Stemwinder Provincial Park in the Similkameen Valley

Stemwinder Provincial Park is a small campground located on the Similkameen River near Hedley, BC. The area is rural, pristine, and absolutely beautiful.

Stemwinder Provincial Park is a camping destination literally on the side of Highway 3, only 20 minutes from Princeton. There are 27 vehicle accessible campsites that range drastically in desirability.

Camping at Stemwinder is well suited for people who are traveling through or want to simply relax and do nothing. To be completely honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this park but I’m happy to say that I was proven very wrong!

HEDLEY WEATHER

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Where is Stemwinder Provincial Park?

Stemwinder Provincial Park is located in the Similkameen Valley, about 5 minutes from Hedley and 20 minutes from Princeton. The area is absolutely stunning and full of forested mountain trails, rushing rivers, and rural charm.

In fact, the campground sits on the shores of the Similkameen River, the waterway that runs along the entire valley. Both the valley and river are named after the Indigenous people that live here. Similkameen means “people of the river”.

Stemwinder Provincial Park is literally right off the side of Highway 3, making it extremely easy to find and access. The highway is entirely paved and in good repair.

Directions to Stemwinder Provincial Park

No matter where you start, whether that’s the Okanagan, Vancouver, Merritt, or elsewhere, it’s simple to find Stemwinder Provincial Park.

Directions from the Okanagan to Stemwinder

From the Okanagan, there are two routes you can take to reach Stemwinder Provincial Park.

North of Penticton

If you’re visiting Stemwinder from anywhere north of Penticton (79.5 km, 1 hour), including Kelowna (140 km, 1.75 hours), Vernon (190 km, 2.5 hours), and Salmon Arm (249 km, 3.25 hours), take Highway 97 south until you reach Kaleden, a small town just south of Penticton. It barely looks like a town from the highway.

As you head out of town, watch for signs for Keremeos and Vancouver. Take the small exit onto Highway 3A. Stay on this highway until you reach Keremeos.

In Keremeos, you can either take the Keremeos Bypass that branches off the highway at the Bears Fruit stand or head through town. Either way, you’ll end up back on Highway 3. Directions from Keremeos are below.

From Osoyoos

Stemwinder Provincial Park is 81.5 km (1 hour) from Osoyoos. To reach the park, turn onto Highway 3 West at the Highway 97 and Highway 3 intersection in Osoyoos.

Stay on Highway 3 until you reach Keremeos (you’ll drive right by Spotted Lake, a sacred and protected site of the Syilx Okanagan People).

In Keremeos, turn left onto Highway 3 when the road you’re on appears to end. Directions from Keremeos are below.

From Keremeos

Regardless of how you got to Keremeos, once you’re on Highway 3 heading west out of Keremeos, your route is the same! Stay on Highway 3 until you pass through Hedley.

Five minutes out of Hedley, you’ll see Stemwinder Provincial Park on your left. There’s a small turning lane into the park, as well as a standard provincial park wooden sign at the entrance.

The gate is supposedly locked during the night, but we didn’t find this to be true.

Directions from Merritt to Stemwinder

Stemwinder Provincial Park is 122 km (1.5 hours) from Merritt, BC.

From Merritt, take the Okanagan Connector — which is also known as Highway 5A, 97C, and the Merritt-Princeton Highway, and the Princeton-Kamloops Highway (that’s not confusing at all…) — for 27.4 km. Watch for signs for Aspen Grove and Princeton where you’ll leave the Connector and turn onto Highway 5A South.

Stay on Highway 5A South for 62.4 km until you reach Princeton. When Highway 5A ends at a four-way intersection, look for signs for Vanouver and Osoyoos. Take two lefts until you’re on Highway 3 East headed towards Osoyoos and Grand Forks.

Stay on Highway 3 East for 32.6 km (~20 mins), then watch for Stemwinder Provincial Park on your right. There’s a small wooden provincial park sign at the park entrance. The gate is supposedly locked during the night, but we didn’t find this to be true.

Directions from Vancouver to Stemwinder

Stemwinder Provincial Park is 316 km (4 hours) from Vancouver, BC.

From Vancouver, take Highway 1 East to Hope (roughly 2 hours). In Hope, Highway 1 seamlessly turns into Highway 3 (aka the Crowsnest Highway and Hope-Princeton Highway).

From Hope, stay on Highway 3 until you reach Princeton, approximately 1.5 hours. Stay on Highway 3 through Princeton.

Twenty minutes (32.6 km) after leaving Princeton, watch for Stemwinder Provincial Park on your right. There’s a small wooden provincial park sign at the park entrance. The gate is supposedly locked during the night, but it wasn’t when we stayed here.

Camping at Stemwinder Provincial Park Campground

Stemwinder Provincial Park is one of many campground and accommodation options along the Similkameen River. Established in 1956, this small, quiet campground is beautiful, but easy to overlook.

There are 27 well-maintained and accessible campsites at Stemwinder campground. All of them are reservable from mid-April to mid-September, but there are a couple weeks on either end that’s first come first served (check exact dates).

Despite being 100% reservable, there are often sites available — even during the summer.

Stemwinder Provincial Park map from BC Parks

Campsites at Stemwinder Provincial Park

Stemwinder isn’t a well known, in-demand campground which (usually) makes it easy to get a campsite. It’s not a large campground, though, so you can either reserve or take your chances and just show up.

100% of the 27 campsites at Stemwinder Provincial Park are reservable. From mid-April to mid-September, you can reserve sites. Check the exact dates here. Oftentimes, you can still reserve a campsite only a few days before arriving.

Reservations can be made up to two months in advance (on a rolling window) at camping.bcparks.ca.

In early April and late September, after the reservation windows have closed but the campground is still open, all of the 27 campsites are first-come first-served (FCFS).

During the main camping season, there are no designated FCFS campsites. However, there are often campsites available. If you arrive and the host isn’t on-site, there’s a self-check-in at the campground info board near the entrance.


Campground Tiers

Stemwinder Provincial Park has campsites on two tiers. These tiers are where the differences between the sites become very apparent.

Upper Tier

Sites 1 to 11, 26, and 27 are on the upper tier, near the highway — these sites aren’t great.

The upper tier sites range in both shade and privacy. Plus, they’re super close to the highway — cars drive by at high speeds very close to your campsite, which can be pretty sketchy in the middle of the night. Sites 11 and 16 are at the edge of the park, right next to a private residence.

These campsites work for a quick pit stop overnight, but wouldn’t be overly enjoyable for an extended stay.


Lower Tier

Sites 12 to 25 are on the lower tier near the Similkameen River. The lower tier campsites at Stemwinder are by far the better sites.

These sites are large, shaded, and all but three back onto the river. There are a few trails down to the water from these campsites as well. We stayed at #18 and shared a private, sandy beach with #16. It was beautiful and very relaxing!

Since these campsites are near the water, the river drowns out most highway noise and it feels like a rural area, even though in reality you’re just off the highway.

PS: The photos BC Parks has of these campsites on their reservation system do them no justice. They’re really terrible photos.

Vehicle-Accessible, Front-Country Camping

Stemwinder Provincial Park is a front-country camping only campground. The campsites are very well-maintained with large gravel pads, tables, and fire rings. However, there are no hookups or pull-through sites. 

Most of the sites are quite large and can accommodate extra vehicles or large RVs/trailers, but please double-check the site size before reserving. Site-specific information is available on BC Parks.

Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine provide privacy and shade to many of the sites. There’s not a lot of underbrush, though, and privacy and shade vary greatly from site to site. Before reserving a site, read the site descriptions on BCParks.ca so you know what to expect.

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Camping Fees

Campsites$18 per party/night
Online Reservation$6/night
Seniors*$9 per party/night
*Applies from the day after Labour Day to June 14
Second Vehicle$12/night
Firewood$10/bundle

*While I do my best to provide up-to-date fees, there may be a discrepancy between what’s posted here and the actual cost.


Camp Host Information

There’s no on-site host at Stemwinder Provincial Park. The host manages multiple parks in the area and makes trips between them. They come by in the evening, so if you rely on firewood, stock up then.

The park is operated by Kaloya Contracting Ltd. and can be contacted at (250) 766-7972 and [email protected].

Facilities at Stemwinder Provincial Park

Stemwinder has fewer facilities than some of the bigger provincial parks, but there are still a few amenities that’ll come in handy on your stay.

Pit Toilets

There are six pit toilets throughout the campground, but no flush toilets. The pit toilets are well maintained, clean, and, best of all, don’t smell. However, there’s no sanitizer so make sure you have your own.

Water

There’s one hand pump for water located centrally in the campground. There’s a permanent boil water notice but, when we were there, the hosts told us it was safe to drink (so always double check with them!)

There are no RV fill-ups in the campground, but you can fill up in Princeton, Hedley, or Osoyoos. Use this guide to find sani-stations wherever you go.

Campfires

Each campsite has a grated campfire ring. You can buy firewood for $10 per bundle from the park host when they come by in the evening. However, BC Parks does encourage visitors to conserve wood and use a camp stove instead to help protect the environment.

Fire bans or limited burning hours may be implemented (particularly during the summer) — if you’re unsure of the rules, check with staff or the BC Wildfire Service website before lighting a campfire.

Parking

There’s no visitor or day-use parking at Stemwinder. All other vehicles must be at a campsite so that the campground roads don’t get jammed up with cars. 

Similkameen River

The Similkameen River runs parallel to Stemwinder campground and is a huge highlight of the park. The lower tier campsites have a view of the river and are set above it on a steep bank.

To access the river, there are a few small, rough footpaths down the hill between/behind the lower tier sites. The riverbanks are mainly rocky, but there are a few areas of sandy beach.

The river is great for fishing, relaxing, and (according to the camp host) floating in the summer. In the spring, the river is quite fast flowing.

Things to Do at + Around Stemwinder

To best honest, there’s not a lot to do at Stemwinder itself besides relax and chill out. But there’s plenty of things to do if you leave the campground.

Fishing

You can enjoy fishing from the shores of the Similkameen River. Simply head down the bank from the campground, set up on the rocky shoreline, and try your hand at catching some dinner.

Before you head out, make sure you have the correct fishing license (buy online).

Bromley Rock Provincial Park

12 km northwest of Stemwinder Provincial Park is Bromley Rock Provincial Park. There’s a large, sandy beach with plenty of picnic tables here. It’s also a great place for swimming in the summer.

Tubing / Floating the River

According to the camp hosts, tubing the Similkameen River in the summer is a popular activity. In the summer, the river is slow moving and shallow. However, there are plenty of rocks so make sure you navigate them!

Start at Bromley Rock and float down to Stemwinder.

Kayaking

In the spring, before the water levels lower enough for tubing, kayaking the Similkameen River is a lot of fun! There are rocks and some minor rapids, as well as beautiful scenery and beaches to enjoy.

If you’re staying at Stemwinder, a great option is to start at Bromley Rock and kayak down the river to your campsite.

FAQs

For most of the camping season, Stemwinder is 100% reservable. However, because it’s not a super popular campground, you may be able to stay overnight without a reservation.

If you decide to chance it and aren’t able to get a site, there are plenty of other campgrounds and accommodations nearby.

Stemwinder can be a great place to go camping with your kids, but you do need to keep an eye on them. On the lower tier, the bank down to the river is steep and rocky, plus the river is fast moving. On the upper tier, the highway is nearby.

Absolutely, Stemwinder is dog friendly! As with all provincial parks, you need to keep them leashed and clean up after them.

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