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Are you thinking of cycling part of the 600km tracks of the abandoned Kettle Valley Railway Trail between Kelowna and Penticton? Here’s how to bike back to 1915.
I’m leisurely biking the route of the old Kettle Valley Railway, cruising in a low gear on my mountain bike along a cliff face overlooking the endless rows of vineyards beside Lake Okanagan. When told about the area’s history, it’s easy to picture the steam rising out of this canyon and the rumble that would have reverberated throughout the valley.
One hundred years ago, trains servicing a growing mining and milling industry ploughed through here on the same corridor I am riding.
Now it is an abandoned site that gave rise to a nature trail accessible to all.
Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway Trail
In Penticton, British Columbia, you can cycle on dirt paths that were once the tracks of the abandoned Kettle Valley Railway Trail, also known as the KVR Trail.
Having spent three days riding the Via Rail from Toronto to Edmonton, it was symbolic to end my time here.
History of the Kettle Valley Railway
Today the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is a National Historic Site of Canada. It traces the journey of a route that was also once a part of the Canadian Pacific Railway – a secondary railroad operating both passenger and freight services in the Southern Interior region of British Columbia from 1915.
It’s a shame quaint steam engines no longer trundle at such heights. Over time, a series of events eventually led to part-closures of the KVR between the 1950s to the 1980s. Like mine closures and decreases in freight loads from the mills, then changes in the forestry industry as trucks became the preferred method of transportation.
How long is the Kettle Valley Trail?
The Kettle Valley Trail covers over 600km, and it would take up to four days to bike the entire route, including overnight stops.
However, you can sample a stretch of the KVR trail in one day on the Myra Canyon Trestles Trail, that’s considered one of the most scenic portions. Covering around 20km along a steep canyon wall, it’s an easy grade route that crosses multiple trestles, tunnels and bridges with sweeping views that are, at times, precarious at great heights.
KVR Trail Route and Experience
We began our journey on the Myra Canyon Trestles Trail at the Okanagan Mountain at the mighty Myra Canyon Trailhead, whose densely carved-out tunnel marked the start of this historical journey.
We then sped through this window to another time, where gravel pathways and gentle bends marked the route preserving this town’s important heritage. Picture stops are compulsive as you wind through woodland and pretty panoramic views of Penticton.
Despite the Kettle Valley railroad’s eventual abandonment in 1990, the already carved and easy-grade route quickly attracted hikers and cyclists eager to explore the mountainous area.
The area became accessible for more than just past train passengers, yet disrepair called for restoration regarding the safety of those using the route for recreation purposes. So, the government of British Columbia purchased the Kettle Valley Railway corridor, bringing its bridges and trestles back to life.
Preserving this old rail bed not only brings people to Penticton aside from its wine country fame but also conserves a significant part of the region’s industrial heritage and contributes to the community.
This short, scenic cycle was only a glimpse into the fascinating history of the railway in Canada. The 600km route this railway once spanned awaits the more adventurous looking to travel the Kettle Valley Railway’s entire journey.
Biking the Kettle Valley Railway – Booking and Planning
Kettle Valley Rail Trail Tours
I took a tour with Monashee Adventure Tours, which is sadly no longer in operation. However, other specialists have offerings in the valley.
- Offer daily bike hire for $75 CAD. The bikes can be picked up and dropped off at the Myra Station parking lot right next to the trail.
- The half-day self-guided Myra Canyon Trestles & Tunnel Tour is $99.00 CAD.
- Self-guided day-trip from Kelowna to Penticton is $175 CAD.
- Bike hire prices start from $42 CAD for the first day, $30 CAD for each consecutive day or half-day.
- Multi-day tours start from $675 CAD, with options including camping, vineyard, wilderness and forest experiences.
- Offer a five-day trip cycling from Kelowna to Penticton for $1690 CAD.
Visiting the Kettle Valley Heritage Railway
A small section of the Kettle Valley Railway remains. The preserved section of the heritage railway line is a 10-mile journey in Summerland, British Columbia.