CYCLING B.C.'S KETTLE VALLEY TRAIL
A Two Valley, Two Mountain Loop
Trans-Canada Trail crosses most of southern British Columbia atop the historic Kettle Valley Railway. Most mountain bikers pedal this popular KVR section one-way from Rock Creek to Penticton, yet our Zen Cyclopath group begins outside Osoyoos. Utilizing the less-traveled spur into Penticton, we'll loop back through Rock Creek to Osoyoos.
Pedaling steely steeds above Osoyoos Lake, there's stops to savor fruit at roadside stands, then we swoop onto the KVR paralleling the wide canal irrigating the arid landscape. Two sunny hours later, our tents pop-up between Gallagher Lake and a rocky cliff where a sign warns: "Beware of Rattlesnakes." Hardly rattled, our octet heads takes a refreshing dip. Our re-hydrated gourmet meal begins a series of al fresco dinners.
Sunday we proceed along this valley's chain of lakes into Okanagan Falls, breakfasting at an outdoor café. Skirting Skaha Lake, we swim off two sandy beaches and ultimately bivouac in Penticton.
After another starry night and five-star oatmeal, trail leads us through town and a merry spin upwards into Naramata's bench land vineyards. Spectacular Okanagan Lake panoramas reward this relentless grind. Stopping, we witness, an indifferent black bear rummages for berries below KVR's first tunnel. This cactus-lined trail eventually switchbacks under an evergreen canopy. After lunching at a log table, we pedal steadily onward. Miraculously, a trail host appears presenting us cold bottles of water! Nearby we investigate stone turn-of-the-century ovens, that once baked railroaders' bread. Two hours later, our tents sprout again beside Chute Lake like colorful mushrooms.
After Tuesday's morning snack and pack, we're back on track to Myra Canyon. As we near this renowned canyon, Kelowna shimmers in the distance. Charred tree skeletons recall 2003's devastating fire, though birds now flit and chirp among young evergreens now lining the hard-packed trail.
Like us, many cyclists and walkers experience the engineering marvel of this early railway spanning deep gullies atop eighteen towering trestles and passing through huge tunnels, After this wondrous eleven-kilometer pedal, we pause at a park kiosk to study photos of the past fire and trestle restoration, then whirl onward to a forest campsite at Hydraulic Lake.
Wednesday presents a woodsy descent to Arlington Lake, where we have another sunny swim and refuel. Continuing, long-needled pines soon replace the dense forests of larch, hemlock and fir. In ranchlands, signage warns of toxic Toad Flax, tall yellow-blossomed plants flourishing among a new mix of wildflowers. Swooshing into Kettle Valley, we cross its river and onto a highway into historic Beaverdale and a grassy town campsite. Our efforts are rewarded at the historic Tamarack Restaurant dining on roast beef.
Thursday is filled with good times. Bull Creek Canyon provides a idyllic white sand beach, massaging cascades and cave. In Rhone, a former KVR whistle stop, we revisit the welcoming Trans-Canada bicycle pavilion next to a red caboose. Nine years earlier we'd met host Paul sporting a T- shirt announcing, "I'm 77…young for a tree!" Today his shirt declares, "I'm 86, deaf, blind and cranky!" Smiling, he offers to show us his Blue Healer's new trick! Placing a dog cookie on Spud's forehead, Paul walks twenty-meters and calls, "Wait!" Forty-meters further, he shouts, "Wait!" A block away, Paul yells, "Eat, it Spud!" Spud flips the cookie into his mouth...
Opening and closing cattle gates, we spin through grassy ranchlands and camp at Kettle River Park. Heading to its sandy riverside beach, most of us dive into the shallows and ride the river's current; meanwhile a brave trio jumps from its high trestle into the depths. An hour later, it's raining; so it's a dive into the tents. Seeing our plight, RV neighbours place an awning over our table. With lightning flashing and thunder roaring, we sup al storm-o! Grazing deer see us off Friday on a route paralleling the Kettle River and across arid ranchlands. As the trail ends, we coast along a road into Rock Creek. Stoking up on pastries and java at a rustic café, we chug upwards into Bridesville and ultimately pass the summit of Anarchist Mountain. Breezily sailing downward, I sight our final campground's Swiss flag...and yodel, "We're here!"
Saturday we find Highway 3 slopes pleasingly downward. After an admirable menagerie of large bronze animals identifying streets of this highland's view lots, our trip ends with an exhilarating ten-kilometer plunge back into Osoyoos.
Celebrations begin at another fruit stand enjoying juicy plums, apricots and peaches. Packing up our bikes and boxes of fresh fruit, we munch our way homeward and reminisce over our seven-day 350-kilometer achievement.
When You Go:
www.kettlevalleyrailway.ca provides a sketchy map and trail updates. This site also refers visitors to Dan & Sandra Langford's authoritative book Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway.
www.tourismpenticton.com Wish to launch your ride from Penticton? Check out the city's helpful website. Under things to do you'll discover other ways to take in spectacular Myra Canyon swooping via Chute Lake through Okanagan's wine country and back into town.
Photos by Rick Millikan
1. KVR Zen Cyclopaths Zen Cyclopaths cycling into Naramata's benchlands.
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