“Don’t sit, don’t jump, just keep running until I tell you to stop!” shouted my tandem guide, Brad Murphy, as I ran headlong off the summit of the spectacular Mount Mackenzie until gradually, I was soaring high above Revelstoke.
For 30 minutes, Murphy, who is the owner of Revelstoke Paragliding, took me along on an adventure unlike anything I’d experienced. As we floated high above the Columbia River, he did a few high-speed spirals — acrobatics that left my stomach a tad queasy but my spirits high.
For me, as for most first-time paragliders, the scariest part about the activity was the take-off. In tandem paragliding, you are at the front while your instructor is attached behind you. As Murphy implored me to keep running, I had to stop overthinking it and comply, urging myself to jump off the mountain into the great unknown. When it was time to land, Murphy gradually lowered us until we smoothly drifted down onto our grassy landing pad.
Small-town Charm, Big-time Thrills
Revelstoke was born out of the need by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to bridge the basins of the Columbia and Fraser rivers, effectively linking eastern and western Canada. About 30 minutes by car west of Revelstoke is Eagle Pass, where the last spike was driven home in November 1885.
Thanks to CPR, Revelstoke became a prominent hub for mining and forestry in the interior. A walk through this quaint town reveals many beautifully restored historic buildings, including the Revelstoke Museum & Archives, which was built in 1926 as the post office, a site specifically chosen in 1910 by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and the 1904 art-deco Roxy Theatre, which is one of the oldest independent theatres still in operation in British Columbia.
Named as a “must do trip” on National Geographic’s Ultimate Adventure Bucket List, Revelstoke sits in a valley in the heart of the rugged Selkirk Mountains. The town attracts thrill-seekers and they won’t leave disappointed. They can get their fix in a number of ways, including paragliding, mountain biking, white-water rafting and hiking. When it comes to alpine back-country mountain biking, ask anyone in this town and they will tell you Revelstoke offers kilometre after kilometre of world-class trails.
I discovered some of the best routes while venture with a couple of guides from Wandering Wheels. We headed via van to Mount Macpherson — renowned for a trail system suited for any rider. For a high-speed adrenaline rush, Flowdown’s wide turns and numerous rollers are hard to beat. Similarly, other trails went from fast and gnarly, to rooty and technical, with a few “green” trails for beginners like me. After three hours of heart-pounding moments, I was ready for a nap.
The next morning, I was up bright and early, eager to soak my weary bones in the Halfway River Hot Springs, located an hour south of Revelstoke in Nakusp. Once I reached the location, I hiked 10 minutes down a steep path to the rejuvenating, mineral-rich hot springs. After my mountain-biking journey, bathing in these secluded, off-the-beaten-track rock pools was sheer bliss. There are various pools, some hotter than others, but all surrounded by Mother Nature’s best.
Revelstoke’s Thriving Food and Drink Scene
It turns out Murphy is more than just a paragliding master. He is also the executive chef at the Regent Hotel’s 112 Restaurant and Lounge. It is arguably the town’s best fine-dining establishment. The beautifully appointed room, with its rich brown leather chairs, dark wood and brick walls, is warm and inviting. But it’s the cuisine I was here for, and 112 didn’t disappoint. Although steak-centric, I opted for the melt-in-your-mouth citrus-crusted west-coast halibut.
For anyone who loves tacos, Taco Club is a must. This funky Latin street-food eatery started life as a food truck in 2012, before opening its extremely popular brick-and-mortar joint. You can’t go wrong with any of its tacos, burritos or enchiladas, all of which burst with incredible flavours.
For a small mountain town, Revelstoke is blessed with two award-winning small-batch craft distilleries — Monashee Spirits and Jones Distilling, both of which rely on locally sourced ingredients for their products.
As I sat at the crowded bar, Monashee’s affable owner, Josh McLafferty, poured me an A-Star cocktail. Infused with butterfly pea flower and housemade Lavender Simple, the handcrafted brew included a healthy splash of Monashee’s Ethos Gin, which won gold and best in class at the 2019 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition. That’s not all. McLafferty was quick to add that Monashee’s a brandy, vodka, whiskey, aged gin and liqueur all won awards at the national competition.
Nearby, newcomer Jones Distilling is also a stellar place to sip. I was completely taken by its home in a heritage building, which was once the Mountain View elementary school (circa 1914). In 2018, Gareth Jones opened his distillery with premium vodkas, gins and whiskey, which have combined to garner eight prestigious SIP Awards this year.
When asked why open a distillery in a small town, the former British native replied, “I came by this honestly. It’s because of my dad, really. He distilled in England years ago and it’s something I had planned to do a long time before I came to Canada.”
The building is also home to the Old School Eatery. After sipping on a couple of Jones’s smooth vodkas, I moved across the hall into the eclectic bistro and bar. There’s nothing old school about the gastronomy here, which is comfort food taken up a notch. Try the crispy Brussels sprouts baked with ginger, pomegranate reduction and toasted pumpkin seeds. The polenta fries and twice-cooked crispy duck wings are also delectable.
You might start your visit in Revelstoke soaring in the clouds, but the food and drink are sure to make you delighted to settle down with the satiating flavours of this beautiful town surrounded by natural and manmade glory.
MORE ABOUT REVELSTOKE
Where to Stay: The Regent Hotel, is a boutique property in the heart of town. This historic hotel, built in the 1920s, is the oldest, family-owned business in Revelstoke. Location: 112 First Street East. Website: www.regenthotel.ca. Telephone: 1-888-245-5523 (toll-free) or 250-837-2107. Fall Room Rates: 2019 rates start at $149.99, including a delicious hot breakfast in the Mt. Begpie Breakfast Cafe.
Getting there: There are several ways to reach Revelstoke but the easiest and most commonly used route is from Vancouver on a quick 45-minute flight to Kelowna, followed by a 2 1/2-hour scenic drive to Revelstoke.