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Spring Steps - Hiking Castle Rocks, an iconic Fernie trail

There's magic in the changing of seasons, in the last melting of snow, in the first warm day felt by the sun after a long and glorious winter. In Fernie, the beginning of spring marks a retiring of cold-weather activities for warm-weather wanderings.

Snowbanks that align snow-covered streets melt away to dust and puddles, and new stems of grass emerge on front lawns. Second Avenue's icy sidewalks are suddenly bordered in summer-ready patios, and fresh blossoms bloom from the tips of apple tree stems. The only skis remaining around town are those which make up fence posts and backyard gates, while the rest retire until next year. 

Higher up on the mountains overlooking town are the first signs of summer — vibrant bluebells and yellow mountain orchids break from the soil in search of daylight, and new needles awaken sleepy larch. And on those slopes are the feet of eager hikers, ready to look for their first of many summits.

Snow patches and mudslides blend with well-worn pathways and at the top lies a view worth ascending for, a view that reminds you why they are here.

Castle Mountain Trail, one of Fernie's most accessed hikes, is typically the first to lose its snow come spring, and all sorts of hikers eagerly ascend the slope. A gradual, manageable elevation makes for the best type of warm-up in preparation for those longer hikes like Heiko's Trail and Hosmer Mountain come summertime. With multiple access points, the hike can be as difficult or short as desired and promises the most rewarding of views of the Lizard Range, Island Lake, and the town of Fernie. 

To access the trail, approach from the Coal Creek barn on Coal Creek Road and follow walking trails until Roots Trail (a multi-use trail). Currently, access from River Road may be restricted due to logging activity.  

Signs with maps are nailed to trees along the way for guidance, but the Fernie Trail Map is a smart move if summer-long adventures are what's in store. The TrailForks app also has all of Castle Mountain's trails, and is a great way for tracking progress along the route.

The hike climbs gradually through poplar forest and planted pines to a comfortable benched viewpoint, all under the warmth of the spring sunshine. 

Once at the bench, hikers can carry on to a second viewpoint overlooking the Coal Creek valley for a shorter turnaround, or walk the extra kilometre to the Castle Mountain summit, deemed Castle Rock. Much like with any hike near Fernie, the extra steps are always worth it.

At the top of Castle Rock, the bluebells and other wildflowers pepper the hillside with colour, and are a delightful reminder of things to come—hikes, downhill bikes, patio beers and riverside dips. Though the wind still holds a touch of winter in its breath, summer closes in with each day, and warms the valley for those ready to come out and play.

--Jesse Bell

Jesse is a local writer and adventurer with a huge passion for Fernie, BC and the Canadian Rockies

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