In this winter budget guide to Kamloops, British Columbia, we have included free and discounted activities as well as some extra tips on where to stay and eat.
Where is Kamloops?
This city is located on the Trans Canada highway in the southern interior of British Columbia. It's central location in the province makes it a great place to stop off for a night or two. If you are travelling across British Columbia or even Canada, why not make time to stop and see all of the wonderful natural areas around Kamloops. The landscape is an unique mix of semi-arid desert and Rocky Mountains!
Things to see and do
Hiking and snowshoeing
There are a ton of places to hike in and around Kamloops. Although some of these are closed during the winter, there are still many options. And the best part is: they're all free! Here are some our favourite fall and winter hikes:
1. Isobel Lake
This hike and snowshoe trail is a 40 minute drive from downtown Kamloops. It is a loop around a small lake that takes about an hour to complete. Amongst the snow covered trees, it truly is a winter wonderland.
The last stretch of road is not plowed but it is used by other hikers through the winter so we had no problems in our small car.
2. Kenna Cartwright Park
If you are looking for somewhere a little closer to save on gas, the winter accessible trails in Kenna Cartwright Park are for you. Located right in the city, this park is accessible by car, bus or by walking the TRU Connector Trail from Thompson Rivers University. The Sunset Trail offers beautiful views of Kamloops Lake while the Tower Trail highlights the cityscape.
3. Westsyde Centennial Park
This park has a year round petting zoo at the parking lot entrance. This is a relaxed beach area with the option of a flat hiking trail called Oak Hills. The views of mountain and desert on the beach offer excellent photo opportunities. On warmer days in the winter you can watch mini icebergs float by on the North Thompson River. Like all beaches, it can get rather windy so we recommend wrapping up warm in the winter. Did I mention there is a swing?
Check out Hike Kamloops or Kamloops Trails for directions to these beautiful places and more. Remember to check the weather conditions before you go and bring winter boots to hike through dense snow.
Ice skate on a frozen lake
There is something magical about skating on a frozen lake rather than in an arena. There are a number of outdoor skating rinks in Kamloops including frozen ponds and lakes. Our personal favourite is Inks Lake. It is a very Canadian experience and we both love an afternoon skating amongst the snowcapped grassland hills. Make sure you know how to tell if ice is safe enough to walk on before you attempt to skate. This activity is very much at your own risk. On a weekday, you could be some of the only people out there. Don't have skates? You can rent them at Dolson's Source for Sports in Aberdeen Mall. Visit the Kamloops Tourism website to see more locations and what's open.
If you have been to Canada's west coast, you've probably been skiing or at least heard a lot about it. Kamloops is no different! Sun Peaks Resort is about a 40 minute drive from downtown Kamloops. It is the second largest ski resort in Canada after Whistler and is never overly crowded. Sun Peaks offers various discount days throughout the season. Check out our money saving guide to skiing and read more about our experience at Sun Peaks here. Local favourite Harper Mountain is only a 20 minute drive from Kamloops and also offers a snow tubing park.
Chase waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park
While not technically in Kamloops, Wells Gray Provincial Park is beautiful and well worth the drive. It is about 1 hour and 40 minutes to 2 hours north of Kamloops and the BC-5 highway continues onto Mount Robson Provincial Park and then Jasper National Park if you want to make a road trip out of it! See our post on Wells Gray for a more detailed description on what to do. The roads are maintained in the winter and seeing the waterfalls covered in ice truly is like stepping into a fairy tale.
Visit the BC Wildlife Park Wildlights Festival
The BC Wildlife Park is open on the weekends in the off peak season. You can see many animals native to British Columbia including moose, wolves and bald eagles. It is about a half an hour drive from downtown Kamloops and is accessible by bus. It is also very close to Monte Creek Ranch Winery. There are special opening times from December 14th '18 - January 6th '19 for their wildlights festival. They'll be open on weekday evenings from 5-9 pm. With Christmas light displays, old-fashioned train rides, special events and a discounted price, this event is perfect for all ages.
Take in city views at Thompson Rivers University (TRU)
If hiking isn't really your thing, you can still see amazing city views at Thompson Rivers University. Outside the Common Grounds cafe is a great spot and you'll receive a 50 cent discount on drinks when you bring in your reusable cup. It can be hard to find parking on weekdays at TRU and will cost you anywhere between $2 and $5. Opt for a metered spot if you are just gonna stop in. Parking is free on the weekends and before 8:00 am everyday so take advantage of this if you are an early riser!
Places to eat & stay
In the heart of downtown, Caffe Motivo has friendly staff and great coffee. With fresh soups and baked goods, it's the perfect place to sit down, warm up and plan your next move.
Lucky's Bar and Restaurant
A quirky student favourite, Lucky's great prices and Instagram worthy interior is not to be missed. Try the fired chicken and you will fall in love.
Our favorite restaurant in town, Sushi Plus has a great selection of Japanese food. Staff are always so friendly and service is always fast. We thoroughly recommend treating yourself to one of their many Bento Boxes. The restaurant also offers an amazing green tea on the house with your meal.
Travelodge - Columbia St.
We stayed here when we first arrived in Kamloops. A fairly central location with reasonable prices, clean rooms and friendly staff; we recommend this place to everyone. Plus it comes with a free breakfast!
Pro tip: If you are new to traveling in western Canada in the fall or winter, be aware that snow tires are mandatory on most highways from October to April.
How to get to Kamloops without a vehicle:
Coach: Ebus runs from Sahali Mall in Kamloops and has routes to Vancouver and Calgary. Visit Ebus or BusBud to see rates and book tickets.
Air: Kamloops Airport (YKA) is extremely close to downtown (about 20 minutes) and is serviced by Air Canada and Westjet.
There are a number of ways to get in town from the airport including an Airport Shuttle and cab services.
Rail: We personally don't recommend rail for travel in and out of Kamloops. Via Rail Canada is very expensive, time consuming and has infrequent services to Kamloops.