The Similkameen Valley (or simply, the Similkameen) lies in the southern part of the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. The towns and villages are few and small, but there's some big scenery, particularly in the provincial parks. The eastern end of the valley is similar to the nearby Okanagan and is a great place to stop and get fresh fruit in the summer and early fall.
- 1 Cawston — a base for doing wine tours
- 2 Keremeos — central to the wineries and orchards in the region, and gateway to the Okanagan
- 3 Princeton — old mining town with some nice murals
- 1 Manning Provincial Park — hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter
- 2 Cathedral Provincial Park — off the beaten path, but the hikes and scenery make it worthwhile
The Similkameen was one of the first areas of the province prospected as well as farmed and ranched. It had several famous gold strikes and large mining operations, notably the Tulameen Gold Rush of the 1880s and 1890s and the Nickel Plate Mine at Hedley. Coal was mined at Blakeburn and Coalmont, and copper at Allenby and Copper Mountain, all in the vicinity of Princeton.
Orcharding and ranching are important to the Similkameen Country. Orcharding and ranching operations in the Keremeos was started by Bohemian immigrant Francis Xavier Richter in 1864. Richter's original 30 acres (120,000 m²) of fruit trees at Keremeos Centre are considered to be one of the two foundations of BC's orcharding industry. There is now a burgeoning wine industry and a boom in sunbelt-oriented recreation housing and property development.
The Similkameen Country is mostly in the traditional territory of the Similkameen subdivision of the Okanagan people or Syilx. There are two First Nations bands in the region, the Upper Similkameen Indian Band at Princeton and the Lower Similkameen Indian Band at Keremeos. The upper reaches of the Similkameen and its upper tributaries such as the Tulameen and Pasayten Rivers, however, were part of the traditional territory of the Nlaka'pamux and their subgroup the Scw'exmx.
BC Highway 3 (the Crowsnest Highway) is the main road in and out of the region, connecting it with the Okanagan Valley to the east and Vancouver via Hwy 1 at Hope to the west. BC Highway 3A, at Keremeos, provides an alternate and shorter way of reaching the Okanagan. BC Highway 5A, at Princeton, connects the region to Merritt and Kamloops in the Thompson-Nicola.
- Mountain Man Mike's Bus Service. Weekly bus service along Highway 3 on Sunday to Keremeos and Princeton from Vancouver through New Westminster, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Manning Park, Osoyoos, Rock Creek, Greenwood, Grand Forks, Christina Lake, Castlegar, Nelson, and Balfour en route to Kaslo. The return trip west goes on Saturday.
The provincial highways in the Similkameen are the main means of getting around. Highway 3 is the main road and has fairly frequent passing lanes and 4-lane sections. Once you're off the highways, the roads are often gravel, or if they are paved, it will be narrow and windy. Having your own car is the easiest way to get around, and the only way, if you want to get off Highway 3. The Greyhound bus is a useable, although not necessarily convenient, way to get to the main centers of the region.
- Take in the mountain scenery in Manning Provincial Park and Cathedral Provincial Park
- There are some small museums focusing on local history in Princeton, Keremeos and Hedley
- There are lots of hiking options in Manning Provincial Park and Cathedral Provincial Park
- Cycle or hike along the Kettle Valley Railway — the trains are gone, but the railbed remains and has been turned into a multi-purpose trail
- Enjoy the chill of the Similkameen River in summer at Bromley Rock, near Princeton
- Cross-country ski at Manning Provincial Park in winter
The eastern end of the valley has many orchards and fruit stands, particularly around Keremeos. Stop by in summer and early fall to taste some of the local produce.
Highway 3A is the gateway to the central Okanagan. From Keremeos, it is roughly a half-hour drive to Penticton and 75 minutes to Kelowna. Remaining on Highway 3 (eastwards) takes you to Osoyoos and the south Okanagan, which has many more wineries and orchards. Further along Highway 3 is the Kootenays.