Christina Lake, British Columbia is a true hidden gem of the British Columbia interior.
It’s not as well-known as Okanagan Lake. It’s not as packed with Albertans as Shuswap Lake.
But Christina Lake has plenty of things to like.
First and most importantly, not as crowded as the Okanagan and Shuswap. High school dropouts with red plates on their F-350s won’t run you off the road. You don’t have to drive Highway 1 to get there.
Oh, and Christina Lake is one of the warmest lakes in Canada. In fact, it claims to be “the warmest tree-lined lake in Canada”, although I’ve never really figured out what that means.
I’ve spent at least part of every summer of my life at Christina Lake.
Here are the must-see things I recommend doing if you have a few days – or just an afternoon – at Christina Lake.
Go to the Public Beach at Christina Lake Provincial Park
If you don’t have a friend with a lakefront property (lol loser), then I recommend visiting the public beach at Christina Lake Provincial Park.
It’s free. There’s a huge beach with plenty of room to swim, play volleyball, build sand castles, and do other beach shit. There are picnic tables.
You also get a sick view of Christina Lake. you’re looking at the lake from the south and staring up at the north end. you’ll see this view in a lot of Instagram photos.
Hike or Bike the Kettle Valley Railway Above Christina Lake
The Kettle Valley Railway, or KVR, was a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It linked communities in the Kootenays with the rest of Canada’s rail network.
Building the railway through the mountains of BC was hard work. Workers – many of them Chinese immigrants – blasted through rock up and down valleys to reach isolated places like Christina Lake.
Despite all of that hard work, the Kettle Valley Railway only ran for about 50 years: the first train launched in 1915. By 1961, portions of the track were already being abandoned.
Fortunately, we’ve made the most of the abandoned railway. The ties have been dug up and removed. Today, you can walk or bike from Hope to the Okanagan and the Kootenays.
The KVR passes high above Christina Lake, giving you some of the best views in the region.
Whether you’re walking or biking, here are some of the best ways to access the railway and get some amazing views of Christina Lake:
Easy Santa Rosa Road Hike: Drive up Santa Rosa Road and park at the sand/gravel parking lot (it’s the empty space right before the road goes through a big hairpin turn, and about 300m before the road turns to gravel). You can walk south to get to the trestle or walk north to get to two viewpoints above Christina Lake. It’s a gradual incline (going north) and an easy, well-maintained walking trail
Fife Hike: Drive up Fife Road and park at the railway. The road goes steeply uphill until reaching a clearing with a pasture/orchard. Walk north on the rail trail for 30 minutes to get one of the best views of Christina Lake.
Walk or Bike the Loop: You can combine the two hikes to make a full loop. I do this on my bike all the time. You can bike up Fife (which is very steep and hard) and cruise down the rail trail until you reach Santa Rosa Road. Or, you can bike up Santa Rosa Road (medium difficulty and grade), then bike north up the rail trail towards Fife Road, then bike down Fife Road.
Hike or Bike the Trestles
There are two large trestles near Christina Lake. These trestles were built in the early 1900s for the Kettle Valley Railway.
In the mid 2000s, a team of British military engineers camped near the trestles and reinforced them. Instead of having to jump between individual rail ties to get across like I had to do when I was younger, you can now smoothly ride across with full railings on either side.
The first trestle crosses the Kettle River just before it enters the United States.
The second trestle crosses the much narrower Granby River just before it enters the Kettle River. During spring, this canyon is buzzing with water. The trestle is just a few minutes from Cascade Falls, which we’ll talk about next.
Check Out Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls is a beautiful waterfall located near the second trestle of the Kettle Valley Railway.
There are two ways to get to Cascade Falls:
Park at the second trestle. When driving towards Christina Lake from Grand Forks, look for the “Welcome to Christina Lake” sign on the right-hand side of the road. Pull in, then drive down the short dirt road to reach a small parking lot (you can also park near the sign). Walk over the trestle and continue down the railway until you see a path leading off into the bushes. This is the path to Cascade Falls.
Pull off Highway 3 and drive towards the United States border / golf course. After you pass the bridge, pull over on the right-hand side of the road. You’ll see a pathway leading up the hill into the woods. Follow this pathway to reach Cascade Falls.
If you’re already doing a tour of the trestles (walking or biking), then it’s easy to add Cascade Falls to your itinerary.
Go for a Longer Hike
You’re surrounded by mountains everywhere in the West Kootenays, and Christina Lake is no exception. Get amazing views of the lake by going for a hike.
We talked about the Kettle Valley Railway and trestles up above. But there are plenty of other hikes to enjoy:
Green Tunnel Trail: An epic hike that takes you through the mountains above the lake. You park at the top of Santa Rosa Road and end up at the top of Fife Road. It’s a “green tunnel” because you’re cruising through the trees the whole time. It’s not great for views, but it’s a lot of fun.
Deer Point Trail: Deer Point Trail takes you to the north end of Christina Lake. You can go halfway and loop back (before the lengthy downhill stretch). Or, you can go all the way to the north end and have a friend pick you up in a boat. Or hey, you can do the whole there thing and back. Up to you.
Seven Summits Trail: Seven Summits Trail is one of the top hikes in the Rossland area. It takes you through some of the most beautiful mountain country you’ll ever see. Hike or bike it. Bring bear spray.
Old Glory Hike: Looking for an epic, longer hike? The hike to the summit of Old Glory is a local bucket list item. As far as I’m concerned, Old Glory is right up there with the Matterhorn and Mount Fuji in terms of “uniquely beautiful mountains” – but I’m definitely biased.
Observation Mountain in Grand Forks: Grand Forks is 15 minutes down the highway from Christina Lake. Observation Mountain is in the center of town, and it’s a short but steep 45-minute hike to the top. You get a great view over town.
Eat at Kool Treat
Kool Treat is a Christina Lake tradition. It’s always busy in the summer.
They serve ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, fries, poutine, and other food.
When I eat at Kool Treat, I’ll get:
- The Pulled pork poutine, which is absolutely amazing.
- “The Messinator”, which is an absolutely ridiculous burger consisting of two grilled cheese patties surrounding two burger patties. If you eat this every week, you’ll have a jammer by the end of the summer.
- A screamer, which is a combination of a slushie (slurpee) and soft ice cream
They also have plenty of ice cream flavours and great milkshakes if you want a more traditional ice cream shop experience.
Kool Treat is only open during the summer, so if you’re driving through Christina Lake in the offseason, then you’re gonna miss it.
Eat at the Ice Creamery
The Ice Creamery is located at the other end of town from Kool Treat. It’s a great ice cream place. There are plenty of flavors and great milkshakes.
I like the vibe at the Ice Creamery. It has the 1950s/1960s vibe you’d expect from a soda shop. There’s a jukebox. I’m not even sure if this décor is intentional: I think the Ice Creamery just hasn’t been updated since the 1960s.
Christina Lake has two great golf courses. There’s a low-key par three course with nine holes. There’s also a proper 18-hole course.
Visit Christina Lake Golf Club to play either course. Green fees are reasonable, especially for the par three course.
The clubhouse has a pretty good restaurant too. Enjoy the 19th hole with a view over the golf course, some cold BC beer (they had Fernie Brewing Co. on tap last time I visited), and a great meal.
Watersports on the Lake
Christina Lake is stupidly warm in the summer. In July and August, the lake is almost a bathtub: it’s like lukewarm.
This makes Christina Lake ideal for swimming and watersports. Rent a boat. Or, better yet, find a friend with a boat. Go wakeboarding, wakesurfing, or tubing.
You can rent a boat and outdoor gear rentals at Christina Lake Marina.
Where to Stay at Christina Lake
Christina Lake has plenty of Airbnbs, VRBOs, and short-term vacation rentals.
There are also full-service RV sites and campsites.
Or, you can stay in a hotel.
Other Travel Tips for Christina Lake
Bike Repairs, Gear Rentals, and Shopping at Wild Ways: Need bike repairs? Need to rent a kayak or standup paddleboard? Want to join a local bike ride or ski trip? Wild Ways is the place to go. I have never taken my bike anywhere but Wild Ways for repairs. They’re great. The shop is also fully stocked with bathing suits, bike gear, new bikes, and more.
Order Pizza with Portly Penguin Pizza: Portly Penguin Pizza launched a few years ago and has been a hit ever since. They make surprisingly great pizza. A single pizza is enough for a big guy like me (they’re pretty small), but Portly Penguin’s three-for-one deals are ideal for entertaining in the summer. Oh, and Portly Penguin will literally deliver pizza to the beach.
Go Horseback Riding: Christina Lake has its own horseback riding outfit called Owl Mountain Ranch. I’ve never done it, but the ranch is right by the US/Canada border. You take a guided horse tour along the trestles and Kettle Valley Railway. If you’re looking for something touristy to do, then I’ve heard good things about Owl Mountain Ranch.
Go to Red Mountain to Ski: Red Mountain is about 45 minutes away from Christina Lake. Growing up, Red Mountain was my local hill. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how lucky I was. If you’re in or around Christina Lake in the winter or spring, then I recommend going skiing at Red Mountain.
Visit Rossland: Rossland is worth a visit. It’s a historical mining town with plenty of touristy infrastructure. Check out the brewery for its award-winning beer. Go for a tour of the old mine. The drive from Christina Lake to Rossland is beautiful at any time of year.
Visit The Colander in Trail: Trail is beautiful. It’s not touristy. It is my hometown, so I have to list it here. If you’re driving through Trail or in Rossland for the night, then I recommend checking out The Colander in Trail.
Final Word: Christina Lake is Worth a Visit
I almost don’t want to publish this article because I prefer Christina Lake as its lowkey self. There aren’t the same crowds as Shuswap or the Okanagan.
However, “Xtina Lake” is well worth a visit. Rent a lakefront house for a week in the summer. You’re guaranteed to make memories that will last forever.