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Riondel Historic Waterline Trail

If you enjoy hikes with a historical connection, then add this waterline to your list! The restored trail offers a pleasant walk in the woods with a historic engineering marvel.

Trailhead:  Riondel North Road
Distance, round trip: 9.8km
Elevation: +273m
Season: mid May to late November
Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead and Driving Directions

This trail really has two different segments:

  • Part A: the lower multi-use section, with wide trail and bermed turns through the forest.
  • Part B: the higher hiking-only section in Tam O’Shanter Canyon, with steeper sections and tricky footing. Brand new hikers may find this difficult.

You can hike the entire thing, or use Tam O’Shanter Forest Service Road to shortcut to Part B and focus on the historic canyon features.

Part A: Drive 1.4km from Riondel on Riondel North Road, watching for the signed trailhead on the right. There is a small pullout to park or head a little further up the road for a bigger shoulder on the left.

Part B: Drive 2.6km from Riondel on Riondel North Road, passing the lower trailhead and then turning right on Tam O’Shanter Forest Service Road. Continue up the road for 2.5km and watch for the signed trail crossing the road.

Trailhead off Riondel North Road

Part A: Up the forest!

The first 3km of trail winds through the forest, switch backing on a wide trail bermed for mountain bikers (watch out for those). After 0.8km, a viewpoint bench peeks through the trees to Kootenay Lake and distant Kokanee Glacier.

Viewpoint across Kootenay Lake

At 1.8km, the newly built multiuse trail meets the old waterline trail. You’ll see the waterline peeking out from below a rock wall, coils of wire unspooling from the rotten wooden staves. The trail continues uphill, but at a gentler grade as it follows the historic waterline across the forest floor.

Meet Tam O’Shanter Forest Service Road at 3km and cross, watching for the trail continuing into the bigger adventure.

Part B: Canyon & Waterline Exploration

From the road crossing, the trail continues 0.5km almost level. Then reach an interpretive sign with the history of the waterline and the cabin in the canyon below. Steeply descend the canyon and pass an impressive rockwall before meeting Tam O’Shanter Creek near the bottom. This area can be very cold and shady in the shoulder season.

The trail goes up and down as it traces the waterline. Use careful steps as the waterline is right below in many places, with holes in the trail bed or wires poking up. Roots and rocks are also slippery in this area, with impressive moss in the shade.

Reach the historic cabin remains after 4.6km, nicknamed “Tam O’Shanter Hotel”. The creek runs nearby with some intriguing little waterfalls.

Tam O’Shanter Hotel, no vacancy here!

The trail ends after 4.9km at the old water intake dam. Today it creates a nice waterfall and a good spot for a break! Retrace your steps to head home.

Water intake dam on Tam O’Shanter Creek

East Shore Trail & Bike Association

The East Shore Trail & Bike Association is maintaining this trail. If you’ve enjoyed the hike, consider becoming a member, making a donation, or volunteering with them.

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Anders Anderson
Anders Anderson
5 months ago

Great trail we did not do part b as it was very steep going down and extremely dark when we went in September. Plan to back though and complete it in the summer.