Fernie, BC – history, hiking and avoiding bears
We spent four days in the Fernie, British Columbia area in mid-June. This is what we got up to:
Island Lake hiking
Island lake lodge is located south of Fernie township and north of the Fernie ski hill where we were staying. Once leaving the highway, we drove through the campground and up the mountain along a gravel road with many switchbacks. There are many hiking trails on offer around the lodge with all degrees of difficulty clearly marked on the trail map. We chose the Easy trail around the lake. The Lake Trail is a 2 km circuit around Island Lake offering scenic vistas for the entire gentle walk.
Unfortunately, the bridge near the end of the circuit had been washed out, and a detour onto the Fir Trail was suggested. In hindsight, it would have been easier to double-back on the Lake Trail rather than detour onto the Fir Trail. The Fir Trail added three extra kilometres to our trip, and although rated as an Easy trail, was a bit hillier than anticipated (not a big deal unless you’re accompanied by non-walkers who only budgeted their expectations to do a 2 km flat walk). Nice walk through the trees though.
At the end of the hike, we were back at the lodge and settled in for a well-earned coffee and tea on their sun deck.
Ice-cream, chocolate and museum
The next day we headed into the township for a look. Fernie is well set up for tourists with many places to eat, drink and shop. Our first stop was the delectable Beanpod Chocolate for gelato. So good!
Our next stop was the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company. We were served by a nice, young man from New Zealand. So many varieties to choose from. I chose a Tiger Butter Cup. Yummy!
Our next stop was the Fernie Museum. This is a small, but very informative museum, which outlined the very fascinating history of the Fernie area. $5 entry fee.
The next day, we decided to take a road further south to walk around another small lake, but hopefully see some endangered painted turtles this time.
We took an easy half-hour drive to Surveyors Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park. There’s plenty of parking available along with picnic and toilet facilities. The lake seemed popular with canoers / kayakers and swimmers; the swimmers reported that the lake temperature varied a lot depending where you were in the lake. We were just there for the hiking. The 2 km hiking trail around the lake is pretty easy hike, but a bit slow going because you’re always on the lookout for turtles.
And we found turtles …
More hiking and more ice-cream
We ventured out for one more easy hike: the Fairy Creek Falls trail. Our first stop was at the Visitors Centre on Highway 3 beside the oil derrick. The oil derrick is the last wooden oil derrick standing in British Columbia. It was reconstructed at this location in 1984 using the metal components from the rigs used to drill Akamina #1 and #2 in 1907 and 1908, respectively.
The staff at the Visitors Centre are very friendly and helpful, and provided us with a trail map for hikers and bikers to Fairy Creek Falls. They also gave us a bear sighting update (yes, bears were spotted the day before).
The Fairy Creek Falls trail is a 4 km round trip with a 120 metre change in elevation. Its trail head is conveniently located at the Visitors Centre.
A lot of that change in elevation seems to be at the very start with some well-groomed switchbacks to climb. There’s plenty of vegetation to look at along the way and a meadow approximately halfway adorned with “land for sale” signs.
We passed a couple going the other way; they were wearing bear bells. It reminded me of that joke, “how do you identify bear poo … by the bells.” We were carrying bear spray and making as much noise as possible as our method of bear avoidance.
On the last stretch towards the Falls, the trail splits into an upper trail and lower trail. We opted for the lower trail, but in hindsight, we should’ve taken the upper trail as the lower trail got quite muddy at the Falls. Instead of getting muddy to have our lunch at the bench overlooking the Falls, we made our way back along the trail to another bench we had passed.
While we were stopped for our lunch break on the back-up bench, another group of people on the way to the Falls stopped and mentioned that they had just seen a bear, which fortunately ran off. Great. We were heading in the same direction as the bear. Luckily, we didn’t see any bear, but seeing a bear by proxy was enough excitement for us.
On our way back to our accommodation, we stopped in at the Happy Cow Ice Cream shop as recommended by the staff at the Visitors Centre. Nice post-hike treat, but we preferred the gelato from Beanpod.
Fernie is a hikers (and bikers) paradise with plenty of trails on offer for all skill levels. Make sure you have your bear avoidance action plan in place if you visit during bear season. There are many apres-hike/bike places to eat/drink in and around the Fernie area, and the local supermarket has quite an extensive selection of foods for those who self-cater. Bring earplugs if you’re not used to train horns tooting at night.