This could be the most spectacular portion of the whole Kettle Valley Railway bed, since it runs through the precipitous valley of the Tulameen River, with plenty of birds, flowers, mammals and minerals to view. It is feasible all year round, during all the moods of the river it parallels, from thundering high water, to a gentle trickle during August drought.
You can begin at either end, Princeton or Coalmont, and go as far as you please. If you go the whole 18 km, you should arrange to have someone drive you back to your starting point. You can travel by foot, on skis, or on a bicycle. The hike proceeds through the tunnel which goes underneath the ridge which separates the Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers just before they join. This tunnel is over a thousand feet long, and was first driven under the ridge in 1910. As you trudge through it, reflect that the Crowsnest Highway is far above you, running south from Princeton. The transformation from one end of the tunnel to the other is refreshing--you leave the industrial part of Princeton behind, and suddenly find yourself in the countryside, free of pollution and noise. If you look up and back, you can see houses perched on the edge of the ridge over the tunnel. A bridge takes you to the north shore of the Tulameen River, and you are away.
After about a kilometre and a half, you will see on your right the red ochre cliffs which provided some of the vermilion for the rock paintings and war paint of the Similkameen Indians, and for the name given the early community of Vermillion Forks. If you grind up a bit of the red rock and mix it with oil, you can make paint of your own. After another kilometre, you can view on your right the fantastic shapes of hoodoos, stone pillars which have been shaped by erosion of wind and water. Use your imagination to embellish the shapes created by the elements into monsters and icons of your choice.
Excerpt quoted fromThe Similkameen Hiking Guide, The Vermilion Forks Field Naturalist Society.
Travel to Princeton via Highway 3. The Kettle Valley Rail will pass under Highway 3 at the west end of town. To reach another access point, travel through the Town of Princeton on Bridge Street, cross the one lane bridge and turn left on Coalmont Road. The KVR will emerge 5 km past the bridge on the left side of Coalmont Road.
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