Discover Harrison River Valley: A PNW Getaway for All Seasons

Just 90 minutes east of Vancouver, British Columbia is the beautiful Harrison River Valley which includes the popular summer resort town of Harrison Hot Springs. However, this area of the Pacific Northwest is more than just a summer destination. I grew up 60 km from Harrison and have visited many times and enjoyed activities and events in every season. 

The Harrison River Valley is made up of Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Harrison Mills and all the communities in between. It is a year-round showcase of the natural beauty that British Columbia is known for.

Sasquatch greets you on arrival at Harrison Hot Springs
Sasquatch greets you on arrival at Harrison Hot Springs

For active visitors, there’s hiking, cycling, boating and other water sports. Nature lovers can take in the spectacular scenery and abundance of wildlife including majestic bald eagles. Everyone can relax on the beach, visit museums, soak in the hot springs, shop at the boutique stores and dine on delicious food at the many restaurants and cafes.

Many activities can be enjoyed year-round but each season in the valley has its own special highlights. Here are some of my personal favorite things to do in Harrison River Valley in spring, summer, fall and winter:

Spring in Harrison River Valley

Springtime is my favorite season in the Pacific Northwest and this past spring we enjoyed a 3-day getaway in the Harrison River Valley. Despite having some rain, we still managed to get outside and spend time in nature. If you’re from the PNW, you learn to embrace the rain and the beauty it brings rather than hide inside. Plus, it’s a great excuse to make a stop at a cozy café.

Harrison Tulip Festival by Onos Farms

Having fun in the rain at the Harrison Tulip Festival
Showers didn’t stop us from having fun at the Harrison Tulip Festival

The Onos family has been in the tulip business since 2006. In previous years you may have visited this tulip festival in Chilliwack where it was held starting in 2017. But as of 2023 the Onos family have set up a permanent location in Agassiz and it is gorgeous!

The surrounding mountains are a stunning backdrop to this 109-acre farm that grows tulips, hyacinths and daffodils. During the Harrison Tulip Festival, visitors can wander through rows of 10 million tulips of every color imaginable. There are also some fabulous props for photos such as old cars and tractors, swings and Dutch bikes and of course a windmill. You can see from our photos we made full use of the props.

The 2024 season also introduced food trucks to the festival and when we visited, we indulged in poutine and Sasquatch Feet Pastries. Don’t miss stopping in at the Farm Shop where you can purchase fresh flowers, souvenirs and an amazing array of tulip-themed gifts. I fell in love with the leather tulip-shaped coin purses.

Circle Farm Tour

Goats on the farm in Harrison
Goats on the Circle Farm Tour

We did this self-guided farm tour by bicycle, which was a lot of fun, but you can also drive the circuit if you prefer. The route takes you to some of the best examples of agritourism in Agassiz and Harrison where you can sample and buy fresh produce, flowers, artisan cheeses and locally made cider.

While the lavender farm and produce is best later in the year I love spring for all the new buds popping out and the baby goats and cows at the Creekside Cheese and Creamery. Also, be sure to stop for a refreshment at Cedar Cider or Homestead Cidery.

Summer in the Harrison River Valley

The star of summer in this region is the cute town of Harrison Hot Springs. Harrison Lake is surrounded by mountains and when the skies are blue it’s a scene almost too beautiful to believe. The sandy beach and man-made lagoon are buzzing with families enjoying the warm weather and abundance of water activities.

Harrison Lake in the summer
Harrison Lake in the summer

Water Sports

Lounging on the beach and swimming in the lagoon are favorite summer pastimes but I love getting out on the lake. Killer’s Cove Boat Rentals is the place to go for this fun activity.

Here you can hire motorboats, pontoon boats, pedal boats and SUPs, but my personal favorite are kayaks. There’s no better way to take in the peaceful beauty of the lake than by gliding through the water in a kayak or canoe.

Harrison Festival of the Arts

For 10 days in July the town of Harrison is home to the Festival of Arts presented by the Harrison Festival Society. Every day there will be live music outside on the Beach Stage and every evening the Harrison Memorial Hall hosts musical and theatre performances.

The festival also has yoga on the beach every morning and on the weekends, there are workshops and an Artisan Market.

Fall in the Harrison River Valley

With the changing leaves, pleasant temperatures and often clear skies, Harrison is a beautiful place to visit in the fall. Long walks around the lake, wildlife spotting and hiking are best this time of year plus it’s a good time to pop into the lovely boutique shops and art galleries.

Hiking

Hiking in Harrison
There are so many beautiful trails in Harrison River Valley

Although Harrison River Valley is great for hiking year-round my favorite time of year for this activity is the fall. The weather is usually pleasant (not too hot, not too wet) and the leaves are starting to change color which adds to the beauty of this area.

The many trails throughout the valley range from easy walks to more challenging hikes and if you’re unsure you can even take a guided tour. Wherever you choose to go the scenery will be breathtaking so be sure to bring a camera.

Bald Eagle Spotting

Looking for Eagles from the Sandpiper Resort viewing gazebo
Looking for Eagles from the Sandpiper Resort viewing gazebo

October is the start of salmon spawning season which in turn brings out the bald eagles looking for a feast. Between October and January, more than 35,000 eagles come through the Fraser Valley which creates the world’s largest winter gathering of eagles. It is a spectacular sight to behold.

As our most recent visit was in the spring, we didn’t see any bald eagles this time around but we still enjoyed the Eagle Walk and viewing point at the Sandpiper Resort where we stayed. You can find out more and plan your eagle spotting getaway by going the Harrison River Valley page: “Season of the Wild.”

Winter in the Harrison River Valley

Not many people think of visiting Harrison in the winter, which is evident by the quiet streets and plenty of free parking. However, the valley has pretty mild winters so it’s still a nice time for a lakeside walk and at Christmas the town is a festive place to be.

Warming up by the fire at Harrison Hot Springs Resort
Warming up by the fire at Harrison Hot Springs Resort

Lights by the Lake

I can’t get enough of twinkling Christmas lights and have been to Harrison’s “Lights by the Lake” three times. There is 2 km of the promenade lit up with fun, hand-made light displays featuring local wildlife and the beloved Sasquatch going about his business.

The lights are first turned on in November with a lighting ceremony that includes live music and other activities. Every day after that the lights will be lit from dusk until 11 pm until Christmas.

Soaking in the Hot Springs

Enjoying a good soak in the hot springs is a popular activity in Harrison year-round but winter is my favorite time to indulge. Is there anything better for escaping the cold than lounging in hot, healing mineral water?

There are two ways to enjoy the hot springs. One is the Public Mineral Hot Pool located in the center of town. The other is as a guest of the Harrison Hot Springs Resort. Both use the same natural hot springs water but if you want a more spa-like experience the resort has beautiful indoor and outdoor pools that create a relaxing, romantic atmosphere. Years ago I stayed at the resort during winter and had the magical experience of sitting in an outdoor hot springs pool while snow fell around me.

Year-Round in the Harrison River Valley

Harrison Lake at sunset
Harrison Lake at sunset

As I mentioned in the beginning, I have been to Harrison many times, in every season, over the years and I have always found something to do. In addition to my personal choice activities, there is also golfing (year-round in the PNW climate) shopping and

Sasquatch Museum

Spring of 2024 saw the opening of a brand-new Harrison Visitor Center & Sasquatch Museum which is three-times larger than the original center. The museum immerses visitors in the history of the Sasquatch and the Harrison River Valley with the support of the Sts’ailes People. The Sasquatch, known by the Sts’ailes as Sa:sq’ets, is a big part of their culture and is believed to be a spiritual caretaker of the land.

Inside the accessible museum visitors will also learn about the indigenous wildlife in the Harrison River Valley through the “Land of the Giants” exhibit. These “giants” are the bald eagle, the prehistoric sturgeon and, of course, the legendary Sasquatch. There is also a recreated Sts’ailes longhouse as well as lots of other interactive kiosks and fun, educational displays.

Kilby Historic Site

Kilby Historic Site
Kilby Historic Site

Just down the road, in Harrison Mills, is the Kilby Historic Site which dates back to 1906. The site is a living museum portraying the Kilby family’s farm life and general store as it would have been more than 100 years ago.

The working farm has been preserved and visitors can interact with and feed the variety of adorable animals while learning about life on a farm as it once was. Inside the original building housing the General Store you will be greeted by hosts in costume who will explain the history and importance of the store and the historic mill town.

Kilby Historic Site also hosts multiple events throughout the year including historic workshops, live theatre productions and seasonal holiday programs like Bumps in the Night for Halloween and Christmas by the Railway.

Where to Eat in Harrison River Valley

There are plenty of dining options in the Harrison River Valley and I have tried most of them over the years. From takeaway fish and chips to cozy cafes and fine dining there is something for every taste and budget. Here are some of my favorites:

Rivers Edge Clubhouse: My Favorite Restaurant in Harrison River Valley

Dinner at the Clubhouse
Dinner at Rivers Edge Clubhouse

Part sports bar, part Old English Pub, plus a lovely glass-enclosed dining area overlooking the golf course, the Rivers Edge Clubhouse is the fabulous restaurant at the Sandpiper Resort. More than once, I have eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner here and every meal has been consistently delicious and beautifully presented.

On a nice day, having breakfast or lunch in the conservatory area is a treat where you can watch golfers swing and birds fly while enjoying your meal. My favorite breakfast item is the Smashed Avocado Benedict and for lunch you can’t go wrong with the Sockeye Salmon Burger.

In the evening my choice of seating is in the cozy corner with the Old English Pub vibe complete with candles on the table. The Pork Belly is to die for, and the Mushroom Schnitzel is always a good choice. I’ve never been on a weekend but when I do, I’ll be excited for the Saturday Prime Rib special or the Sunday Stuffed Yorkie!

Good to know: You don’t have to be staying at the Sandpiper Resort to enjoy the Rivers Edge Clubhouse, everyone is welcome.

Restaurants in Harrison Hot Springs I love:

You can find every type of food in Harrison Hot Springs from fish and chips to sushi and schnitzel and everything in between. I haven’t tried every restaurant in Harrison but I have been to many and these are my top choices:

Muddy Waters Cafe

Lunch at Muddy Waters Cafe
Lunch at Muddy Waters Cafe

This waterfront bistro is my absolute favorite place for brunch or lunch. The farm-to-table menu items are made from locally sourced ingredients and the baked goods are made on-site daily. Every meal I’ve had here has been fresh and delicious and the staff are super friendly and helpful. It’s one of those places where you can feel the love and pride not only for the café but for the town of Harrison.

Morgan’s Bistro

Overlooking the lake, Morgan’s Bistro is my favorite place for dinner in Harrison Hot Springs. The menu features Westcoast cuisine, meaning plenty of seafood options, but there are also lots of choices for the non-seafood fan. In the summer, try to get a table on the patio and enjoy your meal with a gorgeous lake view.

Black Forest Steak & Schnitzel House

This traditional German-style restaurant has been serving delicious European food since 1975. I think I had my first meal here in the early nineties and have returned many times since. Not surprisingly they specialize in schnitzel and have 16 varieties to choose from each of which can be switched out for chicken if veal isn’t your thing. They also have a good variety of seafood, pasta and vegetarian items on the menu.

Old Settler Pub

Just outside of downtown Harrison is the log-built Old Settler Pub. The space is large with plenty of seating inside and out and they are open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is huge and full of traditional pub fare like burgers, sandwiches and of course fish and chips. But there is also an array of salads, appetizers, pizza and comfort food like meatloaf and BBQ ribs. In other words, there is something for everyone.

The Copper Room

Located in the gorgeous Harrison Hot Springs Resort, the Copper Room is an upscale dining room with a romantic old-world setting. It is THE spot to go for a special date night or celebration. Tables with linen tablecloths and mood lighting surround a dance floor where you can twirl your partner to the sounds of a live band.

Where to Stay in Harrison River Valley

There are a variety of accommodations to choose from in the Harrison River Valley from basic family-run hotels to romantic cabins and luxury resorts. Most of them are in Harrison Hot Springs which is a perfect home base for exploring the area.

My First Choice: Rowena’s Inn

Enjoying our cabin at Rowena's Inn
Enjoying our cabin at Rowena’s Inn

My number one choice for accommodation in Harrison River Valley is Rowena’s Inn at the Sandpiper Resort. I have stayed at Rowena’s several times over the past 20 years and have seen many changes, but every stay has been magical.

The first time I stayed in one of the charming rooms inside the Inn which are elegant and romantic. My husband and I have also stayed in the original Classic Rustic Cabins that feature a wood-burning fireplace to snuggle up in front of on a chilly evening.

On our most recent visit, we stayed in one of the new Woodland Series Cabins which are spacious 1-bedroom cabins beautifully outfitted with a Scandinavian design. Our favorite feature is the Ofuro deep soaking cedar tubs that sit on a large private deck with either a river or cedar view. We used the tub four times during our two-night stay.

Families and small groups also have the option to book one of the 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom Luxury Nature Cabins that can sleep up to six people. These cabins have a large, fully equipped kitchen and all the other amenities you can imagine in a luxury cabin.

Sandpiper Resort golf course
Sandpiper Resort golf course

PS: The Sandpiper Resort is a perfect spot for a wedding and also has a beautiful riverside gold course!

Harrison Beach Hotel

If you want to stay right in the town of Harrison across from the lake this hotel is a great choice. Each guestroom and suite are tastefully decorated and comfortably outfitted, making for a perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring the Harrison River Valley. Many of the rooms have balconies and lake views and there are also dog-friendly rooms so your beloved pet can enjoy a beach getaway with you.

Harrison Hot Springs Resort

The Harrison Hot Springs Resort is the place to book if you want to splurge a little on a special getaway. The resort has an array of rooms and cottages that sleep 2 to 4 people with a range of price points. In addition to a lovely room, you also have use of the resort facilities including several dining options, a spa and a gorgeous lobby where you can sit in front of a wood-burning fireplace. But of course, the biggest highlight of staying at the resort is being able to soak in the five mineral hot springs.

Enjoying the peaceful view of Harrison Lake
Enjoying the peaceful view of Harrison Lake

If You Go

Once you’ve chosen and booked your accommodation the next thing to do is go to the Harrison River Valley Tourism site. Here you will find a list of attractions, events and activities as well as hiking trails, routes, suggested itineraries and FAQs.

Of course, you are always welcome to reach out to us at [email protected] and we’d be happy to answer any questions and make suggestions for your getaway to Harrison River Valley.

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