The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third and the last part of the story about my 2020 ultimate road trip to British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. You will lea...

This is the third and the last part of the story about my 2020 ultimate road trip to British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. You will learn about a lesser-known but no less spectacular Yoho National Park and see the Canada's own real desert located at the south end of the hot and dry Okanagan Valley. British Columbia is undoubtedly the most biologically and geologically diverse province in Canada!

Days 1-5 of the road trip were covered here - Part 1
Days 6-7 of the road trip were covered here - Part 2

Day 8: Yoho National Park. 
I can give you a plenty of reasons why you should include Yoho National Park in your Banff-Jasper itinerary, but I'm sure that naming just a few will be more than enough to convince you to visit this  beautiful national park. 
Takakkaw Falls, the second tallest waterfalls in Canada, definitely tops the list. I call it "Yosemite of Canada" for its striking resemblance of the world's most famous waterfall. Water free-falling from its perfect 254 m / 833 ft towering cliff can captivate your imagination for hours. 
A short trail that takes you to the falls from a parking lot offers a plenty of photo opportunities along the way. As you get closer, you might get wet because of the mist coming down the falls. Don't miss out the Parks Canada red chairs!
The narrow and winding 14 km / 9 mile long Yoho Valley Road that leads to the waterfalls is also very spectacular, though there aren't many pullouts to get out from a steering wheel and enjoy the scenery. 
Emerand Lake, another reason to visit Yoho Natioanl Park, is literally of emerald green colour. I've seen some other lakes in North America and Europe that claim to be "emerald", but this one is definitely as close to the truth as it can get. 
Emerald Lake gets only a fraction of visitors comparing to the neighbouring Lake Louise, you'll have a better chance finding some solitude and enjoying serenity, especially if you hike an easy loop trail around the lake (5.2 km / 3.2 mile).
That trail also takes you through one of the most active avalanche spots in the Canadian Rockies. You'll notice it as trees don't really manage to grow there any higher than a bush.
Emerald Lake seems like a great wedding spot too with its famous Emerald Lake Lodge offering fine dining experience and incredibly scenic accommodations. 
You can also rent a canoe here, but I don't even know how much it costs as I felt pretty discouraged after learning how much these lodges and hotels charge for their rentals. 
Avid hikers can start their both day and overnight backpacking trips from the lake's parking lot. I would personally try the Yoho Pass trail (13 km / 8 miles one way) that takes you from Emerald Lake to Takakkaw Falls. Obviously, if you want to make it all in one day, you'll likely need two cars parking at both parking lots or using a shuttle. 
Besides those two places we talked about - Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake - you don't want to miss Lake O'Hara, Wapta Falls and Kicking Horse Natural Bridge. Lake O'Hara was the park's most "hard to get" destination in 2020 as it was only accessible by hike in/out (normally there is a shuttle bus that can take visitors there). The place sits on a critical grizzly bear habitat, so bear safety should be top of mind for those who attempt hiking to Lake O'Hara and beyond.
If watching train passing through spiral tunnels dug in the mountains makes you tick, you should spend some time at the Kicking Horse lookout. When a train leaves Field, BC, it should honk, so you know that you have about five minutes to get your camera or binoculars ready. We weren't so ready to spend an unknown amount of time waiting for a train to come since we were heading to Kelowna, BC that day. I only took a picture of a spiral tunnel.

Day 9: Okanagan Valley. 
Okanagan Valley is remarkable in many ways. For starters, Kelowna, the largest city in the valley, receives over 2,000 hours of sunshine and only 28 cm / 11 inch of rain per year. 
We're talking about 300 sunny days per year. 
Not quite Calgary, but winters here are much-much milder.
Sunshine defines the valley's unique weather patterns that appeal to so many people in Canada. Some communities in the valley such as Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops are even considered the best places to live and retire in Canada.  
Downtown Kelowna is lovely and vibrant. Best beaches in British Columbia, lots of bars and restaurants, great nightlife, direct flights to biggest Canadian and American cities. 
Banana trees near the city hall tells you something about the weather too, eh? 
No wonder, real estate market is pretty hot here. So is the air temperature that dries up the land in the summer and causes numerous wildfires.
In fact, the climate is so dry, it created a true desert - Sonoran desert. Yes, the same one that stretches across most of Nevada and Arizona all the way to Mexico! Look at those pictures taken around Osoyoos, BC on the border with Washington state. 
While you won't find an iconic saguaro cactus that thrives around Tuscon, AZ and most of Baja California in Mexico (because it's still pretty cold in winter here), other common desert plants such as antelope brush, big sagebrush, and prickly pear cactus are abundant. 
Be careful when you step on the ground as these sharp spikes will bite you.
Those who like deserts are welcome to visit the Desert Centre Osoyoos and its short interpretive trail that tells about history, culture as well as flora and fauna of this unique place. Parks Canada has been negotiating with local First Nations to create a national park in this region since 2003. And you know what's really strange? I saw quite a few signs along a highway saying "No National Park". People usually oppose to land mining or development, but here something opposite is going on - local people are against preserving this rare ecosystem.
The place I personally wanted to see so badly in the Okanagan Valley is called Spotted Lake. I saw it on the Canada Post stamp a few years ago and it's been on my bucket list ever since. To my disappointment, the lake wasn't yet "spotted" as the water needs to evaporate quite a bit before it can be trapped in numerous pools with different colours. 
Below is the view I was expecting. Photo credit of anthropodermic via Flickr. Maybe next time?
Desert seems desolate and lifeless, but give just enough water and it will transform into fruitlands and wineries. That's exactly what happened in the Okanagan Valley in 1930s when a good irrigation system turned this dry land into a finest fruit growing region. 
The valley produces more tender fruits (peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, prunes, and cherries) and wine grapes that any other part in Canada. You can't not see it by a number of farms and fruitstands dotted along the Highway 97 south of Penticton, BC.
Had we not had to fly out the next day, I would buy a box of those sweat ripe peaches and eat them all! But - and I'm probably very biased - I like Ontario peaches more.
Another reason to visit the Okanagan Valley is wine. Yes, wine lovers: British Columbia produces the very best wines on par with with Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California with zero compromise in quality. 
Many winemakers even equate grape growing conditions in the Okanagan Valley to those in Tuscany, Italy. So no wonder that more than 182 licensed wineries exist in the region.  
Many of those wineries offer tours that include wine tastings paired with food as well as visiting cellars and production facilities. We didn't plan anything specific in advance, so weren't too mad when the place we wanted to visit would not let us in without having a pre-arranged appointment (apparently a very busy place, even during the COVID pandemic). 
Driving from the Okanagan Valley to Vancouver can be tricky, especially after dark. Highway 3 is very windy with speed limits going from 100 km/h / 62 mph down to 30 km/h / 20 mph on switchbacks and sharp turns. Wild animals are also a night danger, so always exercise caution. 
I really hope this 3-part article with the pictures helped me vividly tell a story about my recent British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies road trip, so you got to know this beautiful country called Canada a little bit more. See you soon!

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