I’m a professional mountain biker and I live and regularly train in Kelowna. Welcome to my stomping grounds! My favourite part about travelling is mountain biking on new trails. As a well-seasoned mountain biker, I’m always looking for the local favourites; the ones that are challenging with the best descents. Kelowna is a great place to visit for mountain bikers of all abilities because we have a variety of trails.
Whether you want to stick to the green trails for maximum flow, or if you are an adrenaline junkie jonesin’ for gnarly trails, there is something for everyone. The following list is for those looking for the best descents that are rideable on a trail bike (or XC bike if you dare). You are in the right place! The general vibe of trails in Kelowna are rocky and loose due to our arid climate.
If you want to first get a feel for our different trail systems, check out my articles on Myra Bellevue and Rose Valley. When I’m deciding what trails to ride, I always gravitate (pun intended) to the technical descents. People ask me all the time on Instagram (www.instagram.com/sonya_looney) where to ride when they come to Kelowna – the trails for the veteran mountain biker.
If you’re not from around here, a quick mention is that the black trails in BC are different than black trails most other places. I should know – I moved here from Colorado! Generally, BC trails are steeper and more technical. BC is famous for its technical mountain bike trails! A black in BC would be like a double-black trail in most places, just like our skiing! And a black trail on the coast is even harder than a black trail in Kelowna!
Some Trail Previews:
Here are my favourite trail flavours in Kelowna. Check out the Kelowna Outdoor Trail Guide and download the Trailforks app. Ride ‘em and then go grab a bite on one of our stunning patios with your friends.
Myra-Bellevue: Vapour Trail
Distance: 2.6mi/ 418km Descent: 1,723ft
This trail is one of our longest descents. Get up the KVR (Kettle Valley Railway) and look for the Vapour Trail sign. It can be easy to miss, so make sure you double check the map! The trail starts with a steep chute. Depending on the time of year and conditions of the dirt, it can be slippery. This is the steepest part of the entire trail! At the bottom of this section, it’ll pop out on a double track. Turn right and follow it down- it’s fast (and past the Outhouse Trail)! Vapour will veer off to the right to keep going. There are a few different rock roll features on the trail with optional hucks and also ride-arounds. The vibe of Vapour Trail is big and mostly embedded rocks with steep and loose sections. If you start down this trail and decide it’s not for you, it intersects with multiple trails along the way to bail out.
Myra Bellevue: Angel Springs/KLO Creek Trail
Distance: 1.9+2.5mi / 3km + 4.02km (including Myra bailout: add .5mi/ 800m) total descent: 2,463’ including bailout: 2900’
This is the most unique trail in Kelowna because it’s not like any of the others. It is also our longest descent. You can ride up through the Myra-Bellevue trail system and access it either from the KVR (starting with the Myra Bail-Out trail) or you can access it from June Springs. I recommend dropping down from the KVR because you get along, ripping fast trail. Angel Springs starts with a rocky, ponderosa pine vibe like the rest of the Okanagan trails. This trail has signs along the way to learn about the forest. Watch out for hikers coming up- it can be busy on weekends! Once you get down Catapult Canyon (a side hill descent), you enter a coastal microclimate. Large cedar trees with striated bark take over the forest. Their canopy blocks out the sun providing a loamy, rooty ride. There are a few chutes with good traction (with ride-arounds). As you get lower, there will be 4-5 river crossings (yep, your feet are going to get wet!). The river floods almost every year, so sometimes the trail is hard to follow. Not to worry, if it seems like the trail is washed out, you probably just missed a stream crossing. Look across the stream for the connecting trail and that’ll help you out. Don’t forget to look up and around you because there are some spectacular cliff walls. You wind through the trees for quite some time until you pop out on McCullough Rd.
Rose Valley: Jabbarocky + Rock Candy
1.3mi +.1mi/ 2km+160m Descent: 967ft + 250’
If you liked the rocks on Vapour, welcome to more rocks! There is a climb trail that’ll get you up to Jabbarocky. There are two places you can start. I like going to the top of Jabbarocky because there are some fun steep sections. The lower part of Jabbarocky isn’t terribly steep, but there are both large embedded rocks and loose rocks. There are also a few small boulders you can roll or huck that you’ll start passing on your left. Jabba gets a bit steeper near the bottom. The trail is fragrant with the sweet smelling pine trees and dry dirt. From here, you can go right for the hair-raising Rocky Candy trail. It’s short, but it’ll test your skills and is guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping. It starts with a steep chute and 90 degree right turn. In my opinion, Rock Candy is one of the most challenging and fun trails in the area (it’s denoted as a double-black). If you aren’t feeling Rock Candy, you can keep going on Jabba and opt for sweeping and moderately steep switchbacks down.
Rose Valley: No Left Turn
The climbing trail (mentioned in the Jabbrocky section) gives you a few options. On your left, you’ll see No Left Turn. No Left Turn is special because you ride across skree fields and the trail has a lot of exposure. It’s built into the side of the mountain (so if you go left, you’ll go down the side of the mountain). Not to worry, just keep your eyes on the trail and you’ll be fine! This trail also has some tricky switchbacks and rocky sections. Make sure you stay in control so you can make the corners. You’ll have a great view of the reservoir all the way down!
Rose Valley: City on the Edge
This trail has the hardest switchbacks of any of the trails in the Okanagan. Keep going to the very top of the climb trail and make sure to check out the look-out point before you head down. City on the Edge is pretty hairy in the summer because the dirt gets really loose and it can be hard to stay in control. The switchbacks are very, very steep. About 1/3 way down, there’s notch and a tree to look out for! Another fun section of the trail is a chute that goes underneath a rock formation where you have to duck to get under it! The bottom part is easier as you dive back into the forest with some rocks and tight trees.
Honourable Mentions in Myra Bellevue:
- Big Drops: Myra rolling trail with some fun rock slabs
- Rocky Skree: some technical rock features and hucks
- Hillbilly: rocky trail junior! If you’re timid about vapour, do this one first!
Honourable Mentions in Rose Valley:
- Bare Bones: probably my favourite trail in Kelowna, but I can’t call it a descent because it has a fair bit of climbing. There are fun rock rolls, chutes, and skree with switchbacks. This trail has everything!
- Sideshow Bob: mildly steep sidehill trail
Have fun on your rides and tell us about your favourite trails in Kelowna!
Article originally published in July 2018.