Last updated June 9, 2020
Snowshoeing is one of my favourite winter activities. I don’t typically like the cold, but I’ll brave it to go snowshoeing through quiet, untouched landscapes like Myra Canyon. Plus, the trails are way quieter in the winter and that’s something I can get on board with.
I’ve mentioned how much I love snowshoeing at Telemark Nordic Club, but we can’t forget about unmaintained snowshoe trails as well! The Myra Canyon trestles on the Kettle Valley Railway are a great example. It’s a fantastic and very easy snowshoe trail that’ll reward you with gorgeous views. Give it a try this winter!
Locals love the historic trestles. Not only are they beautiful, but the views of the canyon and the Okanagan Valley are breathtaking. The trestles can get pretty busy in the warmer months, but during the winter you’ll often have the trail to yourself.
History of the KVR
The Myra Canyon trestles are part of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) which was built between 1910 and 1916. In its prime, the KVR was 500 km long and was known as the Coast-to-Kootenay Connection because it connected the towns of Midway and Hope in British Columbia. The much needed railway connected two of the main Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) lines.
Unfortunately, like most railway construction of that time, the working conditions for the railway workers was, to put it mildly, less than ideal. Thousands of people, many of whom were immigrants who came to Canada specifically to build the railroad, worked in terrible and often dangerous conditions for years. Many of them tragically lost their lives.
The KVR was used for both freight and passengers. It would have been a beautiful train to ride. It wound through mountains, overlooked beautiful valleys, and ran through gorgeous forests. However, as the rail system in North America slowly declined, so did the KVR. The last passengers rode in 1964 and the very last train went through the KVR in 1973.
After the CPR stopped maintaining the railway, a small group of dedicated people began caring for the Myra Canyon trestles. Today, they’re known as the Myra Canyon Restoration Committee. It’s thanks to them that we can enjoy the beautiful trestles.
Myra Canyon trestles
The Myra Canyon trestles are located in a beautiful, very scenic 12 km stretch along the KVR just outside of Kelowna. There are eighteen trestles and two tunnels on the trail. Not only is it one of the highest points of the entire KVR, it’s also unique because it winds along a steep canyon.
The trestles were originally constructed from local, untreated Douglas Fir. In the 1930s, two of the wooden trestles were replaced with steel. Each wooden trestle had a lifespan of about fifteen years, which means they’ve been replaced a few times over the years. The design and construction of the replacement trestles was kept mostly the same until the late 1950s when the untreated wood was replaced with treated, creosoted wood and some structural changes were made.
In 2003, a huge fire ripped through Myra Canyon and Okanagan Mountain Park. The destructive fire devoured twelve of the eighteen historic, beloved trestles — it also damaged the two steel trestles. Many locals, even those who had lost their homes, were heartbroken to have lost such a beloved historical monument. I was only in fourth grade when the trestles were destroyed, but I remember the sadness that rippled through the community.
Five years later, the park officially reopened after the trestles were painstakingly rebuilt according to the historical specs. Go out and enjoy the authentic-looking trestles! They’re gorgeous.
Snowshoeing the Myra Canyon Trestles
I swear this article is about snowshoeing the Myra Canyon trestles! So let’s get to the snowshoeing part.
The Myra Canyon trestles trail, spanning between the Myra and Ruth stations, is 12 km long. The grade is only about 2%, so it’s basically flat. There’s one shelter — which is nothing more than four walls and a roof to get out of the elements — about halfway through the trail, two tunnels, and plenty of benches. There aren’t any outhouses.
While the decommissioned railway trail skirts the edge of Myra Canyon, the trail is very wide and doesn’t come super close to the edge. You’ll have great views of a steep, snow covered canyon and occasionally glimpse Okanagan Lake far below.
Bring some snacks on your snowshoe adventure and breathe in that beautiful, crisp winter air! You’ll have a grand time!
Where to start: Myra or Ruth Station?
You can choose to start your snowshoe adventure from either end of the trail because there’s a station at each end. Myra Station is the closest to the trestles and has the largest parking lot. Ruth Station is much smaller and farther from the trestles. Despite their name, there are no actual station buildings — just parking lots.
Neither station is maintained in the winter, though, and you’ll likely have to park further back than you would in the summer. Good thing you have those handy dandy snowshoes! You’ll also want to have good winter tires and make sure your car won’t bottom out if there’s lots of snow, which there often is.
We like to start at the Myra Station because it’s closest to the trestles and easily lets us choose how far we want to go. It’s a nice way to quickly start enjoying the beautiful views! Also, because it was once a railway, the trail has a very gentle grade that’s perfect for all skill levels. So even if you’re not big into hiking or snowshoeing, you’ll still have a great time.
First things first — there’s very little, if any, cell reception at the Myra Canyon trestles. With no cell service, remember to always tell someone where you’re going, dress properly for winter adventures, and bring the ten hiking essentials. Like I always say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The trestles are beautiful, but they can be dangerous. There are gaps in the wooden beams that you could easily put a foot through — although, that’s a little harder with snowshoes strapped to your feet! Still, I recommend staying near the center of the trestles where there are no gaps. In the winter it can be difficult to see the gaps because they’re often covered in snow.
Since the trestles are quite far out of town, wildlife often frequent them. While bears have been spotted around the trestles, you shouldn’t have any problems with them in the winter because they should be hibernating. Still, a little bear safety knowledge never hurt anyone.
I don’t recommend trying to snowshoe the entire trail in one day unless you have a ride at the other end. A return trip would total 24 km and although the trail is relatively flat, there’s not much daylight in the Okanagan in the winter. Please don’t get caught unexpectedly by the dark.
Winter in the Okanagan is usually fairly predictable, but when you’re up in the mountains (even the small mountains of the KVR) the weather can change pretty quickly. When you’re packing, make sure to be prepared. Base layers and wool socks are always at the top of our list, along with toques, winter jackets, and gloves. You’ll also want some snowshoes to make hiking the trail easier.
Even though it’s cold, remember to bring water and stay hydrated. Hydration packs aren’t a good idea, though, because the water can easily freeze. Bring a bottle such as the S’well because it’ll help protect your water from turning into a giant popsicle. You can also bring hot drinks in a Klean Kanteen and enjoy a nice warm-me-up halfway through your snowshoe adventure.
If you’d like to buy your gear from sustainable brands, we’ve put together an article about some of our favourite outdoor brands that do just that. Some of them donate time, money, or resources, whereas others support outdoor-related legislation, increased education, or eco-friendly resources.
The Myra Canyon trestles are located about 40 minutes from downtown Kelowna in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. The trestles are beloved by locals and offer great snowshoeing for all skill levels!