Serve Yourself on Vernon’s Foodie Trail


Steve MacNaull

The aha moments come thick and fast while cycling the section of the Okanagan Rail Trail that hugs glinting green Kalamalka Lake. There are jaw-dropping vistas galore along the 23-kilometre glacial body of water. My wife, Kerry, and I are tempted frequently to stop our peddling and simply stare at the view.

There's that secluded beach we had completely to ourselves for a picnic lunch. The sun shines making the afternoon even more perfect.

Begin your #OkanaganExploring adventure by checking into Tourism Vernon's website.

And during it all, we feel virtuous because we're getting our exercise biking an impressive 46-kilometre round trip. Never mind that we're on electric-assist bikes and we ease our exertion by trying out every mode from eco and touring to sport and turbo.

Watch Serve Yourself; Vernon’s Foodie Trail #OkanaganExploring on YouTube.

This ideal day starts in Vernon, B.C., where we stock up on picnic fare of smoked farmer's sausage, cheese and crackers, vegetables and dip at Helmut's Sausage Kitchen. Jaydah-Ann Dill serves us and turns out to be the consummate deli adviser and Okanagan Rail Trail advocate.

Photo: Nancy Shields

"Oh yeah, I live in Coldstream where the trail head for the rail trail is and I walk and cycle it probably twice a week," she says. "I usually take the same food you're getting today for a grab-and-go lunch. My favourite picnic place is the hideaway at the five-kilometre mark. If I cycle, or walk if I'm feeling really ambitious, that makes for a great 10-kilometre round trip."

My wife and I feel immediately righteous because we're planning the complete Kalamalka round trip of 46 kilometres. We shy away from sharing with Jaydah-Ann that our bikes will be electric.

Photo: Nancy Shields

If you're looking for vegan options to pair with your Kalamalka cycling, check out the Pineapple Express Plant-Based Bistro within Eat Good Market.

We pick up our rental bikes at KalaVida Surf Shop at Kalamalka Lake Beach just outside Vernon. Owner Kevin O'Brien greets us, and we get to talking about tipping points.

"The backbone of KalaVida is stand-up paddle board rentals," he says. "For years we tried unsuccessfully with beach cruiser bikes. You'd think this the ideal location because we're right beside the beach, but really there were just not enough scenic rides without encountering too many hills in every direction."

Photo: Nancy Shields

That all changed last year when the 23-kilometre Kalamalka section of the Okanagan Rail Trail opened. "We've hit the tipping point," says O'Brien. "The rail trail is amazing, and everyone wants to cycle it. That's were KalaVida comes in with its bike rentals. You can do it on a regular bike because the grade is only three per cent. Or go with a Townie e-bike and you can go as far as you want without every worrying about getting tired."

The Kalamalka section is the northern extension of the trail that now spans 50 kilometres from the Okanagan Lake waterfront in downtown Kelowna up to Lake Country and into Coldstream's Kalamalka Lake Beach. As the name indicates, the multi-use cycling, hiking, running and walking linear trail is fashioned from the decommissioned CN railway. The railway tracks are gone, replaced with gravelled and paved recreational stretches.

Photo: Nancy Shields

Tourism Vernon and KalaVida had latched onto the rail trail section running the entire 23-kilometre west shore of Kalamalka Lake as a tourist-and-local juggernaut. "I don't think we can overstate it's importance," says Ange Chew of Tourism Vernon. "It's one of Vernon's greatest attractions and it's free. And cycling or hiking the rail trail can be done on its own or combined with the area's other greatest attractions like the lakes, wineries, food and downtown vibe."

In fact, the offerings have become so compelling that Vernon now has a Foodie Trail that incorporates the rail trail. Check out

We customize our own Foodie Trail with the grub from Helmut's, our stunning bike ride from the northern tip to the southern tip of Kalamalka Lake and back with numerous stops along the way and picnic on that isolated beach.

Photo: Nancy Shields

Hot at the end of the ride, we pull out at the quiet beach with jutting rocks near the trail head to cool off in the water. By the way, Kalamalka's greenish glow is caused by light scattering off the precipitation of calcite in the water. And the lake is named after an Okanagan native chief who used to live on shores and fish the waters.

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If you want to swim with the buzz of lots of people, just go a little farthur to Kalamalka Lake Beach.

Photo: Nancy Shields

After returning the bikes, we reward ourselves with locally brewed Underground cherry smash kombucha and coconut muffins at The Rail Cafe. The cafe is part of the same complex as KalaVida that O'Brien owns, along with the Kalamalka General Store.

Check out this ZenSeekers Facebook live describing what could be the perfect beverage to wash down the local cheese and Harry’s fish; can we interest you in an Appleanche? - head to the Davison Orchard with us and found out just what this delicious offering is.

When You Go

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Uncover more about the Okanagan’s offers for adventure. Check out ZenSeekers #OkanaganExploring Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.

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