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Fun in the sun: Sun Peaks is a low-key, year-round playground

B.C.'s Sun Peaks is a summertime magnet for mountain bikers, hikers and anyone looking for a relaxing getaway
In the summer, Sun Peaks serves up a wide range of activities, including golf at an 18-hole, par-72 Graham Cooke-designed course, hiking trails, year-round events and lift access for downhill and cross-country mountain biking. Courtesy Tourism Sun Peaks

I am balanced slightly precariously on a thick paddleboard floating around the edges of remote McGillivray Lake. One of my daughters drifts by, exuding the confidence of someone who could do a headstand on her paddleboard without creating even a ripple on the lake’s glassy surface.

“Thinking about the story you’re going to write?” she asks.


“Is it still a good story if nothing happens?”

What she means is, “Wouldn’t it be a better story if you fell off the paddleboard into the lake?”

Well, yes! But that doesn’t mean I plan on toppling over anytime soon. In fact, paddleboarding is much easier than I expected and this lake, accessed via a long winding dirt road from nearby Sun Peaks, is blissfully quiet and pristine. I am happy to just float about, story or no story. The air is sultry and the sun heavy, and a delicious languidness has settled over the three of us like a soothing summer blanket.

My adult daughters and I, on our first post-pandemic girls’ getaway, landed at Sun Peaks in mid-August, eager to explore this sweet, year-round playground, located less than an hour’s drive from Kamloops and touted as a “stress-free” destination.

A tiny municipality of 1,400 permanent residents, Sun Peaks is a summertime magnet for mountain bikers, hikers and anyone looking for a low-key getaway. It must turn into a veritable Dr. Seuss Whoville in winter, when its cute resort-town architecture and European-style ski-in/ski-out pedestrian village transforms into a snow-capped wonderland, attracting some 250,000 visitors. The pace here is slower than other resort towns like Whistler (permanent residents 14,000, and three million annual visitors) but still offers 17 square kilometres of skiable terrain (second largest in Canada), 19 feet of snow and 2,000 hours of sun.

Bikers lined up at the base of the lifts move at a steady pace. Courtesy Tourism Sun Peaks

In the summer, Sun Peaks serves up a wide range of activities, including golf at an 18-hole, par-72 Graham Cooke-designed course, hiking trails, year-round events and lift access for downhill and cross-country mountain biking. Bikers lined up at the base of the lifts move at a steady pace – “If you have to wait three minutes, you’re wondering, ‘What the heck!’” we’re told at one point.

Sun Peaks has been recognized for its environmental policies and practices and was the first resort in North America and the only resort in Canada to earn the ISO 14001 designation for environmental management. It also has the feel of a place on the verge of a mini boom, with lots of activity and new construction underway.

A testament to its name, the peaks above us and township around us are bathed in sunshine as we park the car and explore the area on foot from our home base at Village Walk 19, a massive three-level, three-bedroom condominium that can sleep a gazillion people within its lavish walls. The three of us, celebrating our first girls’ trip in such a long time, open a bottle of bubbly and move between sitting on tall chairs at the massive kitchen island, lounging around the dining room table (seats 13!) and relaxing into a comfy couch in the sunken living room, as we catch up and decompress.

Sun Peaks village at night. Courtesy Tourism Sun Peaks

The next day we are up early and ready to explore. Our plans include heading up the mountain with a guide from Sports School for the Top of the Mountain Hiking Tour to wander through the carpets of alpine flowers that dot the slopes.

“Just a leisurely walk,” I’ve assured my older daughter, who runs and plays sports but is not a fan of hiking. “Basically, ha ha, we’ll just be ‘tiptoeing through the tulips.’” (Not tulips, of course. But we do enjoy the glorious hues of late-alpine-flower blooms, like ruby-red louseworts, vivid purple fireweed and tiger lilies, and pink and white mountain heather.)

But our “stress-free” getaway takes a bit of a hit as we ride the Sunburst chairlift, soaring to our “leisurely walk” destination, and our guide announces that we’ll jump off the lift one stop short of the top and hike the rest of the way up. To be honest, it almost hurts my neck, stretching it far enough backwards to see the “top,” which will be accessed via a very steep incline. I avert my eyes from my not-a-hiking-fan daughter, but I can feel the glare.

However, it turns out to be a glorious experience – we take it nice and easy – and our guide is so interesting and informative, I quickly forget that I’m the only one huffing and puffing. (Sun Peaks people are very fit.) The flowers – although slightly past their prime in mid-August – are beautiful and the views from the top are spectacular. We take a moment to gape at the mountainous landscape, rolling into the horizon before us.

Bolacco Café. For such a small town, Sun Peaks restaurants pack a definite punch. Courtesy Tourism Sun Peaks

After a bite to eat – more on food in a minute – we’re off to the activities desk in the Village Day Lodge to collect everything we need for our trip to McGillivray Lake, except the paddleboards, which await us lakeside. The is road a bit rough but the destination is worth the bumps, and after floating about for a couple of hours, we head back to village relaxed and refreshed – our gruelling mountain hike now a distant memory to our soothed muscles.

Our meals here have been a bit of a revelation: for such a small town the restaurants pack a definite punch. Our favourite meal takes place on a patio beneath a pink sky at Mantles Restaurant, where even selective eaters like us (gluten-, dairy- and meat-free) find ample items to choose from. The divine food and perfect setting is almost even surpassed by the impeccable service, and this restaurant is on our to-do-again list.

We also enjoy two glorious breakfasts, created and then left in the fridge at our accommodation by Ohana Deli Market & Meals To-Go. Ohana offers all sorts of food items, from deli trays to homemade soups and sauces, and our offering included all GF and DF items. A great way to start the day!

We also attend the very-popular taco night at Bottoms Bar & Grill, dining al fresco in the warm evening air, and, although we don’t have time for either, both Mountain High Pizza and Capones Kitchen come highly recommended.

Signature massages at Sun Peaks Spa cap our final morning, and we head back down the scenic road towards the highway home, satiated, relaxed and refreshed.

And I know my story will be a good one, despite the fact I didn’t fall off the paddleboard.


Do: A Signature Massage at Sun Peaks Spa begins with selection of an oil and scent from the spa’s many unique aromatic complexes. Next, you relax into a heated bed, while heated stones glide over your skin, opening up your pores to draw in the oils and intensify their effects. Your feet are wrapped in warm, steamy towels as your body is massaged with the combination of skilled hands and hot stones. The 90-minute experience allows enough additional time for extra attention to feet and scalp.

See: Explore the Sun Peaks village with an easy stroll along the paved, multi-use Valley Trail that winds its way around the area. Start at the covered bridge that runs across McGillivray Creek to access the lower loop, or turn left at the bridge and follow Valley Drive briefly until the trail veers off through the forest next to the creek towards the east end of the village.

Eat: Although Bolacco Café was recommended as a local’s favourite for coffee – we discover it is so much more. Step into this cosy cafe and meet a chalkboard menu filled with enough delectable offerings to make your head spin and your decision-making slow. There is seating indoors or out, or take a bowl to go, like we did, pulling over a few minutes later at a glorious lakeside stop just a little ways down the road towards the highway.