The 5 Best Bike Rides in the Okanagan
Top-notch road ride recommendations from a passionate OK cyclist.
Let’s just call it: the Okanagan, with its mix of climbs, good roads and vineyard views, is the best place to ride in Canada. You can pretty much point your bike in any direction and have a good time, but for those who really want to tackle the region, we’ve enlisted Giro Okanagan founder Gord Hotchkiss to let us in on the five classic trips that showcase the best of the region.
RIDE # 1 SCENIC AND STEEP LAKE COUNTRY – PREDATOR RIDGE/ SPARKLING HILLS – LAKE COUNTRY
THE GRIND 70 km • 1,120 m of ascent
THE SKINNY Kilometre for kilometre, this could well be the most scenic ride in the Central Okanagan. You’ll start in Winfield and head down to Okanagan Centre, where you’ll follow the lake up through Carr’s Landing. Then it’s the long, gruelling climb up to Predator Ridge (300 metres plus of climbing). The good news? This was recently paved, and it’s used by more than one NHLer for training in the off-season. If you choose, you can ride right up to the Sparkling Hills Resort ( just a little more climbing for the masochistic). Then you head back south. An option is to stay on commonage as you come back to Carr’s Landing. Some of this is gravel, but the views make it worth it. You wrap up with a lovely circle route around Wood Lake and back to Winfield.
RIDE # 2 ROLL WITH IT BABY ARMSTRONG – SALMON ARM – ARMSTRONG THE GRIND 103 km • 800 m of ascent
THE SKINNY There’s a reason why the Okanagan Shuswap Century Ride fully books up within minutes of the registration opening—it’s a great road ride. But you can do the same route any time. Start in Armstrong’s Memorial Park and ride through the lush farm scenery of the Salmon River Valley up to Salmon Arm. The official route takes a few twists and turns in Salmon Arm before you hit the most challenging climb of the ride, the 200-metre grind up Okanagan Avenue. Leaving Salmon Arm, you’ll ride for a short distance on Highway 97C (which features fairly wide shoulders) before turning right on Deep Creek Road and driving through more bucolic scenery back toward Armstrong. A great sampling of the rolling farmlands of the North Okanagan.
RIDE # 3 CITY TO SKY EAST KELOWNA AND MISSION THE GRIND 91 km • 1,380 m of ascent (with all climbs included)
THE SKINNY I’ve packed a lot of climbing into this route, but it’s easy to edit to match the level of challenge you want. This is a circle route that goes through downtown, so it’s a good choice for those staying in Kelowna. I’ve included a climb up Knox Mountain and over the ridge at Wilden to add some extra elevation but, if you choose, you can stick to the Valley bottom and head to the benchlands above Rutland. From Rutland, you climb back up to Belgo and ride through the orchards of East Kelowna to June Springs Road. Here you can test your Strava KOM ambitions ( bike nerd-speak for personal best— ed.) on the optional climb up to the end of the pavement (a little over 400 metres of ascent). Then it’s a nice rolling ride over to Lakeshore Drive for an out-and- back along Okanagan Lake, then back to downtown.
Note: My start and stop is from close to where I usually cycle in Wilden. This is good for those who crave uphill sprints at the finish line, but the start and stop can be moved to pretty much anywhere along the route!