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6 Day Hikes in Fernie, BC

July 11, 2016

6 DAY HIKES IN FERNIE, BC

Words by Mike Cotton / Photos by Dan Kilgallon

Fernie isn’t on the tourist trail to the extent of Banff or Jasper, but for those who venture to this small mountain town nestled in the Elk Valley, the rewards are worthwhile. With jaw-dropping landscapes, alpine meadows, and imposing mountains, Fernie has an abundance of world-class day hikes you don’t want to miss.


 

Hiking Castle Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon

Hiking Castle Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

1/ Fairy Creek Falls and Mount Proctor

Elevation Gain: Fairy Creek (260m); Mount Proctor (1340m)
Distance: 12km

The trail to Fairy Creek Falls is an easy one-hour hike through forest, with an elevation gain of 260m – you do not need to get the best duffel bags and daypacks for Kilimanjaro for this one. Once you get to Fairy Creek Falls you have the option of continuing onto the Mount Proctor portion of the trail. This hike is quite demanding, but equally rewarding. From Fairy Creek Falls, continue on the trail past the falls themselves through a wooded area until you come to an alpine meadow. The front side of the Three Sisters will be on your left while Mount Proctor will be on your right. From there you follow the trail as it crisscrosses various avalanche chutes until you come to the ridge. Extra care should taken if you’re hiking in spring, as the snow can hide the trail and spring avalanches are not uncommon.

An alternative to summiting Mount Proctor takes the south route follows the power lines, before turning into the forest. Hikers will have to be aware that they are hiking up a mountain bike trail, Swine Flu. Once you reach the bench and the top of Swine Flu, the path continues along the spine of Mount Proctor.

Love This/

  • For great views of Fernie.
  • Once past Fair Creek Falls you are into the backcountry, very quiet and peaceful.
  • For a spectacular yet seldom seen view of the Three Sisters.

Consider This/

  • You are in prime bear habitat, be bear aware.
  • Dogs are allowed on the trail to Fairy Creek Falls but need to be on a leash, as cattle graze on the lower slopes of Mount Proctor.
  • Avalanche paths criss-cross the trail once you are into the alpine, take extra care when hiking during the Spring melt.
Hiking Mt. Proctor. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

Hiking Mt. Proctor. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

2/ Mount Fernie

Elevation Gain: 910m
Distance: 4km

The trail to the peak of Mount Fernie is the shortest hike in Fernie and offers some of the best views of the town and the valley. This steep hike climbs steadily to a clearing known as the Moccasin. From there, hikers climb straight up a scree slope, rising 380 meters over just half a mile.

Love This/

  • For the views, either from the peak of Mount Fernie, or the Moccasin. Both offer stunning views of the town, the Elk Valley, and Ridgemont opposite.
  • A short but demanding hike, perfect for an after work jaunt.

Consider This/

  • It is a demanding hike, with some scrambling involved.
  • The ridge is somewhat thin, extra care required.
  • Again, you are in bear habitat. Be bear aware.

Read More: 6 Ways to Stay Bear Aware

Town of Fernie. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

Town of Fernie. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

3/ Heiko’s Trail and the Three Sisters

Elevation Gain: Heiko’s Trail (1200m); Three Sisters (2286m)
Distance: Heiko’s Trail (21km); Three Sisters (15km)

Heiko’s Trail and the Three Sisters are actually two separate hikes, but many tackle the two together by camping at the foot of the Three Sisters and hiking up to the summit for sunrise.

Heiko’s Trail (also known as the Mountain Lakes Trail) is a full-day hike, climbing a total of 1400 meters. The trail traverses old growth forests, passes waterfalls, caves and alpine meadows, as well as crosses two mountain passes. Most hikers start out at the Hartley Lake Road trailhead and finish at Island Lake Lodge. This route has the added bonus of a well-earned beer on the deck.

The summit of the Three Sisters is the highest point in Fernie, topping out at 9,147 feet. This hike is a popular sunrise hike, as it is the first mountain to catch the morning rays. Starting out at the same trailhead as Hieko’s Trail, the Three Sisters trail deviates at Olivia Creek (where a basic campsite is located).

Love This/

  • Two challenging day hikes, which combined can be a rewarding multi-day hike.
  • The array of terrain, wildlife, fauna and flora on display is unrivalled in the Elk Valley.

Consider This/

  • Bears, bears, bears. You are likely to spot high levels of bear activity, including grizzly bears.
  • The trail to the summit of the Three Sisters is steep with loose rocks, and it can be slippery when wet.
  • The weather can change in minutes; be prepared.
Hiking Castle Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

Hiking Castle Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

4/ Castle Mountain

Elevation Gain: 1610m
Distance: 5km

Located on Morrissey Ridge, Castle Mountain is a different sort of hike for a couple of reasons. First, it is located on the opposite side of the valley from the Three Sisters, Mount Fernie, Hosmer Mountain and Mount Proctor. Second, the trail is dual-use, as it is shared by both mountain bikers and hikers.

The trail tops out at 5,280 feet, yet even if you don’t summit, there are so many places to stop along the way offering stunning views of Fernie, the ski hill, and the mountains.

Love This/

  • The various viewpoints, offering a different perspective of the Elk Valley.
  • Close to town, a great evening hike.

Consider This/

  • Dual use, watch out for mountain bikers.
  • There are multiple ways to start the climb to Castle Mountain.

5/ Spine Back at Island Lake Lodge

Elevation Gain: 530m
Distance: 3.5km

Spine Back is a superb trail located at the pristine Island Lake Lodge. The trail climbs steadily, gaining an elevation of 530 meters, following the spine of the mountain. The trail takes you through sub-alpine meadows before reaching the crest of Spineback Ridge. You can continue another half a kilometre and find yourself nestled between Momma Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear, also known as Three Bears Peak.

Love This/

  • For well-maintained trails.
  • A patio and bar awaits you at the end of the hike.

Consider This/

  • Watch out for moose, as they often frequent the Island Lake area.
  • In winter, the area is a cat skiing operation.
Hiking Hosmer Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

Hiking Hosmer Mountain. Photo by Dan Kilgallon.

6/ Hosmer Mountain

Elevation Gain: 910m
Distance: 3.5km

The home of the Ghostrider, Hosmer Mountain is a fun hike offering great panoramic views of the Elk Valley. The nickname comes from a shadow, which is cast upon the mountain and is mainly visible during the summer months. The shadow appears on the South facing cliff and is said to show a horseman, with a second figure following closely on foot.

The hike itself starts from Hartley Lake Road and immediately starts climbing through the forest until you see the ridge and the trees thin out. You can continue along the ridge until you are almost sitting on top of the Ghostrider.

Love This/

  • The drive along Hartley Lake Road is fun. Stop by the lake of the same name and see how it is recovering from a beaver dam fail which drained the lake.

Consider This/

  • Some route finding skills may be needed in early summer as the snow can obscure the trail.
  • Near the summit, the steep ground can be loose underfoot. Be careful of knocking rocks onto those following you.

 


Mike Cotton is a former journalist from the UK, currently living the dream in Fernie, British Columbia.

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