Exploring five of the Okanagan’s best off-road riding areas

Off-road motorcycling is a great way to see the region's beauty

by Steve Shannon

Two dirt bikers look over a river in a valley.

No matter where you’re staying in Kelowna, access to a Bear Creek trail is less than a half-hour away. — Photo courtesy Kent Jorgenson

With its warm weather, sparse population and central location, B.C.’s Okanagan region has some of the best off-road motorcycling in the country. Here’s a look at five must-hit riding areas in the region this summer.

Dustin Labby rides his KTM enduro bike in upper Inks Lake in Kamloops.

Dustin Labby rides his KTM enduro bike in upper Inks Lake in Kamloops. — Photo courtesy Dustin Labby

Greenstone/Inks Lake/Chuwels Mountain - Kamloops, B.C.

The Greenstone, Inks Lake and Chuwels Mountain riding areas have made Kamloops one of the premier cities in Canada for off-road recreation. The three riding areas are all located southwest of Kamloops, bordered by Highway 5 to the east, 97D to the south, Highway 1 to the north and Tunkwa Lake Road to the west. The names are derived from the different staging areas, but the trails all interconnect, making for hundreds of kilometres of forestry roads, two track and technical singletrack that will easily satisfy a lifetime of adventures. Seasoned Kamloops veterans are still finding new trails to explore in the area. With such an extensive trail network, everyone from beginners to pros will find something to entertain themselves on. Both Inks and Chuwels Mountain (including the infamous Pro Zone) are accessed via Highway 5 or Lac Le Jeune Road, while Greenstone (also known as Duffy Lake) is accessed off Highway 1. For more information, contact the Greater Kamloops Motorcycle Association.

Tyler Murray races the Rock Hound Hare Scrambles on Mount Ida near Silver Creek.

Tyler Murray races the Rock Hound Hare Scrambles on Mount Ida near Silver Creek. — Photo by Steve Shannon

Mount Ida - Silver Creek, B.C.

The Mount Ida riding area is located a short 15-minute drive south of Salmon Arm on Salmon Valley Road. Staging is located by the Silver Creek community park or eight kilometres up Wall Creek forest service road in the burn area where the Rock Hound Hare Scrambles event is held. Trails range from open two-track along the flanks of Mount Ida to old skidder roads and rocky, technical single-track deep in the forest that will challenge even seasoned riders. The majority of the trails are on the western slopes of Mount Ida, so the riding season starts early in the spring—and for some riders, the season never stops! If one has studded tires, the lower trails remain rideable year round. Once the snow does clear, it’s possible to ride right over top of Mount Ida and connect with trails on the Salmon Arm side. If there’s one feature that defines this riding area, it would have to be the rocks that are everywhere. Be prepared for a workout and the possibility of flat tires.

Bardolph & Becker Lakes - Vernon, B.C.

Accessed via Noble Canyon road in Lavington, the Becker riding area is situated on the west side of the Coldstream Creek valley, while the Bardolph trails are on the east. Trail building in this area has been going on for more than 20 years, with well over 150 kilometres of trail available. While some trails have fallen into disrepair, recent interest from a growing off-road community—including the Vernon Off-Road Motorcycle Club—has led to old trails being reopened and new ones being built. To access the Becker side, there’s parking at numerous spots, including at the Okanagan Hare Scrambles race site near Becker Lake. Trails on this side of the valley range from mild to wild, with a healthy selection of single-track and old skidder roads. Some of the trails offer fantastic views of Lavington, Coldstream, Vernon and Kalamalka Lake.

Crossing over to the Bardolph side is best done using the forest service roads. There is a trail connecting them, but fallen trees and a very rickety bridge make this trail an AA-rated expert-only trail—if you can find it. The main staging area for the Bardolph side is eight kilometres up the forestry road near Bardolph Lake. There are several campsites along the powerline right-of-way and at Bardolph Lake, making it a great base to spend a weekend exploring the area. There is over 100 kilometres of predominantly single-track in the area, though it will take local knowledge to find them all. The trail system extends all the way to the Silver Star Provincial Park boundary to the north, Lumby to the east, Highway 6 to the south and Coldstream Creek to the west. The numerous trails offer a great variety that everyone will enjoy, from a weekend family outing to a pro training ground.

A motorcycle stands in the sunlight.

The Bear Creek Recreation Site is a picturesque location to go for a rip. — Photo courtesy Kent Jorgenson

Bear Creek - West Kelowna, B.C.

Bear Creek is by far the region's most well known yet controversial riding area, and the Okanagan Trail Riders (OTR) have fought long and hard to keep it open. Last year marked a major milestone when the OTR finally installed a bridge over Bald Range Creek, allowing legal access to the entire area. Trails are clearly marked with signs throughout the 35,000-hectare area, and due to the issues surrounding this area, rules are strictly enforced. Bear Creek is an excellent family-friendly riding area that has many beginner-friendly trails. With a solid foundation of "green" trails, the OTR is now working on building sustainable advanced- and expert-level trails to satisfy those riders’ needs. Access to the Bear Creek riding area is via Bear Lake Main forest service road off Westside Road in West Kelowna. For more information, check out the Okanagan Trail Riders' website.

A dirt bike rider on a trail with a scenic valley and lake behind

The author explores the trails around Okanagan Falls, B.C. — Photo by Steve Shannon Photography

Allendale Lake - Okanagan Falls, B.C.

This little-known gem of a riding area is located near the Okanagan Falls landfill on Allendale Lake Road. Most riders park just past the landfill turnoff and can hop on single-track right from their trucks. Though this is not the largest riding area, there is still a solid 40 to 50 kilometres of well-maintained single-track that will satisfy most riders’ needs as well as endless backroads that extend all the way to Kelowna to the north and the Kettle Valley to the east. Riding here caters to the more advanced riders, but beginners will still find some of the trails enjoyable.

The South Okanagan Dirt Bike Club holds an annual poker run here every spring in conjunction with a British Columbia Off-Road Motorcycle Association BCORMA riding clinic. The terrain is typical Okanagan, featuring loose dirt, pine trees and plenty of rocks. The lower trails become dusty relatively early in the season, but as they climb up out of the valley, moisture returns to the dirt and temperatures cool off. Quad trails are interspersed with the single-track, making for a great network of trails to explore for a day or two.

These are just five of the many off-roading recreational areas in the Okanagan region. Due to the dry climate, spark arrestors are required at many of these riding areas as well as liability insurance for riding on the forest service roads. As is always the case, please respect the environment; stay on existing trails and pack out what you bring in.

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