How to explore the best of Vernon by bike
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Rebecca Bollwitt (akaMiss604)
Sipping his morning pick-me-up out of a coffee mug featuring a photo of his family, Sun Country Cycles owner Ricardo Smith was gracious enough to meet me as I began my Vernon cycling journey. I arrived first thing in the morning and the Sun Country parking lot was already full of customers - either dropping off their bikes to get serviced or picking up rentals like me.
Among the buzz of activity, Ricardo rolled out a beautiful mountain bike with a feature that made my eyes light up – electric pedal assist. It’s one of a few models of e-bike Sun Country sells. They rent out the Trek Powerfly - Electric Pedal Assist to folks like me who want to explore for four or eight hours at a time.
Helmet on, lights adjusted, demo complete, I was ready to take on Vernon by bike.
Hit the rail trail
The Okanagan Rail Trail connecting Vernon to Kelowna is set to open this summer, with 48.5 kms of lakefront cruising on a wide gravel path that winds along Kalamalka Lake, Wood Lake, and alongside Highway 97. It’s been a passion project for these communities to transform a discontinued rail corridor into a public recreational path - with a gorgeously simple1.3% grade for the trail, making it a dream for cyclers of all skill levels.
The Rail Trail will also help people learn about the Syilx (Okanagan) people and their traditional territory, with 2.5 kms of the trail crossing through their land.
Cruise up to the beach
For a slice of Aloha - that takes me right to the beachfront shops of Ka’anapali - stop into Kalavida Surf Shop on the north side of Kalamalka Lake and the Rail Trail.
Stock up on provisions at the Rail Trail Cafe, shop the awesome surf, skate, sand and sun apparel, or rent a paddleboard to explore even more of the area on Kalamalka Lake. Take a SUP lesson or tour or, stop by during one of their many events like the annual Kalamalka Classic SUP Festival. Maybe you’ll find proprietors Kevin O'Brien and Michelle Mitchell on cruiser bikes out front, or chillin’ in a hammock just ready to tell you all about their amazing lake next door.
Pair your lunch with some local craft beer from Marten Brewery next door which also makes nitro coffee and kombucha through its spin-off company Underground Beverages. I had my first kombucha ever - Underground’s Berry the Elder - and the bar was set high!
From my perch on the Naked Pig patio I was eyeing 104 Grey across the street, which became my next stop. It has all the biggest brands, in a beautifully designed shop in the heart of downtown. Michael Kors, Dex, Dex Plus Size, Maison Scotch, Gentle Fawn, Esprit, AG Jeans, Fidelity, C'est Moi, Hillberg & Berk Jewellry, and more.
Stop and shop
At the shop I overheard mention of the Sean Caulfield exhibit at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. I hopped on my bike and rode a few blocks over to 31st Avenue to check out the “VPAG,” arriving at the same time as a group of elementary school students. I’m not sure who was more excited to check out the installation. While exhibitions rotate throughout the year, I found that the VPAG gift shop was another great place to shop a curated collection of beautiful, one-of-a-kind items.
Getting good use out of the city’s bike racks, I unlocked outside of the art gallery and plotted a course to my last stop of the day at Monashee’s, a local staple. Formerly a liquor store and pub, it’s now one giant beer, wine, and spirits shop - in fact it’s the busiest private liquor store in the province. Pop into the tasting room at the back (just to the right of the humidor) and do a private tasting from the wine-on-tap collection. They also host special events - and a scotch club - and they’re located right on the bike path at the corner of 30th Avenue and 30th Street.
Bike lanes, nary a hill in sight, and a concentrated community of culture, good eats, and great shopping make Vernon a great cycling destination for adventures of all kinds.
Get above it all
Want more of a challenge? Head up to Predator Ridge, which is known for its epic golfing, and enjoy its new biking options. You have the convenience and luxurious amenities of a world class golf course (with lodge and restaurants) paired with 13 kms of trails that reach back to Okanagan Lake, linking to the 40 kms of trails in Ellison Provincial park. Get your rentals at Predator Ridge, sign up for a tour, or make it your home base for your Rail Trail adventures.
WHEN YOU GO
Start planning your adventure in Vernon here.
Uncover more about Vernon on our #ExploreVernon Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.
Rebecca Bollwitt is a Seekers' correspondent and award-winning blogger based in Vancouver. Follow her travels on Instagram and Twitter @Miss604.