Occasionally we have the opportunity to introduce our readers to a new travel guide. This week we have the privilege of hosting Chelsea Pierce as our guest author.
She only had 48 hours to spare and wondered “Is Kelowna worth visiting?” Here is her impression after spending 2 days in Kelowna, BC.
Photo Credits: Chelsea Pierce
Kelowna, BC: Ales and Trails
by Chelsea Pierce
Much like the British documentary Travel Man, my boyfriend and I explored Kelowna, BC within 48 hours. During the summer of 2022, we embarked on an adventure starting in Boise, Idaho and crossed the border into Canada.
The first thing we noticed was the striking difference between central Washington and British Columbia. We had left America for a clean, lush drive along the Okanagan. We were both surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of wineries from Osoyoos to the neighboring town Oliver. In the interest of getting to our Airbnb safely, we took mental note of this for a future wine tour on our next road trip through to Kelowna.
We cruised through Penticton, Summerland and Peachland admiring the scale of the mountains along the lake. We passed through West Kelowna and crossed the floating bridge to downtown Kelowna.
Train Station Pub
We checked into our gardenesque lodgings nestled near a cliff face and checked out the fare at the Train Station Pub. We walked into the pub during the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames playoff hockey game and experienced the palpable excitement that was brimming for this rivalry. We ordered a beer each and tasted the mellowness of Canadian brew compared to western American hops.
We started with an order of potato and cheese filled pierogies which were reminiscent of potstickers. Fortunately, they had plenty of vegetarian options and I delighted over their tempeh BLT especially after our eleven-hour drive. We retired to our monochrome digs for the night and awoke for a day of mountain biking the next morning.
Smith Creek Mountain Biking Trails
We readied for our first full day and set out for our host’s breakfast recommendation at Sprout Bread. Their drip coffee was the perfect start to the day and their Vegetarian Breakfast Sandwich with a legume and squash patty was more surprisingly delicious than expected. My boyfriend opted for their Pork Sausage Breakfast Sandwich that he must have enjoyed because he ate it very quickly.
Happily fueled, we set out for the Smith Creek trails in West Kelowna. We rode a green, warm up trail first and were impressed with the rich dirt and vegetation. We pedaled up the climbing trail and I couldn’t help but stop multiple times to snap photos of all the yellow wildflowers.
Once at the top of our climb, I chose to ride the trail called Feel the Love and I should’ve known not to judge a trail by its name. It was a swooping downhill trail that I wasn’t ready for. I rode as much of it as I could handle and almost made it to the bottom, but I decided to hike my bike to a different trail. I learned the hard way that Canadian blue rated trails seem more intense than American blue rated trails.
Myra Canyon Trestles
We debriefed at the lakeside brewery Kelowna Beer Institute. Again, both the pilsner and IPA were on the mellow side. We also split a generous order of fried cheese curds. The day began to warm up, and we took a stroll along the beach sightseeing the dolphin water fountain before making a pit stop back at the Airbnb to change into cooler clothing.
There was still plenty of daylight, so we ambitiously added the Myra Canyon Trestle section of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail to our day of mountain biking. The trestles are a short drive from Kelowna on the Myra Forest Service Road and on up into the mountains. As advised on their website, we parked on the Myra Station side.
We unstrapped our bikes from the car and set off for the most scenic ride. At an elevation of 1280 kilometers, we started with a spectacular view of the Okanagan. Burned trees still stood from the 2003 fire which afforded a clear view. Trestles could be spotted from across the canyon, and we could even see the backside of the still snowy Big White Ski Resort.
An information kiosk displayed photos of the burning trestles that were thankfully restored for both historical and recreational purposes. The trestles vary in height from 8 to 55 meters and the sheer height of riding across all eighteen of them is breathtaking. For those afraid of heights, they require a bit of an adjustment. I raced across them instead of stopping for perfect photo opportunities.
The first rocky tunnel is large and dark yet short lived. The next tunnel is framed by cement but solidifies the ambiance of the old Kettle Valley Railway. A short canyon section also feels as if it transports a rider to a different time period. Once on the other side of the canyon and looking across, the first five trestles that were crossed can be seen built high up into the rocky mountain.
The trail soon becomes woodsy, fulfilling those rail trail rider’s dreams. The bordering rock walls drip ground water and the end of that 12-km-long section of trail reveals the foundation of old Ruth Station buildings. The Myra Canyon Trestles are a unique experience and an easy highlight of the trip.
Barn Owl Brewing
Afterwards, we happened upon nearby Barn Owl Brewing in the Mission Creek area. With our brew and the most delicious cheese bun in hand, we wandered towards the acoustic guitar playing upstairs in the old, converted barn. I admired the vaulted ceiling decorated with three chandeliers and four more antique lamp shades.
Once the serenade was over, we made another stop downtown to see the infamous sail statue against the sunset. Intrigued by the waterfront location of Smoke’s Poutinerie, we split an order and it did not disappoint. Exhausted after a full day of biking, we retired to the Airbnb.
For our second morning waking up in Kelowna, we readied and breakfasted at the Bohemian Café. The drip coffee was fine, and I decided it was time to give the local salmon and lox a try. It was apparently good enough because I only remembered to snap a photo of the last morsel.
We were so enamored by the trestles that we travelled back to test out the Crawford Trails at the Myra Bellevue Provincial Park. We made a pit stop at the Soma Craft Cidery for a quick tasting on the way and their llamas were a definite delight.
We rolled up to the small dirt parking lot and were met with woods. We released our bikes from the rack, and I opted for only green trails this time since I learned my lesson from the Smith Creek Trails. Even their green trails were very scenic though.
We still had a decent view of the lake, and the vegetation was out of this world in green colors. There were even some fun rock slabs that my boyfriend got to test his mountain biking skills on.
From there, we wandered back downtown and stopped at the interesting Skinny Duke’s Glorious Emporium where we had a beer and vinegar peanuts. The bar was decorated with fun retro toys from the 80s.
We made two more stops on the drive back to our Airbnb, one of them was Bad Tattoo Brewing. Here, we tried flights that were accompanied with tattoo inspired tasting cards. Last, but not least, we made our last stop at one of the oldest dive bars in Kelowna called O’Flannigan’s. Fortunately for us, another playoff hockey series continued in the Battle of Alberta, and it was the focus of the evening. After indulging in the bar fare, we celebrated our last night in Kelowna.
The Takeaway – Is Kelowna Worth Visiting?
Pairing mountain biking with tasting local beer only scratches the surface of the activities to do in Kelowna. Now that we have the lay of the land, we have a bucket list of ideas to check off during our next trip to the Okanagan. During our next visit we plan to tour at least one of their many wine trails, hike to as many waterfalls in the area as possible, and ride both the Rose Valley and the infamous Knox Mountain trails. And a dip in the lake will also be a must.