Kamloops: To anyone who ever thought that Canada is too young to have a compelling backstory, Kamloops is the antidote – this bustling city proudly showcases its deep roots and enthralling legends, from Wild West train robbers and the Gold Rush, captivating ghost stories, millennia of traditional cultures, and beyond, all the way back into the time of the dinosaurs!
Located in the picturesque Thompson River Valley, cradled by the hills and fed by two rivers, is the urban centre of Kamloops (population 87,000), whose name is derived from the Shuswap First Nations peoples’ word, Tk’emlups, meaning "where the rivers meet". Known as both "B.C.’s Friendliest City" and "The Hub City", Kamloops is only about 4 hours drive (355 km/220 miles) from Vancouver, 5.5 hours drive (468 km/291 miles) from Seattle, USA, or 8 hours drive (623 km/387 miles) from Calgary. It is serviced by major rail lines, a recently renovated and expanded airport, and no less than 4 highways.
- See also Holiday Suggestions & Travel Ideas for the Thompson Okanagan.
Today, Kamloops strikes a fine picture of a city with a rich past and a rosy future, maintaining its visual and cultural heritage while establishing itself as a modern destination. Frequented by the Shuswap people for thousands of years because of its salmon, game, and rich soil, farms and ranches are still a large part of the region’s lifeblood. After the arrival of Europeans (1811), Kamloops became a picture of the Wild West north of the 49th parallel, riding booms and busts, with the mining industry and the railroad bringing more and more frontier folks to the area.
The history of Kamloops is kept alive today not only in its numerous museums, heritage buildings and tours, and cultural festivals, but in the stories and legends of its people. The annual Cowboy Festival and the huge Kamloops Pow Wow can help you connect with the awe-inspiring traditions. And if it’s pre-human history that interests you, the area is a treasure trove of fossils, drawing amateur anthropologists from afar to scour the hills for signs of ancient life, and "rock-hounding" tours are easily accessible.
Attractions & Activities
Kamloops has something for everyone – especially if they have the explorer’s spirit. The urban centre has excellent shopping and contemporary cuisine, with lots of opportunities to sample the famous wines of the Okanagan region.
For the more active traveler, every season has its own set of outdoor adventures. The mild winters bring an abundance of snow, luring snowmobilers, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, ice-fishers, dog-sledders, and Alpine skiers and snowboarders in search of world-famous powder. Summers feature hiking, rock-climbing, mountain-biking, water sports on the wide rivers, and over a dozen golf courses to fill your vacation afternoons. Camping is plentiful, as Kamloops has more than half a dozen provincial parks nearby, for those wanting to get in touch with the variety of ecosystems that make up the area.
Whether your interest in animals is in culinary or observational, Kamloops has an abundance of fauna to entice the nature lover. The fly-fishing is among the world’s best, and the annual salmon run promises tasty dinners to top off a busy day at play.
If you’d rather feast your eyes than your tastebuds, numerous wildlife tours are available throughout the year, including those focused on bird-watching and nature photography. Bears, mountain lions, big-horn sheep, moose, eagles, snakes, and a host of other species are on full display in the areas close to town, including one of Canada’s only true deserts. For the kids, Kamloops hosts various centres where children can observe and interact with local wildlife safely and enjoyably.
Where to Stay?
Kamloops is well-suited to tourism – its reputation as Canada’s Tournament Capital ensures ample hotel space is always at hand, and there are accommodations to fit every budget.
Map: See street photos by zooming in and using Google’s Street View by dragging the yellow man icon from left hand side bar onto streets highlighted in blue.
Photos Credits: Group of Male Dancers at a Pow Wow courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Don Weixl; Kamloops Summer Sunset courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Don Weixl; Cyclistis Overlooking Kamloops courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Don Weixl; View of Rivershore Estates and Golf Links from the Thompson River courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association; Train Tour by Monte Lake courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Kamloops Heritage Railway
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"Make voyages! Attempt them...there's nothing else" - Tennessee Williams