A-Z Travels: K is for Kettle Valley Rail Trail: Conquering My Fear of Heights

Last summer the Okanagan Valley was hot, hot, hot! You could quite literally see the heat around you. Matt and I were volunteering on a vineyard in a small town called Cawston where we were rising at 6am to hit the vineyard working four or so hours before the sun got too much. Finishing our work day early enabled us to spend the rest of the day exploring the local area, after a nap of course!

Cawston Vineyard

Whilst Cawston itself is relatively small, there are lots of places nearby that are incredibly interesting. One of our favourites was the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, just over an hour away. It is an abandoned stretch of railway line with an abundance of trestles and tunnels. We’d seen many sections of abandoned railway lines across Canada and each holds a place in Canadian history. For our visit we joined the trail at one of its most scenic points in Myra Canyon.

The entire railway stretches over 325 miles of Canadian scenery and mountain ranges. The work was particularly gruelling, and lives were lost during its construction. Originally the railway was used to transport fruit into world markets and families on vacations, it also created employment when it was built between 1910-1915. However, over time with the building of more convenient roads and the advancement of air travel, the railway began to face challenges. By 1964 the passenger segment of the railway ceased to exist and by 1989, the last freight trains made their journey.

However, with thanks to funding, the Kettle Valley Railway has been re-imagined and re-utilised as a recreational area. Thanks to the enthusiasm of local people it is now a fantastic trail for cyclists and walkers alike. It is only a gradual grade of 2.2% so not a hardcore ride by a long shot. But, you wouldn’t want to miss the amazing views along the way.

Myra Canyon (63).JPG

I was a little sceptical going into this trail as I have a fear of heights. I get woozy in tall buildings, lifts or staircases. In fact, even mountains make me feel a bit funny. But, I try not to let it stop me from experiencing unique travel moments. For example, I didn’t want to miss out on the glass-bottomed elevator at the CN Tower in Toronto, suspension bridges in Vancouver and climbing the steps in the Berliner Dome. So, I took this trail as an opportunity to try and overcome this feeling. The many trestles along the way would pose a challenge but one I was ready to face head on!

Our generous hosts were able to lend us a couple of bikes and helmets, so we packed them up in the back of the van and set off towards the trail. The Okanagan Valley is a stunning place to drive, the road sides are lined with vineyards, fruit sellers and orchards. The temperatures were reaching upwards of 35 degrees (Celsius) so boy were we grateful for air conditioning!

If you don’t have a bike you can hire one once you reach the trail from Myra Canyon Rental . In fact, the people running the facility there are very helpful. My seat was too low on my bike and even though I hadn’t rented from them they were more than happy to help. Its best to be comfortable while riding so check tires, seats, brakes etc before departing (that’s if you know how to… unlike me!) If you don’t fancy cycling then you can walk, the path is easily shared and big enough for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The gravel road leading up to the trail is pretty long and winding and if my memory serves me right there were quite a few potholes as well, so take it easy. Once you reach the top there is ample parking, free of charge. Here you’ll find some pit toilets too (another essential before heading out!) Head to the far end of the parking lot to find the entrance to the trail.

The Myra Canyon stretch of the trail boasts 18 trestle bridges and 2 tunnels and each one is spectacular. These structures must’ve been back- breaking to construct as the bridges are at terrifying heights along the steep canyon slopes. Being in the mountains the air was a little cooler and much more comfortable for cycling. However, due to local forest fires there was smoke in the air giving a hazy glow across the landscape. But even this didn’t detract from the wonderful views.

In fact, it was the views that distracted me from the height of the trestles. I found if I didn’t look directly down I felt ok. There are gaps in between the planks of wood which often made me feel unstable, but more often than not I was looking out over the canyon, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Then Matt challenged me to look down and the tumbling sensation returned. The feeling of falling when you are at the top of something incredibly tall is not an enjoyable one! So, the rest of the ride my head was up, and I survived! Whilst I’m not totally cured it was definitely a step in the right direction.

With over 70,000 visitors each year according to Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society , the trail does get busy during peak seasons. Here are a few tips to make your trip enjoyable:

Cycle at low speeds- there are steep drop offs, that you don’t want to go down

Pedestrians have right of way

Enjoy the view by getting off your bike and walking it over the trestles

Take out what you bring in- there are no bins between Myra Canyon and Ruth Gates so be prepared to take any litter with you

Take water and snacks- no one wants to get hangry!

Mountain weather can change quickly so be prepared

Don’t smoke anywhere- as I mentioned before, forest fires do happen and often they are started by careless dropping of cigarettes

Don’t forget your camera- you’re going to want to capture these trestles.

Do you think you could cope with the trestles? Have you ever been to the Kettle Valley Railway?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels. Next week is going to be L for language and all the times I’ve been misheard, misunderstood and misinterpreted despite speaking the same language! Happy travels 😊

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