I wanted to link up a network of trails to walk from Kelowna to Vernon, and having walked short section of each it was nice to turn it into a longer trail. Put this post together for anyone interested in hiking this route.
Total length: 128km
Duration: 4.5days (Oct. 3 to Oct. 7 2016)
Red dots mark my nightly camp spots
Blue – Mission Greenway (MG)
Red – Angel Springs Trail (AST)
Green – Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR)
Yellow – Highlands Trail (HT)
Purple – High Rim Trail (HRT)
Pink – Coral Trail (CT)
- Mapped out the route on my phone using the Gaia GPS app for iOS.
- Mission Greenway Map
- Printed out the maps from Cabin Forestry’s High Rim Trail info page, this page also has gpx data for the HRT.
- Couldn’t find a map for the Angel Springs Trail or Highlands Trail
- packed 5 days food and carried 3L worth of water capacity.
Day 1 (Oct.3) – Okanagan Lake to Kettle Valley Railway Trail
Day: 24.0 km
Total: 24.9 km
Set off in the morning taking the bus to the start of the trail at the Lakeshore rd & Trustwell rd intersection. With perfect weather I walked East along the Greenway, looking out of place with a overnight pack and trekking poles, sharing the crisp morning with runners and dog walkers.
I took a few wrong turns towards the end of the greenway, you need to take the Saskatoon Trail uphill to McCulloch Rd, walk the road to your left (South-East) for about 400m to the start of the Angle Springs trail. There was construction on a new bridge over KLO creek but I was able to walk through the area, guessing it will be completed in 2017.
Its a gradual climb along KLO Creek on the Angle Springs Trail with a couple short steep sections, this is also a mountain bike track, so watch for bikes. Passed by a few high cliff walls I watched a group do some rock climbing. I had to cross the creek about 4 or 5 times, but this late in the season I was able to rock hop and keep my feet dry. A short break to check out Angel Springs, a small clear pool with orange algae looking stuff growing.
Approximately 4km up the trail you’ll come to a Angel Springs/KLO Creek signed junction, cross the creek and continue up the hill following the Angel Springs sign. I filled up my water here because it was getting late I figured it would be a dry camp tonight. Climbing about 450m up to the KVR you follow a good trail, met one MTBer coming down this section. Getting dark I set up camp just before the trail joins the KVR on a small flat area just off trail. I spent way too long trying to hang my food in the dark with my dim headland (don’t forget to put some new batteries in!).
Day 2 (Oct.4) – Kettle Valley Railway Trail to Long Meadow Lake
Day: 29.4 km
Total: 54.3 km
The last time I walked on the KVR it was only a short section was open due to many of the trestle being destroyed in the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire. So it was nice getting to see them rebuilt and finally get the views of the Okanagan below. At this point its been about a 1000m elevation gain from the lake. Overcast weather and wind made it chilly the entire day.
The trail is near dead flat, but with really nice views. I saw 2 water sources (about 6.5km, there was a creek running below the trestle, and towards the end there is a piped spring, unsure of water quality though), with a couple of outhouses and shelters. After the Myra Station parking lot you follow the rail bed for another 12kms to the shore of Hydraulic Lake.
Just after passing Hydraulic Lake and crossing McCulloch Rd, the footpath becomes more obscure, but I was able to follow pink ribbons tied to branches to mark the rough route along this section of the Highlands Trail. Eventually leading into Kelowna Nordic XC ski and snowshoe trails it was hard to find the correct way due to every trail being marked with the same colour of ribbons. Taking a few wrong turns leading to head ends and consulting the GPS, I eventually made it out of the maze and set up camp at Long Meadow Lake.
Day 3 (Oct.5) – Long Meadow Lake to Frog Pond
Total: 77.8 km
Following the route North you shortly come to Brown Lake, which would also offer nice camping, the trail continues as you follow a road dropping down to Mission Creek.
Once to Mission Creek it looked like there may have been a bridge over the river at one point, currently there is a tree across to keep your feet dry, otherwise you have to ford it. A nice flat area with a picnic table I had lunch and dried out my gear that was wet from the night time condensation.
Crossing Highway 33 you have a good climb of 600m over about 5km to the rim of the Thompson Plateau on quality trail. You cross a couple small creeks towards the top, and once up top there are several flat spots to possibly camp, though some are near roads.
Route consists of a mixture of decent trail and forest road for the rest of the way. There is a section about 11 km from Hwy 33 with some downed trees, but not to serious. Just past here I grabbed water from the Frog Pond (marked on the James Lake FSR to Goudie FSR HRT map), a shallow stagnant pond that I wasn’t to fond of using, but there was no other option. Hiked a little past the pond and set up camp in a big flat spot in the bend of a FSR.
Day 4 (Oct.6) – Frog Pond to Damer Lake
Total: 108.8 km
Not terribly far past where I camped last night was The Grand View, a beautiful treed in spot with a vista of the Okanagan below, with a really nice camp area. A couple small tent pads and a pit toilet, I recommend staying here is possible. I think the Frog Pond is the last water source before here thought, so a short water carry is necessary since its dry.
The weather turned and started to rain on and off most of the day, so I didn’t stop much to stay warm or take many photos. Once you cross the James Lake FSR there is a section with many down trees that makes for very slow going. A friend and I came back and cleared 600m worth of trees but this area needs some TLC with a chainsaw, but still passable. Trail continues to stays in the trees, and drops into a couple small valleys to cross Kelowna and Vernon creeks, bridges still good. Passing through what must be the smallest provincial park in BC, it might only take a few minutes to walk though Wrinkly Face Provincial Park, but still with a nice view.
I ended the day just before dusk at Damer lake, about 400m off trail, camping at the small recreation site. Not many really flat spots for tents, but you can make due. Had a quick dinner before it started to rain, which lasted most of the night.
Day 5 (Oct.7) – Damer Lake to Vernon
Day: 19.2 km
Total: 128 km
Woke up to everything wet after all night showers, but within sight of Vernon. The trail climbs up a short ways and joins a FSR that winds down the rest of the way. The rain has turned most of it into a muddy mess, but I was able to find somewhat firm ground to make my way. Towards the end the road intersects with various mountain bike trails, but easy to find the HRT way. Once I got to the Twisted Sister bike trail that cut down towards the last I took that instead of the HRT proper since it doesn’t actually go down to the lake.
Following a couple trails I made my way down to the lake, it turned out to be a decent day with the sun coming out. Once to the lake I followed the Coral Trail around to Cunlie Road to the nearest bus stop in Coldstream. I was about to take 4 buses and 2 hours back to Kelowna to get home.
I would highly recommend the High Rim Trail to anyone for their first multi day backpacking trip, its a good combination of views, straight forward navigation, and a few strenuous climbs but mostly easy grading. To extent it next time I would hike the Wild Horse Canyon Trail starting in Okanagan Mountain Park, join the Highlands Trail over Little White Mountain, and continue on the High Rim Trail for about a 163km 1 week trek.