Two-part series: Chilliwack, British Columbia
We told you all about Canada’s 150th birthday in our summer issue when we had the pleasure of traveling via the Rocky Mountaineer. You can see our first installment of this series about Salt Spring Island here.
Most of us know about Vancouver and Victoria, maybe even Banff, but few of you know about the small gems we’re going to cover here.
Chilliwack sits about 1 ½ hours east of Vancouver, just above the U.S. border near Sumas, Washington. Most Texans haven’t heard of this town (we happen to have family in the area), but there’s a lot to offer here, eh?
If you’re looking to escape the Texas heat and love to be outdoors, you might find your little spot of bliss here. The Vedder River Trail is Chilliwack’s version of our Lady Bird Lake Trail in Austin. In the cool BC weather, you can jog, walk or bike along the river with gorgeous views of the rapids with a mountain backdrop. And, on a hot day (about 88 degrees F in July), you can even go for a swim in the river.
Climb every mountain (cue The Sound of Music soundtrack)! There are a host of hikes you can enjoy in/near Chilliwack. One of our faves is Elk Mountain, which is a heavily wooded trail that takes about 1 ½ hours to reach the summit (the vertical incline is pretty challenging) and about 45 minutes to descend. You’ll love the coolness in the trees and the views of Chilliwack from the first outlook to the summit (there’s a worn Canadian flag at the summit to mark your destination.)
There are plenty of other hikes, such as Mount Cheam (which takes over 1.5 hours to reach by car on fierce logging roads– take a 4-wheel drive), Lindeman Lake Hike that takes about 45 minutes to reach the stunning Lindeman Lake. For Texans, the water here is basically melted glacier ice, so be ready for a cold plunge. And, there’s a really short hike to see the magnificent Bridal Veil Falls, a stories-high waterfall that you can get an up-close view of (we’re not saying to go into the restricted area, but many people do.)
When you’re done with your hike and have worked up an appetite, visit Cookie’s Grill. This simple diner serves a Texas skillet (!!) and an array of breakfast all day long. If you’re there for lunch, try the grilled chicken sandwich with a side of poutine (my favorite Canadian delicacy which is French fries covered in a brown gravy, cheese curds and pork belly.) Kids will love the selection of ice-cream shakes and they might want to pair it with a good ‘ole fashioned burger & fries. Cookie’s Grill has an impressive local following.
Ready for a day of fun at the park? Head over to Cultus Lake Waterpark, Cultus Lake Adventure Park and Cultus Lake Park for swimming and picnicking. Cultus Lake Waterpark is filled with slides of all heights and bravery-levels. What this Texan also loved was dipping into the many hot tubs found throughout the park between rides. If you’re really brave, slide down the Freefall or for a more tame ride, there’s the Rattler. (PRO TIP: During the summer, catch one of their night slide events on a Friday when the park is open 8 pm-midnight; very popular with teens.)
Right across the street is Cultus Lake Adventure Park. This is a small theme park but the rides have a wide span between very junior options for little kids all the way up to the Round-up 360, which swings you on a huge pendulum and eventually suspends you upside down. Of course, you’ll find the obligatory ferris wheel and bumper boats. You do pay additionally for parking ($20 for all day) because the lot sits in a provincial park (the equivalent to our state parks) but the lot is convenient to both parks so you can hit up both in one day.
And, before you leave, go for a dip off the dock/pier at the free Cultus Lake Park next door. You might even want to leave the park midday and have a picnic by the lake and return to one of the theme parks.
A great spot for some evening fun is Tractorgrease—I know it’s a strange name for a restaurant, but fun atmosphere and lively music. The owner is a musician and fully supports the live music scene, offering it nearly every night. If you’re lucky, you can catch one of their Celtic Nights. We danced an Irish jig to the authentic Celtic band, Knacker’s Yard.
So whether you can make it this year to celebrate Canada’s 150 or will plan for next year, beautiful British Columbia is a feast for the outdoor adventurer.