It doesn’t matter how many views we chase, as we sat atop the mountain at Johns Family Nature Conservancy we were once again blown away by the beauty of the world. And the Okanagan is truly something special, it really is. 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 as we sit here 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. We walked along a wide, flat gravel trail that led us through the recovering forest and we passed over a small creek that ran through a maze of dead trees and rocks.
There was no shade on the exposed, dry mountain and the sun beat down relentlessly. Within fifteen minutes we were already slurping water. As we walked along the gravel-lined paths, we appreciated not only the devastation of the Okanagan Mountain Fire but also nature’s ability to rebuild instead. The charred tree remains sprinkled the mountainside and peaked out from behind the green, new growth. Bushes and grass were in abundance and lined the paths; the small trees were thriving.
The Cedar Mountain Trail was well maintained and formed a loop along the bluffs, which included a set of wooden stairs. We were soon walking along the bottom of the bluff but there was still no shade and no respite from the heat. Loose rocks and dead trees lined the base and we passed a rock-climbing couple.
A path to amazing views
At the bottom of the stairs, we followed a narrow trail to the top of the first bluff. It was a rough scramble up the mountain and not for those that aren’t sure footed! It was short but very steep, awkward, and difficult. I tried to not look down as I crawled my way up the side of the bluff.
At the top, we followed the trail across the mountain, up stone stairs, and along the top of the cliff. We’d lost our view of Okanagan Lake but were rewarded instead with amazing views of the stark mountainside. The goat-like trail was difficult to follow and we accidentally almost wandered off a few times. The recovering mountain is fragile and we didn’t want to damage the landscape.
Discovering the stunning view
We quickly mounted the final hurdle and were 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. We could see for countless miles up and down the Okanagan Valley.
We wandered down the mountaintop and looked for a place to rest. A large, flat slab of rock beckoned us and as we settled down, we took in the panoramic view. Okanagan Lake mirrored the deep blue of the sky and the water mimicked glass. It was the perfect end to the quick, slightly challenging hike!
A firepit and rocky chairs
When we were done resting we found a firepit and chairs, all constructed out of rocks. The chairs were uncomfortable but the firepit sat on the edge of the cliff and offered, if possible, even better views of the Okanagan Valley. There was charred wood in the firepit and we imagined how wonderful it would be to spend an evening here at sunset. Just not during peak fire season!
We were careful to leave the way we came. It looked different heading back which made it surprisingly difficult to follow the path back. The climb down the cliff was daunting, even a little terrifying. I desperately tried to think of anything but tumbling headfirst down the mountain. Thankfully, we both made it down safe and sound.
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.|
|Related Activities||Sicamous Lookout
Hurricane Ridge, Washington
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