We may be biased, but we think that the rail trails of the West Kootenays offer some of the best cycling in British Columbia. Huge views, quiet and safe cycling, gentle grades, swimmable lakes, meandering rivers, character cafes and accommodations…the list goes on. And with four distinctive rail trails to choose from a short drive from Nelson, the region should be on every cyclist’s bucket list.
Slocan Valley Rail Trail
Just 20 minutes from Nelson, the Slocan Valley Rail Trail is the most popular and well known. The 52km trail is essentially flat, offers multiple access points, and is well maintained, including picnic benches and rest stops. It follows the winding Slocan River and provides plenty of opportunities for a dip or just a relaxing ride. And with a number of excellent eateries, you’re never far from refuelling.
Nelson Salmo Great Northern Rail Trail
Starting in Nelson, the Nelson Salmo Great Northern Rail Trail runs for 48km. It climbs from Kootenay Lake to the turnoff to Whitewater Ski Resort, then descends to the quiet mountain town of Salmo. It passes the even sleepier village of Ymir (including an excellent bakery) as it follows the Salmo River. A number of beautiful wood trestles above and below Nelson offer expansive views, and Cottonwood Lake is a popular spot for local’s in the summer.
Columbia & Western Rail Trail
The eastern trailhead for the long-distance Kettle Valley Rail Trail is just 45 minutes from Nelson on the outskirts of Castlegar. The segment from Castlegar to Midway is known as the Columbia and Western Rail Trail and measures 162km, featuring a long gradual climb to the summit at Paulson. With spectacular views of Arrow Lakes and Christina Lake (known as BC’s warmest lake), it also features the kilometre long Bulldog Tunnel.
Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail
North of Nelson along stunning Slocan Lake is the home of two more joined rail trails. The Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail connects the charming waterfront towns of Nakusp and New Denver, passing peaceful Summit Lake as it winds its way between towering mountains. Starting in New Denver, the Galena Rail Trail climbs along a bumpy abandoned mining trail to Three Forks, and features a memorable cable car over a rushing creek below.
Look for our future posts with more in-depth information about each rail trail. We welcome questions or inquiries to help you plan your bike tour on one of our nearby rail trails. With rental bicycles, panniers, shuttle support and local knowledge, we can help make your next bicycle trip in British Columbia a reality.