Fix Favourite Bike Rides and Hikes
photo by Nick Nault
With so much to choose from in and around Fernie, we thought it might help to narrow it down to a few personal favourites!
Mount Fernie – Town
Difficulty Level - Blue
Elevation – 7,251 feet
Average Time – 3 hrs +
Built by Fernie’s Heiko Socher, this trail climbs to the top of Mount Fernie to connect with Heiko’s Trail. The trailhead is accessed off the powerline behind Alpine Trails. When you reach the first high point on the powerline, you’ll see a doubletrack on your right. Follow this and you’ll reach the entrance with a wooden sign for Mount Fernie.
Heiko’s trails are popular for a reason. His time spent in the backcountry has made him aware of spectacular views and unique attributes, and the Mount Fernie trail highlights a number of these along the way. From switchbacking through dense forest, to taking in a remarkable view of the Three Sister, to clearing the trees into the alpine, to reaching the summit and its rewarding “peak” feeling, Mount Fernie is well rounded and worth the effort.
Spineback – Island Lake Lodge
Difficulty Level – Blue
Elevation – 5,905 feet
Average Time 2 hrs +
From Island Lake Lodge, follow the wide trail towards the Fir Trail at the west end of Island Lake. You’ll see large wood signs for Spineback, which will take you to the trailhead.
At first this trail is quite steep, leaving the meadows quickly behind and entering thick forest and shrubs on a soft, turning trail. But no fear, it levels off becoming a more gradual climb. Just past the half way mark you enter a rocky bowl to the right of the Spineback Ridge. The trail continues passing Glacier Lilies, interesting rock features and fossils, eventually crossing over to the crest of the ridge where you can enjoy a snack and take in the beautiful views on a wooden bench.
Elephant Head to Polar Peak – Fernie Alpine Resort
Difficulty Level – Blue/Black
Elevation – 7,010 Feet
Average Time – 3/5 hrs, depending on route
During the summer months when lifts are operating, hikers have the choice of starting at the base or taking the Timber Chair and beginning the hike from there. However you reach the top of the Timber Chair, continue towards Lost Boys where you will see a singletrack trail on your right, climbing up the ridge of Elephant Head. Once you reach the ridge, you continue to climb (up and down) across to Polar Peak, the highlight.
Adding Elephant Head to the traditional Polar Peak hike offers viewpoints over a longer distance, and creates a circular hike vs. up and back. There are some challenging sections, including careful foot placement and using a rope up, but it’s worth it. Once you reach Polar Peak, sign the book, enjoy a snack, and take the trail to the White Pass and back to the Timber Chair to catch a lift back to the base or continue walking down the mountain.
Our Favourite “Green” Option: Rail and Old Growth Trails to Island Lake Lodge. Starting at the Island Lake lower parking lot, and finishing off with a quick walk around the lake to the lodge, this hike has less elevation gain but includes beautiful scenery and the Old Growth Forest. Plus there’s après on the patio with views of the Lizard Range.
Swine Flu – Mount Proctor
Difficulty Level – Blue/Black
Distance – 3.8 km
Average Time – 1.5 hrs +
Just past the bridge over the Elk River leaving town towards Alberta, you’ll cross a small yellow bridge and take a left. Pass the gate and climb until you reach a wooden entrance through a barbed fence. Go through the fence and pick up the singletrack (Mad Cow) on your right. After 10-15minutes, you can continue or turn left. Turn left and climb until you reach the powerline. Turn left and climb to the tower at the top of the next hill, where you’ll see a trail on your right. Take this singletrack, and continue to climb. You’ll pass the entrance to Far Side, and reach a point where you can veer right (down Mad Cow) or climb (up Swine Flu). Continue up, and enjoy the challenging switchbacks to the top where you’ll enjoy a beautiful view before dropping your seat for this fun descent.
Swine Flu continues to the left with bermed corners, quick, rolling steeps, and fast sections through the trees. I’ve heard people compare it to trails like Dem Bones, as you can “run a bit loose” and it’s a great, “bang for your buck”. The climb isn’t too long or painful, and the downhill surprises you with its length and gets better with each ride.
Slunt – Mount Fernie
Difficulty Level – Black
Distance – 2 km
Average Time – 2.5 hrs
The trail starts from the top of Lactic Ridge where it meets Stupid Traverse. The access is from the top of Mushroom Head after climbing either Dem Bones (Fernie Provincial Park) or Phat Bastard (Burma Road). 2/3 the way up Lactic Ridge the trail veers right onto the Moc-assassin to the top of the Stupid Traverse. You can continue up Lactic Ridge, but it turns into a hike-a-bike. Regardless, both lead to where you want to be – Slunt!
This trail is a sweet ride over bumps, around tight turns and berms, swooping through the forest and letting you charge through and “woo hoo” to your heart’s content. Just past halfway down you’ll come across a wooden sign and the entrance to Brokeback Ridge (on the right side of the trail). This is a popular choice as Brokeback feels like a natural continuation of Slunt with more berms and flow all the way to Island Lake Road. Alternatively, you can continue along Slunt and connect with the refurbished Hedonism, ending on Island Lake Road just before the Provincial Park campground.
Difficulty Level – Black
Distance – 5km
Average Time – 2.5
After climbing Roots and nearly all of Hyper Ventilation, you’ll notice the trailhead and signage on your right near the top. You’ll come to the entrance to South Castle, where you’ll take a left. You can either leave your bike, and hike to the top for the views, or hike-a-bike and ride where you can for a sick descent into South Castle.
Hairball in spots as the trail is a bit narrow, steep and exposed, and then a little climbing back to the South Castle which is long and rewarding, keeping riders on their toes with the different terrain change and trail style. Fun for many levels of riders and a great longer loop for days you want to push it a bit further.
Our Favourite “Green” Option: Phat Bastard to Dem Bones via Mushroom Head. Starting off Burma Road and finishing with a fun and surprisingly long downhill ending in the Provincial Park, this loop is technical and challenging in sections, but offers more flow and is shorter in distance.
For extensive details on trails including maps, photographs, and descriptions, pick up the Fernie Mountain Bike Guide online at www.ferniefix.com or at one of the following retailers: The Gear Hub, The Guide’s Hut, Polar Peek Books, The Ski Base or Straightline.