Adventure on the Myra Canyon Trestles, Kelowna

Category: Canada | North America

Confessions of a Flat-Land Cyclist

I am the type of cyclist who, if I look over my left shoulder to check if there are any cars coming, is likely to head straight into the ditch on the right.  So riding on a relatively narrow trail that has a severe drop on one side, and I am not talking a 4 foot drop but maybe an 80 foot drop, really made me pay attention to what I was doing. 

The Myra Canyon Trestles is a 12 km (7.5 mi) segment of the Kettle Valley Railway, now turned into a rail trail, which has some spectacular railroad trestle bridges.  It also has a couple of very cool (literally) tunnels that are welcome when the summer temperatures start to climb in this semi-desert region of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.  Couple this with the fact that it is only 17 km (10.5 mi) from the city of Kelowna, it is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

Cyclists in the Myra-Canyon-Tunnel
Cyclists in the Myra Canyon Tunnel

And of course, the trestles are spectacular.  Eighteen trestles, varying in length hug the upper section of Myra Canyon connecting numerous outcrops where small creeks have scoured the soft rock and Ponderosa pine have gripped the loose soil.

History of the Kettle Valley Railway

The Kettle Valley Railway is part of an 800 km (500 mi) bike and hike trails of abandoned railroads built originally in the early 1900s to bring British Columbia’s rich mineral resources and lumber closer to its ports in New Westminster and Vancouver.  Many of the stations and landmarks carry the names of lonely surveyors’ and engineers’ daughters, or favourite literary reading.  Myra and June are such stations and there are a series of tunnels named after Shakespeare’s Othello, with neighbouring stops of Portia, Lear, Romeo and Juliet. 

Rock Cut on the Myra Canyon

Rock Oven Built for the Rail Crews

Surveying the central part of BC was no easy feat, with the Cascade Mountains beginning at the coast and rumbling eastward with only narrow valleys in between the numerous north-south ranges all the way to the Rockies on the border of Alberta.  And trains need to have a dependable, smooth and gentle incline or decline in order to transport those heavy cars full of men and materials. 

Spectacular Trestles

Which of course, makes it perfect riding for a flat-land cyclist like myself.  No great huffing and puffing up mountain roads, negotiating sweaty switchbacks or losing control careening down steep downhill stretches.  Less than a 2.2% grade throughout and at least a 5’ width of gravel is just about perfect biking conditions for me.  Of course, a small barricade on the cliff side wouldn’t go amiss in my book. 

Looking-Down-the-Gully-from a trestle
Looking Down the Gully from a Trestle

Myra Canyon Trestle has Well-Protected Barricades.

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway trail guide book recommends that bikers walk their bikes across the trestles, which do have barricades on both sides of the bridge, and so we dutifully, and gladly walked our bikes over the trestles. 

However, many others using the trail while we were there, were much more adventurous and continued blissfully across without dismounting, with no ill result.  It has not always been the case though, as one marker pointed out that a 22 year old woman lost control of her bike on a bridge and fell 25 m (80 ft) onto the rocks below. 

The Steel Trestle Bridge at Myra Canyon

The trestle bridges are well travelled by bikers, hikers of all ages, and even parents with strollers. It is a perfect place to enjoy the views and to get some easy exercise.  There were lots of benches along the trail to take advantage of a stop for views, photograph the vista or the wide range of wildflowers bordering the trail. And if you sit quietly, you will most likely have a conversation with a suspicious Columbia ground squirrel or a bold chipmunk.  

Columbia Ground Squirrel

Turk’s Cap Lily

And after we had done the 12 km of trail that marked the Myra Canyon segment and turned back to retrace our tracks, we began to get a little more adventurous ourselves and over the last half of the route held our perches on our bikes to cross the remaining trestles. 

Surviving and Thriving After the Fire

The trestles are mostly new now, but they have been rebuilt to their original specifications.  In 2003, a wild fire, common in the Okanagan, took off in Myra Canyon and the creosote timbers took on the fire very quickly, lighting up the area in an architectural light show.  Within a few hours, most of the bridges were damaged beyond repair. 

View down Myra Canyon Growing Green Again After the Wildfire of 2003

Fortunately, the area had National Historic Site status, so some funding was provided by federal and provincial governments and the rebuilding took place over the next 5 years.   The Myra Canyon Trestles Restoration Society, comprised of volunteers, was actively involved in the reconstruction and continues to maintain the trailways today.  Donations and new volunteers are always welcome.

A-Myra-Canyon-Trestle-from-Across-the Canyon
A Myra Canyon Trestle Viewed from Across the Canyon

With only 12 km completed of the 800 km (500 miles) of trails of the combined Kettle Valley Rail Trail and other rail trails in British Columbia, we still have a few more adventures left to explore.  And like Myra Canyon, the other segments have interesting characteristics that set them apart, as well as their own stories to tell. 

If You Go

Both the Myra Canyon Trestles Restoration Society and the BC Rail Trails websites provide excellent information about the Myra Canyon trail.

If you would like to cycle the trail, but didn’t bring your bike, you can rent bikes at the trail head from Myra Canyon Rental.

The book, Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway, by Dan & Sandra Langford, gives detailed information of each segment of all the rail trails which makes planning your trip easy and is good reading as well.

About the Author

Deborah Tiffany fell in love with adventure travel in Grade 5 when she learned about Marco Polo.  She is more comfortable hanging from the crow’s nest of a tall ship, than riding a bicycle.

Photo Credits by the Author

You Might Also Like

FrenchRidge Hut-NewZealand

Adventure in the Southern Alps

Ki Monastery, Spiti, India

Road Trip To Bella Coola and Beyond

Casa-Buena-with-View of the Studio Terrace

Art Adventure in Mexico

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This