Makin' Trails

Rose Valley Regional Park is 250 hectares of parkland adjacent to the Rose Valley neighbourhood in West Kelowna. There are four official colour-coded hiking trails in a Ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest and numerous unofficial trails with beautiful views of Okanagan Lake and the city of Kelowna.

Plenty of unofficial trails in Rose Valley Park

The series on the best Okanagan trails continues with Rose Valley Regional Park, a hidden valley paradise in West Kelowna. Its 250 hectares, adjacent to the Rose Valley neighbourhood, has numerous hiking trails in a Ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest.

Rose Valley was created during de-glaciation when melt water from a large block of ice occupying Okanagan Lake created a channel. The park was also home to a volcano with caves from air bubbles in the lava and different geological structures.

Looking west from downtown Kelowna, you don’t realize a massive ridge on the Westside is actually three ascending ridges like a staircase.

Rose Valley Regional Park is located on the first ridge which has grassland plateaus for undoubtedly the best easily-accessible view of Okanagan Lake and downtown Kelowna. The next ridge has the challenging McDougall Rim Trail at the top of incredible cliffs (where the Sheriff learned to horseback ride). In between is a deep valley with man-made Rose Valley Reservoir at the bottom.

The third ridge has the difficult and strenuous hike up to Carrot Mountain and Mount Swite. These trails are on Crown land and marked by usage rather than signage.

That brings us back to Rose Valley Regional Park which has a combination of four established well-marked trails, and a myriad of unmarked but well-used trails created by mountain bikers.

The trick is to remember that all three ridges are north-south and you generally head north from the main trailheads.

“Rose Valley Regional Park and much of the surrounding Crown lands have a multitude of user-generated maps that are in circulation on the internet, social media platforms and in recreational trail-user apps,” acknowledges Murray Kopp, director of parks services with the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

To begin the planning/implementation of an official trail system, the RDCO parks department worked with Westbank First Nation for the past 10 years to identify and name four major recreational trails at the south end of the park in both English and Syilx languages.

“In addition, we have been working with the West Kelowna Trail Crew Society (westkelownatrailcrew.ca/) in an ongoing effort to eliminate any additional unsanctioned mountain biking trail construction within the park as well as to co-ordinate trail stewardship efforts including the naming of trails within the park."

None of the trail names identified in recreational trail-user apps and websites within the regional park are RDCO-approved names, he emphasized.

“It is RDCO park staff’s hope that the RDCO board will support a 2021 operating budget allocation to develop a Rose Valley Regional Park Trail Management Plan.”

One of the regular park visitors is Kelly Badger, RDCO visitor experience and communications coordinator. "I have been there with my 'Constant Companion Connor' for hiking and lounging at the edge of the reservoir," she said this week.

“On one of my favourite visits there, we ran into a young man with binoculars and camera. He is a local, avid birder which I found surprising for someone of his age. He was so outgoing and helpful, directing us to spots where we might see some breeding hawks. I follow his Instagram account now for some beautiful bird shots.” (Kalin Ocana, 17, of Kelowna)

The two main trailheads are located on Westlake Road (off Highway 97) with a third near Goldie's Pond/Rose Valley Elementary School.

If you park at the first (or most southern) parking lot, the official blue Bunchgrass Trail heads north and intersects with the yellow Yellow Bell Trail.

From the second parking lot (a shorter distance to the summit), you can head south toward the blue trail, but most users head north. It's a loop trail like a figure 8 without the middle. You can follow it around to the orange Forest Trail, another loop.

The orange Forest Trail takes you to the purple Bitterroot Trail which has a loop at the north end with great reservoir and Kelowna panoramas.

The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen have hiked the official trails many times, but mostly use them to get to the unofficial trails. The unofficial Lake Loop Trail takes you around the reservoir, for instance.

One of our favourites is via a yellow gate at the end of Rosewood Drive and following gravel McDougall Service Road

to the reservoir dam. Take Jabberocky and City on the Edge of Forever, a challenging 8.5-kilometre steep climb. The final viewpoint is superb. Along the way there is a magnificent boulder split in half.

Your reward is going under a giant stone archway. Following a rock wall and hanging onto shrubbery, there is a small cave. The trail name comes from a Star Trek episode which has a stone arch.

You can access the north end of the reservoir from Rose Valley Road (off Bear Creek Road). You can also go to W Kelowna Road (at McPhail Court) for an easier walk to the reservoir.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter.

Email: jp.squire@telus.net