It doesn’t matter how many views we chase, as we sit atop the mountain at the Johns Family Nature Conservancy our breath is once again ripped from our chests. Okanagan Lake swells for countless miles down the valley, creating a painting-worthy landscape and the cities dotting the lake play camouflage with the mountains. There are an infinite number of beautiful places in the world, but as we sit here we can’t believe how little love our valley is given.
Cedar Mountain, now know as Johns Family Nature Conservancy
Scorched by a rampant wildfire in 2003, the Johns Family Nature Conservancy offers unhindered views up and down Okanagan Lake. Barren of trees, the unparalleled view of the valley draws surprisingly few visitors as the area is relatively unknown, even to locals.
Originally known as Cedar Mountain Regional Park, the area was renamed in 2013 after a sizable donation of 323 hectares (800 acres) from the Johns family. It was the largest land donation in the Central Okanagan’s history! With the hefty new addition, the park now totals 402.5 hectares.
While the new additions are largely off-limits to the public to protect the secluded, frail mountainside, the original Cedar Mountain Park trails remain open. The original trails have recently been expanded and updated, as well as a parking lot and interpretive signs added. These updates were all part of a multi-year plan with the Johns family to improve the park’s accessibility to the public.
Numerous paths throughout the park
Before beginning the hike, we drive up the rough, pot-hole riddled dirt road to the Johns Family parking lot and trail head. The parking lot is empty, leaving us hoping we’ll have the mountain to ourselves. The wide gravel trail is flat and leads us through the recovering forest. We pass over a small creek and watch it as it runs through a maze of dead trees and rocks.
There’s no shade on the exposed, dry mountain and the sun beats down on us; only fifteen minutes into our hike, we’re slurping water. As we walk along the gravel-lined paths, we can’t help but appreciate not only the devastation of forest fires but also nature’s ability to rebuild instead. CharrThe charred remains sprinkle the mountainside, peaking out from behind the green new growth. Bushes and grass are in abundance, lining the paths; the trees, while still small, are thriving.
The paths are well maintained and loop around, meeting up with each other. There’s even a washroom about halfway along the trail. We’re soon walking along the bottom of the cliff, but there’s no shade and offers no respite from the heat. Loose rocks and dead trees line the base and we pass a rock-climbing couple.
Finding the path up the mountain
Pausing for more water, two young-adults run down the stairs beside us and we watch them scale the mountain. They don’t use ropes and upon further inspection, we realize there’s a trail. It’s nothing more than a rough path with extremely poor footholds. We impulsively decide to follow.
Jacob goes first and I follow only once he’s near the top. It’s short, but very steep, awkward, and difficult.
Once at the top, we follow the trail across the mountain, up stone stairs, and along the top of the cliff. We can’t see Okanagan Lake, but we’re rewarded with an amazing view of the stark mountainside. The goat-like trail is easy to lose and we almost accidentally wander off a few times. The recovering mountain is fragile and we don’t want to damage the landscape.
Discovering the stunning view
From the cliff edge, we quickly mount the final hurdle and are suddenly presented with the iconic, sweeping views of the Okanagan that the Johns Family Nature Conservancy is known for. The 2003 forest fire burned away most of the trees on the mountain, but revealed spectacular views. We can see for countless miles up and down the Okanagan Valley.
We meet up with the two people who went ahead of us, so we wander down the mountaintop and look for a place to rest in private. A large, flat slab of rock beckons us; sitting down, we take in the panoramic view as we refuel ourselves. The lake mirrors the deep blue of the sky and the water looks like glass. It’s the perfect end to the quick, slightly challenging hike!
The firepit and rocky chairs
When we’re doing resting we make our way back to the trail and come upon a firepit and chairs, all constructed out of rocks. The chairs are uncomfortable, but the firepit sits on the edge of the cliff and offers, if possible, even better views. There’s charred wood in the firepit and we can’t help but imagine how wonderful it would be to spend an evening here as the sun goes down.
Heading back down
We’re careful to leave the way we came. It looks different heading back, making it surprisingly difficult to follow the path back. The climb down the cliff is daunting, even a little terrifying. I desperately try to think of anything but tumbling down the mountain.
Information & Trailhead Location
This ]is a great, family friendly hike for all ages. The original trails are extremely well maintained and there’s an outhouse, making this a great place to spend an afternoon. The steep section requires careful attention as it would be very easy to fall. The area is also popular with rock climbers.
To view more photos of the Johns Family Nature Conservancy, visit our SmugMug gallery.
Distance: ~5 km
Duration: ~1hr 30min
Difficulty: Easy, with one steep section
Notes: Bring plenty of water and wear lots of sunscreen, as there’s little shade. The road up is riddled with huge potholes.
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