Trip Notes: Kettle Valley Railway Trail

Trip Notes: Kettle Valley Railway Trail - Samsara Cycle

KVR Cycle Trip Synopsis

  • 650 km of recreational paths suitable for hiking and biking
  • Moderate inclines
  • Hire a local tour company for a seamless experience
  • Explore different route options
  • Route through Myrna Canyon from Midway to Penticton is most popular

KVR History & Characteristics

The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) opened in 1915 to support mining operations in south-central British Columbia. The last train to travel this route did so in 1964. Today the decommissioned tracks have been transformed into 650 km (400 miles) of connected scenic recreational pathways stretching from Hope to Castlegar.

Three women riding outdoors wearing Samsara Cycle Kits

The KVR trail traverses alongside lakes, through backcountry wilderness, over antique train trestles, and through mountain tunnels. It travels through one of Canada's most productive fruit-producing regions, providing many opportunities to sample local wine and other culinary delights. 

The trail was engineered initially to accommodate trains, so the steepness grade never exceeds 2.2%, making it pleasant and accessible for most cyclists. 

KVR Planning, Guided or Self-Guided Options

There are several options for enjoying a cycling trip on the KVR, from independent to self-guided but supported to fully-guided trips. A quick Google search will get you started with several reputable local options. 

The Trails BC website is an excellent place to start, especially for independent bike-packing trips. Memberships cost $25, which is money well spent as the organization advocates for the KVR and all trails in BC. There are also lots of local options for renting bikes and organizing shuttles.

Advanced planning is essential as accommodation is limited (especially if you don’t want to camp), food and water aren’t always readily available, and you will likely encounter detours and other obstacles. 

Woman riding bike on gravel trail in Samsara Cycle Kit

KVR Routes

There are also many different route options. The 215-kilometer stretch between Mile 0 in Midway (halfway between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean) and Penticton is the most popular section to ride. Most cyclists can complete this section in 5 days, making it a lovely one-week trip if you take time to rest and savor.

The route can, of course, be traveled in either direction - starting in Penticton or Midway. However, we recommend starting in Midway when riding east to west as you steadily gain elevation in the first days and then finish your trip coasting downhill through vineyards and orchards into the small city of Penticton - which is an excellent place for post-adventure relaxation. 

This route takes you through Myra Canyon, the most popular section of the trail. Building a railway through this long narrow chasm was a remarkable engineering feat requiring the construction of 18 trestle bridges and two tunnels. The bridges and tunnels were restored in the 1990s to accommodate cyclists and hikers, and the area is now designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. 

Located 1,000 meters above Kelowna, the Myra Canyon is one of the most popular sections of the trail. We recommend you savor the views and take the time to capture many photos of the scenic trestle bridges. 

After traversing the canyon, you’ll be rewarded by arriving at tranquil Chute Lake, nestled among striking mountain views. Here you’ll discover a rustic lodge, campground, a restaurant (don’t miss the pie), paddle boats and kayaks for rent, and a sauna. 

When leaving Chute Lake, you’ll be rewarded with a gentle downhill cycle, discovering how far you climbed the day before when you stop to admire the view of the Okanagan Lake and Valley. Here you can take a detour into the gorgeous town of Naramata but beware of the climb back to the trail. 

If you’re not up for detours, continue through more tunnels, vineyards, and orchards into Penticton. This portion of the trail travels alongside the Naramata Bench, renowned for its views, wineries, orchards, and many sumptuous dining options. We recommend grabbing lunch at the Poplar Grove Winery just before you enter the town. 

Poplar Grove Winery in Penticton

If you want to extend your trip, consider circumnavigating Skaha Lake on a panoramic road from Okanagan Falls (known locally as OK Falls) to Summerland. The route is flat unless you detour to wineries which, of course, is tempting. The town is named after twin waterfalls, but they have since disappeared, so there is no point in chasing them. However, it's a nice stop for lunch at one of the many local restaurants, or you grab some picnic food at the market in Christie Memorial Park. 

From here, you'll join the Kettle Valley Rail Trail on the west side of the lake and cycle your way to Summerland. The trail ends where an active rail line begins, and you will split off to tour the southernmost wineries of Summerland's Bottleneck Drive, an impressive cluster of sweeping vineyards and lush orchards. 

With history, wilderness, wineries, and so many culinary delights, it’s not surprising that Outside Magazine named the KVR as one of the top 10 cycling trails in the world. We hope you love it as much as we do!

READ MORE > Inspo For Your Ride