A subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Kettle Valley Railway operated in the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia, and provided a much needed rail link to the coast and Vancouver for the cities of Southern BC. The line initially opened in 1915, however portions of the railway were abandoned as early as 1961 due to washouts and a decline in traffic. All rail service stopped from Midway to Penticton, through the Okanagan and the famed Myra Canyon section of the line, in 1973, with the final segments of line falling into disuse in 1989. Today much of the railroad’s original route has been converted into a recreational trail, known as the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. With its relatively gentle grade, the line has become a hiker and cyclist haven.
For some reason, prior to our visit, I was under the impression that the trail was 8km in length (16 km round trip) however after cycling for an hour or so we realized this portion of the Kettle Valley Railway stretches for 12km between the park’s East and West entrances, making for a 24 km round trip. Although quite a bit longer than we had bargained for, we were still able to finish the loop in two and a half hours of cycling – which includes more than a few interruptions to stop and take photos. I’d recommend that new visitors allow 3-4 hours to cycle the trail, and 6-7 to walk. However by no means do you have to complete the entire loop to have a great experience. Entering from the east, it’s possible to cover multiple trestles and the first of two tunnels in only a few kilometers, making it a good option for those under tight time constraints. Alternatively, using a shuttle service or a friend from the area, entering from one end and getting picked up at the other would eliminate the need to turn around and backtrack.
As the trail incorporates the same path the old railway lines once laid on, the ride (or hike) only consists of a 4% grade in the steepest sections, and this makes for a very pleasant bike ride. It also means that the trail is perfect for people of any biking level – we saw everyone from kids to seniors making the ride.