Does your backyard come complete with a historical hiking trail?

Ours does! The Grey Canal trail is a hiking, biking and horseback riding wilderness trail that follows the old Grey Canal irrigation system alignment around Vernon. Sections of the 50km Grey Canal route have been acquired for public trail use. The vision for the trail is to provide a seamless trail system following the canal around the valley and passing on the legacy of our forefathers for use and appreciation by future generations.

The Grey Canal was build by Lord and Lady Aberdeen who had purchased Coldstream Ranch intending to “plant orchards on a big scale and sell off the lots”. With great optimism, a massive project began in 1905 for moving water from lakes on highlands southeast of Vernon, across the Coldstream Valley and along the benchlands encircling Vernon to Okanagan Lake.

The Grey Canal, completed by 1914 at a cost of $423,000 played an important role in the sub-division of ranchlands and promotion of the “gentlemanly pursuit of fruit farming”. At one time, the Grey Canal supplied water to the largest irrigation district in BC, providing more water than supplied to the City of Vancouver in 1938. But by 1963, concern over rising costs led to replacement of the open ditch system with buried pipelines, and the Grey Canal was used for the last time in 1970.

Today, from the valley, the route of the Grey Canal is still visible, scoring a horizontal line on the hillsides hundreds of feet above. Below are the agricultural lands and increasingly the city. Along much of the route, the remains of the canal and its elaborate system of ditches, pipes and flumes can still be found.

To access the section of the Grey Canal trail at Turtle Mountain, go west on 39th Avenue to the entrance of the Turtle Mountain subdivision. Park on either side of the road at the entrance to the subdivision. From the parking lot, follow the Grey Canal Trail north for .07 km or west for .05 km. There is an outstanding view from Rocky Ridge Park along the west section.

To learn more about the Grey Canal trail or to view a map of the trail system, please visit Tourism Vernon’s website.