Destination Showcase: The Thompson-Okanagan, British Columbia

Jul 24, 2018
by Pinkbike Originals  

THE THOMPSON-OKANAGAN, BC
Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops
Photography, Words & Video: Peter Wojnar
Presented by Mountain Biking BC

The Okanagan is famous for its excellent wineries and omnipresent orchards and fruit stands, as well as a quickly growing number of great breweries. And while it's true that much of the Okanagan is blanketed in all sorts of delicious plants, there's still plenty of room for mountain bike trails to criss-cross the region! Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops each have several trail networks with their own flavour, ranging from chunky, technical descending on all manner of rock features, to pro-built flow trails with jumps and berms for any level, to lift-served riding at Big White and Silver Star that rivals the world's biggest bike parks. Across the board, they all have one thing in common: the sound of tall grass and sagebrush whistling past your tires as you let off the brakes and look for that next corner!

As it happens, the weather conditions that make the Okanagan such a great place to produce wine and grow fruit also make it a pretty good place to ride bikes—especially considering that there are refreshing lakes and rivers to jump into minutes from the bottom of almost every single trail network in the region. Combine all that sun with a couple of wheels and a good friend or six, and the Okanagan delivers smiles and high-fives almost without fail.


PENTICTON

Rock Oven, just south of Penticton, shows off stunning views from grippy rock slabs...
...which are connected by fast, ripping singletrack through the trees.

Dennis Beare couldn't resist this long, steep rock roll near the bottom of Rock Oven.

Sunsets in the Okanagan are an absolute spectacle. We stayed out until dark on the 3 Blind Mice trail network, riding incredible trails with the good folks from Freedom, one of the local bike shops.

KELOWNA

City on the Edge of Forever, in Rose Valley, goes through this unique rock arch. Up higher, the trail features views of Kelowna and the Rose Valley.

The Crawford trails drop through a burnt forest and are fast, raw, and rocky.
Like many trails on Crawford, Connector has great views.

Knox Mountain has some fun trails that you could hit with a rock from just about anywhere in Kelowna.

VERNON

Ellison Provincial Park is full of fast singletrack through forest and grasslands alike, down towards Okanagan Lake.

Silver Star Bike Park has some of the best corners we've ever ridden...
...and the nearby Sovereign network has plenty of raw rock moves if you want to pedal.

Squirrel's-eye view of another beautiful Okanagan sunset, on the Predator Ridge trails.

KAMLOOPS

Harper Mountain is a charming old ski resort with fast, fun trails, that have been used for the Canadian National Enduro Series the past few years. There's a shuttle road and a climbing trail to suit your taste.

If freeride is more your style, the Kamloops Bike Ranch has some iconic features you've seen in magazines and movies, from enormous FEST series jumps, to this corner made famous by Matt Hunter

At this point, commenting on the quality of the Okanagan's sunsets seems a bit redundant...

But can you really blame anyone for being blown away?

Thompson Okanagan Mountain Biking Trails

Pinkbike would like to thank the following towns for their incredible hospitality.
Vernon
Kamloops
Penticton
Kelowna

super natural british columbia



54 Comments

  • + 29
 From someone who grew up riding in the Okanagan... if you go during July or August, plan your rides for the early morning and spend your afternoons near, or better yet, in, the lake... or at the wineries. It is more often than not brutally hot during the summer afternoons (35+C) and the trails are more exposed (less shade) than some people may be used to.

It's definitely not a reason to stop you from going, the trails are very unique and super fun... just a little former local knowledge to help you from dying of heat exhaustion!

I'd recommend visiting in May/June or September/October. Better temps, better hotel rates, better grip, less people = better times!
  • + 4
 I think the exception would be silverstar. It's a lot cooler up there and actually gets very cold in the evening. Last time I went it was 36 I'm Vernon but I was wearing a long sleeve up at the bike park.
  • + 2
 Went to Osoyoos 5 years ago in August and the heat was already brutal at 9h in the morning (29C+). The lake in the middle of town was a "must go" destination.
  • + 1
 Plus one on this comment I spend 3 weeks in salmon arm and Vernon every summer and Christ it gets hot past late morning almost unbareable right threw to the evenings if your not on a beach or a pool never mind a bike trail!! Got to hit it up early and chill on the lake all afternoon!
  • + 3
 @lRaphl: Osoyoos doesn't have much to pedal either, from what I've seen. Penticton on the other hand has some sweet riding if you are just trying to spend a few hours and not the whole day up in the mountains. I went up on a slightly drizzly day in late summer a few years back and the weather and trails were perfect.
  • + 2
 @taletotell: I wasn't there for riding. I was on my way to Fernie and stopped there for 2days.
  • + 2
 Climbing up high is a good way to beat the heat. Do a couple of laps up high, then feel the heat smack you as you descend lower at the end of the ride.
  • + 2
 This is great advice. My first and only experience here was Penticton/Summerland area in October (Thanksgiving long weekend). AirBNB rates were great, it's a ghost town at that time, and the weather was still great with temps around the 20's.

Rode the 3BM area (Bronco, etc) and Rock Oven at Skaha Bluffs area. Both places were great, with some unreal views and super satisfying rock lines. It sounds like Rock Oven is a bit torn up near the bottom these days, according to Trailforks. I hope they can patch it up nicely, because I dream of that trail almost once per week. So good.
  • + 2
 @mammal: I rode it last July and it was pretty rough at the end but totally rideable. It's a bit of a mission of trail especially when it's stupid hot/dry (and forest fire smoke) but definitely fun if you like technical riding. The top/mid sections were awesome.
  • + 1
 @gramboh: Thanks for sharing, I'm glad to hear it.

I can imagine it would be a mission in the heat, as the access climbs can be a bit grueling. It was perfect in October though, and man, that rocky decent is/was so nice.
  • + 23
 It sucks here.
  • + 5
 That's what I heard. Best riding is in Southern California. You should all move there.
  • + 1
 you're correct, people best just stay away
  • + 5
 way to add kamloops in there and skip kelowna's gillard trails and skip smith creek witch is some of the best riding around this area
  • + 5
 Pretty much a very high level barebones introduction to the area without any actionable information
  • + 1
 @leelau: The goal is to highlight these regions to the masses through beautiful, professional imagery but allow people to discuss and research for themselves.
  • + 2
 @andrewdaly: Andrew but people want recommended routes which Trailforks has in spades. Give @Canadaka functionality a chance to shine
  • + 2
 Quite ironic that this comes up, my wife and I are moving to Kelowna in a couple of weeks after our stint here in Kyrgyzstan. I'd love to meet up with some local guys to ride some of this stuff, that rock arch looks damn cool. Planning to be around for 12 months so I can make the most of the region for riding and skiing.
Safe to assume most of this is on Trailforks?
  • + 1
 Yup tons of info on Trailforks. Also look for other Pinkbike articles about Kelowna itself which has trail orgs, trail recos and group rides
  • + 6
 Found old stories with ride suggestions for Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon with maps, pictures, descriptions.

www.leelau.net/sharonandlee/tag/okanagan

The Crawford bit should whet the appetite as should the Smith Creek and Rose Valley trails
  • + 2
 @leelau: thanks for the heads up, much appreciated.
  • + 2
 I know it’s already been said, but I feel the need to reiterate. Here in Penticton we’ve coined the phrase #itsuckshere. You can draw your own conclusions about what that means, but you should definitely come and find out for yourself.

If want to see more video of riding in Penticton, hit the link below to check out my YouTube channel. I’ve been building a library of the local trails, you can also find them on their respective pages in Trailforks. #letsgoridebikes

www.youtube.com/channel/UCsfdJz0N2z02xBg-nQiWDMw
  • + 3
 All this Kelowna showcase needed was to show some Enduro Trails from Gillard and the often over looked Angel springs! Weird to see City on the Edge so green though, great shots.
  • + 1
 I went to Osoyoos with my mtn bike and was really disappointed in the lack of trails in the area and the distance of the trails. I'd like to plan a 5 day roadtrip with some friends going from Vangroovy to Kamloops, then Kelowna and Penticton (as Osoyoos is a waste of time). Any trails recommended for 1/2 to full day riding XC/AM. Thanks
  • + 1
 Could spend a few days in Penticton. Rock Oven is a classic, Wiltse (6-Stitches) if you want to get gnarly, 3 Blind Mice for days (shuttle or pedal). Apex is worth checking out, Sheep Rock is a good out and back in the alpine, especially this time of year to escape the valley heat.
  • + 4
 @MMOF Found old stories with ride suggestions for Penticton, Kelowna, Summerland, Vernon with maps, pictures, descriptions. Lots of choices

www.leelau.net/sharonandlee/tag/okanagan
  • + 1
 @leelau: Thank you
  • + 2
 Every time I see pics and vids of BC I’m more convinced that it has got to be the most gorgeous region on the entire planet. You Canadians.... I’m so envious of you guys in every way.
  • + 1
 Not featured in the vid but very fun to ride is the Sovereign Lake trail network near SilverStar. It is relatively new and offers a good balance of techy rock/roots and punchy climbs.
  • + 1
 Rode Harper just yesterday. It was awesome, dirt wasn’t blown out yet. Trails are just about perfect. But that’s my home trails
  • + 1
 Trans Rockies SIngletrack 6 is using the area again this year. Some great zones with lots of variation. Different to the BC coast where I am from but just as nice.
  • + 3
 Kamloops is not in the okanagan. Its in the thomson/nicola.
  • + 1
 Correct
  • + 1
 Technically it's the Thompson-okanagan region of bc. Don't ask lol
  • + 2
 @makripper: what? I just looked it and its some bullshit tourism coined word. Right up there with Kootenay Rockies. Are we geographical illiterates?

It's always been the Thompson- Nicola Regional district. Whatever. It's just a word i suppose
  • + 2
 @leelau: The regional district just means the local governing body. Same with okanagan similkameen for the penticton area, columbia shushwap for the salmon arm area, etc.

I hope that makes sense.

The province is divided multiple different ways for different coverage reasons.
  • + 5
 @makripper: true. I'd originally thought it was geography based on watersheds but you're right. Consider myself educated
  • + 2
 @leelau: it's very frustrating for lots of reasons! have a good day!
  • + 3
 pretty much the best place on earth - go there immediately!!
  • + 1
 i was in BC just a year, ride it all, its AWESOME, totally love Rock Oven! good to combinate with rossland, nelson and fernie Smile
  • + 1
 Come Check out our home trails in the spring or fall, Conditions will not disappoint!!
  • + 1
 Had a great time riding with you guys when you came through, thanks for the exposure for our amazing region!
  • + 1
 wow, absolutely beautiful. Great shots yall.
  • + 1
 Family lives in the Okanagan, some epic trails, lakes, views (and bears)!
  • + 1
 my hometown trails Vernon,proud to cal vernon my home :-))
  • + 1
 How is Silverstar on a trail bike? Better to rent a DH bike?
  • + 3
 It’s still fun and doable, but depends on your trail bike. A 150mm f/r bike with bigger tires 2.4 or more works well enough but if your goal is to blaze the black trials a bigger bike is better imo.
  • + 2
 I did a bunch of laps of blues, and some of the natural trail blacks, on my fuel ex, on Sunday and had a blast. If you're looking to slay big jump lines maybe a big bike is the call.
  • + 1
 its fine on a trail bike. most trails are machine built flow/jump trails
  • - 1
 If you like going fast, you need a dh bike. Poking your way down? Trail bike will manage.
  • + 1
 trail bike is fine, its the degree of forgiveness you need that'll determine.

Edit: oops double post
  • + 0
 kamloops had one of the best sunsets i've ever seen.
  • - 1
 Too bad the Okanagan is on fire again this summer.
  • + 3
 Its pretty isolated and not near any of the trail networks. Compared to last year smoke levels are a non issue in West Kelowna, let alone the Vernon/Kamloops region. Ya our friends in Summerland and Peachland are having a stressfull time, and we are cheering on our local wildfire crews lets not abandon any plans to come shred trail!

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