Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park
Phew, that name is a mouthful. I usually just refer to the park as Johns Family. Much easier. In 2013, the park was named after Alfred and Nancy Johns, Kelowna locals who generously donated 323 hectares of land for wildlife conservation. It was the largest land donation in the Central Okanagan’s history! Before the Johns’ donation, the once-smaller park was called Cedar Mountain Regional Park.
As you hike through the park, you’ll notice it’s hot and barren, covered in burnt trees. Wondering what happened? Well, back in August 2003, a bolt of lighting started a devastating fire on Okanagan Mountain. The rampant wildfire quickly spread and burned over 25,000 hectares of forest near Kelowna. Over 27,000 people were evacuated and it continued to burn for weeks.
Even though the fire was over 15 years ago, nature takes a long time to repair itself. Because of the rocky land, which has almost no soil or water, the process is even slower. Trees have barely come back, but small shrubs have managed to grow and provide habitat for wildlife.
Directions to Johns Family Park
Johns Family Regional Park is located roughly 20 minutes from downtown Kelowna on Okanagan Mountain.
Chute Lake Road Parking Lot
It’s just outside of the Village of Kettle Valley subdivision in Kelowna. To reach the parking lot at the trail head, you’ll have to drive up a pot-hole riddled dirt road. Go slow and take a vehicle that can handle rough roads.
Lebanon Creek Parking Lot
The Lebanon Creek parking lot on Lakeshore Road is much easier to access, but the hike into Johns Family is longer and steeper.
Hiking at Johns Family Park
There’s a decent sized network of hiking trails at Johns Family. Even though most of the park is off-limits because the landscape is so frail, there are about 8 km of official trails, plus a few kilometers of unofficial trails, for you to explore. One of the trails, Lebanon Creek, even connects with Lebanon Creek Greenway Regional Park!
The official trails are very well maintained and marked. Like most regional parks in Kelowna, there are also some great interpretive signs along the way. Barren of trees, the unparalleled view of the valley draws surprisingly few visitors because the area is relatively unknown, even to locals. In fact, the area is most well known for rock climbing, not hiking.
Cedar Trail, 0.4 km (Easy)
The Cedar Trail is a short trail that connects the Elk and Crags Trails. It features two sets of wooden stairs and an outhouse near the southern trailhead. The trail cuts through a barren hillside with the Crags (a large rock face) looming in front of you.
Crags Trail, 1.1 km (Easy)
The Crags Trail is a relatively flat trail that follows the entire base of the Crags.
You’ll get an up close and personal view of the large rock as you hike along. You might even see some rock climbers here!
About halfway through the trail there’s a trail that heads straight up the cliff. You can take this trail to get to the top of the Crags without rock climbing gear, but it’s sketchy. Be very careful. There’s an easier way to get to the top.
Lebanon Creek Trail, 3.25 km (Moderate)
The Lebanon Creek Trail is one of the longest hikes at Johns Family Park. It skirts the Crag and heads downhill, eventually connecting with the parking lot at Lebanon Creek Regional Park.
It’s a beautiful trail and on a sunny day, you can enjoy amazing views down Okanagan Lake towards Vernon.
Elk Trail, 3.7 km (Moderate)
The Elk Trail is the longest at Johns Family Park. This trail begins at the parking lot and continue to the far west edge of the park.
It’s a barren, hot, and dry trail with a decent amount of elevation change. You’ll also enjoy great views of the Crag, Okanagan Lake, and the nearby homes.
Unnamed Trail (Moderate to Difficult)
There are a few unnamed trails at Johns Family that bring you to the top of the Crags. These are my favourite trails in the park because of the absolutely amazing views! Even though the trails aren’t maintained by the regional district, they’re usually pretty obvious. Since this isn’t an official trail, watch your step carefully so that you aren’t damaging the terrain even more.
The views from these unofficial trails are the best in the park. There are two main trails to the summit: A sketchy trail up the front of the Crags that you can access via the Crags Trail and a longer, safer route up the side that you can access via the Lebanon Creek Trail.
If you opt for the sketchy route, be extremely careful. It’s short, but very steep, awkward, and difficult. If you don’t think you can do it, remember that there’s a safer route.
There are great views from all the trails at Johns Family Park, but the best are from the summit of the Crags. Here, you get to enjoy sweeping views of the Okanagan! The 2003 forest fire burned most of the trees, so you can see for miles up and down the valley on a sunny day.
There’s also a fire pit and rocky chairs at the top of the mountain! Sure, the chairs are super uncomfortable but the views are worth it.
When you’re deciding on what to bring on your hike, it’s always important to know where you’re headed.
Johns Family is a very dry, exposed hike — especially in the summer — so you’ll need to be prepared for the heat and sun. Hydration packs will be your best friend. Sunscreen is also very important, as are sunglasses. You’ll also want hiking boots because the trails are rocky and the climb up the bluff is quite difficult.