Last updated October 10, 2019
Bear Creek Provincial Park is located on the shores of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna. It’s home to a network of beautiful, family friendly trails that loop around a waterfall gorge. The Bear Creek Canyon Rim Trail, which is the longest trail in the park, features panoramic views of Okanagan Lake, two bridges, three staircases, and even a waterfall! This trail is a go-to hike when we want to enjoy a scenic stroll.
You can also get up close and personal with the waterfall that’s visible from the trail! If you’re prepared to get a little wet, the hidden Bear Creek waterfall is a really fun adventure. I highly recommend it.
Bear Creek Canyon Rim Trail
The Bear Creek Canyon Rim Trail is perfect for all skill levels! It’s a 2.5 km loop that’s fairly easy with wonderful scenic views. The trail loops around the rim of the canyon with views of downtown Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, and the canyon. The northern section of the trail has little tree cover, which makes it quite exposed and hot during the spring and summer. The southern section of the loop has significantly more tree cover and is home to many wildflowers.
In 2011 the Canyon Rim Trail was affected by a wildfire which has left the area with unstable, blackened trees that are visible throughout large sections of the hiking trail. It’s important to stick to the trails for your safety and to aid in the mountain’s ecological recovery. Luckily, the area has recovered significantly since 2011 and there’s plenty of new growth and wildflowers for you to enjoy.
What to expect
There are three trails at Bear Creek Provincial Park: the Loop, Mid Canyon, and Canyon Rim. To access the Canyon Rim Trail, you’ll start on the short Loop Trail until it merges with the Canyon Rim Trail. You can choose to begin with a steep uphill climb or to stroll through the forest along the river’s edge. We always hike the trail counter-clockwise by starting along the river’s edge.
The northern rim trail
A few hundred meters into the hike you’ll come to a fork in the trail. The left fork heads across a bridge and completes the Loop Trail, whereas the right fork heads up a large wooden staircase and begins the Canyon Rim Trail. The wooden staircase is fairly long and quickly brings you to the top of the canyon.
The trail along the top of the canyon meanders through the grassy, sparsely treed mountainside. In the early spring it’s covered in beautiful wildflowers, including the Arrowleaf balsamroot which is Kelowna’s official flower. By the late spring and summer, however, the flowers are usually pretty dried out from the hot sun.
There are two viewpoints along this side of the canyon. The first offers a great birdlike view of the powerful waterfall as it pummels through the gorge and into the small pool at its base. If you’re thinking of hiking to the waterfall, this is a great place to see how strong the waterfall is before you go. The second viewpoint looks over the river as it tumbles through the canyon.
After the second viewpoint, a second staircase brings you back down to the river. The trail skirts the edge of the river and has a great view of a curve in the river as it carves its way through the canyon. A large, fallen tree rests on the water’s edge and is a great place to sit and enjoy the powerful river. During the spring, the river that runs through the canyon is usually pretty strong from runoff.
The southern rim trail
Shortly after, a bridge crosses the river and the Canyon Rim Trail heads back uphill. This side of the canyon is quite forested and is much cooler than the northern rim. If it’s a hot day, this is the side to be on! It’s also a great place to enjoy a snack in the shade.
The wildflowers on this side usually stick around for much longer as well. We noticed Arrowleaf balsamroot, wild roses, prairie-fire, and numerous other flowers.
There are two more lookouts on this side of the canyon. The first lookout has a great view of one of the large pools in the river and up the canyon. The second viewpoint has the absolute best view of the entire hike! After walking through the forest and a rock-lined path, you’ll be presented with a breathtaking, panoramic view of Okanagan Lake and downtown Kelowna. Bennett Bridge runs across the lake in the distance and the Tolko log booms nestle along the shores beside Westside Road. Looking east, you can see Knox Mountain and the multi-million dollars houses that run along the lakeside. A bench marks the top of the viewpoint and is a stunning place to stop for a break.
After the viewpoint, the trail heads downhill and you leave behind the forested mountainside and is replaced by an exposed, grassy hillside that’s dotted with remnants of burnt trees. The entire section has great views of Okanagan Lake. Not long after, you’ll come back to the parking lot.
Since the Canyon Rim Trail at Bear Creek Provincial Park isn’t overly strenuous, there are only a few things I highly recommend you bring on your hike.
- Water: The first, like always, is water. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record by now, but I can’t stress how important it is to have enough water when you’re hiking in the Okanagan. It wasn’t even that hot of a day the last time we hiked the Canyon Rim Trail, but we still managed to guzzle three litres of water. The trail is pretty exposed, so keeping yourself properly hydrated is key. I highly recommend using a 3L+ hydration pack because they’re very convenient, not only for carrying enough water but also consistently drinking. Another great option is a reusable, vacuum sealed water bottle such as S’well which will keep your water cold even if it’s really hot out.
- Electrolyte tablets: Although the trail isn’t too long, electrolyte boosters such as the Nuun tablets are a great way to get some electrolytes if you’ve been sweating a lot. We don’t want you getting sleepy or grumpy half way through!
- Runners + sandals: The trail is well marked and maintained, so a pair of runners or outdoor sandals will work great. No need for full blown hiking boots.
- Sun protection: As always, wear sunscreen and protect your eyes. It’s hot and sunny out there!
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The Bear Creek Canyon Rim Trail is a wonderful 2.5km long hike for all skill levels. It’s one of Jacob and my go-to hikes and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to hike, depending on how quickly you’re going. Jacob and I usually hike pretty slowly because we’re always taking a zillion photos and enjoying the views!
Due to its close proximity to Kelowna (only ten minutes from downtown), low elevation near the lake, and well-maintained trails, the Bear Creek Provincial Park trails are available year-round. It’s important to note that the trail parking lot is closed from mid-October until spring, though. Despite this, there’s usually plenty of roadside parking available in the winter months.
There are two outhouses on the trail. The first is in the parking lot at the trailhead and the second is about halfway through the Canyon Rim Trail. From spring to fall, they’re usually well maintained.
There are three places you can park for your hiking adventure at Bear Creek Provincial Park. The main parking lot is located at the trailhead and has fifteen parking spots. It fills up quite quickly on sunny days or long weekends, so if it’s full you can park alongside the wide shoulder on Westside Road or in the Day Use Area at the Bear Creek Campground.
Have fun out there!