Heiko’s Trail and the Bisaro Cave

There is an otherworldly place just outside of Fernie. In this place, water carves its way out of the earth, and over geologic timespans, creates a massive hole in the side of a mountain. At this interface, darkness intermingles with light effortlessly to create an entirely separate ecosystem from the surroundings.

Speleogenesis, or the formation and development of caves, is responsible for creating Bisaro Cave. And a man by the name of Heiko Socher pioneered the trail that allows Fernie residents and visitors access not only to this wondrous other world, but also to both Mount Bisaro, and the Three Sisters. 

The “Mountain Lakes Trail,” known to Fernie locals as “Heiko’s Trail,” was pioneered by Heiko in 2000. After selling the Fernie Ski Resort in 1997, he took up trail building, and created the grueling 20 km trail over three summers. The trail starts at the end of Sulphur Creek Road, skirts valleys and mountain tops, and heads all the way to the Island Lake Lodge.

Heiko did many great things for the town of Fernie, and he can be credited for placing Fernie on the world map. A German forester, he and his wife Linda bought the local ski hill in 1972 and created what is now known as Fernie Alpine Resort.

Ever heard of the Griz? The legendary man that lives in the mountains and brings wonderful champagne powder to the hill in the winter? Yep. That was Heiko’s discovery. Ever heard of Emily Brydon? She represented Canada proudly in the Winter Olympics in 2002, 2006, and 2010. Yep. Heiko supported her ski career too.

In 2012, Heiko was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for his philanthropy and community service. Regrettably, the town of Fernie said goodbye to Heiko one last time in 2016, as he passed at the age of 86. This summer, the trail will be officially re-named to “Heiko’s Trail” – a befitting name for a legendary trail.

Trail and Cave Access
Six kilometers east of Fernie, turn off Highway 3 and left onto Dicken Road. In 500m, turn right onto Hartley Lake Road. Stay on this road for 10.5 km (you’ll pass Hartley Lake and Hartley Pass). At the 10.5 km mark, turn left onto Sulphur Creek Road (you’ll see a yellow 7 km marker on the side of the road). Follow Sulphur Creek Road for approximately 3 km to a dead end (you’ll need a 4x4 vehicle for this section). The hike begins at the trailhead to Heiko’s Trail. Bisaro Cave is approximately 1.5 km on this trail. Expect a 300m elevation gain over this short distance, beautiful vistas along upper alpine forest, and wooden ladders carved fallen logs by the legend himself.

On August 13, the Fernie Trails Alliance and Island Lake Lodge are organizing a celebration to honour Heiko and the renaming of this trail. The day will include guided hikes, from both ends of the trail including shuttles and multiple distances, and dinner at Island Lake Lodge. Visit Fernietrails.com for further details.