Since last summer I’ve had this idea that it would be so awesome to cycle the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail. The trip never got organized but now that we were going through the Okanagan on bicycles, I was going to make sure we didn’t miss it. So in Naramata we got on the KVR headed for the renowned Myra Canyon. It sounded great: a steady 2% grade uphill, off the highway, with trestles, tunnels, and beautiful scenery.
Not gonna lie — it was worth the trouble! But it was slow going: we reached Chute Lake (~30km from the start) in five hours. Chute Lake Resort serves food, and we were probably its best customers that day: we ate a burger and a giant slice of apple pie each. The people on dirt bikes hadn’t worked up an appetite at all: they just came in for beers.
The KVR is really rocky and bumpy, and actually is more suited for mountain bikes. At one point there was a puddle so deep we had to take our panniers off and walk the bikes across. We made a unanimous decision to get on the highway as soon as we could after seeing the canyon. But a connecting road was not available, so we camped at Hydraulic Lake.
The few roads that do cross the KVR are logging roads in moderate to poor condition. The following day we were still looking for escape routes, until at one point we decided to just take that sketchy logging road forking to the left — couldn’t be that much worse than the trail. Luckily the highway was downhill from the KVR. The sketchy road ended here:
After the KVR, Highway 33 was a big pile of downhill fun! We scanned the roadside for restaurant signs, but there was nothing up until Beaverdell, where we saw an entire two signs! Wow! Choice! Actually, when we got into town we found the second restaurant had closed, and only It’s Mom’s Good Food roadside burger stand was open. (It really is good food!)
Beaverdell, population 400, is a town just off the KVR trail. We talked to Howie, who coaches the girls’ baseball team in town, as well as the lady who runs It’s Mom’s Good Food. They told us that just a few years ago the town would get hundreds of cyclists coming through. But ever since the local keeper of the trail passed away, they’ve heard more and more complaints about trail quality, and the number of cyclists has been dropping. The town’s businesses aren’t doing as well as they did. At the general store, we got another angle on this problem: the motorized dirt bikes and ATVs using the trail are smashing it up quite a bit more so than the bikes, making it harder to maintain.
As Howie said, the good news is that there is a solution: the townspeople can start maintaining the trail. It would be hard to organize, and there doesn’t seem to be very much funding for such a project. But it’s been done. So stay tuned: maybe Beaverdell will put itself back on the map as the town for a stopover when you’re cycling the KVR.