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Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR), an old, abandoned railway bed that has a new lease on life, is one of the top things to do the Okanagan Valley in spring, summer and fall. Located in southern British Columbia, it was once named by Outside Magazine as one of the “top 10 trails to cycle.”

The Kettle Valley Railway is broken into subdivisions or sections with a total length of approximately 600 kilometres. In theory  biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Castlegar in eastern British Columbia to Hope which lies about two hours east of Vancouver is possible – but count on the better part of two weeks if you plan to do that.

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Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan
Biking the trestles through Myra Canyon

The Kettle Valley Railway is a fantastic bike trail

The KVR is especially great since it’s possible to cycle it in sections depending on how much time you have.

The trail covers a wide variety of terrain. It will take you through remote backcountry, past lakes, forests and over old railway trestles. In the Penticton area you’ll find yourself cycling through vineyards and orchards.

I have cycled sections of the trail from Myra Canyon through to Chute Lake, Penticton, Okanagan Falls and into the Oliver area. It was all fabulous!

Note: There aren’t a lot of resources related to the KVR but if your serious about biking a good stretch of it this book Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway by Dan Langford and Sandra Langford will be useful.

My suggestions if you want to bike the Kettle Valley Railway

Plan on a stay of a few days in the Penticton or Naramata area. There are lots of campsites, B&B’s and small inns to choose from.

Some options include the CastleRock in Naramata, the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa, the Burrowing Owl Winery and Guesthouse, D’Vine Dreams B&B and the Sandy Beach Lodge and Resort.

Renting bikes

Either bring your own bike or rent bikes from either Okanagan Bike Rentals or the Freedom Bike Shop in Penticton. You can also rent from Myra Canyon Bike Rentals out of Kelowna.

Grab a map from a tourist information office and head off. It is an easy cycle from Penticton down along the canal, along the west side of Skaha Lake and into Okanagan Falls. (Try an old fashioned milkshake at Lollies in Okanagan Falls).

For more energetic people I highly recommend riding up the road to Chute Lake from Naramata and then hooking up with the Kettle Valley Trail.

The road up is steep but quiet and the views are pretty darn good. The reward is the ride down. The grade is a steady 2% for 18 km if you stop in the Naramata area or 28 km if you continue onto Penticton. Views from the Little Tunnel at Mile Marker 122 are fantastic.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway on a lovely section near the Naramata Bench within sight of Lake Okanagan

Wine tasting galore along the Kettle Valley Railway

Did I mention the other reward? There’s lots of wine tasting to be done at wineries found all along the Naramata Road. You can count on being able to pick up fresh picked fruit as well.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan
It’s not hard to tell where the irrigation ends

The Oliver section of the KVR

The Oliver section can be done as a day on its own, especially so if you’re into wine tasting. There is a nice loop starting at the tourist information center in Oliver that takes you on bike paths which are both paved and unpaved and then along the length of Black Sage Road.

Consider a lunch stop at the Burrowing Owl Winery.

Preparation for biking the KVR

It’s not all fun and games on the KVR and I believe a word of caution is in order. Once you are past the village of Naramata it will immediately feel remote so do go prepared.

Carry water, food like energy bars, a map, rain gear and a cell phone. Cell coverage is excellent. Also, bring a few bike tools, a bike pump  and a tire repair kit for a flat tire.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan
Spring and fall are excellent times to bike the Kettle Valley Railway as its not as hot

Use some common sense with regards to the following:

There are rattlesnakes around. Never attempt to pick one up or this might happen.

Be bear aware. We saw a big black bear but it scurried off. Carrying a can of bear spray would be a good idea.

Do not touch poison ivy. To identify it, look for a plant with three shiny leaves. In the fall the leaves turn red and yellow. If you inadvertently make contact with it wash the area immediately with soap and water.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan
What a treat to find water on when you’re biking the Kettle Valley Railway 

Happy trails. Biking the trails that make up the Kettle Valley Railway should put a smile on your face.

Map showing location of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail
Map showing location of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail

Other Okanagan area blogs that might be of interest

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I`m Adolf from trails. Trails is a travelcompany in Germany and we are looking to a company, which give us a offer for a 6 day complet bicycletripp from Kellowna on the Kettle Valley Railway. It must include Mountainbikes, transport, german speaking tourguide, wholesome, substantial meal, good accomodation and airport transfer from and to vancouver international. It will be start at 09. or 10 Juli 2012. We need a offer for 6 to 14 Paxes.

    1. Adolph, dont confuse the clockwork sophistication of Deutschland with the backwater KVR country. You’d be luck to shit in a boot and you can forget about wholesome meals and great accomo.

      1. @Harry There are places where the accommodation is good as is the food. But I doubt that’s why most people are doing this trail. The experience is going to be something you’d never find in Germany.

  2. While the KVR bike trail in the Myra Canyon and close to Naramata and Penticton areas is in good shape, there are long stretches of it which is not. There are potholes, rocks, big puddles and loose sand in spots. It can be a very hazardous ride and is not for the faint hearted. This trail is advertised internationally as a great place to come and cycle, and it is scandalous that it is not maintained properly.

    1. @Jo In the ideal world it would be truly lovely if the whole trail was in great shape. Suspect it all comes down to dollars and cents – though an amazing 600+ km trail would bring in a lot of tourists.

  3. I take in Cyclists at Ravens lodging at Idabel lake… have a new phone number and email address… two suites Available for one person or as many as 10 in one group… call me at 250-718-9570. or send me a email:
    open from May till October.. book asap.

  4. hi I am looking for a good map that shows the trails/routes and campsites. Is there such a thing? I hope to do it next month. Midway to Hope.

    Another question is its been hard finding info on what type of bikes to use. From images it shows people using all types of bikes. My understanding is that the trails are either road/packed gravel and some rougher sections. So I suspect a bike with better tread tires is recommended. I have a road bike that I use for touring. I have thin sport tires on it. (I am looking into get better tread road tires on it, but doesn’t look good) I was really hoping to be able to use this if trails are in decent shape (meaning packed gravel). Can you tell me a bit about the trails, and can I get away with this bike? I was considering my mtn bike, but its bulky and I have never toured with it. So was also thinking of buying a gravel bike. But if I can avoid spending….

    Many thanks!

    1. @Oriana I am only aware of the one book that doesn’t have the greatest format but it does have excellent info. The only other people who might know better are the Thompson Okanagan Tourism people so I’d suggest getting in touch with them.If you are really planning to do a lot of riding you need more than a thin tire. I used a gravel bike for a week in the fall and loved it. It was lighter than a mountain bike but could handle everything. Maybe you could rent one??? Hope that helps a bit.

  5. Leigh McAdam, I just want to commend you on the helpful way you respond to inquiries and people comments. Good on you! I did Rock Creek to Penticton a few years ago and now want to complete Penticton to Hope but cannot find good intel/info about that section of rail trail. I’m a camper. But are there lodging accommodations in this section? Meals anywhere? Is there decent access to fishing in June? Is riding on Hwy 5 from Brooksmere junction to Hope, generally safe? If you don’t know, can you pass me onto someone who knows that section of rail trail, please?

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Harry,
      I know you don’t want to hear it but your best bet is to buy the book even though it was written some time ago Cycling the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Years ago my husband and I had planned to to the trip you’re talking about and did get some places booked in the direction of Hope – but we weren’t camping. I suspect there is a lot of wild camping but I don’t know for sure. And I’m useless on the fishing. However, you may be able to get some help through the contact info at Tourism Hope – and if you visit their website, there are links to bike rentals. Someone there might have some great intel for you. I hope that helps a bit. Here’s a link on where to stay on the trail – but there isn’t anywhere between Brookmere and Hope that I’m aware of. Maybe you can do that part in one long day. And I’d ask Tourism Hope about how safe it is to cycle Hwy 5.

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