Guest article by Gord Parker
If there’s an upside to the low price of oil and the poor Canadian Dollar, it’s that Canadian ride destinations should see a lot more visitors for the foreseeable future. Recently three buddies and I decided to check out Kelowna. We heard some great things about the riding, had two friends visit the area to ride last year and recently had a good friend move there. Yes 50 year olds like crash pads too.
There is plenty of riding in and around Kelowna, with a total of four areas to explore within a 60-70 km radius of the town. If you’re coming in from the north you will hit Vernon first. The Coquihalla connector comes into West Kelowna and if you’re coming in via Rossland or Crowsnest Pass, Penticton is stop number one.
Kettle Valley Railway Trail
Extending beyond Kelowna, Summerland and Penticton via Naramata is of course the Kettle Valley Railway Trail (KVR), now also a major segment of the Trans-Canada Trail. This converted railway to trail way traverse takes the rider along a scenic journey across the old railway bed used by steam powered trains in the early 1900’s. Back then these locomotives couldn’t crawl up anything greater than a 2% grade, making for a pleasant pedal or hike along this route. Yes, I’m serious; there is nothing on this trail steeper than a 2% grade. The trail is very suitable for people who drive Buicks. Not so suitable for people looking for the BC Safe Adrenaline Injection Sites. The famous Myra Canyon is found along this trail, with a dozen or so railway trestles and tunnels affording very cool (literally in the case of tunnels) views of the surrounding landscape. Several of the trestles were destroyed in the devastating forest fires of 2003, but as of a few years back (2010) they are rebuilt with railings and 21st century safety planning in place. These make for an interesting tour, providing a bit of history to the area, and allow you to ride from one B&B or small inn to the next, all spaced along the trail. You can ride hundreds of kilometers if you want, with the trail stretching from Midway across the southern interior to Merritt.
The Cosens Creek area is a large network of trails consisting of freeride and cross country and is located on the south side of Vernon. This was a great area to ride, proving to be very scenic. Ahhh, who am I kidding… it’s all scenic, the whole valley’s scenic. Every trail is scenic.
Myra Bellevue area just 9 km south of downtown Kelowna is a large and great area to ride. I don’t know the official stats but there is probably 40+ km of trails in there, all interlocking with one another. Generally, the trails are very flowy and a blast to ride down. We took the main double track well packed with flat rocks for low rolling resistance to gain 400m for our initial ascent. We didn’t go all the way to the top where it intersects with the KVR, as we were short on time and hit the highway home that morning by 10AM. Hitting Vapour Trail, we found it a bit technical in places but fun for the AM crowd. Several of the trails take you right through the middle of what was once a towering fir forest and now a green carpet of 6-8 year old saplings among the blackened stumps left behind by the forest fire.
More info on this network can be found by clicking here
For an area map, click here
across the bridge
Rose Valley is a nice and scenic (oh yeah, right, they’re all scenic) trip up and over a ridge and down to and around the reservoir on the other side. Our trip included 453 m of cumulative climbing and plenty of suitable spots to stop and picnic. You can also scramble up to a cave or two above the northwest side of the lake, adding to your adventure.
Smith Creek is awesome! It’s easy to climb to the top and the descent has plenty of technical features (mostly wooden jumps) all of which you can ride around. The lower part is like Kessel Run (Fruita) on steroids which will induce a perma-grin for all those who ride it.
Test Of Humanity: The namesake trail and site of an annual race with all proceeds used to support Canadian Humanitarian’s projects in Ethiopia. This is a 10 km loop with great views of the valley, lake and trees. It’s all very rideable on a well-built trail.
Mount Conkle was a great loop. It starts at a major KVR access trailhead where we met up with a local rider who was planning on it being a 2%’er. He was at least our age, but with a bit of prodding he opted for the fun route and took 10 years off his frame of mind.
3 Blind Mice is a very large cross country network of trails. A ‘Mouseterpiece!’ according to the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, and I concur. Luckily we were riding with a pest control expert and Larry had us covered. There has been a TON of work done to these trails, amazing slate sidewalks, excellent use of outcrops, making for a gently technical set of trails. There is not a ton of signage though, so a GPS is handy to mark your starting point from where you’ll head out to explore the area/maze. Getting a trail map at a local bike shop is a good idea to maximize your day(s). Bonus for this network is that the trailhead is next to lots of wineries.
Note – it can happen anywhere and this area is not immune to car breakins at trailheads. Our buddies lost wallets and phones to some douchebags so make sure they are in your packs when you go riding!
In short, it was a great four days exploring Kelowna and surrounding area. At half the distance of Moab and 25% better value for your money, Kelowna deserves to be seriously considered for your next riding destination.