Strolling the Similkameen trail

Brent Baker / staff photoViews of the Similkameen River abound on the trail, particularly on the more rugged upper half.

Brent Baker / staff photoViews of the Similkameen River abound on the trail, particularly on the more rugged upper half.

OROVILLE – Sometimes it’s those things in your own back yard that are least appreciated.

It’s pretty early in the game to render a final verdict on whether or not the Similkameen Trail is properly appreciated, but its easy access, dual starting points and status as part of the Pacific Northwest Trail make it one of the area’s most family-friendly trails.

It even has its own Facebook page.

Technically, the Similkameen is considered an “urban trail” since the primary trailhead lies within the Oroville city limits, at the end of Kernan Rd. (west of the Old Oroville Depot Museum and Visitors Center). The first two miles of the trail are wide and flat, suitable for jogging and casual walking with little elevation change.

Signs along the trail highlight items of historical or natural significance.

The trail then rises about 50 feet through a vineyard to the second (Taber) trail head, which branches off the Oroville/Loomis highway. From there the trail winds back down to the river across a refurbished railroad bridge that is now used only for foot traffic.

The remainder of the trail has a wilder feel to it, heading west into the Similkameen River gorge with views of the river and canyon at nearly every turn.

There are still few elevation changes.

For now, the trail ends after about 3.5 miles at a fence, with a viewpoint and benches that provide a nice view of the Enloe Dam further up the river.

Future plans call for the trail to extend another 12 or so miles west to Nighthawk. For now, to pick up the rest of the PNT, one must backtrack to the start of the trail and either drive west into the Cascades to pick it up at the west-bound trailhead at Cold Springs (several miles above Chopaka Lake) or to head eastbound, at the Whistler Canyon trailhead just south of Oroville.

During the summer, the Similkameen Trail is best traveled in the early morning hours as the heat quickly builds in the late morning and early afternoon. There’s plenty of wildflowers and birds to see, as well as the occasional bear sighting and, for the sharp-eyed, an occasional golf ball flying off the plateau above and across the river near the end of the trail where the Oroville Golf Club is located.

Whether living in town or just passing through, it is a trail worth the walk, and can be easily run as well.