If you’re thinking that visiting the second largest ski resort area in Canada is just a wintertime gig, think again. Summer at Sun Peaks Resort is a mountain playground of wildflowers, hiking and biking trails, and more outdoor pursuits and family fun than you can shake a marshmallow roasting stick at. Our family loves active adventures at any time of year, and we’ve made amazing ski memories at Sun Peaks over the years.
Now that we’ve had the chance to enjoy a summer visit and experienced everything from mountain biking to hiking through carpets of wildflowers, to car racing and canoeing on alpine lakes, I’m delighted to tell you about all the fun you can have while enjoying summer at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, British Columbia.
Summer at Sun Peaks Resort
Whether you have wee ones or adult-sized kids who tower over you, Sun Peaks resort in summer is a super family friendly place to be with fun activities for everyone. Not only are there are adventures galore, the restaurants, hotels, services, shops and spas in the European-style pedestrian village are all open in summer.
You will be able to get your Mountain High pizza, tacos at Bottoms Bar & Grill, and ice cream from Rocky Mountain Chocolate, not to mention bananarama crepes at Tod Mountain Café, juicy burgers at Cahilty Creek Kitchen, sandwiches at 5Forty Café, and savoury tortiere at Voyageur Bistro. Play hard, eat well, and enjoy summer at Sun Peaks.
Sun Peaks Mountain Biking
“The key is finding your good form and getting comfortable on the bike,” said George Terwiel, our mountain bike instructor for the day. Since we’d never, ever mountain biked before, we’d wisely signed up for a private mountain biking lesson to learn the ropes, and the brakes, of mountain biking. George was the perfect instructor – patient, experienced and with a good sense of humor. In addition to teaching mountain biking and skiing (and being the father to an Olympic skier), he owns the Lone Wolf Gallery in the pedestrian-only heart of Sun Peaks, a lovely shop filled with gift ideas and local artisans’ work.
While I’m nervous about going too fast or too steep, the rest of my family is all over mountain biking. They fall in love with the sport and take to it like they’ve been doing it for ages, quickly progressing from the nine kilometer green Level Up run to black trails named Insanity One and Steam Shovel by the end of the day. I’m just trying to keep my feet level (very important as you stand to ride through the forest and around the berms), look down the trail, keep my elbows bent and maintain speed to avoid falling.
Which I do anyway.
But luck was with me as I walked away with only minor bruises, no major cuts or broken limbs – a win in my book. The protective armor and helmets that bikers wear made me look like a road warrior (not a bad look, actually), but had the very practical purpose of protecting my body. It’s essential gear for mountain biking. The Sun Peaks bike park location is on Tod Mountain, with the main access mid-mountain just off the Sunburst Express chairlift from the village.
Our Sun Peaks mountain bike rentals and armor were from Elevation Sun Peaks in the village. The bikes are technologically advanced, the suspension is super springy and cushy. Not that we’re sitting down as I realized in short order. We’re up on our feet the entire time as we ride through the pine forests and along the berms and trails.
What struck me most, apart from the wonderful smell and sounds of the mountain forest and meadows, was the openness of the sport to all ages and stages. We saw gangs of young kids, families, even grandparents and grandkids biking together. It was wonderful to see active families enjoying biking the more than 60 km (39 miles) of mountain bike trails at Sun Peaks. There are trails for every level of biker on the mountain, and they are actively building more every year. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Sun Peaks bike park this season, and in addition to all the new trail development, there’s the Progression Park where we took our first bunny hill rides.
To encourage new riders to get out in the Bike Park, Sun Peaks Resort has launched new ticket options, including tickets specific to the Progression Park, and for one chairlift ride, and evening “Twilight” tickets. For most ticket options, I’d suggest booking online in advance. For a day’s bike rental, armor and lift access to the mountain bike trails, you’re looking at between $200-$250 per adult. Looking to save money? To commemorate the 20th anniversary this summer, there is the Windback Wednesday ticket where every Wednesday, you can get a Twilight Ticket (4 pm-7 pm) for only $20.
Take a Hike in the Mountains
If you follow my social media channels at all (ahem), you know how much I love, love, LOVE, hiking in the mountains. It is truly one of my favorite things. So of course, I loved alpine hiking at Sun Peaks. Though our hiking day dawned foggy and drizzly, it made no difference as we were well prepared and had packed our rain gear, hiking poles, hats, snacks, water and mosquito repellent. We didn’t need the latter protection as the weather kept those critters at bay – a cool weather hiking bonus!
Sun Peaks has 18 designated hiking trails, from level sightseeing strolls to a breathtaking summit hike and a stop at Tod Lake. You can start hiking from the village or do as we did and take a ride up the Sunburst chairlift and start at mid-mountain, at 6,000′ above sea level. From here, we easily accessed the Top of the World Trail into the alpine to experience peekaboo vistas when the fog allowed, and stunning wildflower meadows.
The months of July and August are the perfect time for mountain hiking as it’s alpine blossom season. We carried our alpine flora guide (free at guest services) to identify the many types of delicate blooming flowers in the carpet of alpine meadows, all while taking in the beautiful aromas of wildflowers like larkspur, dwarf dogwood, arctic lupine, Indian paintbrush, red tiger lillies, and mountain aster.
We also spotted lots of wildlife activity, including deer, birds, grouse, marmots, and even a black bear as we downloaded down the mountain. While our son really wanted to see a bear on the hike up to the Top of the World (elevation 6,800 ft), I was quite happy to admire it from the safety of the chairlift.
The mountains at Sun Peaks are a natural black bear habitat, so bear awareness is very important. While bears more interested in munching on grasses and foraging for food, it’s important to be smart around these incredible animals. Bear awareness includes keeping a safe distance, never feeding bears, leashing dogs, and backing away slowly should you encounter one in the wild. If it makes you feel better, have some bear bells on your pack and carry bear spray as a precaution.
After downloading, we did the short interpretive Shuswap Medicine Trail in the village. We learned about the local healing plants like dwarf dogwood and horsetails, used by First Nations in their traditional medicines. Tip: This is great trail to do with small children, and no tickets are required for access. Next time, we plan to tackle the longer Tod Lake hike as a dip in the lake after a hot hike is an ideal pursuit.
Race Down the Mountain
Feeling the need for speed? We certainly did so we hit up the Mountain Cross Carts for some laps on the 512 meter long race track. Our careening races down the gravity-fed course are timed, and engines aren’t even needed as the carts are capable of reaching speeds up to 35 km/hr. It made things interesting rounding the hairpin turns, but thankfully brakes are included.
A platter lift runs daily during the summer months to bring both carts and racers to the top of the course. Then it’s ‘wheeeeee’ down you race to see who can get the fastest time. The track record is sub 1 minute, and our best time was 1:10, quite respectable really. FYI: You do need to have a driver’s license or learner’s permit for this activity. But don’t cry wee ones, there’s a mini-cart course for kids 3+ near the Bungee Trampoline.
Paddle a Canoe
As proud Canadians, I’d like to say that canoeing is in the bloodstream. My husband grew up on childhood canoe and portage trips with his family in Ontario, and while my experience hasn’t been that deep and wide, I love the rhythm and gentle action of paddling on a calm lake.
The Northwest Voyageur Company organizes local canoe adventures that not only get guests paddling, they learn about the storied past of the fur-trading North West Trading Company from the 1700s.
This company once competed in the fur trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and its map-maker David Thompson (after which the Thomspon River was named) did a remarkable job mapping out many of the waterways of Canada’s west and northern regions.
We spent time on a guided Voyageur Canoe Adventure on McGillivray Lake, about 20 minutes from Sun Peaks village. This fairly shallow freshwater lake is stocked with trout and beautiful lilies. With his eagle-eye, my husband spotted a small mink swimming along the shoreline, and we kept on the lookout for resident osprey, bald eagles, loons, beaver, moose and the stocked trout.
The paddling is totally non-strenuous, and is entirely suitable for young kids. For those with little knowledge of Canada’s fur-trading history, the guide provides fascinating insight into how our nation was explored, discovered, and eventually established. The paddling adventure finishes off at Voyageur Bistro in the village, or depending on the tour, at the company’s lakeside cabin.
Hit the Links and Play Golf
With greens located at 1,200 metres above sea level, Sun Peaks has British Columbia’s highest elevation golf course. And it’s a full 18 holes of one of the most scenic courses to boot. Surrounded by panoramic mountain views, the challenging 18-hole par 72 Graham Cooke course weaves alongside the village at the foothills of three recognizable ski mountains – Tod, Sundance, and Morrisey. The 6,400 yard course offers risk and reward opportunities for every level of golfer, including kids.
Sun Peaks has family friendly golf rates to encourage young golfers to get on the course and driving range. Kids can golf for free Monday to Thursday when accompanied by a paying adult after 10:00 AM. There’s also a Family Night every Monday. Hit the greens or take a swing at the driving range (or both) with the family. A medium bucket of balls is only $5.00, and 9 holes for an adult and junior (under 18) with shared power cart is just $40.00, after 4:00pm.
The bonus of golfing at a higher elevation? Your ball flies longer! Plus the mountain air provides relief from hotter summer temperatures. Sun Peaks is often 10 degrees cooler than nearby Kamloops.
No kids, no problem. The Golf Course hosts a Ladies Night and Men’s Night each week.
Sun Peaks Market Day
The Sun Peaks Farmers Market happens every Sunday in summer, from June 16 to September 29. The Market runs from 9:30am to 1:30pm, featuring famers selling locally grown produce, musicians and artisans showcasing hand-crafted products.
For summer 2020, there’s also a “Family Art Sundays” presented by Art Zone. Located at Sun Peaks in the clock tower square from 11:00am – 1:00pm each Market Day.
Disclosure: The Travelling Mom and family thanks Sun Peaks Resort for hosting their stay. As always, the writer’s opinions are honest and her own.
Photo Credit: Sun Peaks Resort; Claudia Laroye