Friday • April 24, 2015
Fernie is becoming a mecca for hikers and there's no shortage of amazing trails to discover from easy family-friendly walks to half or full-day mountain hikes.
To make sure I hit the trails at least a few times a week, I rely on the Community Trail System when I only have an hour or two. Skirting the Elk River I love the variety of views this well-maintained trail offers- from spectacular sunsets over the Lizard Range to the incredible Ghostrider Shadow on Mt Proctor at dusk. The swaying cottonwoods provide shade on a hot summer afternoon and there's always plenty of wildlife action on and around the smooth-flowing waters. The graceful Blue Herons are my favourite but I've also spotted Black Bears, Beavers, Moose, Martens and many others from these banks.
One of the most popular gentle hikes in Fernie is the 4km Fairy Creek Falls Trail, which can be accessed from the Chamber of Commerce VIC on Hwy #3, or from the nearby bridge over Fairy Creek. A well-maintained trail leads to the beautiful cascading, misting, falls which are in full spate from in the early summer months. Watch for dippers which often bounce across the rocks at the base of the falls. A planned non-motorized bridge adjacent to the highway will make it possible to access this trail from town without walking or riding on the road. Until then, there is a small parking lot at the trailhead next to the creek.
I recently tried out the newly refurbished Coal Creek Heritage Trail, a great option for all ages and abilities of hikers and mountain bikers with an elevation gain of only 200m over the course of the 8.2km length of the valley-bottom trail and a second halfway access point at the Rifle Range off Coal Creek Road. A series of 13 interpretive panels plus large map panels and several historical panels make this hike a fascinating look into the history of Coal Creek as well as a fun nature hike. From the panels, the former town of 1000 springs to life with evidence of the miners and the families who lived here including details of how they lived, the buildings and services available and of course the mining- from prosperity to the fateful mine disaster of 1902. The Coal Creek Mine was closed in 1957 and a wildfire the same year razed many of the buildings. Coal Creek Road is a maintained unpaved road as far as the Rifle Range. After this point, 4WD and high clearance is required if you wish to arrange a pick up or drop off at the Coal Creek Townsite at the south end of the trail.
At the Mt Fernie Provincial Park, the family-friendly interpretive trail has panels detailing the unique flora and fauna found in the area. There's several easy trail options, some of which cross the gentle creek, others wind through mature cedar and hemlock forest. A cool, calm sanctuary on a hot day offering access to lots of biking trails if you're ready to get a little more adventurous.
The Ancient Cottonwoods Trail, approx 17 km west of Fernie at Morrissey, is home to some of the largest, oldest black cottonwoods ever discovered and adults and kids alike love the magical feel of the towering timbers with their mossy, furrowed bark. The initial short descent to the river and wooden bridges make it feel like you're entering an enchanted kingdom.
At Fernie Alpine Resort (open June 27 - September 6 2015), easier options include the Lost Boys Trail directly off the top of the the Timber Chairlift with Lost Boys Cafe available for a cool mountaintop drink or snack. I love the valley views from the patio and the massive boulder field & wildflower meadows at Lost Boys Pass. The Timber Chairlift runs on Saturdays, Sundays plus July 1st & August 3rd.
The jewel in Fernie's hiking crown is undoubtedly Island Lake Lodge (open June 13 - late September 2015). Although it's easily accessed in summer via the Cedar Valley Road, I like to save this one for when I want to treat myself and maybe add a spa treatment or enjoy lunch on the Bear Lodge Patio - a picturesque setting with equally memorable cusine and cocktails. The Lake Trail is a tranquil walk through dense ancient cedar forest with the lake glinting through the trees. An easy hour-long hike, the Fir Trail adds the option to extend your hike if time allows. The Rail Trail & Old Growth Trail connect Island Lake to the Mt Fernie Provincial Park, offering gentle elevation gains and beautiful creekside views if you want to spend a whole day exploring the Cedar Valley. Due to a high volume of events, please call ahead if you plan to use the facilities. Hiking trails are always open!
For the more adventurous hiker there's plenty more to choose from:
The Fernie Summer Hiking & Biking Trail Map is available for purchase at gear shops around town.
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Local Destination Expert