Vacations & climbing in Skaha

Here is how to enjoy a climbing vacation in Skaha: Get up, drive 5 min to the crag, walk anywhere form 10 min to my fav wall, climb, drive back to the campsite, drink wine, walk 2 min to the beach, swim/read, go back to campsite and drink wine, cook dinner, drink wine, go to bed, repeat :)  And a new one for me this trip: lead my first 5.10a outdoors! (and an onsight at that)

Anchors on Redtail Lower and you can just see Penticton and Lake Okanagan behind the bluff

My husband pointed out a few days after our most recent Skaha trip that Penticton (the town Skaha is beside) was voted one of the top 10 places in the world.  I can’t say I’m surprised though I’m a little miffed my secret is out.  You see, every year I make an annual pilgrimage to Skaha with friends and it’s probably the closest thing to my version of a Caribbean all-inclusive.  The weather is always warm, there’s almost never any rain, the beaches are beautiful with warm clear water and there are VINEYARDS!  And all of this is in addition to climbing, biking, hiking and even skiing in the winter.

The new signs that are now up and thankfully keep me from getting too lost.

Basic Skaha facts:

  1. Where to stay:for me it’s a given to stay at the Skaha Tent and Trailer Park because I’m a 5 min drive to Skaha and a 2 min walk to the beach.  The campsite is run by a wonderful family, has clean hot showers and thankfully the tenting area is separate from the RV’s.  Not so nice is the fact it is close to the road but earplugs will fix that!<No picture to add of the campsite – but if I had one it would be of my trusty tent, “Old Betsy”.  She was on sale for $30 at Canadian Tire and for that price, why not buy an 8 person tent? Despite a few cracking poles she’s still holding up after 4 years>
  2. Temperature:It’s usually HOT in the summer.  Maybe around the 30C’s?  This means unless you get a cooler day you’re climbing the morning or evening.  I can’t say I’ve ever made it past morning/afternoon climbing as once we park ourselves at the beach and have wine, it’s too late.  Also, for those of you who climb around Calgary, yes you can actually wear shorts and a sports bra to climb!  And for once you can skip bringing a down jacket to the crag “just in case” :)

    I felt just as hot as it looks! Random fact: The walls are slightly red from fire-retardent that was sprayed a while back during a wildfire (Claim-it-all crag)

  3. Skaha:The climbing here is very crimpy and edgy. The crag goes back quite far but I’ve never found it worthwhile to walk past Lower Redtail wall.  Then again, I’m also mainly looking to crush 5.8’s :)  Redtail Lower & Go Anywhere wall are my fav’s as they have really fun easier climbs that I feel good about leading.  Not many people put a lot of time into putting up three star climbs <5.9 but one of the local guides (Russ Turner) has taken it upon himself to do just that and all of his climbs are fun and well bolted for someone who’s mainly leading in that grade range.  I haven’t had a chance to try any of the harder climbs or trad routes but there are thousands (literally!) of them.

    Not the best picture but this is one of my favourite climbs at Redtail Lower (Second Balcony Jump, 5.6). It’s my go-to warm-up every visit because the route itself is really fun for 5.6 and the views at the top are beautiful (see the first picture in this post).

  4. Beach: Penticton is sandwiched between two lakes, Okanagan and Skaha.  The Okanagan beach in the north is warmer and shallower but consequently busier.  Skaha’s beach drops off much quicker and is cooler but on a 30C+ day it’s perfect and there’s always less people.

    This picture doesn’t do it justice but watching the sun set on Skaha beach is beautiful.

  5. WINE!: I’ll be honest, I love drinking wine.  My favourite rest day activity is to visit a nearby vineyard with a patio and have lunch overlooking the lakes.  The best part of this the cheap wine tastings and getting a 5-star meal for lunch prices:)  This means I can buy a few several good bottles of wine to bring home and crack open while I blog about my trip.

    This is the view from the patio at See Ya Later Ranch. Some of my other favourite vineyards with patios are Lake Breeze (on the Naramata Bench) and Sumac Ridge. Red Rooster is also excellent but no lake views from the patio.

  6. Other things to do: There is a lazy river going from Okanagan lake to Skaha lake and the old Kettle Valley Railroad has been stripped of rails and converted to 600km of biking trail!  I haven’t done either but plan on doing so on future trips.

***Note #1: if you have the old guidebook, DO NOT follow the directions in it to the crag.  The parking lot has been moved and you’ll wind up terribly lost and confused.  I speak from experience.  The new guidebook is is well worth the money with colour pictures and updated maps.

***Note #2: The bathrooms at Skaha are fabulous and well worth a visit!  They’re Phoenix composting toilets and when you go, all you smell is cedar chips and fresh breeze.  They are rival any outdoor toilet I’ve ever used and thus merited a picture.

The only other place I’ve seen composting toilets like this are at the Lillian Lakes backcountry site in Kananaskis.

Leave a comment


  1. Aah, I loved the Okanagan and I really wish I’d had a chance to climb Skaha (though visiting the vineyards was something of a compensation). I’ll put it on the list for next time!

    • My first trip there several years ago was just for relaxing and drinking wine. Only after I came home did I discover there was climbing! Hope you make it back one day :)

  2. Julie

     /  August 31, 2012

    Nice report! I went there for 9 days last summer and loved it. We stayed at the campground on the south end of town. Such great climbing, people, scenery, and wine.

    • I wonder if we stayed at the same campground? Maybe not as I think there’s a few on the south end of Penticton. It is a wonderful scene there!

  3. Bonnie

     /  September 4, 2012

    Awesome! I went there last season and lovedddd it! Fingers crossed that I’ll make it out there this year somehow. Glad you had a fantastic trip :)


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