Biking the International Hike and Bike Trail

by Josée

The International Hike and Bike Trail is a 20 km recreational trail that starts 5.5 km north of Oliver, BC and ends at the northern tip Osoyoos Lake. The trail follows the Okanagan River as it flows south to Osoyoos Lake and makes for a lovely way to explore the South Okanagan. There are many access points along this trail but the most popular one is located just off Highway 97 and Tucelnuit Drive. The turnoff is located just after the Esso Gas station if heading southerly (towards Oliver) or just after the river crossing if heading northerly (away from Oliver). After turning onto Tucelnuit Drive, take another right on Willow Court, the large paved parking lot will be visible on the right hand side.

Last summer our family biked the first 6 km of the International Hike and Bike Trail from the trailhead to the Kinsmen Spray Park. This easy 12 km round trip makes for a fun family bike ride and you can find out more about it here: Biking Part of the International Hike and Bike Trail.

Being somewhat of a completionist, I’ve had my sights set on biking the entire 20 km trail for some time. The tricky part has been finding someone who could pick us up at the other end, and I’ve had no luck. So instead of waiting around, my son and I decided to bike the entire trail, out and back (40 km).

We started our ride from the Willow Court Parking lot (as described above) and made some interesting discoveries along the way. The first part of the ride from the parking lot to the Kinsmen Spray Park was easy and fun. This part of the trail is paved and lovely to ride. We rode quickly, with a nice tail wind pushing us along. From the park we peddled onwards along the river and at the 10 km mark, almost exactly, the paved trail ended and was replaced by a wide gravel trail. We had trail bikes so the gravel was no issue for us, in fact it was a nice change from riding on pavement.

As we biked along we saw farms, homes, vineyards and many beautiful birds. At some points the trail would run under a canopy of trees, at other times it was out in the open. As we neared the end of the trail we spotted the Osoyoos Oxbows interpretive signs to our right and knew the end of the trail was near. It took us just under two hours to bike the 20 km trail to the end, where we grabbed a quick lunch and started on our way back.

Riding back was definitely more difficult, there was a head wind the entire way and our legs were tired. At times I wondered if a 40 km bike ride was a bit much for our first ride of the season. But the promise of Tickleberry’s ice cream made us pedal hard and we made it back in two-and-half hours. The entire trek of 40 km (out and back) took us four-and-a-half hours to complete, and while I hate to admit it I think my nine year old son fared better than I did! At least he was able to walk normally the rest of the day.

The International Hike and Bike Trail is a really great trail and you don’t have to bike the entire trail (20 km) both ways (40 km) to enjoy it. For families I would recommend biking the first section to Kinsmen Spray Park (6 km, or 12 km return). One more bit of advise, for the most part the entire trail is quite exposed. We’ve biked it on a 26°C day last summer and that was already getting quite warm. I recommend biking this trail in the spring, in the fall or on cool (less than 25°C) summer days. Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and swimsuits if you plan on checking out the water park. Happy Adventuring!

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