Cycle the Kettle Valley Rail-Trail

Added by Caillum Smith

Some of the most easily accessible, underrated viewpoints & regions along the Trans Canada Trail. 600km of 2.2% grade decommissioned rail-bed. 15+ Tunnels, 45+ bridges & trestles, 16 snow-sheds. Your choice of multi-day, overnighter, day trip or short afternoon excursionmulti-purpose trail.

Top 10 Areas of Interest - from West to East
  • (1) Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park
  • (2) Red Ochre cliffs in the Tulameen
  • (3) Trout Creek Trestle & The Kettle Valley Steam Train
  • (4) Penticton's Munson Mountain & the Naramata Bench
  • (5) The Little & Big Tunnel above Naramata
  • (6) Myra-Bellevue Trestle Canyon Provincial Park above Kelowna
  • (7) McCulloch Lakes near Kelowna
  • (8) Cyclists Rest near Carmi
  • (9) Kettle River Recreational Area
  • (10) The Midway Station (Museum)

Deep within BC’s rugged Southern Interior lies a 600km section of Trans-Canada Trail known as the Kettle Valley Railway. Also dubbed the “Coast-Kootenay Connection”, this railway dominated newspaper headlines for nearly 25 years and saw the demise of a half dozen governments by the end of its construction in 1915. Utilizing 16 snow-sheds, 15+ tunnels and 35+ bridges & trestle systems to navigate the three mountain ranges along its route from Vancouver to Midway, the KVR is home to some of the most scenic views and unforgiving terrain ever encountered by railway workers at the time of its construction and now serves as an excellent get-a-way for adventure seekers. Once but a mere dream in the eyes of British Columbians concerned about keeping the profits of the resource rich region of the Kootenays within the province, this decommissioned railway is now fit for both the afternoon and multi-day explorers of all types.

The Trail begins in Hope, a small mountain town located at the feet of the Cascade Mountain Range, where the Coquihalla Valley meets the Fraser River about 150km East of Vancouver. Here the trail enters Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park where a series of 4 tunnels and various bridge systems puncture through the 300-foot granite cliffs of the Coquihalla River gorge. It then follows the river up the valley for about 55km, crossing numerous Shakespearean named features, snow sheds, bridges & mountain peaks before veering East through the Cascade Mountains shortly after Coquihalla Lakes & Coldwater River Provincial Park.*This region has an average snowpack of 10m so wouldn't recommend traversing here in the spring due to avalanches.

Welcome to the wild west region of the Tulameen Valley...where relics of the mining rush wither away as the last of the ranchers hold on to their outdoor western lifestyle. After meandering over the Cascade Mountains, the trail continues East, past the village of Brookmere before following the Tulameen Valley South to Otter Lake, the town of Tulameen & the city of Princeton. If you're into derelict wooden buildings, horses or geology, this area is for you. It is the only place in the world where gold has been found next to platinum and remnants of the mining boom litter the leeward slopes. Upon reaching Princeton, the trail turns North-East up the hillside and into the Thompson Okanagan Highlands where Ponderosa Pine trees dot the grassy knolls and slowly turn to forest before descending into Summerland & the Okanagan Valley.

The South Okanagan is perhaps the most rewarding section of the entire trail. Not only for the myriad of vineyards, wineries, fruit orchards, markets, beaches & 2000 hours of annual sunshine, but also for the tunnels, rock ovens, 20+ trestle bridges & sweeping views of the surrounding landscape as you climb nearly 800 meters elevation alongside Okanagan Lake to Myra Canyon. Following the trail down from the highlands and into the valley brings you to the Prairie Valley Station near Summerland, where an 18km section of railroad still remains in operation by the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. They provide guided tours to the Trout Creek Trestle in a 1912 steam locomotive but has a tendency of being robbed by armed cowboys from time to time. The Trout Creek Trestle is 73m high and is the third tallest of its kind in North America. The trail returns to its original route on the southern side of the trestle shortly before reaching the city of Penticton. It then hugs the shoreline of Okanagan Lake and veers North, climbing up through the vineyards along the Eastern slopes towards Okanagan Mountain. Further along the trail you'll encounter the Little Tunnel, a cliffside vantage point overlooking the entire South Okanagan, before a double switchback leads you to the 489 meter long, C-shaped Adra Tunnel. After climbing the mountain above Naramata it continues North to Chute Lake & eventually to Bellevue & Myra Canyon high above the city of Kelowna. Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park is the most visited Provincial Park in BC and for good reason. It contains over 18 trestle bridges and numerous tunnels along this 25km stretch of trail. The Tamarack Larch forest which surround it turn a brilliant yellow in the fall & is an easy half day trip from the Okanagan's largest city.

After traversing the jaw-dropping trestles of Myra Canyon, the trail exits to the East, following the mountainside out of the Okanagan Valley & veering South into the Kettle Valley & Boundary District. The McCulloch Lakes aren't far from Myra and are named after the chief engineer of the project. They are absolutely massive considering their positioning on top of a mountain. Even large enough to contain numerous islands. An amazing place to hear the midnight howls of coyotes echo across the lake. Much of the trail from McCulloch Lakes southward is also used by loggers until you reach Rhone Canyon and the Cyclist's Rest. Be sure to stop here and visit the converted caboose bunk house built by a local who grew up helping his father build the railway. Not far from the rest stop is is the Kettle River Recreational Area where you can cool down by jumping off the Kettle River Trestle, or a dip off the shores. The climate here becomes very dry as it, again, veers to the East, passed a small town called Rock Creek along the last stretch of ranch-land before ending at the original station, which is now converted into the KVR museum. The trail continues further into the heart of the Kootenays from here but becomes known as the Columbia & Western Rail Trail.

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Cycling
Camping
Photography
Mountain Biking
Backpacking
Hiking
Adult Beverages
Bathrooms
Beach
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Handicap Accessible
Lake
Picnic Area
River
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

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An adventure for all, even pets too!

The path was once a railway that was abandoned with over 600 km routes that make can it a challenge for any level adventurer. With many unique things to check out along the trails, this adventure is worth exploring. A great activity in the beautiful Okanagan during spring to late fall with your family.

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