Top Ten Mountain Bike Meccas (Beyond Moab)

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  |  Gorp.com
Trestle 11 across Myra Canyon
Trestle 11 across Myra Canyon

Adapted from Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please be advised that since publication of this article, an August 2003 wildfire destroyed ten of the railway's restored wooden bridges, disrupting the cycle route described below. For more information, please CLICK HERE.

One of the finest ways to explore the Okanagan Valley is to tour the Kettle Valley Railroad (KVR)—possibly the most spectacular rails-to-trails route ever. Because of the deep gorges and towering mountains in this part of British Columbia, the construction of the railway was considered an engineering marvel when it was completed in 1916. Now that much of it has been converted for recreational use, mountain bikers can enjoy the spectacular scenery, tunnels, and trestles that make up the KVR.

The section of the KVR between Midway and Penticton is known as the Carmi Subdivision, offering 215 kilometers of delightful cycling on a well-traveled trail and a relatively level terrain. However, the distance can challenge your legs and your endurance. So, pack your panniers, pump up your tires, and get ready for an exhilarating three- to four-day cycle trip. Oh, and if you came for the views, you won't be disappointed.

Start this trip by pedaling your fat tires along the packed gravel, beginning at the Midway Station. The railbed follows the valley of the Kettle River, passing through the towns, villages, and scenic farmland of the Kootenay Boundary Country. Unfortunately, some sections have been fenced owing to ranching or farming, thus entailing a little detouring, bushwhacking, and cow-patty dodging. Nevertheless, this is an easy, enjoyable ride as the trail climbs gently but steadily into the Okanagan Highlands.

When you reach the near abandoned town of Carmi and the remains of the Carmi Mine, you'll want to park your bike as this historic site beckons you to explore its remains. Continuing on the packed gravel trail, you pass through this pine-forested backcountry on a gentle uphill grade to reach Hydraulic Lake. Near McCulloch Station, on the shore of Hydraulic Lake, is McCulloch Lake Resort, a quaint little resort with camping and cabins that takes you back to the days of wood-burning stoves and propane lights.

A near-level grade lies between McCulloch and Myra, so if you want to put the pedal to the metal and work up a sweat, you can click off the kilometers, stopping short of the canyon. At Myra Canyon the views abound, and as you cross over the many trestles and through the tunnels, you are again reminded that you're cycling in the tracks of an incredible railway.

Myra was named after the daughter of engineer J. L. Newman. The cement foundations from the station are found here. Just past the station, the railway enters a canyon where it hangs on the sides of cliffs, crosses numerous trestles, and travels through two tunnels. The area between Myra and Ruth is now commonly known as Myra Canyon. This canyon forced the railway to wind into the canyon on a wide detour.

Many of the original trestles were filled in during the upgrading of the railway in 1929. Two of the trestles were replaced with steel and the remaining wooden trestles refitted with new lumber. When the wooden trestles were originally constructed, each timber was cut and bored by hand. No shims were permitted, the fitting had to be exact.

Myra Canyon has changed over the past few years. When we first cycled this section, all trestles were easily walked over. Subsequent trips proved to be somewhat disappointing as vandalism and age was making passage more difficult. We were therefore very pleased to find that progress was under way to restore and upgrade this most spectacular section of the Kettle Valley Railway.

The Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society is the group largely responsible for the upgrading and maintenance of the KVR corridor through Myra Canyon. The changes in Myra Canyon are to enable this corridor to meet the British Columbia provincial standards for park status. Some of the work involved covering the original trestles with decking and the installation of handrails. While this can detract from some of the excitement of looking down through the ties to the ground many meters below, the potential excitement has been exchanged for safety.

Myra Canyon could have never been considered a corridor safe for travel in the condition to which it had declined. In fact, a few people have fallen from the trestles resulting in very serious injuries. Now upgraded, Myra Canyon, just as the Quintette Tunnels at Othello, can be added to British Columbia's long list of provincial parks.

Once out of the canyon, your ease of pedaling soon makes you aware of the gentle downhill grade. With gravity as your ally, the next thing you know, you're at Chute Lake. The lodge located here is a beautiful log building set next to the lake. You'll almost believe it's a mirage after such a remote stretch of backcountry. Cyclists are more than welcome, be it for a piece of Doreen's famous homemade pie or a few days of R&R.


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