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Mountain magic: 10 ways Revelstoke rocks

Hikers walk the short of an alpine lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Hikers walk along an alpine lake in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

For those who love mountains and the outdoors, Revelstoke is hard to beat

Posted by Rob Klovance

Cathy Meacock followed her boyfriend to Revelstoke a decade ago, discovered the amazing skiing and hiking, and landed a job at BC Hydro's Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre. She has no plans to leave.

Will Kirkness left the Alberta oilpatch to return to the mountains, worked for awhile at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and eventually got a position with BC Hydro at Mica Dam, a 90-minute drive from Revelstoke. Despite a challenging schedule in which his work at Mica means he must live at a remote townsite for workers for 10-day stretches before returning to Revelstoke for four-day breaks, he has no plans to leave either.

"It's paradise for me," says Kirkness, who's originally from B.C.'s Lower Mainland. "Revelstoke has lots to offer — it's a great place to do anything you want, really."

That Revelstoke can be a great place to live is no longer a secret — the fact that housing prices can sometimes rival those in Vancouver is evidence of that. But even if you can't afford to live there, make plans to play there.

With help from Meacock and Kirkness, here's a look at 10 ways Revelstoke rocks.

1. Mount Revelstoke National Park hiking

Not everyone has the experience or the time to take on what is a fairly gruelling trek up Mount Begbie. But there are myriad more accessible hikes around Revelstoke, and in the mind of BC Hydro's Meacock, few can match the trails at Mount Revelstoke National Park.

"You can drive right up to where you're in the alpine," she says. "For people who aren't really hikers, when would you get a chance to be in the alpine? You can just do a nice walk at the top, not too strenuous."

2. Camping

There are at least four provincial parks within 50 kilometres of Revelstoke, plus amazing Glacier National Park a mere 65 km east of Revelstoke.

Somewhat overlooked are the various campsites along Lake Revelstoke, the narrow and scenic reservoir that runs 130 km north from Revelstoke Dam to Mica Dam. Most of the camping is within a 30-minute drive of town, including Martha Creek Provincial Park and several beautifully located (and free) forest service sites along Highway 23 north.

View from tightrope trail at Mt. McPherson mountain bike trails in Revelstoke.
Mountain biker stops for a break and a view across the valley from the Tightrope trail, part of the Mount McPherson trail network just outside Revelstoke.

3. Mount McPherson mountain bike trails

Revelstoke has fallen hard for mountain biking. You need a whole lot of passionate volunteers to build the kind of trail network available at Mount McPherson, which is about a 15-minute drive southwest of Revelstoke on Highway 23 South.

There are some beginner trails in this network, but the emphasis — as is the case with the local ski resort — is on those who are fit and experienced in handling climbs, roots and the occasional narrow bridge crossing over a creek.

There's a fabulous high-speed downhill with bermed corners called Flowdown, but you'll earn that payoff with a gut-busting climb — albeit much of it through twisty-turny intermediate trails from one of the network's park-and-ride trailheads.

Some of the views are sublime, including the vista from Tightrope across the valley to Revelstoke Mountain Resort's ski runs. And there are plenty of challenges for the full-suspension, long-travel folk, too.

Wasabi wit the salad at The Village Idiot Bar and Grill in Revelstoke
Digging into a Wasabi Wit You Salad and locally-brewed Mount Begbie Nasty Habit IPA at Revelstoke's popular The Village Idiot Bar and Grill.

4. The Village Idiot Bar & Grill

There's a pretty impressive mix of places to eat in Revelstoke, from the more upscale Woolsey Creek Café (bison short ribs!) to The Taco Hut, a pink truck that's a local favourite. But it's hard to beat The Village Idiot's off-beat atmosphere, fabulous deck and a varied menu that includes the killer Wasabi Wit You Salad, a hefty serving of greens and quinoa that includes crisp wontons and chow mein noodles, topped by albacore tuna and a perfect, spicy wasabi aioli. Yum.

Skier in trees and powder at Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Skier finds plenty of powder in the trees at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which boasts the highest vertical of any ski resort in North America.

5. Revelstoke Mountain Resort (skiing)

You probably don't want to try to learn to ski on this mountain, which boasts the highest ski resort vertical in North America and is mostly about thrilling, challenging black runs. There are some groomed runs, but take a look at the trail map and you won't see a lot of greens in the mix.

Thrillers such as Snow Rodeo/Gully/Clyde's Secret are among the best in B.C., and it's not unusual to find powder on the mountain three days after the snow stops falling. "So many people go to North Bowl — you'll see all these people going over there when you get to the top," says BC Hydro's Meacock. "It's a bowl, there's powder and it's wonderful. But South Bowl is my favourite, when it's open."

View from top of Revelstoke Dam shows penstocks and parking lot for the Dam Visitor Centre.
View from top of Revelstoke Dam, which is part of the Visitor Centre experience.

6. Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre

Don't just take our word for it. TripAdvisor gives it a 4.5 rating out of 5 and you can read how one recent visitor was blown away by his visit to the BC Hydro dam, which is only a few minutes drive off the Trans Canada Highway. It's not just a history lesson on the wonders of hydroelectricity — it's an in-your-face look at a huge dam, from inside it and from on top of it.

Mountain biker rides trail through field of wildflowers at Keystone near Revelstoke
Mountain biker makes his way along path through field of wildflowers at Keystone Standard Basin, accessed off Highway 63 north of Revelstoke.

7. Epic mountain bike rides

Few of us ever get a chance to bike on singletrack in the high alpine, but Revelstoke offers two fantastic areas for just that. The Frisby Ridge area is closest to the town and less technical than Keystone Standard Basin, which can be found up a logging road midway along Highway 63 north between Revelstoke and Mica dams.

Frisby Ridge is a 25-kilometre, 3-to-5-hour out-and-back that starts with a 10.5-kilometre climb and finishes with a thrilling descent that includes some very fast sections. To get an idea of how cool a place Frisby is, consider this essential piece of visitor info: Frisby Ridge closes for a short period in early summer — usually until July 15 — during the start of caribou season.

And then there's Keystone: "You ride a long ridgeline with beautiful views, alpine bowls, incredible trails," says BC Hydro's Kirkness. "People from all over are hearing about these trails and coming here to ride them."

Skier makes fresh tracks during heli-skiing in the Revelstoke area.
Heli-skier makes fresh tracks near Revelstoke.

8. Heli-skiing

The powder at Revelstoke is enough to keep most people happy through the winter. But if you're one of those people who longs for untracked powder and not a chairlift in sight, the Revelstoke area offers no fewer than seven heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations. Some of the adventures are bucket-list material, including Mica Heli-skiing's 3-to-7 day packages that include helicopter transport to a high mountain lodge overlooking the Kinbasket Reservoir.

Exterior shot of The Cube boutique hostel in Revelstoke
The unique Cube Hotel in Revelstoke offers more than just a Mondrian-inspired exterior. It's a fun, budget-oriented option with a premium on meeting fellow travellers in the communal kitchen and dining room.

9. The Cube Hotel

Not all the best hotels are the most luxurious, have the best views or even have a pool. There's a reason Revelstoke's Cube Hotel, a former lumber supply warehouse converted into a Mondrian-esque cube, has become such a hit with travellers.

It's a budget-minded visitor's dream, with rates as low as $32 a night for a dorm room or $88 a night for a private room with two double beds. The charm of the place isn't in the rooms, which are clean but basic, it's in the hostel-like opportunities it presents. While all rooms come with a bathroom, most don't have a shower — you need to use the ones located outside the rooms.

The magic is in the mixing, with a spacious kitchen and communal dining room area that puts a premium on getting to know other travellers. No pool? All guests get a free pass to the Revelstoke Aquatic Centre. Brilliant.

Shot from lookout at Mount Revelstoke National Park over Revelstoke to Mount Begbie
From lookout at Mount Revelstoke, the town of Revelstoke and the backdrop of Mount Begbie.

10. Mount Begbie (the view, the hike and the brewery)

It's no surprise that the brew on tap at BC Hydro's Mica Creek worksite is from Mount Begbie Brewery. Why would you pour a mainstream lager when the local stuff is as good as Nasty Habit IPA, High Country Kölsch or Powerhouse Pale Ale?

Inspiring Revelstoke's local beer is the mountain itself, which looms large over Revelstoke and which stands 2,733 metres high. BC Hydro's Kirkness raves about the summer hike up to the glacier on Mount Begbie, but it's not an easy one— the Mount Begbie Summit Trail covers about 2,000 metres of elevation gain and is for experienced hikers only.