Tag Archives: Surveyor’s Lake near 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!

Lazy lake days in Fernie

Our family has probably spent four of the past five August long weekends in Fernie. Everyone raves about this B.C. town’s epic powder, but the truth is, most folks who come for the winter end up staying for the summer. And we’re no exception — though we love to ski Fernie, we really, really, really like hanging out in this mountain town between Canada Day and Labour Day, hitting Heritage Day in between.

Surveyor's Beach as seen from the trail across the lake.

The town of Fernie is great, but nearby Surveyor’s Lake is the place to beat the heat. Warm water, a sandy beach and temps that are usually five degrees hotter!

One of our favourite places to spend a lazy summer day is Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park. The small, natural lake is just a 25 minute drive west of town on Hwy. 3 (turn off just past Hwy. 93 when you see the sign for Kikomun Creek). I have written about Surveyor’s Lake and its population of endangered Western Painted turtles before, and we still like to spot them sunning on fallen logs that ring the lake’s perimeter.

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

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

But as happens when a spot becomes your “special place” — Blake and I realized that we’ve visited the lake with the kids at least once every summer since 2007, when Avery was two — we’ve fallen into a bit of a routine.

Boat

We used to rent kayaks from Turtle Haven Rentals, but now that we are spending so much summer time in Fernie we have invested in a large inflatable raft. It’s a bit of a chore for us Blake to pump up this behemoth, but it’s the first thing we he does when we arrive. Then, all aboard for a paddle around to see the turtles, lily pads and loons, and maybe some fishing off the side (catch and release). Bonus: no motorized craft allowed on the lake.

Bennett laughs last summer after Avery catches a fishing in neighbouring Engineer's Lake.

Bennett laughs when Avery lets him hold a fish she caught in neighbouring Engineer’s Lake last summer.

Dock

When we get back to the beach Bennett goes for a swim. This always includes him climbing up the ladder onto the dock, and then watching other kids jump off into the lake while he works up the courage to do the same. Meanwhile, Avery fishes off the dock, using only a hook as bait.

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

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

Avery catches another fish off the dock at Surveyor's Lake.

Avery catches another fish off the dock at Surveyor’s Lake.

Food

I don’t have any pictures of Bennett stuffing his face with chips, bars, bananas or sandwiches, which is weird as both children seem to be constantly starving at the lake. In fact, Bennett ends each activity by sitting down in one of the beach chairs and declaring, “I’m hungry!”

Hike

Not long after lunch, just when it’s really heating up, Bennett decides it’s time for the three-kilometre hike around the lake. For some reason I am always the responsible adult that accompanies him on this adventure. He sets a slow pace and we enjoy looking for more turtles and trying to pick out our green and white umbrella from across the lake.

Bennett pauses on the bridge between Surveyor's Lake and Engineer's Lake to look for turtles swimming in the water or sunning on logs on our regular hike.

Bennett pauses on the bridge between Surveyor’s Lake and Engineer’s Lake to look for turtles swimming in the water or sunning on logs on our regular hike.

Swim/Sand

At this point, all of the must-do activities have been crossed off Bennett’s check-list and good thing because it’s now about 34C and all anyone wants to do is lounge on the raft while partially submerged (me), play Frisbee (Blake), sit in water-filled sand hollows (Bennett), or build intricate sand castles (Avery).

Tada! Avery demonstrates her sand castle-building abilities.

Tada! Avery demonstrates her sand castle-building abilities.

It’s unbelievably easy to spend an entire day here, holiday weekend or otherwise. Even though we now have an established “lake routine” I can’t imagine I’ll tire of it any time soon. See you later this month, Surveyor’s Lake!

 

 

Hidden Lake: a new Fernie discovery

One of our favourite things to do near Fernie, B.C. is to spend a hot summer’s day at Surveyor’s Lake swimming, kayaking and looking for turtles and crayfish. We often hike around the lake from our HQ on Saunder’s Beach, and enjoy views into secluded Engineer’s Lake from the bridge that bisects the two mountain lakes. This visit, however, we learned of a new hike to a new lake: Hidden Lake.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

The lake isn’t “hidden” so much as out of the way of the majority of day-tripping beach-goers. You can access it via the loop road at Surveyor’s Lake campground in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, a 30-minute drive southwest of Fernie on Hwy. 3. Hidden Lake has the same Western Painted turtles as the other two lakes, without the crowds to scare them from their log perches into the cool water.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That's Hidden Lake.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That’s Hidden Lake.

There’s a narrow trail around the lake — lined with Saskatoon berry bushes, I might add — that lets you get close to the shore in many spots where the deadfall has washed up and the turtles are out atop it sunning themselves.

Five Western Painted turtles sun themselves atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Five Western Painted turtles atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Our group of 16 managed to get quite close to a “turn” of turtles (I had to look that up!). Honestly, they’re not very interesting to watch, but these reptiles are considered a vulnerable species and it’s neat to see them in their natural habitat. Plus, the kids love spotting them — and eating copious amounts of Saskatoons along the way!

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Day on the water

Day 1 of our B.C. road trip summer holiday was all about water. We started the morning teaching Piper how to swim in the Elk River (with many opportunities for the kids to wade), and then carried on with the water theme at Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, home of the western painted turtle. There we swam, kayaked and looked for crayfish under logs near the shore.

Bennett and Avery get wet while teaching Piper how to swim and fetch floating sticks.

Bennett and Avery get wet while teaching Piper how to swim in Fernie, B.C.

High: Avery finds and captures the first of many crayfish.

Low: Bennett refuses to go kayaking to look for turtles, but makes up for it by jumping off the dock and swimming until his lips turn blue.

Outcome: Fun! We love Surveyor’s Lake. With no motorized watercraft allowed, it’s perfect for families. It’s also usually five degrees warmer than Fernie.

Let’s hit the lake!

It’s holiday Monday and it’s hot, so let’s go to a lake! Our favourite mountain spot for cooling off is Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park near Fernie, BC. It has a sandy beach, warm water and the added bonus of “wildlife” for the kids to watch (crayfish, singing loons and my favourite, western painted turtles).

A kid-approved summer pastime.

When not building sand castles, we like to rent a two-person kayak from Turtle Haven Rentals ($20 for one hour) and turn it into a four-person conveyance by squeezing both Avery and Bennett on. We then paddle around Surveyor’s Lake and adjacent Engineer’s Lake looking for sunning turtles, trying to spot trout swimming in the unbelievably clear water and touching silky lily pads as our kayak skims over them.

The two busy beaches scare the turtles away at Surveyor’s Lake. Paddle under the bridge and see them at neighbouring Engineer’s Lake.

We kayaked up to this little dude sunning himself.

If we’re feeling energetic we’ll walk the three-kilometre Surveyor’s Lake Trail that winds around the lake, and breathe in the lovely scent of sun-baked pine needles that carpet the path.

When we get back to the beach we simply can’t resist jumping off the dock into the cool water. Heaven!

Bennett musters his gumption and jumps off the dock!