Did you know that some of the best bike rides in Canada are in the South Okanagan area of British Columbia? May is a great time to visit as the weather is sunny and warm, the regions numerous wineries are open and the crowds have yet to materialize. There are also a couple of standout events like the Giant’s Head Grind that will appeal to both bikers and hikers. I would suggest these six standout bike rides in the South Okanagan.
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Bike the Kettle Valley Railway from Myra Canyon to Penticton
One of my favourite bike rides in the South Okanagan is the Myra Canyon to Penticton section of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). You need a shuttle unless you want to ride up and back 160 km and most people don’t.
By starting in Myra Canyon the grade is a constant 2% downhill. Highlights include cycling over the railway trestles, the views, ice cream at Chute Lake Lodge, wildlife (we’ve seen black bears) and of course the wineries once you reach the Naramata Bench. On a hot day it’s a treat to cool off in the lake post bike ride.
A shorter option is the out and back ride – on the bike trail between Penticton and Naramata. It’s a great one if you want to spend some time wine tasting.
Bike from Penticton to Oliver via the KVR
Enjoy some of the best of what the South Okanagan offers when you do and out and back ride from Penticton to Oliver (or even Osoyoos if you’re up for a 100+ km ride).
This section of the KVR takes you past beaches, lakes, vineyards, and the bird sanctuary at Vaseux Lake. Plan a stop at Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls for ice cream.
Three Blind Mice Mountain biking trails
I haven’t done any of the trails that are part of the Three Blind Mice network even though they are considered to be one of the top bike rides in the South Okanagan. I need another visit to the region so I have the time to explore the trails properly.
Located high above Naramata, avid local cyclist Randy Brown told me that “there are over 100 kilometres of singletrack trails for every level of rider – and the views over Okanagan Lake are magnificent.”
He also recommends picking up a copy of SweetSingletrack. He calls it “the definitive guide for the close to 1,000 kilometres of trails in the south Okanagan.”
Cycle the road to Apex Mountain Resort
One of the local favourite bike rides in the South Okanagan is the climb up Green Mountain Road towards Apex Mountain Resort. With a map and a sense of adventure you can explore the side roads – particularly Shingle Creek Road – and do a loop to return to Penticton. Look out for wild horses. I obviously saw these wild horses in winter but you might see them at any time of the year.
Bike the Trans-Canada Trail near Summerland
Some sections of the Trans-Canada Trail around Summerland are ideal for cyclists. Start near Conkle Mountain Park and head east towards Okanagan Lake. Continue to the Trout Creek Trestle Bridge and then pick up the KVR to continue to Penticton.
Bike rides in the South Okanagan: Kettle Valley Railway from Summerland
The Kettle Valley Railway out of Summerland has a wilder, less populous feel to it than the section heading to the First Tunnel lookout from Penticton. The trail weaves and climbs past several viewpoints, the Kettle Valley Steam Train, and several interpretive panels. Did you know that Sam McGee from one of the best selling poems of all time –The Cremation of Sam McGee lived in Summerland at one point?
The trail follows the Trans-Canada Trail from Summerland to Osprey Lakes.
Special biking events in the South Okanagan in May
In May check out the annual Giant’s Head Grind, spearheaded by Ellen Walker-Matthews. Ellen organized the event to honour the memory of her son Christopher Walker who died of colon cancer at 29. As she says “it’s a great way to keep her son close in a way that’s very positive.”
A few useful items for bike rides in the South Okanagan
Don’t forget a bike pump in case you get a flat.
A bike lock could come in handy if you decide you want to go for a short hike or you want to go into a restaurant.
I like to carry a handlebar bag with my raincoat and bike tools rather than having something on my back.
Bike lights are one of those things you should always have – just in case.
If you need help with bike rentals, shuttles or bike tours check out Penticton based Hoodoo Adventures. Other bike rental places include Freedom Bike Shop, Penticton Bike Rentals, and E-Kruise Penticton if you’re keen on an e-bike.
Best time for bike rides in the South Okanagan
The South Okangan can get stinking hot in the summer months from mid-June through to the end of August. Bike earlier or later in the day and be sure to take lots of water – and perhaps even water purification tablets if you run low on water and need to refill from a lake.
Spring and fall are fantastic times to hit the trails because of the cooler temperatures. Winter may not be the most appealing time for some to bike, but it’s often possible especially on fat bikes. I have biked part of the KVR in February and found it to be an exhilarating experience.
Where to stay in the Penticton – Summerland corridor
In Penticton, you can’t go wrong with the Penticton Lakeside Resort. Nicely appointed rooms and a hard to beat location. The Wesbert Winery & Guest Suites is rated superb. Above the Beach Guest Suites overlooking Skaha Lake is rated superb.
Summerland has loads of options. The Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa, rated fabulous, is on a secluded stretch of Okanagan Lake.
If you like B&B’s check out the Dogwood Bed & Breakfast, rated exceptional.
Approximate location of the bike rides in the South Okanagan
Further reading on biking
- 10 of the Best Bike Trips in Canada
- Victoria to the Cowichan Valley: A 6-Day Biking Itinerary
- Cycling in Victoria BC – The Harbour to Farm Tour
- 5 of the Best Bike Rides Around Calgary
- 5 Great Bike Rides in the Banff Area
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