You’ll be blown away by the beautiful views from Johns Family Nature Conservancy in Kelowna. From your panoramic viewpoint on the mountain, you can see Okanagan Lake run up and down the valley for miles. It offers some of the best views in the Okanagan — or maybe that’s just what I think? You’ll have to visit and decide for yourself!
There are an astounding number of beautiful places in the world, but the more we explore the Okanagan, the more we can’t believe what we have right here at home. The Okanagan really is an outdoor lover’s paradise and it’s places like this park that really make us appreciate our piece of BC.
The park hasn’t always been called Johns Family Nature Conservancy. It was known as Cedar Mountain Park for many years.
In 2003, the park was burnt by the Okanagan Mountain Fire. The rampant wildfire burned over 25,000 hectares of forest near Kelowna and forced the evacuation of over 27,000 people. Because of this the park is frail and has a very delicate ecosystem. Remnants of the fire are evident when you hike in the area.
In 2013, ten years after the Okanagan Mountain Fire, the Johns family donated 323 hectares (800 acres) to help with the protection of the area’s ecosystem and wildlife. It was the largest land donation in the Central Okanagan’s history! The park was renamed to honour their contribution. Thanks to their hefty donation, the park is now 402.5 hectares.
Much of the new land is off-limits to the public because the secluded mountainside is quite frail. However, the original Cedar Mountain Park trails are open and ready for you to hike to your heart’s content.
The original trails have been expanded and updated, which makes it easier than ever to explore the area. Plus, a parking lot and many interpretive signs have been added. These updates were all part of a multi-year plan with the Johns family to improve public accessibility to the the park.
The roughly 5 km trail system at Johns Family Nature Conservancy offers beautiful, unhindered views of Okanagan Lake. Barren of trees, the unparalleled view of the valley draws surprisingly few visitors because the area is relatively unknown, even to locals. The many trails make it a great adventure for almost anyone.
There’s no shade on the exposed, dry mountain and the sun beats down relentlessly in the summer. You’ll be thirsty in no time so make sure you’re staying hydrated properly! As you walk along the gravel-lined paths, you’ll appreciate not only the devastation of the Okanagan Mountain Fire but also nature’s ability to rebuild instead. Charred trees sprinkle the mountainside and peak out from behind the green, new growth. Bushes and grass are in abundance and line the paths. The tiny, small trees are thriving.
The trails form a loose loop along the base of the cliff. Loose rocks and dead trees line the base and you’ll likely see a few rock climbers scaling the mountain.
Stunning Okanagan viewpoint
Have I mentioned how much I love the views from Johns Family Park? Maybe once or twice? Getting to the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Okanagan can be a little difficult — aka, a little sketchy — but definitely worth it.
To reach the best viewpoint, you have to get to the top of the bluff and pretend you’re a mountain goat. A set of wooden stairs near the base of the bluffs marks the goat-like trail up. Look for a very rough path that leads straight up the mountain. I won’t lie, it’s a hard scramble up. It’s short but very steep, awkward, and difficult. Try to not look down as you crawl up the side of the bluff. You’ll need to use all four of your limbs, so make sure your water and cameras are tucked away safely.
Disclaimer: Be very careful! If you don’t think you can climb the bluff, don’t. The views aren’t worth hurting yourself. And remember that coming down is usually harder.
When you’ve reached the top, follow the trail across the mountain, up stone stairs, and along the top of the bluff. The goat-like trail can be difficult to follow, but try not to wander off. The recovering mountain is fragile and you don’t want to damage the landscape. Remember to be a be a respectful trail user!
View of Kelowna
When you climb the final hurdle, you’ll suddenly be presented with the iconic, sweeping views of the Okanagan that Johns Family Regional Park is known for. The 2003 forest fire burned away most of the trees on this section of Okanagan Mountain which revealed spectacular views. You can see for countless miles up and down the Okanagan Valley. Okanagan Lake mirrors the deep blue of the sky and the water mimics glass — and yes, the lake is actually that blue. It’s the perfect end to the quick, slightly challenging hike!
A firepit and a set of rocky chairs are at the top of the mountain. The chairs are uncomfortable but have absolutely stunning views of the Okanagan Valley. Imagine how wonderful it would be to spend an evening here at sunset — just not during peak fire season! Please don’t start a forest fire by being careless.
When you leave, be careful to go the same way you came. The trail looks surprisingly different heading back down and it’s important to stay on the trail. The climb back down the bluff is daunting, so go slow and be very careful.
What to pack
When you’re deciding on what to bring on your hike, it’s always important to know where you’re headed.
Johns Family is a very dry, exposed hike — especially in the summer — so you’ll need to be prepared for the heat and sun. Hydration packs and water reservoirs will be your best friend. Sunscreen is also very important, as are sunglasses. You’ll also want hiking boots because the trails are rocky and the climb up the bluff is quite difficult.
We’ve also written about specific things to pack on your Okanagan hikes.
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Johns Family Nature Conservancy in Kelowna is a great family friendly hike for all ages. There are many well maintained trails to explore, as well as an outhouse within the loops. For the most part, the trails are quite easy. The only difficult section is the steep trail to the summit that requires careful attention because it would be very easy to fall.
The area is also popular with rock climbers.
Johns Family Regional Park is located roughly 20 minutes from downtown Kelowna on Okanagan Mountain. It’s just outside of the Village of Kettle Valley subdivision in Kelowna. To reach the parking lot at the trail head, you’ll have to drive up a pot-hole riddled dirt road. Go slow and take a vehicle that can handle rough roads.
It can be a little confusing to find the dirt road once you’ve reached the Village of Kettle Valley. Drive through the subdivision and turn left onto Mountainside Drive. Follow the signs for the regional park and turn onto Chute Lake Road. At this point Chute Lake will turn into a dirt road and about 3 km further you’ll see the parking lot on your right.
Have you hiked here? What did you think? Let us know!