Imagine a time when steam engines chugged through the valleys and mountains of the Interior Cascades. Now you can take these same paths and enjoy the natural beauty found here. Walk, hike, bike, or ride on rail trails in and around Route 97. There are dozens of old railway tracks that have been decommissioned and turned into public accessible trails. Check with your local Visitor Centre to ensure trails are open and find out which ones are wheelchair accessible.
North Central Washington Rail Trails
The old Great Northern Railway is where you’ll find most of the rail trails in north-central Washington. Dust off your hiking books and come and explore!
Iron Goat Trail, WA
An hour west of Leavenworth, WA, is the Iron Goat Rail Trail. Take a tranquil walk through a forest of evergreens, alders and ferns. This is a 13 km (8 mi) day use only trail that does not allow horses, motor vehicles or bicycles. This trail lays claim to America’s worst avalanche, known as the Wellington Disaster. At 1:42 a.m. on March 1st a lightning strike triggered a massive avalanche. A private car, two boxcars, a passenger train and a mail train were stranded due to heavy snow and tossed off the tracks and into the river below.
Ferry County Rail Trail, WA
The Ferry County Rail Trail follows the former corridor of the Great Northern Railway. You can connect to it the Historic Highlands Loop as well as the Three County Corridor near Tonasket. Take your time as you experience picturesque landscapes along Kettle River and Curlew Lake. You’ll cross two former railroad bridges and go through a short tunnel cut into the rocky hillside. This 41 km (25.7 mi) rail trail runs south to north from the town of Republic, WA and up to the Canadian border and is wheelchair accessible.
Similkameen Rail Trail, WA
The Similkameen Rail Trail follows the Similkameen River from Oroville towards Nighthawk. Only the first 5.5 km (3.5 mi) of the trail are currently used as a rail trail. Hop on your mountain bike or your trusty steed and enjoy the shrub steppe and occasional evergreens as you explore the land. It’s also a gentle walk and only 11 km (7 mi) round trip. Enjoy relaxing views of the river as you explore the trail and pass interpretive displays along the way. If your timing is right, you can watch salmon and steelhead run 27 m (90 ft) below you as you cross the 115 m (375 ft) long girder bridge. Note: in the summer temperatures can soar to 38°C (100 F).
Thompson Okanagan Rail Trails
There are several trails both on and around Route 97 in the Thompson Okanagan area. The Trans Canada Trail is known as the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR) in most parts of the Okanagan and Boundary regions.
Boundary – KVR and Columbia Western Rail Trails, BC
The Boundary Monashee Loop will lead you to some breathtaking rail trails. Roam through shifting landscapes of tranquil rivers, ranchlands and soaring mountains. The KVR portion of the trails runs by the communities of Beaverdell, Rock Creek and Grand Forks and ends at Midway, where the Columbia Western Rail Trail begins. It runs 77 km east through Greenwood and up to Christina Lake. Enjoy the mountain views and venture into the shadowy tunnels near Grand Forks. Take your time and soak up the sunshine and the views from atop the trestles at Christina Lake of Cascade Falls and the Kettle River Valley.
Rail Trails on the Similkameen Valley Loop, BC
The Similkameen Valley Loop connects with the KVR at Princeton in the Similkameen. Hike or bike or where pioneers once travelled to find their riches in the fur trade and gold mining. The KVR follows the Similkameen and Tulameen Rivers with stunning views and great rest stops. For those who wish to have a rugged, rustic and real experience, pack your tent and spend the night at a campsite along the Tulameen River.
Myra Canyon on the KVR, BC
Access the Myra Canyon section of the KVR via the Okanagan Corridor. This trail has fantastic mountain views and stunning scenery. Stop a moment and feel the cool breeze as you gaze out over a valley 1000 m (3,280 ft) below. Traverse wood-frame trestles and through tunnels carved in the rock. This corridor is usually travelled by bike, however, shorter journeys by foot are also common. You can bring your car, or take a designated tour that takes you up to Myra Station, avoiding 500 m (1800 ft) vertical grind.
Be sure to visit the closest Visitor Centre to find out the current conditions on the trails you want to explore.