Cycling the South Okanagan
Touring or hammering, you will find a place to do it around Penticton. People who love mountain biking, cycle touring, triathlon training and the winning combination of wineries and beaches can't get enough of the Okanagan Valley. Whatever type of riding you are into, the area offers every cycling opportunity under the sun. If your cycling vacation dreams include any or all of the above styles then read on.
The common tread for many of the valley biking experiences is the Trans Canada Trail also known as the Kettle Valley Trail. Penticton serves as a hub for the most scenic stretches of the bike-friendly TCT. Cyclists can head off in three different directions: north along the east side of the lake to Naramata, north up the west side of the lake to Summerland and due south along the shore of Skaha Lake and beyond. The three distinctly different routes provide excellent day-tripping opportunities.
Trans Canada Trail Daytrips from Penticton
North toward Naramata (1 hour to a full day)
The big reason to go for many (beyond the incredible scenery) is the wine! There are ten plus wineries between Penticton and Naramata, and the trail takes riders right to the backdoor of Hillside Estate Winery. If wine is your mission then stop in for a tasting to begin your wine tour. After Hillside just follow Naramata Rd and you will find wineries both lakeside and mountainside such as Red Rooster Winery, Lakebreeze Vineyards, Kettle Valley Winery and Lang Vineyards. All these wineries offer outstanding hospitality to visitors; bring your own cheese and fresh bread and have a picnic. There is no better way to experience the rural charm and excellent wines of the Okanagan Valley then by bicycle.
If you want to skip the wine and explore the vistas and views then stay on the trail and head north and up the gentle 2% grade. You could pedal all the way up to Chute Lake but most choose the historic "Little Tunnel" as their destination. The most beautiful part of this daytrip is the view; Okanagan Lake and its surrounding mountains are spectacular from this location. The return descent from the lookout brings riders back through the Ponderosa pine forests back down to the vineyards and orchards of the valley. If one had to pick just one ride on the TCT, this trip is the one for tourists in a time crunch. It's the Okanagan in a nutshell: vineyards, orchards, natural grasslands, mountains and lake views galore.
Trout Creek Trestle Trip (1.5 hours to a full day)
This ride is underrated as the wineries on the Naramata side garner all the press, but this ride is every bit as good if beautiful scenery and unique attractions are on your to-do list. Ride west through Penticton to the West Bench and jump on the trail heading north toward Summerland.
Previously, would-be cyclists and hikers would have to pick their way over the highest bridge on the Kettle Valley Railway, balancing themselves (& their bikes) precariously on the rail ties all the while staring down into the deep canyon and its namesake creek far below. In October 2004, the Trout Creek Trestle was decked and hand railed, taking vertigo out of play and making some excellent tourist attractions readily accessible. The Trout Creek canyon itself is breathtaking with two worthy bonus attractions on either side of the bridge. On the south side is the famous Summerland Ornamental Gardens. The garden is located on the Agriculture Canada Research Station grounds and is a Shangri-La for picnickers and gardeners alike. Green lawns and cool shade that are at a premium everywhere in the valley can be found in abundance at the gardens. After a hot accent up the trail from Penticton, sprawling out on the lawn with your favorite water bottle is especially appealing. On the north side of the bridge you can find another Okanagan gem, Summerland Sweets. Not only do they make the best jams and fruit leather in the province but you can get a very generous serving of ice cream or an incredible cup of fair trade coffee. For those who are not ready to head back yet, riders can bomb down the switchbacking drive of the research station right to Okanagan Lake and Sunoka Beach Provincial Park to cool off at one of the finest crescent beaches found anywhere in Canada. Park your bike under a tree and swim in the crystal clear water or rent a canoe to explore the shoreline. Currently you and your friends may be the only ones on the trail but it is best to ride it soon as the route is sure to grow in popularity.
HI-Penticton, your perfect base!
You want to go, but you need a few more things like a bike and a place to stay. The bike-friendly Hostelling International Penticton is an excellent choice as they offer secure bike storage, bike rentals ($44 plus tax) at the best rate in Penticton plus bike tools and a bike wash for free. The hostel serves as a basecamp for adventurers from bikers and rock-climbers to backpackers who are trying all the activities that the Okanagan Valley has to offer. Staff generously doles out local trail information that they have acquired from experience behind bars. Traditional dorm style beds and private rooms are available in the charming, ultra friendly hostel that is close to the city centre, the lake and the trails.
Mountain bikers, touring cyclists, triathletes and weekend warriors all can get a thrill on two wheels in and around Penticton. Scenic lakeside rides to eyeball-bouncing downhill single-track are available from March to October. If you cruise, rip, bomb or coast, add Penticton to your must ride list.