I hadn’t crossed the border into BC for over two years. Eager to return and explore the province, I planned a road trip to Kelowna: a new-to-me destination known for its wine, sunshine, and lakeside leisure. But there’s more to Kelowna than wine country vacations — it’s also home to a thriving beer scene.
As co-author of the guidebook, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest, pairing hikes with nearby breweries is my travel style. So I set out to find the finest beer hikes in the Okanagan Valley along the Kelowna and West Kelowna Ale Trail.
Beginning in Bellingham, I crossed the US-Canada border at Sumas and headed east through Hope. My first stop was Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area — a transition zone between coastal BC and the dry, southern interior. Impressive granite peaks rise above the highway here, tempting hikers with roadside views. I gave in to the call of the mountains, pulling off at Falls Lake trailhead.
Falls Lake Trail — 2km round trip, 60m elevation gain
The short, sweet Falls Lake Trail offers a perfect spot to stretch your legs on the way to Kelowna from southwestern BC. I cruised along the 1km trail out to the lake, where I was surprised to find solitude and a couple of nice backpacking sites. Note to self: come back here in the summer for an overnight!
Mount Boucherie — 3km round trip, 200m elevation gain
Arriving in West Kelowna for the first time, I needed an introduction to the local topography. There’s no better place to survey the lay of the land than from Mount Boucherie. I began from the Eain Lamont Community Park trailhead for a steep and rocky climb. This is a choose-your-own-adventure hike. Multiple trails lead up the mountainside, with little in the way of signage to direct you. I picked my way up to the summit, where I was rewarded with sweeping views of Okanagan Lake and raptors soaring overhead.
The Boucherie Rush Trail can also be accessed at 2775 East Boundary Rd, West Kelowna.
Just 2.5km away from the base of Mount Boucherie, Lakesider Brewing awaits. This brewery is all about community and embraces a carefree, lakeside lifestyle. I stopped by during happy hour (Monday thru Thursday, 2 pm – 6 pm) for a bite and to meet with co-owner Kieren Armour.
Kieren and his wife, Gale, opened Lakesider in April 2021. Their vision for an inclusive brewpub in Okanagan wine country comes in the form of great food, approachable beers, and a family-friendly space. Weekly live music and special events like Oktoberfest bring the community together at Lakesider. Kelowna is often thought of as a summer vacation destination, but Lakesider was full of locals on a weeknight.
I ordered sweet corn and roasted poblano quesadillas, paired with a flight of beers. The food menu is diverse — ranging from street tacos and small plates to pizza — with gluten-free and vegetarian options. Kieren recommends the Brie & Apple Pizza. I’ll have to try it next time because the quesadillas were quite filling (and even came with a side salad).
The beer lineup ranges from light to dark, with an emphasis on easy-drinking, sessionable styles. Most Lakesider brews come in under 5-6% ABV — an attractive range for warm weather sipping. I tried everything from a lager and saison to a hazy pale and pomegranate rose petal sour. All were great examples of their respective styles, and refreshingly low-alcohol. The sour was especially approachable for those who are sour curious.
Lakesider’s dog-friendly, heated patio makes it a year-round destination in West Kelowna.
After Lakesider, I crossed the floating bridge into Kelowna and crashed at the centrally-located Coast Capri Hotel. Close to downtown, the Coast Capri makes a convenient basecamp for exploring Kelowna’s trails and ales.
The next morning I fueled up at Okanagan Street Food before another hike. Near the base of Knox Mountain, “Kelowna’s best little secret” is the perfect pre- or post-hike foodie stop. I ordered a massive breakfast burrito and chose from dozens of hot sauces to spice it up.
Knox Mountain Park – Apex Trail — 4km round trip, 260m elevation gain
For an urban hiking experience, it doesn’t get much better than Knox Mountain. Rising from the edge of downtown Kelowna, this lakeside mountain park features a network of well-signed and maintained trails overlooking the city.
I took the popular Apex Trail, which begins as a fence-lined path with a moderate grade. The trail rises through exposed, scruffy grasslands with occasional shade. You can hike as far as you like, turning around at one of the lookouts offering endless views over the city and lake. This trail surprised me with its ease of access and excellent effort-to-payoff ratio. Plus, it’s just minutes away from Kelowna’s North End breweries.
Everyone told me, “You have to go to Jackknife.” Locals described it as “punk rock” and “metal,” boasting some of the best beer and pizza in town. So naturally, I went and ordered the weirdest beer on the menu: a Nordic Gin Ale. When I asked my bartender about the name, he explained that most Jackknife beers are made with Kviek yeast strains — traditionally used by northern European farmhouse brewers. And while there’s no gin in this beer, it’s made with local juniper bows for a gin-like botanical experience.
Jackknife’s beers are soft on the palate, yet full-flavoured. The beer menu is indeed weird (in the best way) and ever-changing, so do yourself a favour and try something new. Most people were hanging out in the beer garden eating pizza. I joined by ordering my own thin-crust Margherita and was not disappointed. Check out Jackknife’s events schedule for a list of upcoming punk and metal shows at the brewery.
Next door to Jackknife is Kettle River Brewing, Kelowna’s “craft beer garage.” The brewery opened in 2016 as Kelowna’s first North End microbrewery. Brad Tomlinson was the head brewer here before leaving to start Jackknife. But he didn’t go far, and the two breweries operating side-by-side are a great example of Kelowna’s highly collaborative beer scene. When you’re in the North End, you’ve gotta visit both breweries.
Family-friendly and dog-friendly, Kettle River offers a cozy indoor space and an attractive beer garden. The tap list changes regularly here, with a lager, sour, saison, and IPAs available during my visit. A range of core beers are available in colourful cans, designed by co-owner Chris Dedinsky (you’ll notice Chris’ graphic design throughout the taproom). Food is available from the onsite Provisions Kitchen, serving seasonal, elevated pub grub. I enjoyed chatting with the friendly staff at Kettle River so much that I failed to take any tasting notes. Guess I’ll have to go back!
My final Kelowna beer stop also came highly recommended. Operating a new tasting room in industrial North Kelowna, Wild Ambition is known for its mixed fermentation ales. I didn’t have nearly enough time to taste all the offerings here, but what I did try was intriguing.
I started with an approachable table beer before sampling Kelowner Weisse, a low-alcohol Berlin-style sour. Wild Ambition produces complex barrel-aged sours for fans of the style using local fruit and ingredients. Don’t sleep on this creative brewery — it’s well worth the drive.
Kelowna Beer Week — October 1-8
The celebrations and festivities will focus on one particular brewery or neighbourhood each day:
- Oct. 1: Rustic Reel Brewing (North End)
- Oct. 2: Railside Brewing, The Office Brewing, Unleashed Brewing, Welton Arms (Clement)
- Oct. 2: Red Bird (North End)
- Oct. 3: Jackknife Brewing (North End) *closed to the public*
- Oct. 4: Freddy’s Brewpub, Kelowna Brewing Co., Wild Ambition Brewing (Uptown)
- Oct. 5: Barn Owl Brewing, Copper Brewing, Shore Line Brewing (South Kelowna)
- Oct. 6: The Hatching Post, Kind Brewing, Lakesider Brewing (West Kelowna)
- Oct. 7: BNA Brewing, Jackknife Brewing, Kettle River Brewing, Kelowna Beer Institute, Red Bird Brewing, Rustic Reel Brewing, Vice & Virtue Brewing (Downtown/North End)
- Oct. 8: BNA Brewing (Downtown) *Wrap up mini beer festival event*