An esplanade is a long stretch of flat trail by a lake or sea where folks go for a leisurely stroll. The Esplanade Trail Network in Penticton, British Columbia is exactly this, a long stretch of untamed beach that runs along the southeastern edge of Okanagan Lake. It is a beautiful area and valued for its biodiversity and history. Unfortunately, this area is often overlooked because of its reputation of being a place where homeless people stay, especially in the summer months. The trail network that lies above the esplanade has been affectionately named The Hobo Jungle or simply The Hobos after these transient individuals. We occasionally see homeless people on our adventures along the esplanade and they usually keep to themselves. However, we are often unsettled by the trash and drug paraphernalia they leave behind especially along the first section of the trail.
The Esplanade Trail Network can be accessed in several ways. The most common and easy-to-access trailhead is at the end of Marina Way, just past the Penticton Yacht Club and Marina. There is a sign posted at the start of the trail just to the right of the tennis courts where we usually park. The first section of the trail goes through part of the Hobo Jungle to reach the beach. It’s a very short section but I usually keep my children close and my eyes peeled so that I can point out dangerous items on our way through. Once this section is cleared we veer right and walk up along the esplanade (beach). The esplanade goes on for a long ways, up to Three Mile Point, possibly further. We usually walk and explore until the littlest legs are getting tired and then we turn back.
Another way to access the Esplanade Trail Network is via the Kettle Valley Railways (KVR) trail that runs above it. The KVR can be accessed at the end of Vancouver Place or off Bankview Road in Penticton. There are many trails that veer off the KVR trail down to the esplanade. There is a wider trail right after the first set of information plaques and then another before the first set of benches. We have yet to explore these trail so I can’t say how steep they are or how appropriate they would be for young children.
Other than the first section of the trail off Marina Way, which could be avoided by taking a trail off the KVR, the Esplanade Trail Network is a really great place for children to explore freely. There are plenty of rocks to climb over, hop on and toss into the water. There are interesting trees, striking clay banks and plenty of water fowl hanging about. If you are exploring this area in the cooler months bring an extra set of dry pants, socks and shoes for your kids to change into afterwards.