Biking the Okanagan Rail Trail

A two-hour e-bike rental proved the perfect introduction to this breathtaking slice of B.C. wilderness.

When I look back on it, 2019 was a big year. It was the year I turned 50, the year we returned to Canada after living in New Zealand for three years, and the year my husband, Tim, and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Some people celebrate those milestones in a big way, but having recently returned to Vernon, B.C., we had just moved relatives out of a house, and repainted and moved ourselves in—so we found ourselves too tired to plan anything.

We do love exploring new things though, and since the Okanagan Rail Trail opened while we were away, we decided to enjoy the sunshine and go for a ride on electric bikes, which we had also never tried before.

Biking the Okanagan Rail TrailHélène Clarke
Hélène and Tim enjoying their e-bikes.

Getting accustomed to e-bikes

I used to wonder if riding an electric bike was cheating, but contrary to many beliefs, you still have to pedal to make the bike move, meaning I got a workout while going further, faster. So, after experiencing one, I now believe that any movement is good movement. I’m sure that attitude has nothing to do with the aches that come with an older body! Also, it was lovely not having to worry about a headwind, plus, if it’s a hot day, you can just ride faster and create your own breeze. We rented our e-bikes for two hours from the Kalavida Surf Shop in Coldstream. I didn’t know how comfortable I would be using all the speeds, but it didn’t take long to adjust to the faster pace and soon we were cruising along, often passing the other parties on the trail. Be warned, there are lots of people on the trail as it is well-used by walkers, joggers and cyclists all year round. This is probably because the trail is relatively flat and offers ever-changing views of Kalamalka Lake around each corner. Kalamalka is one of those surprise lakes that changes colour for a short time most summers, due to leftover limestone deposits from receding glaciers. It’s always fun to watch the transition from dark blue to light green and turquoise. It’s quite spectacular. It hadn’t changed to its brightest colour yet on the day we rode, but it’s a beautiful lake in any month. I especially like the sparkly water diamonds created by the sun.

Hélène and Tim at Kalamalka LakeHélène Clarke
Hélène and Tim’s bike ride afforded them ever-changing views of lovely Kalamalka Lake.

Wildlife abounds on the Okanagan Rail Trail

Whenever outdoors, we are constantly scanning for wildlife and that day we caught a glimpse of a coyote escaping up the bank. We also had a game of peek-a-boo with a friendly merganser duck. The array of rock colours along this trail is a wonder. The reds, blacks, browns and greens are splashed on the rock walls like beautiful abstract art. When you see those same colours sparkling in lighter shades below the water you’ll be tempted to stop for another photo. Try to capture a scraggly sage bush in your photo for extra texture. Unfortunately, our day turned a bit cloudy; so hope for a sunny day for those contrasting colours to really shine.

What we’ll do differently next time

Our two-hour rental gave us plenty of time to ride to the beautiful little town of Oyama, where we took a break to have a cool drink at Gatzke Orchard before turning around and heading back to Coldstream. We usually like doing loops, but it’s always surprising how different a trail can look when going in the other direction. One thing we didn’t do was bring our swimsuits. We will definitely do that next time, as well as book the bikes for longer so we can ride around Wood Lake, too. A refreshing swim would have been just the thing, but we had a dinner reservation to get to because who wants to cook on their anniversary?

Inspired to tackle the Okanagan Rail Trail? Check out more of Canada’s best bike trails.

Originally Published in Our Canada