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Best Ever Guide to Kalamalka Lake
Tucked just a little south of Vernon and stretching for thousands of acres of breath-taking natural beauty is Kalamalka Lake. A place that no trip to British Columbia should be considered complete without.
Kalamalka Lake takes its name from two different Indigenous words, the Shuswap word for water and the Okanagan word for soothing or healing.
Its enchanting waters have left visitors spellbound for centuries, with a surrounding parkland that offers unparalleled opportunities for everything from wildlife watching to high-octane cliff diving.
We’re talking, of course, about the famous emerald waters of Kalamalka Lake located in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.
Welcome to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia
Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park sprawls over 9,000 acres of raw natural beauty that is as breath-taking as it is varied.
The terrain ranges from emerald lakes, pristine beaches, and sloping wide-open grasslands to thunderous waterfalls, pine-studded mountains, and sheer cliffs. Carefully maintained trails wind their way through the park, presenting the perfect opportunity for every level of exploration – from a leisurely stroll to trekking and mountain biking.
People come from far and wide to witness the natural bounty of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.
It boasts a staggering 432 identified plant species to date, with opportunities to spot squirrels, snakes, deer, marmots, minks, foxes, coyotes, cougars, bobcats, and even black bears in their natural habitats amongst the Ponderosa pines and Douglas-firs.
During the spring months, the grasslands explode into life with a spectacular display of spring wildflower blooms.
As well as providing refuge for these species, the varied terrain also makes Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park the ideal destination for thrill-seekers and adventurers alike. The lakes and cliffs are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and cliff-diving, while the winter slopes are a notorious destination for cross-country skiers.
The Famous Color-Changing Waters of Kalamalka Lake
The waters of Kalamalka Lake aren’t just your average picture of natural beauty. They’re home to a spectacular natural phenomenon that entices wanderers from all over the world.
Kalamalka Lake is known as a ‘Marl Lake’ – one of just a small handful scattered across Canada. What makes Marl Lakes such a beautiful and mystifying sight is the rich deposits of limestone left in the waters from long-ago receded glaciers.
As Kalamalka Lake heats in the summer sun, the limestone dissolved in the water crystalizes and colors the lake a spellbinding array of blues and greens. Every hue imaginable, from indigo, cyan, turquoise, and even deep emerald-green, brings a feeling of tropical paradise.
Even as the sun recedes in the winter months, the waters of Kalamalka Lake shift back from being a painter’s paradise to their calm state of pure, pale crystal blue.
There is no shortage of pristine beaches lining the shores of Kalamalka Lake. To ensure that you get the most from your visit to the park, we’ve put together a small list of our favorites.
Kaloya Regional Park Beach
Kaloya Regional Park is a 3.7-hectare section of the peninsula that extends its way right into Kalamalka Lake.
With a combination of small sandy coves and ecologically protected wetland habitats, this section of beaches is perfect for sunbathers and birdwatchers alike.
Alongside clear waters ideal for swimming and level hiking trails, Kaloya provides creature comforts in the form of a brand-new children’s playground, gazebos, and washrooms.
Juniper Bay Beach
Just a short stroll from the main parking area for Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park is Juniper Bay Beach.
While convenient and accessible, Juniper Bay remains the perfect spot to avoid the large summertime crowds which are often drawn to Kalamalka Lake’s more notorious beaches. This makes it ideal for a peaceful family picnic on the soft sands beside the prismatic lake and rolling mountain views. It also makes this a prime location for wildlife lovers!
Don’t worry; there are still well-maintained public toilets in amongst all this wildness to ensure you and your family don’t have to go totally feral.
Cosens Bay offers a rich reward for those willing to hike three kilometers from the entrance to Kalamalka Park.
The bay is flanked by grassland trails that provide the perfect vantage point over the soft sands and sprawling turquoise waters.
While only accessible by hike or boat, the seemingly endless stretches of sand are still popular destinations for beachgoers. Luckily, there is plenty of room for everyone! The gradually increasing water depth makes it the ideal swimming location for those with smaller children.
Just a five-minute walk from the entrance to Kalamalka Lake Park is Jade Bay, offering long stretches of gorgeous sand and warm summer waters.
Jade Bay’s spectacular sands are also dotted with an outhouse and a number of picnic tables, making it a great place to settle down for a late afternoon picnic.
The position of Jade Bay also makes it one of the best places to watch the sunset over the majestic peaks backing Kalamalka’s famous emerald waters. Believe us. You truly haven’t seen beauty until you’ve witnessed this unique interplay of colors.
Kalamalka Dog Beaches
For those of you who believe your furry friends should have as much fun on holiday as you do (or those who just love the second-hand thrill of dog-spotting), Kalamalka Lake boasts beaches that are not only gorgeous but dog-friendly too!
Located on the pathway connecting Cosens Bay and Juniper Bay, there is a stony beach that will be full of potential playmates for your four-legged family member – appropriately named Dogs Beach.
Should you prefer your beaches sandy, simply follow the trail to the campground between sites 11 and 12 of Ellison Provincial Park. Once again, you’ll find a beautiful stretch of the bay that you and your pet can enjoy together.
Remember, it is important that you only take your animals to authorized areas in Kalamalka Lake. This is because many of the backcountry areas are home to easily damaged wildlife or even black bears. Luckily, well-kept signage will tell you exactly what you need to know throughout.
Last but not least is arguably the most popular tourist beach destination Kalamalka has to offer.
Three hundred meters of soft, tropical-style sand stretch out before the stunning views of the Okanagan hills and the surrounding crystal lake. Huge poplar trees provide respite from the sun on scorching summer days.
Kal Beach is rich in amenities and activities, with ample picnic tables, well-maintained washrooms, plentiful parking space, a concession stand for snacks and drinks, and even a large court for beach volleyball. As if this wasn’t enough, Rotary Pier extends into the waters of Kalamalka Lake and offers the perfect site for swimming, diving, fishing, or simply topping up that tan.
Kal Beach is also an excellent place for watersports fans, with a surf shop, paddleboard rental, and plentiful boating opportunities. If you prefer your exercise land-based, the surf shop also offers both electric and regular bike rental. Or, if you’d prefer to stay stationary, Alexanders Pub has a beautiful waterfront patio and a well-stocked bar!
However, all of this comes at the price of popularity so if busy beaches aren’t your thing, then you may be better off at one of Kalamalka’s less well-known coves. On the other hand, if you plan to visit during the high season, ensure you get down early to bag yourself a sweet spot!
Hiking Near Kalamalka Lake
The variety in natural beauty and terrain at Kalamalka Lake not only makes it the perfect place for hiking, but it also means there will be something for every difficulty level – from hardcore trekking to gentle family strolls!
We’ve listed a few of our favorite hikes below – or, if you prefer to plan your own way, a comprehensive map of the park’s trails can be found here.
Parabola, Lookout and the Wall Loop Trail
Journey Length: 6.1km, taking an average of 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Description: A well-maintained path will lead you on a loop up and down various levels of elevation to provide breath-taking panoramic views and stunning lookout points. Dogs on leashes are welcome, as are activities such as horseback riding and mountain biking.
Coming Round the Mountain Loop Trail
Journey Length: 8.5km, taking an average of 2 hours and 53 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Description: Experience all the essential thrills of hiking with none of the intimidating difficulty on this gorgeous, varied, and wildlife-rich trail. It catches the sun perfectly in the summer and the majesty of the snow in the winter. Dogs, horses, and mountain bikes are all welcome.
Rattlesnake Point Trail
Journey Length: 2.3km, taking an average of 34 minutes.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Description: A short hike up to the cliffs will provide you with one of the best panoramic viewpoints around Kalamalka Lake. There are also a large number of points where cliff-jumping is popular – although make sure always to follow local restrictions!
You would struggle to find a more ideal place to camp than around Kalamalka. Camping offers the ultimate experience in recentering yourself, immersing yourself in nature, and forgetting the drudgeries of daily life.
While there are many places with beautiful sights available all around the lake, we know you want the best – the following are our favourite Kalamalka Lake campgrounds.
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park Campground
You will find Kekuli Bay situated on the beautiful west side of Kalamalka Lake. This newly developed campground has been cleverly pre-planted with trees that have been matured over the past decade to provide privacy and shade to campers.
There is a gorgeous view of the lake, and stunning wildflower blooms here during the spring months.
This is also the destination to head to if you’re a fan of water sports like waterskiing or boating.
The campgrounds boast the following list of amenities: a boat launch, disabled-accessible facilities, campfires, drinking water, electrical hookups, picnic areas, toilets, a playground, showers, and vehicle-accessible camping for those who have RVs.
A natural creek runs directly through the campground, while the location of the grounds themselves could not be more perfect for visitors wanting to make the most of their time at Kalamalka Lake. You will be camped a mere five-minute walk from Kal Beach, The Okanagan Trail, Alexanders Beach Pub, and The Kal Surf Shop.
The on-site amenities include free hot showers, an on-site laundry facility, free Wi-Fi, free 9-hole Mini Golf, and a propane fire pit rental. If you need anything else, the campgrounds are close enough to the city to eliminate worries about groceries or extra supplies.
Private Camping Spots Near Kalamalka Lake
If you prefer to avoid large campsites or really get yourself in amongst nature, there is a vast range of private spots around Kalamalka.
There truly is the perfect spot for whatever your preferences may be, and you find the listings here.
Kalamalka Lake Vacation Rentals
With its plentiful shorelines and non-stop gorgeous views, there is no shortage of excellent properties available for rent around Lake Kalamalka to ensure you stay in cozy comfort and style.
We’ve done the hard searching, and provided this list of our favorite Airbnb rentals around Lake Kalamalka – we’ve included many different types of considerations, so every adventurer can find something that suits their desires.
The Lakehouse at Kalamalka Guest Limit: 10 Beds: 5 Bathrooms: 2 Key Amenities: Beach access, indoor fireplace, yards, a hot tub, full laundry, and kitchen facilities, as well as free parking. Pets Allowed: No
Chad’s 5500 sq. ft Lake House Guest Limit: 16 Beds: 10 Bathrooms: 4.5 Key Amenities: Huge deck with breath-taking views, rec room with a Ping Pong Table, lakeside dock with hydraulic boat lift, and lakeside-specific amenities. Pets Allowed: No
Sandy Feet Retreat by Okanagan Lake Guest Limit: 2 Beds: 1 Bathrooms: 1 Key Amenities: Full amenities perfect for couple’s getaways, large outside deck and day bed, centrally located with the owners nearby and happy to provide helpful local knowledge. Pets Allowed: No
Kalamalka Lakeview Paradise Guest Limit: 8 Beds: 6 Bathrooms: 2 Key Amenities: Comprehensive 3-bedroom home set up to host two families, public beach and boat launch access, two bikes included, and full garage use. Pets Allowed: No
In our opinion, the best way to enjoy the world-famous crystal colorations of Kalamalka Lake is to be in amongst it, surrounded by it and floating peacefully on top of it.
Luckily there are plenty of places around Kalamalka Lake where you can bring and launch your own boat!
Many of the lakefront rental properties and campgrounds will also provide boat launches for their customers – but in case you’re without facilities, these are our top three choices for boat launch locations:
Kalavista Park provides comprehensive facilities and free parking if you are visiting before the May long weekend.
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park offers a boat launch on the Western side of Kalamalka Lake with free year-round parking.
Kinloch Drive and Westkal Road Launches these two locations are ideal if you simply want a place to launch your small, non-motorized boat, such as a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Larger vessels are not allowed.
With so many incredible watersports and lakeside activities available, the chances are you haven’t managed to bring the appropriate gear for all of them. Luckily, Kalamalka Lake local businesses have you covered.
If you are looking to take you and your family or friends out kayaking on Kalamalka’s pristine waters, look no further than Ed’s Mobile Kayak Rental.
Ed’s bespoke service will deliver you a comprehensive kayaking kit for as many people as you need anywhere around Kalamalka Lake. Not only are the kayaks always in tip-top condition, but he also goes the extra mile in providing extra goodies like snacks and waterproof containers for your gadgets and valuables.
Should you require equipment for any other lakeside activities, the chances are that Kalavida Surf Shop will have what you need. They have an extensive range of boards, boats, electrical and regular bikes, as well as accessories and soft goods in stock. If you’re just a beginner, they also offer helpful guidance for finding your water legs.
Okanagan Rail Trail
We know we’ve covered a number of Kalamalka Lake’s gorgeous trails already, but we thought that Okanagan Rail Trail was special enough to deserve its very own section.
In total, the Rail Trail is a 52 kilometer stretch of trail that will guarantee you one of the closest encounters with nature available throughout the parks. However, should the distance put you off, don’t worry. You can join and leave the trail at several key points along it to tailor your experience to your desired exertion level.
The full trail includes stretches of beautiful Kalamalka shore, similar sandy expanses at Wood Lake, as well as spirited urban sections around Kelowna. While you can do all of these, it is important to note that the continuous trail is still being developed, and there will be space between the sections.
As well as connecting various communities, the trail features 43 different recreational and cultural points of interest. These range from Interpretive Sites, which have been specially tailored to provide an educational experience, to historical sites and even a four-season playground.
Kalamalka Lake continues its commitment to natural bounty beneath its very waters, with various spots famed for the trophy-sized potential catches.
While there are countless places to try your hand catching the next record-sized Rainbow Trout or Kokanee, we know of three sites, in particular, that will give you the best chance at avoiding the one that got away.
The first location will be provided by Rodney’s Reel Outdoors, a serious Okanagan sportfishing company that offers guided fishing charters on Kalamalka Lake. They really know their stuff and use their expertise to focus on areas where potentially record-breaking trophy-sized Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Kokanee can be found.
Rodney’s Real Outdoors can provide every piece of tackle, bait, and safety equipment you could possibly need – with an optional lunch box for $25 for those dedicated all-day anglers.
If you prefer to handle your fishing expertise yourself, we recommend heading to either the large shoal area on the lake’s south end or the east side of the lake near the rocky walls. If you really want an edge out there, we would suggest using grasshoppers as bait – but shh, you didn’t hear it from us!
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.