Pull over and take in the view. This 296 kilometre loop takes you on the scenic route through Merritt, with desert and lakes everywhere you look. Make a day of it, with stops for farm-fresh produce, hand-made bannock, and craft beer or cider to take home.
Go with the flow, but check opening hours in advance and consult DriveBC for route updates. Here are the highlights.
Kamloops Lake Viewpoint
Head west on the Trans Canada Highway 1 towards Cache Creek. About 25 minutes out of town, you’ll pass Tobiano Golf Course. If you’re a golfer, make a mental note to come back for a leisurely 18 holes, with views of clear blue Kamloops Lake. Continue another few minutes to Kamloops Lake Viewpoint and jump out of the car for sweeping lake views.
Cariboo Jade Shoppe
Continue on Highway 1 toward Cache Creek and the terrain becomes steeper in the semi-arid desert. At the intersection of Highway 1 and 97C, you can’t miss Cariboo Jade Shoppe, a family-owned and operated store. Did you know that jade is the official gemstone of British Columbia? A foot-thick, 2,850-pound slice of jade is displayed proudly outside.
Desert Hills Ranch
Another 15 minutes on the 97C brings you to Ashcroft, a village surrounded by sagebrush on the Thompson River. The area’s rich volcanic soil yields excellent produce, so visit Desert Hills Ranch and fill a basket at the farm market.
Ashcroft Glass Mosaics
Stretch your legs with a self-guided walking tour of the glass mosaics found on buildings around town (here’s a PDF map). They’re the work of stained glass artist Marina Papais and her partner Daniel Collett, along with members of the community.
Left Field Cider Co.
Continue on the 97C about 50 minutes, past Logan Lake toward Merritt. Located on Mamette Lake, Left Field Cider Co. opened in 2011 making small-batch, full juice cider. Their orchard is a picturesque place for a break, with a tasting room and picnic area.
Kekuli Cafe Coffee & Bannock
With the slogan “Don’t Panic...We Have Bannock”, Kekuli Cafe & Bannock is a unique place to enjoy Indigenous cuisine. Options include “pow wow frybread tacos” and wild smoked salmon on bannock.
Empty Keg Brew House
Empty Keg Brewhouse is Merritt's first craft brewery that opened in 2019. Their beer is brewed on-site, made with local products such as Nicola Valley Honey, and is a quick jaunt from Kekuli Café.
Looping back to Kamloops, take Highway 5A out of Merritt, an older highway that preceded the mightier Coquihalla Highway. While the 5A extends your return time, the payoff is a beautiful drive lined with lakes and meadows, and the chance to spot eagles, deer, and other wildlife. It runs past Nicola Lake just outside of Merritt.