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Kettle Valley Railroad Trail

 
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  Tunnel Myra Canyon   The Kettle Valley Trail has a remarkable history, both during its creation and use as a railroad, and it's current reincarnation as a rail trail. The original Kettle Valley Railway has it's origins in politics, greed and  nation building,  involving the wrangling between business and political interests in both Canada and the United States. It was only through some big risk takers, a highly determined workforce and some remarkable engineers that the KVR every got built in the first place. After its complete collapse as a railroad in the 1980's, it was some of these same characteristics that saw it reborn as a rail trail and once again its further resurrection after the great Kelowna Fire that destroyed the world famous Myra Canyon section.  
 
  In all, the collective trail system exceeds 600km in length. Most of the trail network runs through true wilderness areas broken up by small towns and flourishing cities. The condition of the trail varies widely, in some sections it's little more than a memory. Detours can generally get your around these areas, where development, erosion, privatization or a washed out rail bed impede progress. The stations mentioned along the trails routes are the originals, many of which exist in name only. Some are ghost towns, some rubble and some have so little left standing of the original structures, it's hard to find hard evidence of their existence. Of course, some of the towns are now thriving and have grown into large cities, particulary in the Okanagan. In the following descriptions remember that the trail (like most every rail trail) is never far from being flat (the grade in Myra Canyon never exceeds 2.2%). Riders may have to work hard in some sections of the trail but the stunning natural and scenic rewards, along with the fascinating history make it all worthwhile. This is one of the cycling worlds finest destinations.  
 
  Kettle Valley Trestle   Myra Canyon is the best known and most popular area for cyclists and hikers, it is a part of the Carmi Subdivision. The Canyon is renown for it's scenery and the incredible trestles which cross the creeks and cling to the cliff sides. The area made the news for the worst of reasons, when the Okanagan Fires of 2003 destroyed or damaged most of the trestles.  
 

In the spirit of Andrew McCulloch (the head engineer that surveyed and built the railway) the trestles were rebuilt by the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society, the government and the thousands of people who kicked in and supported the effort. To all of you, we are forever grateful.

There are two access points to the Canyon by car from Kelowna. From the downtown area head south on Pandosy or Gorden, then onto the KLO Road. Follow McCulloch Road to Myra FS Road and onto the parking lot in the park. You can easily walk or ride to the trail from the here. At this point you are just west of the Myra Station. The other option is take the closer turn off onto June Spring's Road from McCulloch and keep going as it turns into Little White FS Road, which takes you into the park at the western end of the Canyon just passed the Ruth station.

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Main Line - Midway to Hope

Carmi Subdivision - Midway to Penticton 215km

Kilometre 0 for the Kettle Valley trail is in the small town of Midway, just west of Grand Forks. Located in the Boundary Area the trail starts making it's way west through the Kettle Valley, then heads north at Rockcreek, on through Zamora, Rhone, Taurus, Beaverdell, Carmi, Lois, Lakevale, Cooksen and McCulloch (named after the head engineer). Just southeast of Kelowna you'll find the magnificent Myra Canyon, where the trail snakes through more than a dozen trestles and tunnels before heading southwest towards Penticton. After leaving Myra you'll pass through Ruth, Lorna, Chute Lake, Adra, Glenfir, Arawana and Poplar Grove. The latter stations are located in the Naramata Benches which produce such excellent wines (as does the whole of the Okangan). The trail climbs from Midway to McCulloch, then starts a very gradual descent to Chute Lake, before heading heading down on a steeper pitch all the way into Penticton.

Princeton Subdivision - Penticton to Brookmere 174.9km

You will be climbing from Penticton the whole way into Osprey Lake then it's downhill to Princeton before climbing again to Brookmore. From Penticton the trail heads northwest along Okanagan Lake, through Winslow, West Summerland, Faulder, Crump, Kirton, Demuth, Thirsk, Milford and on to Osprey Lake. From here the trail once again turns south and makes its way through Jellicoe, Erris, Jura, Belford and on into the Town of Princeton. From Princeton the trail again reverses its self, heading northwest through Parr, Coalmont, Tulameen, Manning (the station, not the park of the same name), Thalia, Spearing and finally Brookemere.

Coquihalla Subdivision - Brookmere to Hope 91.1km

At Brookemere the Kettle Valley Trail takes its final turn south, passing through the wonderful Othello Quintette Tunnels and on to its terminus at Hope. You'll have to make some significant detours including the Transmountain Pipeline Road and the Coquihalla Highway to finish this final section. With the chief engineers penchant for literature, don't be surprised by the names of the stations along this section. Once you leave Brookmere you'll encounter Brodie, Juliet, Coquihalla, Romeo, Iago, Portia, Aurum, Lear, Othello and finally Hope. The trail from Brookemere climbs into Coquihalla then descends for the full distance to its terminus.

 

Branch Lines and Spurs

Copper Mountain Subdivision - Princeton to Copper Mountain 21.4km

Originally built to get the ore out of the mine at Copper Mountain, with a stop at a concentrator on route, the line's activity fluctuated with the demand for copper. Unfortunately the trail can no longer be ridden along it's full length due to deteriorating infrastructure, urban sprawl and natural reclamation. Sections are still passable but often with some creative detours. The trail works its way south from Princeton, roughly paralleling the Similkameen River, passes through Allenby where the concentrator was located, then on passed Smelter Lakes before reaching Copper Mountain. The trail follows a downhill grade from Princeton to Copper Mountian.

Osoyoos Subdivision - Penticton to Osoyoos 58.1km

Where the mainline turns north at Penticton the spur to Osoyoos heads south. The trail takes you through the heart of the southern Okanagan and the wonderful fruit orchards and world renown vineyards. Unfortunately the trail requires a number of detours but if you're determined you can manage the entire route. The gentle grade along the trail works for you if you're traveling north to south. From Penticton the trail passes through Skaha, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, McIntyre, Oliver, Hayes and Ellis before heading into Osoyoos. Osoyoos is located just above the American border, in what is Canada's only true desert.

Merritt Subdivision - Brookmere to Merritt 47.3km

Originally a connector between the CPR's mainline and the KVR's, it heads north from Brookmere through the Coldwater River Valley, just off of Highway 5. The stations along route include Brodie, Kingsvale, Pine and Glenwalker. The trail slowly losses elevation as it works its way to Merritt. The area the trail passes through has splendid scenery but their are no designated facilities for camping.

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Note: The trail surface varies wildly, ranging form railroad ballest, to fine gravel, to compacted dirt, to loose sand and what may be thick mud - mountain bikes are recommended. Trestles may be impassable and tunnels may be dangerous or closed due to rock fall and other hazards. By no means do all existing trestles have guard rails or even solid decks, walking your bike on trestles is recommended. Don't travel through the tunnels without a good flashlight. Along many sections you may have to scramble along washouts or even ford streams. Be aware that a lot of the trail follows along shear drop offs. Other hazards include wildlife such as snakes (particularly in the southern Okanagan), bears, cougars, insects along with inclement weather (you never know when it might snow at altitude) and extreme heat. Remember this is a wilderness trail and your skill levels should be up to wilderness travel Trail features and conditions can change overnight, so plan carefully, be prepared and bring lots of water. If your travelling any real distance a filter of other means to treat what water you might find is essential. The area becomes very dry in the summer.

 

Interactive Map of the area surrounding The Kettle Valley Rail Trail in the Okanagan


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Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway
 

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Resources

  Kettle Valley Railway Plaque  

Getting Here

The trail is located in the south central interior of British Columbia. Stretching from the Kootenay regions, through the Okanagan and then into the Fraser Valley. In addition there are a number of north/south branches that leave the main trail along route. Their are an endless number of access and egress points, starting from Midway in the east all the way to Hope in the west. For easy day use of the trail, you can't go wrong by choosing either trail head of the Myra Canyon outside of Kelowna.

 
 
 

Accommodations and Camping - From Midway to Hope

There are a number of backcountry camping areas along the trail which aren't listed here. Not all of the accommodation listings are on the trail, some may require you to take a good detour. Check the website or better still send them an e-mail for the details (and perhaps reservations) before making your plans.

 

Bicycle Shops, Rentals and Guided Tours

Some of the shops listed are not directly on the KVR and may include extended rides with serious elevation gain (going in or coming back) to reach them, so make sure you do some research before committing your self.

 

Tourism and Supporting Information

Some of the towns listed are not directly on the KVR and may include an extended ride with signifigant elevation gain (on the way in or coming back, so make sure you do some research before committing your self.

Midway Weather
Kelowna Weather
Penticton Weather
Princeton Weather
Hope Weather

 

Related Links

 

Links of Interest

Canadian Geographic
Conde Nast Traveler

Islands Magazine
National Geographic
National Geographic Adventure
National Geographic Traveler
Outside Magazine
Sunset Magazine
Travel and Leisure Magazine
Wavelength Magazine

 

Out-There's Destinations

 

For current conditions, along with definitive information on the trail, contact the land and park authorities, as well as the local chambers of commerce and tourism offices. Have a look at our resources section for more. Outdoor shops, outfitters and clubs in the vicinity of the trail are other excellent sources of information. We highly recommend the latest edition of "Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway" by Dan and Sandra Langford, published by Rocky Mountain Books. It's great for initiial planning and a must while on the trail.

 

 

 

Kettle Valley Railway
Midway to Hope, British Columbia

 

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