Tag Archives: hiking in Fernie

Top 5 kids’ summer activities in Fernie

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.

Downtown Fernie had charm galore, and some cute boutiques and great restaurants (order the Switchback Salmon at Big Bang Bagels).

Downtown Fernie has charm galore, and some cute boutiques and great restaurants (order the Switchback Salmon at Big Bang Bagels!).

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.

We humans sure look tiny next to these giant Western Red Cedars on Fernie's Old Growth Trail.

We humans look tiny next to these giant Western Red Cedars.

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.

The dock at Surveyor's Lake is a busy place on a summer afternoon.

The dock at Surveyor’s Lake is a busy place on a summer afternoon.

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.

It's easy to spot Western Painted turtles at Surveyor's Lake.

It’s easy to spot Western Painted turtles at Surveyor’s Lake.

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.

I love the contrast between urban graffiti and nature's mountain splendour at the Fernie Skate Park.

I love the contrast between urban graffiti and nature’s mountain splendour at the Fernie Skate Park. Here, Avery scooters with two friends.

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.

The Lazy Lizard trail covers seven kilometres between Island Lake Lodge and Mt. Fernie Provincial Park.

The Lazy Lizard trail covers seven kilometres between Island Lake Lodge and Mt. Fernie Provincial Park.

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 best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair. Sadly, summer operations ended this weekend.

The best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair.

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.

The children loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the hike highlight.

The children and some friends loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the highlight of our hike four years ago (!) with Nature Bob.

Whatever you do on your long weekend in Fernie, make sure to get outside in this beautiful mountain town!

Ancient Cottonwood Trail in Fernie

We discovered a short interpretive hiking trail just 16 kilometres southeast of Fernie, that boasts the oldest black cottonwood forest on the planet. Eager to see these behemoths up close, we drove from Fernie and turned off on Morrissey Road to hike the Ancient Cottonwood Trail.

Bennett and Avery pose at the trailhead for the Ancient Cottonwood Trail near Fernie, B.C.

Bennett and Avery pose at the trailhead for the Ancient Cottonwood Trail near Fernie, B.C.

The 1.5 km loop trail winds through a riparian habitat dense with ferns, cedars, spruce and the towering cottonwoods, some of which have grown to heights of eight storeys (88 feet/27 metres). The thirsty giants suck up hundreds of litres of water a day and grow up to two metres a year. The most ancient in this grove are about 400 years old! Avery measured it with her arm span and estimated its circumference to be about nine metres.

Blake, Bennett and Avery pose in front of the grove's oldest tree, estimated to be about 400 years old. Bennett is so small compared to the tree -- he fits comfortably in a trunk nook.

The gang poses in front of the grove’s oldest tree, estimated to be about 400. Bennett is so small compared to the tree — he fits comfortably in a trunk nook.

We learned you can tell a cottonwood apart from other trees by its nubby, “groovy” trunk. What’s also interesting is these trees are all trunk — there’s just the smallest canopy at the top.

This cottonwood tree is so old moss is growing on it.

This cottonwood tree is so old moss is growing inside the trunk’s grooves.

Look up, waaaay up! These black cottonwoods grow to heights of 88 feet (27 metres), as tall as an eight-storey building.

Look up, waaaay up! These black cottonwoods grow to heights of 88 feet (27 metres), as tall as an eight-storey building.

In all it was a nice, if short, hike. We liked the trees, the ferns and throwing rocks into the Elk River afterward. Fernie, you continue to surprise us, and that’s a good thing!

Ferns in Fernie, B.C.

 

Cliff jumping in the Canadian Rockies

The first time we hiked up to Silver Spring Lakes near Elko, B.C., I thought I wasn’t going to make it. The sun beat down relentlessly; the children (then ages six and three) complained and the youngest needed to be carried; and to top it off we took a wrong turn and had to backtrack up loose shale to get to the “cliff” side of the lake. We were rewarded with a pristine alpine swimming hole with a rocky escarpment on the east side that’s perfect for launching off into the clear, cold water.

A teen jumps fearlessly off the highest cliff, plungng some tk feet intot he clear water below. Pristine Canadiana.

A teen jumps fearlessly off the highest cliff, plunging some 25 feet into the clear water below. Pristine Canadiana!

Two years later, on Day 3 of our B.C. road trip, we knew the trail and the hike seemed to take no more than 15 minutes (the kids now have longer legs). We staked out a spot on the rocks and then took turns jumping into the ever-so-beautiful lake. I even dove head first (though it should be noted I flung myself from a height of maybe five feet).

Diving into the lake. My reaction upon surfacing? "Brrrr!"

Diving into the lake. My reaction upon surfacing? “Brrrr!”

High: Avery jumped in this year without a life jacket — twice! And Bennett jumped too, holding Blake’s hand.

Low: Why, oh why, didn’t we bring Crocs? The shale in the shallows and lining the shore is sharp, and it’s loose as you climb back up. Without sport sandals your options are slicing a toe going barefoot, or taking your hiking boots off and then making another in your party ferry them down so you can put them back on before scrambling up again. I also worried Bennett would at any moment loose his balance and tumble onto the sharp rocks everywhere.

Outcome: Mamas, forget about your squeamishness over heights and slippery surfaces and simply enjoy this beautiful place. Your kids have better balance than you think, and will never forget jumping from a cliff into a postcard-perfect piece of wilderness.

Avery lets loose with a holler before making a big splash.

Avery lets loose with a holler before making a big splash.

Hooray for hiking season!

We have been cooped up indoors for too long. But not anymore. This weekend we embarked on our first hike of the season — and our first hike ever with a dog — in Fernie. What’s more, we managed to complete the four-kilometre, two-hour hike without carrying the puppy, or either child, and before it started raining (a small miracle).

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Our destination: Fairy Creek Falls, a thundering (well, this time of year, anyway) waterfall that mists you on a warm spring day. Serious hikers might pooh-pooh this trail, but except for the hills, it is kid-friendly — we saw a garter snake and a bunch of snails. It also appeals to dogs: streams for drinking water, sticks to carry. And I have to say, with its 120 metre elevation gain, it’s a good hiking reintroduction for  adults.

Fairy Creek Tral is one of Fernie's many family-friendly hikes.

Fairy Creek Trail is one of Fernie’s many family-friendly hikes.

Four clicks doesn’t sound like a great distance, but for two children and a 12-week-old puppy it is an epic journey. Piper spent the first kilometre pulling at her leash and panting maniacally; I thought she was going to keel over until we came across a small stream. Avery grumbled at the first sight of a hill (Memo: “I like hiking downhill and on flats best.”), while Bennett ambled along in the rear singing to himself and completely unfocused on the task at hand (e.g. reaching the waterfall sometime before dark).

Me: “One of us should stay back there with Bennett.”

Blake: “He’s fine.”

Me: “But what if a cougar snatches him?”

Blake: “A single older woman can have him if she wants him.”

Unlike a regular adult hike, where you settle into a nice pace and enjoy the scenery, Blake and I vied to pawn off the dog on each other, and whoever didn’t have the puppy had to make sure Bennett didn’t fall into Fairy Creek. I shouldn’t grumble, really. The fact that both kids walked the whole way themselves (and that Bennett didn’t want to hold my hand the entire time) bodes well for an active summer. And Piper will have more stamina come July and August. So, thinking positively, I look forward to sharing more hiking adventures as the season unfolds.

Hiking in Fernie with “Nature Bob”

My husband and I love hiking with our kids and we usually strike out on the trails solo as a family of four. But on Saturday we bumped into Fernie nature guide Bob Livsey — a.k.a. “Nature Bob” — at the top of the Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. With no hikes booked for the afternoon he asked if he could tag along as a guide while we hiked the Lost Boys loop, a 1.7-kilometre trail that descends to the Mammoth Droppings (giant boulders below Mammoth Peak) before climbing 100 metres to the Lost Boys Pass lookout. We said, “Sure!”

The best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair. Sadly, summer operations ended this weekend.

Friends of ours and their two boys had come along for the fun, so our party of eight, plus Nature Bob, began the hike, curious what a hiking guide could add to the experience. A lot, it turns out.

Walking through dense forest before we reached the impressive Mammoth Droppings boulders, Bob pointed out ripe huckleberries that the kids immediately gobbled down. He also showed us the delicious-looking yet poisonous twisted stalk red berries, and explained that purple elderberries are only edible when cooked. Good to know.

Nature Bob points to the top of Mammoth Peak, from which large boulders have fallen to form the “Mammoth Droppings” in the background.

Nature Bob has been leading hikes at Fernie Alpine Resort for 12 years, and he teaches skiing there in the winter, so he knows the mountain extremely well. He explained the rock formations and helped us find crinoid fossils in slabs of limestone. We also spotted a distant critter that looked like either a coyote or a fox; Bob used his binoculars to determine it was a coyote.

One in our party holds up two limestone slabs to show off the crinoid fossils.

Bob loved that our kids and our friend’s boys delighted in finding caterpillars, catching grasshoppers, watching chipmunks and jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings. He also liked that we asked lots of questions and seemed prepared for the unpredictable late-summer weather (it was 20C at the bottom of Timber Chair and probably 10C at the top, some 700 metres higher). “Some people show up for alpine hikes wearing flip-flops,” he lamented. “And some folks just go, go, go, without taking in what they’re seeing. It’s like they’re running a race.” Yep, with four kids aged four to 11 in tow, that was not us. We were all about sloooow hiking.

The children loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the hike highlight.

We never made it to the Lost Boys Pass lookout (the downside of slow hiking) but that’s OK. It was fun to explore part of the mountain with someone in the know. And that way, contrary to the name of the trail, it ensured we didn’t get lost.

Nature Bob runs guided hikes throughout the summer at Fernie Alpine Resort. The season is now over, but you can e-mail him next summer at naturebob@telus.net, or call the resort’s guest services at 250-423-2435 to enquire about guided hikes.