Run, Hike, Bike Repeat
Not surprisingly, the value of recreation has become even more pronounced these last couple of years. Alongside the freedom and enjoyment it provides, the physical and mental health benefits have helped many to navigate challenging times.
This summer, there is an excitement in the air. We are all ready to get out, explore and connect – both with nature and one another. There is a respect and an appreciation for the opportunities these spaces, trails, waterways and mountains provide. And a gratitude for the many individuals and organizations dedicated to creating, maintaining and enhancing recreation in the Elk Valley.
This sport has picked up momentum the last few years, in large part due to the duo behind Stag Leap Running Co., Mike and Abi Moore. Stag Leap hosts weekly run clubs and popular annual events, such as the Elk Valley Ultra and the Lone Wolf and has created a community of passionate trail runners!
Fairy Creek Trail
New to trail running? This is the perfect first trail to tackle! An out and back from the Visitor Centre on Hwy 3, this is a beautiful trail that parallels Fairy Creek and takes you to the base of a waterfall. Please note – this is a busy trail in summer, for less traffic consider an earlier or later run!
For the intermediate, start out at the Gorby Parking lot, found on Island Lake Road just beyond the Mount Fernie Provincial Park. Cross Lizard Creek over the bridge and take a left shortly after on Gorby and climb all the way to Red Tree Road. Take a left on Red Tree and continue below the T-bar up to the top of Megahurts. Take a left down Megahurts and enjoy a canopied, old-school trail with roots and some bridges. Continue down Old Goat, all the way until you reach Gorby again. Take a right down Gorby, returning the way you came.
This is such a beautiful loop, with stunning views down the Lizard Range. Starting at Island Lake Lodge, take the Lake Trail to the right for half a km until you reach the sign for Mount Baldy. Turn right and continue up a steep double track road where you will get your shuffle on. Finally, you will reach a right turn onto some single track, crossing Mount Baldy and reaching the apex and viewpoint. Take a breath, and enjoy the scenery before a fast paced, switch-backing descent to the lodge. The best part? Après on the Bear Patio of course!
There are endless hikes to discover, some from town and others a short drive with options at Fernie Alpine Resort and Island Lake. Here are some great ideas for this summer!
Skeleton Flats Trail
Lift access hiking at its best, this short loop gets you to amazing vistas quickly! From the top of the Elk Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort, walk up the Summer Road trail to the first view point. From there continue to climb, reaching the Skeleton Flats trail, enjoying the gorgeous valley and Fernie from afar. Connect back to the Summer Road and return to the Elk Chair for the fun ride back down to the base. Enjoy a patio refreshment at the Rusty Edge or Legends to finish off the day’s adventures!
Mount Fernie is accessible from town (parking at the Annex Park) or you can start from the Canyon Trails subdivision. The trail begins climbing immediately, and eventually starts to switchback as you gain elevation. Just over half-way, you’ll find the Batman Bench looking towards the Three Sisters, a perfect spot for a snack or to turn around for a shorter hike. Continuing up, the trail breaks into the alpine with epic views of Fernie with some rocky navigation as you make your way to the ridge. Once there, you’ll find a couple of benches to rest up. You’ll notice the option to connect to Heiko’s Trail via Rocky Road (next time!). Return the way you came and enjoy some deserved après in town.
Black Distance: 9km
An iconic trail attached to an iconic trail! Goldilocks was built by three female trail builders and is a stunning extension to Spineback trail at Island Lake Lodge. Starting from the lodge, go right around the lake following signs for Fir Trail / Spineback. Once you reach Spineback, it climbs steeply and then switchback as you near the top. Enjoy this bench, but not for too long as the adventure continues! Follow the trail until you reach the Goldilocks loop, either direction works, but I enjoy going counter-clockwise. The trail is rocky and steep, with some loose shale sections. As you reach the ridge the views will take your breath away. Hopefully you booked dinner at the Tamarack Lodge as you’ll be worthy of a reward!
While I love trail running and hiking, biking is my absolute favourite. Thankfully in Fernie, there is an abundance of trails to explore for all levels and styles of riding. Here are a few different styles and levels to try out.
Style: Cross Country
A more cross-country trail, which you can access from town, or park at the Hedonism parking lot at the far end of the Mount Fernie campground. The Lazy Lizard connector trail begins here, rolling gently alongside Island Lake Road. You will cross a few bridges (slippery when wet) and begin to climb, gently at first. Once you reach the powerline, the trail climbs a bit more steeply but with nice benches in between. When you reach the top, come back the way you came unless lunch is on your mind at Island Lake. Please note: this is a busy two-way trail. Use proper trail etiquette, make noise so other trail users hear you, and be kind and cautious.
Style: Flow Trail Difficulty: Blue
One of Fernie’s newest trails, Trail Dogs is located down Coal Creek Road. For those keen on a warm-up, bike the 5km along Coal Creek Heritage to access Up Dog. Otherwise, parking is available at the bottom of Rifle Range Road. This trail can also be shuttled for multiple laps or to help those groms with wee legs. The climb is a quick and gentle 1km (finished late spring 2022) otherwise the road is a great option. Trail Dogs is a flowy, berm to jump style trail that is fun regardless of the air you catch… or don’t. Everyone will be smiling and looking for another lap after this one!
Guys, don’t think too hard about the trail names here. I promise, it is so, so worth it! This is a long and exciting descent. Start off by climbing Phat Bastard, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Then continue up Mushroom Head. At the peak of Mushroom Head, begin up Lactic Ridge. Line choice plays a role here, as does that Eagle. Once at the top of Lactic you can either hike up Lactic or ride the Moc-Assassin. Once you hit the Moccasin, take a left and continue climbing until you reach the Stupid Traverse. This takes you across to Slunt. Enjoy the view from Rob’s bench, who also loved this trail. And then hold on tight through the jumps and roots and small natural drops along the way down Slunt. You’ll reach a y – the natural flow is to continue down Brokeback Ridge. An alternative is to continue on Slunt to the powerline, take a left and head to the top of Eric’s Trip. This is another epic trail, which will bring you close to where you started.
Remember, there are different levels and types of trail users out there. Be respectful, be informed of proper trail etiquette, and show your support by purchasing your Fernie Trails Pass. fernietrailsalliance.com/get-involved/trails-pass.
Krista Turcasso grew up in Fernie, but it wasn’t until she was lured back after university that she fell in love with mountain adventures. While she loves mountain biking, she also enjoys exploring the backcountry roads on her gravel bike, discovering places she never knew existed.
Photo by Danyal Taylor