With the 2014 riding season not far off I ponder the places I love to ride to every year. Without a doubt Winthrop Washington is a favorite for me and anyone I’ve taken there. I always think these places are well known but surprised to find many riders have not been there or taken the alternate routes I’ve discovered.
You can make Winthrop a good day trip if you leave early enough in the morning, it’s about 3-4 hours each way so heading there for lunch is good excuse to go for ride, not that we need one. Originally gold brought the first settlers to the area know as the Methow valley, today Winthorp is a popular tourist town with a western theme originally conceived by local businesses in the 70’s.
To get to Winthrop you head south from Kelowna it’s about 2 hours to the border (don’t forget your passport) on Highway 97. Across the border the highway is now U.S. Route 97 you will pass through the towns of Oroville, Tonasket and Omak, I caution you to watch the 25 mph speed limits as you pass through. Just beyond Omak on 97 you will pass the fairgrounds on your right and then the local Casino watch the signs for the Hwy 20 exit to your right. You will cross over a river and make a left onto Hwy 20 also known as the Cascades Hwy. Hwy 20 is in my opinion one of the best roads in Washington and the section from 97 to Winthrop is no exception. The road climbs from desert into heavy forest and down into the arid Methow Valley, traffic is usually light and the road has many great curves and hairpin corners. Deer are a real problem in the area, as you will see by the “deer kill”signs so you have to stay alert.
As you drop out of the forested area your first town will be Twisp Washington, it’s worth checking out the downtown area on your way through. The Twisp River Pub is a good place to stop for food and they claim to be one of the smallest commercial breweries in the world? There are interesting places eat in Winthrop just 12 minutes further down the highway.
Although Winthrop can be done in a day it really is a great overnight stop so you can take your time walking the boardwalk and checking out the shops and restaurants, who can resist stopping at places with names like “Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon” or the “Old School House Brewery. If you are going to stay, the Hotel Rio Vista, just on your left as you enter the town, is a great place. I’ve stayed there many times. There are also several campgrounds close by. The best kept secret for camping in Winthrop is the Pine Near RV park, one block above the towns main street. You can set up camp and walk through the free mining museum into town. If you’re lucky you’ll get to meet Anna, the owner of the park. You can even book a Tee-pee for a room!
As will all my rides I like to explore and find alternative roads so when you leave town to head home consider these - I show them on the map. Hwy 20’s a great ride in but if want to see some different scenery head back to Twisp and just as you pass through watch for Twisp Carlton road on your right, this takes you on a more scenic route and eventually hooks up back with 153, The Methow Valley Hwy.,153 takes you a little further south but it is a beautiful highway the follows the river eventually intersecting with Route 97. The next good side road is found heading north on 97 just pased Brewster you make a left on Old Highway 97, it’s easy to miss this turnoff so watch for it just as you are leaving town. This highway will take you to Highway 20 just south of Okanogan where you can take the cutoff for 97 (it's well signed). I prefer wandering through the countryside rather than blasting down the main highway, there's one more detour on the way north just before you reach Tonasket you will see a left exit for Highway 7, this road will keep you off highway 97 all the way to Oroville and the border. It’s very scenic and who know’s what you will discover along the way. Enjoy your ride!
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
When we think of the Kettle Valley Railway, the Myra Canyon trestles are top of mind. Designed by Andrew McCulloch back in the late 1800’s to service the mining industry, an engineering marvel, with sections that can be experienced on your adventure motorcycle. The Myra Canyon trestle section is now designated a National Historic Site and is off limits to motorized vehicles. However this doesn’t mean there aren’t other sections of the route that are still ridable.
A good circle route that I like begins in Kelowna and takes you high above Lake Okanagan, It’s always impressed me that a steam train ran through this elevation above the lake. The route provides some amazing views of Kelowna, Lake Okanagan and the Naramata bench. The fire of 2003 engulfed many portions of the KVR but ten years later the forest and vegetation are regenerating at an incredible rate transforming the barren landscape.
You begin your ride in Kelowna taking Lakeshore Road south, towards the Kelowna Mission district, eventually you will hit an intersection where Lakeshore bears right towards the lake. You continue straight ahead on Chute Lake Road. This will take you through the southwest Mission area, Chute Lake road will veer right into the Kettle Valley development. Don’t follow Chute Lake, instead head straight through on Upper Mission Drive (there’s a lot of construction in this area) look for a dirt road called Gillard Forest Service Road on your left. There may be signs for the KVR or Chute Lake Resort. Once you,re on Gillard it’s easy to follow it to the KVR. Keep in mind this road can be very rough although it’s better maintained since the trestles have been rebuilt. The service road climbs steeply up the side of the mountain and eventually crosses the Kettle Valley Railway bed, which looks like a road at this section. Turn right on the KVR and you’re on your way to Naramata.
Again this section of railway/road can be rough especially in early spring there could be a lot of wet sections and windfall. I suggest doing this ride mid summer if you’re intimidated by gravel road riding. There are some soft narrow sections so take your time and enjoy the view and the history. About midway along you will pass Chute Lake and the rustic Chute Lake Resort. If you like antiques it might be worth a stop and walk around as the resort has quite a collection of you name it? It's possible to take Chute Lake Road down to Naramata from the resort but the best of the railway bed lies ahead when you cross the small wooden bridge. This section of the railway is narrower and will give you the real feeling of what it was like to chug along on the old steam railway. Note the KVR is a popular bike and hike route so you will encounter other adventure seekers along the way as well as vehicles coming the other way. More and more there’s pressure to close sections to motorized traffic. Keep you speed down and respect the other users of the trail.
You will eventually encounter a decommissioned tunnel and will have to take short detour down to the next section of rail bed, the track does a complete 180 degree turn just passed the tunnel. This is my favorite section of the route, you will pass by some original rock ovens built by the immigrants that constructed this section of the railway and slowly descend towards Naramata. Again respect the rights of others, you should consider signing the petition (kvrnaramata.com) to keep the KVR accessible to all users.
As you approach Naramata you will be rewarded with incredible views of the lake and wine country below. I try to stay on the railway bed as long as possible, there are a few obvious roads down to Naramata. The town is a prime agricultural community, the KVR linked the village by rail in 1914 and it was considered one of the most difficult sections to complete. Naramata is now established as a significant part of Okanagan Wine Country and worth a visit. The Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa is a historic building with a nice outdoor patio. Naramata road is a great paved section to ride that winds it’s way through rolling hills and many vineyards and wineries. It’s a fantastic ride! Penticton offers a wide variety of places to stop for a bite to eat. The Hooded Merganser is located on the lake in the Penticton Lakeside Resort/Casino. I like Burger 55, check out the reviews and location on Tripadvisor. It seems like a natural stop for adventure riders! As you wind your way back to Kelowna on highway 97 north look up in the mountains across the lake and try to imagine building a railway up there back at the turn of the century. This ride will take the better part of a day.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
As my 2012 riding season came to a close (the last weekend my bike was insured) I was looking for one more day ride. I remembered the Fraser Canyon ride and Hwy 8 from Spences Bridge as two roads that never got old so I set out to see what I could find. I Headed north on Westside road until it intersected with Hwy 97 and continued north passing through Falkland and Monte Lake. Depending on the time of day you pass the Cafe in Falkland is a good place for breakfast or coffee the pub across the road is a popular stop for riders. A short distance past Monte Lake I took a left on Barnhartvale Road, a popular motorcycle route, and followed it until it intersected with Hwy 1 West.
Hwy 1 is not a favorite piece of highway but it’s the only way pass Kamloops to Cache Creek, if you need fuel or food there are lot’s of choices along this route. Fortunately most of the roads on this adventure make up for the short highway jaunts. At Cache Creek you’ll take Hwy 1 South and follow the canyon and Thompson River, without a doubt one of the most scenic highways in BC. On this trip I couldn’t resist a side trip into Walhachin BC as an excuse to get off the highway, apparently they have a museum but I couldn’t find it, it’s a dead end road with a cool vintage 1911 bridge and not much else, but still worth the diversion in my opinion. Who knows when you’ll get there again. Back on highway I headed south to Spences Bridge where I discovered the Log Cabin Pub with a decor that I would describe as rustic/biker, not the kind of place you want to show up in a minivan but with friendly staff and cool atmosphere it’s worth a look if you need a break.
If you haven’t ridden Hwy 8 between Spences Bridge and Merrit you’re in for a treat, it’s great piece of tarmac not to be missed and a favorite amongst many riders. I am not a fan of riding 97C A.K.A, the connector, back to Kelowna but by the time you reach Merrit it will be time to head home, gas up and if you want great pie and coffee stop at the Home Style Restaurant, rated 4 stars on Trip Advisor, I personally recommend their Club House sandwich. This ride takes most of the day. there is an alternative route through Ashcroft to Merrit as well. This was a great last ride of the season for me, but a great day ride anytime!
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
Westside road is legendary with the local sport bike crowd. It runs up the westside of Lake Okanagan and ends in Vernon. The road starts off wide and the first few kilometers are smooth and wide then it narrows and follows the shoreline of the lake with many sharp curves and narrow lanes. The road gets rougher and narrower as you travel north, there's little room for error. From our shop head towards Kelowna and take the Westside Road exit just past Friend's Pub.
There's no fuel until you reach the northern section near Vernon, if you want to stop for food Lake Okanagan Resort is about half way, A better choice is Historic O'keefe Ranch on the left just before you connect with Hwy. 97 near Vernon. Turn right on Hwy. 97 to head back to Kelowna.
If you want to avoid the traffic in Vernon when reach the point on Hwy. 97 where it veers about 90 degrees left take the cut off (to the right) on Old Kamloops Road. This will take you behind Swan Lake and into Vernon's town centre. When you hit 30th Avenue you will have to turn left, 30th Avenue will intersect with Hwy 97, turn right again and stay on 97 back to Kelowna. For a better bike route you can turn right off 30th on 34th Street you'll know your heading the right way if you pass an ESSO station and climb a steep hill. This leads to a nice twisty section of road that heads toward Predator Ridge Golf Course. When you come to a three way intersection turn left on Bailey Rd. back to Hwy 97. At 97 turn right to head back to Kelowna.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
This is a ride I do often and I have to admit one of the main reasons is for food, Mexican food that is, even if you chose not to stop and eat at Rancho Chico’s in Tonasket you will still experience some great roads south of the border. The highlight of this ride (other than Rancho Chico’s) are the roads West of 97 and just south of the border. You can cross the border at Osoyoos or Nighthawk, I prefer heading south from Kelowna towards Keremeos and if time permits take Green Mountain Road, one of the local favorites. When you get to Keremeos head east on Highway 3 and watch for the Nighthawk border crossing signs. This crossing is only open during regular hours so watch your time. Be patient as these smaller crossings seem to take more time even though there’s less traffic.
Once you’re through the crossing continue to the first intersection which is Loomis-Oroville Road and turn right. This road winds through some beautiful back country and passes Palmer Lake (there’s a good rest stop there). Continue along and enjoy the area don’t plan on gassing up or eating in Loomis. If you’re on an adventure bike there’s a great back road out of Loomis, but to continue your quest for a more Mexican experience just stay on the pavement. Eventually you will come to an intersection, you want to stay right on #7 but keep that intersection in mind as you will want to go the other direction (North) if you heading back to Kelowna. To find Tonasket just watch for the next intersection where you can make a left and cross over the river into town. Hwy 97 is a couple of blocks ahead after the bridge when you reach it turn left and just as you’re heading out of town you will see Rancho Chico's on your right. The service is always excellent, the food is great and usually very fast so it won’t take away much of your riding time. A word of caution, in U.S. towns they take their 25mph speed limits seriously, watch your speed.
For you ride back you can just stay on highway 97 North to the border, but if you remember your way back to the intersection across the river, mentioned earlier, I like this route better as it takes you on the west side of the river to Oroville and it’s more interesting than the highway. When you reach Oroville you can head for the border and home. If you crave some more curves, when you’re in Oroville turn left on Loomis-Oroville road and follow it back to the Nighthawk crossing. You can see on the map you can still take Hwy 3 to Osoyoos and head north completing a great riding loop. You will need the better part of a day to complete this ride.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
In the summer of 2011 I discovered this interesting loop for riders on GS, Dual Sports or Adventure bikes looking for a taste of back road riding and a little adventure. Heading south from Kelowna on Hwy 97, exit at the main Summerland turn off (this will be Rosedale Ave). There’s a gas station at the exit and it’s not a bad idea to check your fuel and top up. Continue along Rosedale Ave. which turns into Prairie Valley Road, stay on Prairie Valley and watch for Doherty Ave and turn right, next turn left on Bathville Rd. Princeton Summerland Road will be a hard right turn it’s a three way intersection. Once on Princeton Summerland it’s easy to navigate. The road is paved for a while but will turn into a good gravel road and end up paved again as you approach Princeton. The road in some sections follows the Kettle Valley Railway route and the Trans Canada Trail. There are a few lakes and small communities along the way. Jura is close to Princeton and your next (left) turn is onto Old Hedley Road, it might be signed as Hwy 7. The road runs on the north side of the Similkameen River. This is a good motorcycle road that heads east toward Hedley and keeps you off the main highway (Hwy 3) for a while. Eventually the road ends and you have to take Hwy 3 east towards Hedley for a short distance.
The town of Hedley is an interesting stop with the old mine looming high on the cliffs above and great mine museum. It’s a town worth exploring and there are a few interesting attractions to hunt for, like the what I like to call the “windshield greenhouse”. There’s also a junk store that was apparently a car dealership back in 30’s according to the store owner who sells artifacts found around the mine. Needless to say Hedley and it’s inhabitants make for an interesting stop. The Hitching Post resturant is a good lunch stop, the building was one of the first permanent structures in Hedley an can be found on the main street. The Gold Dust Pub is also a popular stop as you head out of Hedley east towards Osyoos.
The next part of this ride is where the adventure begins. Heading east on Hwy 3 just outside Hedley watch for Nickle Plate Road on your left (it not well marked, and it’s not an major road) I caution you, if you are not comfortable on single lane, dirt roads with hairpin switch backs or you have a fear of heights, this is not the route for you. Nickle Plate road heads up the side of the mountain and you have to use extreme caution to avoid on coming vehicles, even the tour bus for the Mascot Mine uses this road. Keep your momentum up, and watch as far up the mountain as possible and you’ll be rewarded at the top with an incredible view of the the valley below. Nickle Plate Road levels out after the climb and makes it’s way over to Apex Ski area above Penticton and ends right in the village where the pavement begins again. Another great part of this ride is the ride down from Apex that ultimately ends at Green Mountain Road. One of the areas favorite sport bike roads. To head back to Kelowna take a left on Green Mountain Road and head north when you hit Highway 97 in Penticton.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
The ride from Kelowna to the Needles Ferry and Fauquier is famous in the BC motorcycle community for it's tight curves and generally low traffic. From the shop you take Hwy. 97 north, you can avoid going into Vernon if you take the Coldstream exit on your right just past Okanagan College. This road winds down to Kalamalka Lake, one of the ten most beautiful lakes in world according to National Geographic, you will pass the beach and through the community of Coldstream. The road will eventually intersect back with Hwy. 6 East. You stay on Hwy. 6 all the way to the Needles ferry. If you need fuel you should fill up in Lumby. A good food stop is the Blue Ox Pub it will be on your left as you leave town.
It's about 135kms from Vernon to the ferry and the farther you travel the better the road gets from a motorcyclist's point of view. When you reach the ferry the wait time is usually around 15-30 minutes (the ferry is free). You don't have to cross unless you need fuel but if you don't you will miss the Mushroom Addition Restaurant, a favorite motorcycle stop serving coffee, lunch, pie, gas, all the necessities. (2012 Update, as of April 2012 the Mushroom Addition is still closed and looks like it will remain that way). There is gas available a the location next store now.
I recently discovered a new place for coffee and a snack. About 20kms up the road towards Nakusp there's a nice campground in Burton and Country Rose's Cafe right on the highway, great home cooked food! Time the return trip right and you won't have to wait long for the return ferry. If you want an alternate route back try the Westside Road route. Stay on Hwy 6 until it intersects with Hwy 97 North (32nd. Street) in Vernon. Turn right and stay on Hwy. 97, as you pass Swan Lake on your left take the Kamloops exit follow Highway 97, not 97A. Watch on your left for Westside Road. This will bring you back to Kelowna on yet another favorite BC motorcycle road.
Freelance Motorccycle Rider
A good day ride is to take the back way to Salmon Arm via Salmon River Road. From our shop you head north towards Vernon on Hwy. 97. Take the Bailey Road exit off the highway (At the large Predator Ridge Sign). Watch for it because there's not much room to stop and make the turn left onto Bailey. You will come to a three way intersection turn right on Commonage Road, a smooth winding road that will take you into Vernon.
As you come down into Vernon go straight through the intersections until you see 30th Avenue. Turn left and go past the traffic circle, turn right shortly after on Alexis Park Drive. Alex Park will turn into Old Kamloops Road. This is a great section of road that travels along a ridge above the valley overlooking Swan Lake. You also miss most of the Vernon traffic.
When you reach Hwy 97 turn left, you will pass Historic O'keefe Ranch (not a bad food or coffee stop) and Sun Valley Speedway. Watch for Salmon River Road on your right. Follow Salmon River Road to Hwy. 1 and Salmon Arm. Salmon Arm is a full service community if you need a break there's a nice wharf on Shuswap Lake that's worth a look. From Salmon Arm take Hwy. 1 to Hwy. 97B south back to Kelowna.
An interesting alternative route is to take the Black Road exit as you head South on 97B. This will take you up past Larch Hills Winery (specializing in cool climate wines). Black Road leads to Grandview Bench Road after a couple of nice switchbacks it intersects with Hwy. 97A. Turn right and you can take the highway back, turn left and few kilometers up the road is the Grindrod Riverfront Pub a popular stop for motorcycle riders and hot rodders. If you continue over the river and and make the first right (onto Enderby-Grindrod Rd.) this will take you the back way into Enderby.
On you're way back you will pass through Enderby, Armstrong and Vernon. A popular food stop as you approach Vernon from the north is Squire's Pub watch for it on your left.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
There are many great motorcycle rides in the Okanagan area one of my favorite day rides is just south of the border in Washington. The roads are great and there are a couple of interesting stops along the way. The town of Chesaw (apparently named after a Chinese settler) makes for an interesting destination ride through some great back country.
This is the route I like to take. From Kelowna take Hwy. 33 over to Rock Creek. Take Hwy. 3 East until you reach Midway, there's a small border crossing at Midway that's open (9:00 AM – 5:00 PM). There is also a great campground in Midway. Once you cross the border (you will need a passport) the road follows the Kettle River south, you want to follow the signs to Curlew on West Kettle River Road. Once you reach Curlew take Highway 21 South to the town of Republic, a small western themed town with all services.
Watch for the HWY 20 West signs in town and head for Wauconda. Don't be looking for a large settlement at Wauconda, there isn't one, but this is where you exit and take Toroda Creek Road to Chesaw. You will pass by the ghost town of Bodie where a few log buildings remain and shortly after make a left onto Oroville-Toroda Creek Road toward Chesaw. Follow this route and you will wind your way to the community of Chesaw. There's great old saloon and general store worth investigating. Chesaw hosts a major rodeo each summer.
As you leave Chesaw and head west there is one more interesting side trip (if you like old ghost towns). Watch for Molson Rd. on your right this leads to the ghost town of Molson (No Services) there's a great museum in the old school house. If your on a road bike you will probably return the way you came in as the road is paved. There appears to be a back way out on gravel if you're into a little exploring. Once you're back on Chesaw Rd. head west towards Oroville and Hwy 97 North back to Osoyoos and Canada.
There's another interesting route in Oroville. Watch for the road to Loomis (Orville-Loomis Rd.). The road loops around past Palmer Lake and will connect back on 97 south of Oroville.
Freelance Motorcycle Rider
One of the areas favorite rides is the Rock Creek Loop. You should fuel up in Kelowna before heading up highway 33. This highway heads up past Big White Ski resort and is generally traffic free but is known for having a high deer population. At about the halfway point to Rock Creek you will pass through Beaverdell, one of the main buildings, a historic old Hotel, burned down but there's still a cafe, a private gas bar and not much more. The road carries on winding through until you hit Westbridge, here you will turn right over the bridge and cross the Kettle River. Just before you reach Rock Creek there is a good Provincial Campground on the river. As you enter Rock Creek you will pass the Prospector Hotel on your left. It doesn't look like much from the road but this Pub has character, good food and a great patio. There's gas and couple of tourist shops at the intersection of Hwy 33 and Hwy 3.
From Rock Creek you turn right on Hwy. 3 and head up over the pass towards Osoyoos. As you begin your decent into Osoyoos the road really tightens up and some of the turns are quite sharp and narrow. You will want to look over the valley but keep you eyes on the road, the best view is at the hairpin on the upward leg but you have to go down to Osoyoos and turn around as you can't stop on the downward leg.
The town of Osoyoos located just north of the border is a typical Okanagan desert town with all services. From here you take highway 97 North through wine country to Oliver (which claims to be Canada's wine capital). If you want to take in a winery along the route Burrowing Owl is my personal favorite. Watch for signs as you leave Oliver. Another popular stop is Tickleberry's for ice cream just before you reach Okanagan Falls. In OK Falls most people stay on 97 but the back route is a better motorcycle route. At the flashing light go straight through and turn right on Eastside Road at the lake, this will take you up the back side of Skaha lake and into Penticton. Eastside Road will turn into Main Street in Penticton, stay on Main Street until you reach the lake. Turn left on Lakeshore and you will pass the Casino and numerous beach front restaurants (not a bad stop for people watching in the summer). Lakeshore hooks up with 97 at the bottom of Lake Okanagan.
Heading north you will pass through Summerland, if you're adventurous enough (and skilled enough) take a ride up Giant's Head Mountain this is not an easy climb but the view is incredible from the top. If you're riding a chopper this is not the road for you. Continuing on up Highway 97 the next town is Peachland take the exit and ride through the town the road follows the lake and you will eventually connect back onto 97 North. You're not likely to make it past the Gasthaus restaurant in Peachland if you like German food. Once you are back on 97 you can detour around Westbank and miss the traffic if you turn off at the overpass onto Gellatly Road S. this winding route takes you through rolling vineyards and past another favorite local winery Mission Hill. You will hook up with 97 north past Westbank where you can continue into Kelowna over the floating bridge into town. Plan to spend about half a day if you keep riding, if you make the stops I've mentioned plan on riding for the whole day. If you're pressed for time just take Hwy 33 to Rock Creek and back. Remember watch for deer.
By Jeff Kumagai
Freelance Motorcycle Rider