Without a doubt, one of my favourite things about living or visiting Penticton is the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail.
This scenic path passes less than 1km away from our home and offers unbeatable views of Okanagan Lake, Penticton and the mountain beyond.
The Kettle Valley Railway line was built in 1915 and travelled almost 500km between Midway to Hope in British Columbia, Canada.
Since being abandoned in the 1980s, the KVR has become an incredible multi-use (cycling, hiking, horse riding) trail. It is part of the Great Trail, previously known as the Trans Canada Trail.
The middle section, the one we have personally explored the most, showcases the mountains, vineyards and lakes of the beautiful Okanagan Valley.
Keep reading to discover more about the wonderful Kettle Valley Rail Trail!
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The KVR: Railway to riches
The Kettle Valley Railway was primarily built to serve mining interests in British Columbia’s Southern Interior region.
Canada’s Transcontinental Railway was completed in 1885 but proved to be located too far north to assist with the transportation of goods in the western Kootenay and southern Okanagan region.
Being a border region with the USA, officials in the area were also concerned about American miners flooding the area and taking control. A railway was decided to be the key to maintaining Canadian sovereignty and providing economic prosperity.
Not only used for transporting ore, fruit and other goods from the Okanagan and Kootenays, the KVR had passenger trains too.
It was also a back-up train of sorts for the northern Transcontinental line when avalanches and rock slides caused closures.
Taking twenty years to complete, the Kettle Valley Railway was not in service very long. Portions of the railway began to be discontinued from the early 1960s.
The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail
The majority of KVR users visit on short hikes or bike rides. It’s easy to understand why, with easy grade (less than 2.2% the whole way) and excellent accessibility along the route.
We’ve spent many a weekend afternoon exploring the trail, during every season of the year.
To help you plan your own KVR hike, I’m going to break down my favourite Okanagan Valley sections. I’ve included the distance, trailhead location, parking, highlights and facilities for each hike.
- All of these suggested routes are low difficulty, with elevation gain/loss being almost non-existent
- The trail surface is mostly gravel and can be dusty on dry days
- Dogs are allowed on leash
McCulloch Trestle, Penticton
Distance: 5km return
Trailhead: Vancouver Place
Parking: On-street (or walk from downtown Penticton)
Highlights: Sweeping views, Penticton sign, wooden trestle bridge
Facilities: Washrooms at the 1.5km marker, bins, benches
This is our favourite local walk to take visitors on. This short walk offers stunning panoramas of Okanagan Lake, the city of Penticton and surrounding vineyards. The path also passes underneath the huge Penticton sign on Munson Mountain.
The finale to the walk is the McCulloch Trestle, named after the Kettle Valley Railway’s Chief Engineer. The views from this wooden railway bridge are also excellent.
Parking can be tricky on the residential Vancouver Place during busy times, so if you can, I’d recommend parking in Penticton and then walking up Vancouver Hill from the roundabout. This adds about 800m each way.
On this section of the KVR, it’s very easy to combine hiking with wine tasting. Just 500m beyond the McCulloch Trestle, the KVR crosses the Lochore Rd. Turn left to walk 300m to D’Angelo Winery (my top pick if you like red wine). Turning right from Lochore will lead you to Ruby Blues or Red Rooster Winery (400m).
An alternative (and non-alcoholic) option is the Trail Store, just 600m beyond the McCulloch Trestle. Usually open from late spring to late summer, the Trail Store serves ice-cream and delicious Ambrosia apple slushies.
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Little Tunnel, Naramata
Distance: 8km return
Trailhead: Smethurst Road
Parking: Large parking lot
Features: Panoramic views (particularly second half), railway tunnel
Facilities: Outhouses in parking lot and at 2km mark
Blasted through pure rock, the 80m long ‘Little Tunnel’ is one of the most impressive sights on the Okanagan Valley section of the KVR Trail. It really helps to set the scene of when steam engines used to power along this route.
Another highlight of this KVR hike is the spectacular views from the Little Tunnel’s high position above Okanagan Lake. From here, you can see Summerland, Penticton and beyond. You do have to earn these views though, with the best outlooks located close to the Little Tunnel itself.
Fun fact – If you know where to look, the Little Tunnel is actually visible from downtown Penticton!
Please note that this section of the KVR will be closed for maintenance Wednesday 17th March to Monday 29th March 2021 (although open weekend of 27-28 March).
Approximately 500m before the Little Tunnel itself is a trail junction for Rock Oven Regional Park. From here, you can hike up to reach another section of the KVR (2km), passing next to a number of rock ovens. These were used by railway workers to make bread while building the KVR.
Feel like some wine tasting after your hike? Consider a stop at Daydreamer Wines or Nichol Vineyard on the drive back down Smethurst Road.
Kaleden to Okanagan Falls
Distance: 9.2km return
Trailhead: Pioneer Park, Kaleden
Parking: Large Regional Park parking lot
Features: Lakeside walk, wooden trestle
Facilities: Washrooms in parking lot plus picnic area, beach, BBQ area
This part of the KVR Trail is technically a spur section, an extension of the original Midway to Hope route. From Okanagan Lake to Penticton, the KVR Trail stays low and close to the west side of Skaha Lake.
The lakeside path offers a beautiful and different perspective to the other KVR hikes mentioned here. Look for the peculiarly shaped Peach Cliff looming above Okanagan Falls, created from a violet history of volcanoes, earthquakes and glacial melt.
The final approach to Okanagan Falls reveals a long wooden trestle. Of course, you can also start in Okanagan Falls too and take the opportunity to walk this bridge twice.
From Pioneer Park, walk south along Ponderosa Ave. There is KVR signage and a path next to Ponderosa Point Resort.
Trout Creek Trestle Bridge, Summerland
Distance: 6km return (or less)
Trailhead: Canyon View Road, Summerland
Parking: Couple of off-street parking spots plus on-street parking
Features: 73m high bridge across canyon, views of Okanagan Lake
The Trout Creek Trestle is the highlight of this KVR hike. This impressive bridge spans a deep canyon and was the highest structure on the KVR (73m).
The trestle is located very close to the parking lot but I’d suggest continuing along the KVR to reach scenic views of Okanagan Lake, Okanagan Mountain Park and the Sun-Oka Beach peninsula. The best views are around the 2.5-3km mark.
A working 1912 steam train runs to the trestle in the summer and for special events. The schedule is posted here. Please note that pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge when the train crosses.
Fenwick Road to Conkle Mountain Gazebo
Distance: 3km return
Trailhead: Fenwick Road, Summerland
Parking: On-street parking
Features: Views, gazebo
Facilities: Outhouse and picnic tables at 1.5km mark
This KVR hike may be short, but it culminates at a gazebo with an stunning view of rural Summerland. Of course, you can continue along the KVR for a longer hike.
To find the trailhead, drive to Fenwick Road in Summerland. Look for the large Trans Canada sign on the right and then park carefully on the other side of the road. Be sure not to block the road as there are houses further on.
From here, walk past the ‘Fenwick Trailhead’ sign and continue around the corner of Fenwick Road. The path is lined by sage brush most of the way. The road ascends gently and then narrows into a trail with KVR Trail signage. Keep right when the trail splits and enjoy the sage brush lined path to the gazebo.
Myra Canyon, Kelowna
Distance: 8km return (or less)
Trailhead: Myra Station, Kelowna
Parking: Large provincial park parking lot
Features: Multiple wooden trestles, tunnels, larch trees, views
Facilities: Outhouses in parking lot and 4km mark, benches
Myra Canyon is undoubtedly the most popular section of the KVR Trail in the Okanagan Valley. The long and wide chasm was a difficult obstacle for the railway planners, with 18 trestle bridges and 2 tunnels required. These magnificent trestle bridges have proved to be exceptionally popular with visitors, however!
The distant views of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake are also pretty impressive, as well as those looking across the canyon to the other trestles. In autumn, the experience becomes even more picturesque as the larch trees around the trail turn golden.
There are two trailheads in Myra Canyon – Myra Station and Ruth Station. I have chosen to feature Myra Station here as it provides a bigger concentration of trestles for hikers.
A 8km return trip from Myra Station takes in 13 trestles (of 18) and 2 tunnels. If that is too long for your group, aim to walk to the 2km marker before turning around (6 trestles total).
Read More: Hiking the Myra Canyon Trestles near Kelowna
The KVR Trail: Essential info
The Kettle Valley Railway had a huge influence on the development of the southern Okanagan area. It now offers some of the best views around as well as an easy gateway to the past.
We love the great accessibility to incredible scenery, tunnels, trestles, wineries and more. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail connects the best of Penticton and more.
Mile 0 of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is in Midway, British Columbia. The route ends in Hope after 480km of journeying through the valleys and mountains of BC. Additional interconnected pathways and routes takes the total up to around 600km.
The KVR Trail has numerous access points. It is easy to locate these trailheads with the excellent Backroad Mapbook series.
There are no fees to hike or cycle the KVR Trail.
Cycling the KVR trail as a multi-day trip is an option, with one of the most popular trips starting in Midway and finishing in Penticton. This 320km journey takes around a week to ten days.
The low gradient path, lack of motorised traffic and accommodation options en route make cycling the KVR Trail a scenic and relaxing adventure. Enjoy!
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