail/canyon-creek; tourismfernie.com/activities/hiking-trails

    Taste Buds, and Imaginations, Run Wild
    Discovery can quicken the pulse but it can also tempt the palate, a sensory pleasure that can bring out an enthusiast's wilder side. Where better to explore the possibilities than during the 35th annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, October 1 - 11, a yearly gathering that features a deliciously diverse array of more than 120 wine, food, educational and arts-focused events that tip their hat to resident vintners, grape growers and, of course, palate-pleasing Okanagan chefs. Here's a taste: Kelowna's fan-favourite Blind Wine & Cheese Party returns October 7 to test the palate, while The Young Chefs challenges 12 of the culinary world's best and brightest apprentices on October 8 to create an Okanagan-inspired dish that features Quebec cheese provided by Alexis de Portneuf. Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, further south, encourages enthusiasts to visit October 1 - 10 to learn more about a trending practice, namely wines "Raised in Concrete," while those eager for a high-flying afternoon can sign on for the Summerhill Experience + Trestles Tour, a helicopter excursion over the Myra Canyon trestles, capped by a private tasting paired with a three-course lunch at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. And that's just the tip of the taste buds. TheWineFestivals.com

    On Granville Island, fans of fact and fiction will gather to exchange ideas and engage in thoughtful conversation during The Vancouver Writers Fest, October 20 - 25. For nearly 30 years, this annual fest has sparked the imagination, offering a host of thought-provoking events — nearly 90 in total — that celebrate authors, poets, spoken word performers and graphic novelists. This showcase of stories, told by the authors themselves, is set to draw the masses with a stellar 2015 lineup that includes Paula Hawkins, best-selling author of The Girl on the Train, non-fiction writer Simon Winchester and international star, and UK author, Sarah Dunant. Popular Canadian authors, including Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay and Patrick deWitt, will also share the stage with a broad international lineup, rounded out by panel discussions, one-on-one interviews, poetry jams, events for the little ones and more. writersfest.bc.ca

    When the books have been shelved, revelers can raise a glass at Whistler's 19th annual Cornucopia food + drink festival, an 11-day indulgence of local food and drink that partners forward-thinking, homegrown chefs with top BC winemakers, and brew and distillery masters. Set for November 5 - 15, Cornucopia promises sensory overload with a tempting lineup of winery dinners, interactive seminars, gala tastings and after-parties. On the agenda? House Party: Best of BC (think: barbecue and home-grown beer) kicks things off November 5, followed by the popular CRUSH Gala Grand Tasting, November 7, Cornucopia Night Market | Taste of the World, November 13, and Brewed: BC Craft Brewers Guild Winter Beer Market, November 15. As a bonus, imbibing with some of BC's best is sure to provide enthusiasts with delicious insight. whistlercornucopia.com

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