Monday, September 20, 2010

The Lost Glamour of Munson Mountain

If you've ever driven down highway '97, you can't miss Munson Mountain, it's the little mountain next to Okanagan Lake with PENTICTON spelled out in big white letters a la the Hollywood sign. I'm totally ashamed that I've been up only a few times in my life despite having driven past it countless times on my way home. Most tourists cruise past this little jewel as well, with the lure of free wine tasting just around the corner!  Well, one afternoon we stopped and walked the short distance to the top. Under-appreciated Munson mountain needs it's glamour restored!

Penticton from the top. During the summer months, 
teenagers and tourists gather at dusk to watch the sunset.

This humble little mountain has an interesting history. Firstly, the land was donated to the city of Penticton by J.R. Munson, hence the name. Secondly, the mountain is the remains of an ancient volcano. A volcano! In Penticton! Who knew? What's more, it's the remains of not one, but TWO! volcanic cones.

Up until 1974, the view up the valley from this mountain was on the back of the Canadian $100 bill. (Way back in 1974, when hundred dollar bills were actually worth something!) (Interesting side-note: My parents bought a house in Naramata in 1973  for $4,500.)

That $100 dollar view up the lake, looking towards Kelowna. 
Naramata is on the right, Summerland on the left.

I "borrowed" this picture, as I have none of the actual letters....yet! 
(To be replaced at a later date!)

The letters were originally placed up there in 1937 to create a landmark for Penticton. When I was a kid the sign was made of thousands of tiny white silica rocks, but the sign was upgraded to poured concrete letters with embedded silica in 1998. It is, and has always been, maintained by volunteer groups from Penticton, notably the Jaycees, the Rotary Club and the Boy scouts.

View from the top, Munson is surrounded by wineries, vineyards and orchards.

A few deer also live on and around the mountain. The day we visited we saw one doe just under the Penticton sign, and last week I saw three deer grazing on the back slope next to the road - which is why I hope the proposal to build an amphitheater up on top doesn't come to fruition. I like the idea of keeping this mini ancient volcano as pristine as possible.

A recent commercial, which got mass airtime during the Winter Olympics, features Kim Catrall of "Sex ad the City" fame raising a glass of white and smoothly delivering a single word, "Sophisticated", with Munson Mountain in the background. Thanks Kim! Glamour! That's what I'm talking about!


  1. It's still weird to think this was once a volcano!

  2. The South Okanagan Trail Alliance ( will be repainting the letters bright-white mid April 2013. For more information, or to help out in this endeavor, contact Andrew Drouin at