We’ve been coming to the small mountain town of Fernie, in the southeast corner of British Columbia, for the past nine summers. Our family is usually here for all the summer long weekends, including our favourite — August long.
There’s no doubt Fernie is an outdoor destination, nestled as it is in the Elk Valley, where the Elk River cuts a path at the foot of the Lizard Range, which is part of the Canadian Rockies. Winter visitors come to ski, while summer guests spend their days hiking and mountain biking. When you bring kids, you add activities like swimming to the mix. Since we come so often with our children, aged 11 and eight, we’ve got the whole Fernie-with-kids thing dialled. Here are our Top 5 kids’ summer activities in Fernie:
1. Hike the Old Growth Trail to Island Lake Lodge
Giant cedar trees, mossy logs and a wide path that gently ascends to Island Lake are the top draws on the kid-friendly Old Growth Trail. The trailhead is located at the 4-kilometre mark on the road that cuts through Mt. Fernie Provincial Park on its way up to Island Lake Lodge. The hike is well-marked and — most importantly for children — easy, gaining just 250 metres as it climbs four kilometres to Island Lake.
What’s more, there are numerous kid distractions along the way, such as balancing on fallen trees, or measuring an 800-year-old cedar’s girth by hugging it (one of them is “seven arm spans” around, which works out to a circumference of about 28 feet!). Best of all, you can reward yourself apres-hike on the Bear Lodge patio at Island Lake Lodge, with some lavender lemonade for the kids and a Sunny Side cocktail for the adults.
2. Spend a day at Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park
Surveyor’s Lake is not technically in Fernie — it’s about a 30 minute drive south and then west on Hwy. 3 (turn left at the Kikomun Newgate Road, just past the Hwy. 93 turn-off, and follow the signs to Kikomun Creek Provincial Park) — but it’s the favourite family lake in the region, in part because of its small size, warm water and the fact that motorized craft are not allowed.
Over the years we have collected buckets, water noodles and even a four-person raft, and we love to paddle to the lake’s small inlets in search of the Western Painted turtles that like to sun themselves on fallen logs.
Don’t worry — if you don’t own a water conveyance, you can rent a kayak, stand-up paddle board or pedal-boat from Turtle Haven Rentals. We also always hike the two-kilometre-long trail that circumnavigates the lake, and we spend plenty of time swimming and jumping from the dock. It’s pure lake bliss.
3. Practice wheeled skills at Fernie’s Skate Park and Dirt Jump Park
Confession: I would likely kill myself if I tried to scooter or take my mountain bike over a jump at the Skate Park or adjacent Dirt Bike Park, which are both conveniently located next to the Fernie Aquatic Centre and its outdoor splash park. But it’s pure entertainment to watch the local kids defy gravity on wheels, even if it’s terrifying to see your own offspring attempt new tricks.
Our daughter likes going to the Fernie Skate Park because it’s small and isn’t very crowded, so there’s no pressure to perform. She also likes navigating the mountain bike skills area, which is next to the Dirt Jump Park.
4. Mountain bike the new Lazy Lizard trail
This wide, leisurely bike path wends its way from Island Lake Lodge down 339 metres over seven kilometres to Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. You’ll see mountain bikers pedalling up the trail, but if you’re bringing children on this ride, the best way to do it is to have someone drop you off at the lodge and ride (mostly) down hill.
Avery has biked the Lazy Lizard twice. The first time she was very cautious and had to walk her bike on the uphill parts; the most recent time she rocked it, pedalling hard, going fast and letting loose with some, “Woo-hoos!” She totally schooled me, in fact, as I wiped out twice! It’s not what you’d call a technical trail — it has berms and wide bridges for stream crossings, plus the odd feature for Dad to catch air off of. Kids (and this mom) can take it slowly but still have a blast.
5. Ride the chairlift at Fernie Alpine Resort for some wildflower hiking
In the summer, the slopes at Fernie Alpine Resort blossom with wildflowers. You can purchase a single-ride ticket and catch the Timber Chair express four-person lift for some chairlift-assisted hiking.
The Lost Boys Lookout and Lost Boys Loop trails are easy hikes from the top of Timber Chair. You can also sign up for a guided hike or tour, like the one with “Nature Bob,” a local who has been leading hikes for over a decade and who can point out everything of interest.
Whatever you do on your long weekend in Fernie, make sure to get outside in this beautiful mountain town!