Princeton is a small town of about 2,800 (2016) people in the Similkameen region of British Columbia. Princeton was born of the mining industry, however today the town relies on forestry, ranching, and tourism.
Princeton centres on seven blocks of businesses along Bridge Street and five blocks on Vermilion Avenue; there are also businesses along British Columbia Highway 3.
Historically, the area's main industry has been mining—copper, gold, coal, and some platinum—the town's biggest employers are Copper Mountain Mine and a sawmill owned by Weyerhaeuser, along with a few smaller timber companies, such as Princeton Wood Preservers and Princeton Post and Rail.
Before European contact, the land around today's Princeton was known among First Nations people as a source of red ochre. Beginning no later than 1846, fur traders, settlers, and miners established trails connecting what was then known as Vermilion Forks to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. John Fall Allison became, in 1858, the first permanent settler of European ancestry. To this day, the site of his home functions locally like a kilometre zero, with creeks east of Princeton having names like "Five Mile" based on their distance from that location. The town he founded was renamed "Prince Town" (later corrupted to "Princeton") to honour an 1860 visit to eastern Canada by Prince Edward (later King Edward VII).
From 1909 to 1915, the railways arrived, with the Kettle Valley Railway (later Canadian Pacific) connecting Princeton to the Great Northern.
Until 1961, Princeton was home to a brewery, the Princeton Brewing Company. Until the 1940s, the brewery kept its beer cool in the Vermilion Cave. The cave, which held up to 20 railway cars at a time, was largely demolished to make way for the Hope-Princeton Highway, part of the Crowsnest Highway (British Columbia Highway 3).
Beginning in the 1980s, Princeton began to revitalize its downtown, a plan that included red brick sidewalks and new streetlights. In the 1990s, they adopted a "heritage" theme, with many businesses converting their exteriors to match architectural styles from roughly a century earlier.
The name Vermilion Forks survives in the name of Vermilion Forks Indian Reserve No. 1, which is immediately adjacent to the town of Princeton, to the east, and is one of the reserves of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, whose head offices are in Hedley.
Princeton is just east of the Cascade mountains, giving the town a rain shadow effect whereby the community receives very little precipitation relative to areas on the windward side of the Cascade mountains. Princeton is one of the sunniest places in British Columbia with 2088 hours of sunshine annually. The 323 days per year with measurable sunshine, defined by having a minimum of 6 minutes of sunshine in a day, is the most in the province, and one of the highest in Canada.
BC Highway 3 (the Crowsnest Highway) bisects the town east-west. It travels east from Vancouver and Hope (British Columbia) and west from Osoyoos in the Okanagan. The section of the highway between Hope and Princeton is often referred to as the Hope-Princeton highway.
BC Highway 5A heads north from town and connects with BC Highway 97C (the Okanagan Connector) about 20 km east of Merritt.
- Mountain Man Mike's Bus Service. Weekly bus service along Highway 3 on Sunday from Vancouver through New Westminster, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Manning Park, Princeton, Keremeos, Osoyoos, Rock Creek, Greenwood, Grand Forks, Christina Lake, Castlegar, Nelson, and Balfour en route to Kaslo. The return trip west goes on Saturday.
There is a small airstrip (CYDC) on the outskirts of town. It has no commercial service, but the 3,932 ft (1,198 m) runway is accessible to private aircraft.
- 1 Princeton Visitor Centre, 105 Highway 3 East, ☏ . 9AM-5PM. Tourist information center with brochures and information on the local area, souvenirs, picnic tables and access to the river.
Princeton is along the Tulameen River, which flows eastwards through the walkable downtown area. It joins the Simalkameen River, which flows eastwards, and forms a southern boundary to the town. BC Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway, runs east and west. It forms a southern border to downtown. Vermilion Ave and Bridge Street form a triangle with Highway 3. Many restaurants and hotels are found here.
Beyond the downtown area, you will benefit from a bike, car, or taxi to reach the rest of the town. Highway 5A, the Princeton-Kamloops Highway, originates from downtown and heads north.
- 1 Princeton and District Museum, 167 Vermilion Ave, ☏ . 10AM-5PM; fall hours: F Sa noon-4PM. The Pollard wing houses one of the most extensive mineral and fossil collections in British Columbia. The museum also contains an extensive collection of documents and artifacts which tell the story of Princeton's historical significance. By donation.
- Kettle Valley Railway hiking, biking and cross-country ski trail. This spectacular portion of the Kettle Valley Railway bed runs through the valley of the Tulameen River, with plenty of birds, flowers, mammals and minerals to view. It is feasible year round. It runs from Princeton or Coalmont, about 18 km. The hike proceeds through the tunnel which goes underneath the ridge which separates the Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers just before they join. This tunnel is over a 1,000 ft (300 m) long. After the tunnel, a bridge takes you to the north shore of the Tulameen River. After about 1½ km, you will see on your right the red ochre cliffs which provided some of the vermilion for the rock paintings and war paint of the Similkameen First Nations, and for the name given the early community of Vermillion Forks. After another kilometre, you can view on your right the fantastic shapes of hoodoos, stone pillars which have been shaped by erosion of wind and water.
- The China Ridge Ski Area on Bear Mountain offers classic cross-country ski trails for all skill levels and are well maintained.
- [dead link] Winking Pedlar, 8 - 136 Tapton Ave, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. Gift shop: natural soaps, jewellery, hand-crafted decor by local artists.
If you are looking for something quick and easy, Princeton has fast-food restaurants like Subway and A&W on Highway 3. Along the downtown streets are sit-down options.
- 1 Cowboy Coffee, 255 Vermillion Ave, ☏ . Su-M 4:30AM-4PM, Tu-Sa 4:30AM-8PM. Coffee shop that features light snacks.
- 2 Little Greek Grill, 117 Bridge St (At Bridge St and Princeton-Kamloops Highway), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 4PM–9:30PM. Features Greek, mediterranean, pasta, and pizza. Previously known as Santo's.
- 3 [formerly dead link] Mikado Japanese Restaurant, 130 Bridge St (same building as Ponderosa Motel), ☏ . M-F 11AM-7:30PM. Specializes in sushi, teriyaki, sashimi, and tempura. $2.25-17 for a sushi roll.
- 4 Thomasina's, 279 Bridge St (across from Cooper's Foods grocery store), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-4PM. Eggs, toast, granola, scones and French toast for breakfast. Paninis/sandwiches, tapas, soups and pasta for lunch. The breads, baked goods and pasta are all made in-house. Breakfast $3-6, lunch $6-14.
- 5 Vermilion Fork, 157 Vermilion Avenue, ☏ . Fine-dining steak, fish, pasta, and burgers. Vegetarian options available. Entrée $14-20.
- 1 Copper Mountain Pub & Restaurant, 110 Bromley Pl (Just off Hwy 3 heading west out of town), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM until late. A large roadhouse establishment with a huge vaulted ceiling and nice view of Princeton. Modest selection of domestic and import beer. Pub menu for lunch and dinner. Offsales available until 11PM.
- 1 [dead link] Canada's Best Value Princeton Inn & Suites, 169 Highway 3 (Between Bridge Street and Burton Ave), ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Outdoor pool, sauna, free continental breakfast. $100-130.
- 2 Cedars Motel, 139 3rd St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Small, 15-unit motel. Features wireless internet, microwave ovens, refrigerators, and air conditioning.
- 3 Evergreen Motel, 250 Highway 3 East, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Has 20 rooms, some with full kitchen. Outdoor pool, Wi-Fi and free breakfast. $68 (single), $78 (double) in high season.
- 4 [dead link] Ponderosa Motel, 130 Bridge St, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. 22 rooms, some with kitchenettes. Indoor pool and hot tub. One-bed room $78, two queen beds $88, family room (3 beds) $129. Weekly and monthly rates are also available.
- 1 Bromley Rock Provincial Park, Highway 3 (east of Princeton on the way to Hedley). This popular swimming hole is a refreshing break on a hot Interior afternoon's drive. Buy a take out meal in Princeton and eat it on the sandy beach along the Similkameen River. In late July and early August, the water is warm and clean. For the brave-hearted, join the locals climbing the rock and diving into the deep pool below. Fishing is good upstream from the picnic area in spring.
|Routes through Princeton|
|Hope ← Manning Provincial Park ←||W E||→ Keremeos → Osoyoos / Penticton via|
|Kamloops ← Merritt ←||N S||→ END|