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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.
Lake Country → Predator Ridge/Sparkling Hills → Lake CountryCLICK HERE FOR INTERACTIVE MAP
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.
Armstrong → Salmon Arm → ArmstrongCLICK HERE FOR INTERACTIVE MAP
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.
East Kelowna and MissionCLICK HERE FOR INTERACTIVE MAP
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!
Penticton → Oliver → Blake Sage → White Lake → Kaleden → PentictonCLICK HERE FOR INTERACTIVE MAP
The Grind 103 km | 910 m of ascent
The Skinny This is one of the most popular rides in the South Okanagan. Start in Penticton and ride along Eastside Road, hugging the shore of Skaha Lake. I would recommend turning on MacLean Creek Road and taking that into Okanagan Falls. It’s the safer alternative. From here, you’ll ride through wine country back to Highway 97 past Vaseux Lake. Continue toward Oliver until you reach Tuc-el-Nuit Road. After a quick jog in Oliver, this becomes Black Sage Road—a nice rolling ride that takes you through the vineyards of the Golden Mile toward Osoyoos. After you pass Burrowing Owl on your left, you’ll turn on Road 22 and start heading north on Highway 97. Turn left on Road 7, then right on Sumac Street and follow it until you come to Fairview Road. After turning left, you’ll start a long climb up to the Okanagan highlands around White Lake and what we locals call “Area 51” (it’s the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory). From here, you’ll descend back to Highway 97 and take a much quieter detour through sleepy Kaleden. Then it’s a short sprint on Highway 97 back to Penticton and your starting point.
Note This route does have cattle guards!
Summerland → Giant’s Head → Fish Lake → Trout Creek → SummerlandCLICK HERE FOR INTERACTIVE MAP
The Grind 60 km | 860 m of ascent
The Skinny This is a shorter route, but I’ve included one of the classic climbs in the Okanagan: Giant’s Head. You start in lower Summerland and climb up to downtown, where you can tackle Giant’s Head if you choose (a little over 400 metres of climbing from the start point). From here, you head out on Prairie Valley Road and turn onto the Princeton–Summerland Road. This section has some rough pavement (or, as we lovingly refer to it, pavé), so keep alert. Your perseverance will be rewarded when you turn on Fish Lake Road. Fresh asphalt, quiet roads and great scenery await! Ride out to the turnaround point—Camp Boyle (the Boy Scout camp) and then head back to Summerland and the wineries of Bottleneck Drive. You’ll be riding past several of them (including Dirty Laundry, if you continue on Lewes Road) and a few cideries. After a descent down Gartrell Road you’ll cross Highway 97 to Trout Creek, where you can connect to the new bike path that parallels Highway 97 back to Lower Summerland.
Quieter Okanagan roads generally lack something in the way of regular maintenance. You can expect potholes and some rough pavement in many areas. If you’re riding in a group, make sure the lead rider is vigilant and points out hazards on the road. Also, some routes have cattle guards. I don’t recommend bunny-hopping over them—constant speed and a firmly held front wheel is my personal strategy. If it’s raining, use extra caution. Other than that—happy cycling!
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