It really doesn't matter how many views you chase, when you sit atop Okanagan Mountain at Johns Family Nature Conservancy you can’t help but be blown away by the beauty. The Okanagan is truly something special, it really is. From here, Okanagan Lake runs for miles up and down the valley and the cities are camouflaged in the mountains. The Okanagan is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
There are an astounding number of beautiful places in the world, but the more we explore the Okanagan, the more we can't believe how little love our valley is given. Perhaps it’s better that way – I don’t think we could handle more tourists. Let’s keep the Okanagan a secret, okay?
The History of Johns Family Nature Conservancy
Johns Family Nature Conservancy, originally known as Cedar Mountain Regional Park, is located roughly 20 minutes from downtown Kelowna and overlooks Okanagan Lake. It was scorched by a rampant wildfire in 2003 which left the area frail with a delicate ecosystem. The Okanagan Mountain Fire burned over 25,000 hectares of forest and forced the evacuation of over 27,000 people.
In 2013, the Johns Family donated 323 hectares (800 acres) to Cedar Mountain Park to help with the protection of the area’s ecosystem. This was the largest land donation in the Central Okanagan's history and the park was renamed in honour of the Johns family. 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
There are numerous paths throughout Johns Family Nature Conservancy that offer beautiful, 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. The various paths make it a great adventure for almost anyone.
The Johns Family Nature Conservancy parking lot is located up a rough, pot-hole riddled dirt road. A wide, flat gravel trail leads you through the recovering forest and you’ll pass over a small creek that runs through a maze of dead trees and rocks.
There is no shade on the exposed, dry mountain and the sun beats down relentlessly in the summer. You’ll be slurping water in no time. 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 tree remains 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 Cedar Mountain Trail is well maintained and forms a loop along the bluffs, which includes a set of wooden stairs. Loose rocks and dead trees line the base and you’ll likely see a few rock climbers scaling the mountain.
A Path to Amazing Views
For breathtaking, panoramic views of Okanagan Valley, take the stairs to the bottom of the bluff. You’ll see a rough path that leads straight up the mountain. It’s a difficult scramble up the mountain and not for those that aren’t sure footed! It’s short but very steep, awkward, and difficult. Try to not look down as you crawl up the side of the bluff.
At the top, you’ll follow the trail across the mountain, up stone stairs, and along the top of the cliff. You’ll briefly lose your view of Okanagan Lake but are instead rewarded with amazing views of the stark mountainside. The goat-like trail is difficult to follow and try to not accidentally wander off. The recovering mountain is fragile and you don’t want to damage the landscape.
Discover the Stunning View
When you mount the final hurdle, you’ll be 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 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. It’s the perfect end to the quick, slightly challenging hike!
A firepit and a set of rocky chairs sit at the top of the mountain. The chairs are uncomfortable but the firepit sits on the edge of the cliff and offers 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!
Be careful to leave the way you came. It looks different heading back which makes it surprisingly difficult to follow the path back. The climb down the cliff is daunting, but with careful footing you’ll make it back down safely.
Enjoying a sunset at Johns Family is part of our Okanagan Bucket List! If you want more fun places to explore all year-long, make sure to check it out.
Staying hydrated on the trail is important. The Okanagan is a desert, so between the heat and exercise, you'll definitely need water.
We love hydration water bladders because it's super easy to carry liters of water and to can sip on water the entire time instead of chugging it at breaks. We always stay more hydrated with water bladders than water bottles.
Information & Trailhead Location
Johns Family Nature Conservancy is a great family friendly hike for all ages. The original trails are extremely well maintained and there's an outhouse which makes 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 reach Johns Family Nature Conservancy, take Pandosy south from Highway 97. Continue on Pandosy until it turns into Lakeshore, then continue straight through a set of lights onto Chute Lake Road. Drive through the Kettle Valley subdivision and turn left onto Mountainside Drive. Follow the signs for Johns Family Regional Park and turn back onto Chute Lake Road. At this point Chute Lake will turn into a dirt road. About 3 km further you'll see the parking lot on your right.
|Difficulty||Easy, with one steep, difficult section|
|Notes||Bring plenty of water and wear lots of sunscreen as there's little shade. The road up is riddled with huge potholes.|