Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia

We love mountain biking in Fernie and I feel completely spoiled after riding their beautiful trails. We've discovered some beautiful family-friendly gems and we're slowly learning our way around the trail network in this BC town

Mountain Biking in Fernie, British Columbia

Fernie is located roughly 3.5 hours south of Calgary in beautiful British Columbia. It's an easy destination to reach for a long weekend in the summer and has become one of our favourite places to visit for a family mountain biking destination.

This story has been UPDATED FOR 2017 and will receive regular updates every time we discover a new trail.

First time on the Lazy Lizard Trail and we are huge fans of this trail now!

Starting off at the Fernie Dirt Jump Park


This should be your first stop in Fernie if you are serious about introducing the kids to the sport of mountain biking and want to build up some necessary skills for the surrounding trails.  Even if mountain biking isn't really your style of biking, this park is FUN and kids love it!! Friends who visit it for the first time usually tell me they couldn't get the kids to leave for hours. 

Playing at the Fernie Dirt Jump Park

I've written an entire story on bike skills parks and pump tracks so I'll refer you to that story,  Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks, for more information on the Fernie dirt jump park. 

Playing on the Fernie Pump Track

The Fernie Bike Park is conveniently located next to the town spray park and aquatic centre downtown.  It is also the hub for a number of family-friendly bike trails and there's a giant parking lot big enough to park a trailer in.

Finally, we've discovered as of 2017, that if you want to "truck drop" the Ridgemont Trails or the Montane Trails (biking downhill only,) the bike park is a great place to hang out with the kids while somebody bikes back up for the vehicle. (As my husband always gets to do.)

Working on skills in the Fernie Bike Park

Exploring the Children's Mountain Bike Practice Loops at the Bike Park


One thing I especially LOVE about the Fernie bike park is the practice mountain bike loop hidden in the trees behind the park. Ride it a few times, and it should pretty much teach your kids everything they'll need to know before they hit the trails with you.  You can find the practice loops on Trail Forks.(You'll see three different segments for practice loops on Trail Forks.)

You'll find this fun rollercoaster feature below on one of the practice loops.

Children's Mountain Bike Practice Loop behind the Bike Park


Looping Downtown Fernie on the Fernie Recreational Trails


The town of Fernie can be looped by riding seven different trails that all join together to start and end at the aquatic centre beside the bike park.  This was our first mountain bike ride in Fernie, and we biked a total distance of about 12km. The trails were all mostly easy with the odd challenging section (ALL on Old Stumpy,) and much of the loop was flat.  In fact, most of the loop can not really be called mountain biking.  It is easy trail riding on well maintained gravel or dirt paths.  And most of it is double track and Chariot-friendly.  (Old Stumpy aside.)

The Fernie Recreational Trails are family-friendly and well maintained for a variety of users. Cyclists should expect to come across hikers, pedestrians, dog walkers, and even the odd motorized wheel chair along the river.  

Easy riding on the Fernie Recreational Trails.

Below is a quick overview of the trails that make up the big loop and HERE is the MAP.  Note that the colour of trail does not indicate easy vs. intermediate.  Green is just green.  Blue is just blue. They are all easy!

The Kootenay Elk Trail - This trail is part of the Fernie Main Loop which is 8.2km in length and follows the blue circle on the map.  We biked most of this loop except for the downtown connector trail. The Kootenay Elk Trail is unremarkable as far as trails go and basically serves to connect you to other more interesting trails such as Old Stumpy and the Great Northern Trail.  It is mostly flat and very evenly graded for easy riding.

Kootenay Elk Trail in Fernie (photo:  C. Hughes)

Old Stumpy - This is probably the hardest of the recreational trails.  Old Stumpy is a good "hiking trail" and has at least two sets of stairs, maybe three.

What I remember from the trail is that we did it the wrong direction for our family.  We went uphill almost the whole way and our son couldn't bike the hills so we walked about 90% of the trail.  There were a few sets of stairs as well that we couldn't navigate other than by walking.  We finally got to some downhill at the end but then it was too steep for my son to ride down.  Go figure!

Scenic Biking on the Old Stumpy Trail

In my opinion, The Old Stumpy trail is easiest for kids if biked towards the aquatic centre.  Not away from the centre as we did it.  I would start at Maiden Lake in the future and bike the Great Northern Trail to get to Old Stumpy.  I have since recommended this to another friend who tried it and agreed that it was easier done towards the aquatic centre.

Old Stumpy is 2km long and is part of the green Great Northern Loop.  This loop is 5.7km in total length.  We did all of it except for the downtown connector section.

The Great Northern Trail - I liked this trail and my son loved the train track crossing we had to do. As seen from the photo below, we indeed did see a train.   The trail is part of the green loop with Old Stumpy.  It has a short section near the river near Maiden Lake that is also scenic.

Train crossing on the Great Northern Trail
Biking beside the river on the Great Northern Trail, Fernie  (photo:  C. Hughes)


The Emily Brydon and Dogwood Trails - These were the two easiest trails in the blue loop and could practically have been done with training wheels.  Hardly mountain biking, they were still fun and kids love this section along the river.  We stopped to throw rocks in the river at one point and friends all recommend stopping at the Annex Pond for a rest spot.

Rest break by the River  (photo:  C. Hughes)
Easy riding on the Dogwood Trail past the Boat Launch
Biking doesn't get much easier than this along the river in Fernie  (photo:  L. L'Heureux)


The Brewery Creek Trail - I loved this trail and felt like I was out riding in the country (see the photo below.)  It was easy biking but felt more natural than the section along the river.  More remote.  The trail was narrower but still fine for my friend pulling a double chariot.  It is part of the blue loop and connects the river section with the Coal Creek trail.

Note, there was construction in this area when we were here in the summer of 2017. I'm not sure what current plans are for the area. 

The Old Barn on the Brewery Creek Trail
Scenery on the Brewery Creek Trail

The Coal Creek Heritage Trail - This trail is much easier than Old Stumpy but is more single track in nature than the trails beside the river.  The trail follows an old railway line that connected mines at Coal Creek with the town of Fernie.

The Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie   (photo:  C. Hughes)

The recreational loop only covers a very short portion of the Coal Creek Heritage Trail.  For more information on the full 9.2 km trail, visit the Fernie Trails Alliance website for maps and access points.

One word of caution for this trail - don't wear new shoes.  The trail is practically made of coal dust and you will get dirty!

The Town Loop is also on Trail Forks. (a great app you can put on your phone so you don't get lost.)

A Trail Made Out of Coal (photo:  C. Hughes)

 Biking the Coal Creek Heritage Trail from the Old Townsite back to Fernie


The easiest way to bike the full Coal Creek Heritage Trail with kids is by parking at the old Coal Creek Townsite and then biking back to the aquatic centre.  It is mostly downhill this way.  Then an adult can ride back for the vehicle while the kids play at the bike park. Directions to the Coal Creek Townsite are on the Fernie Trails Alliance website.

You can also find the trail on trail forks in three separate segments. (and while it shows a gap between the middle and bottom parts, we managed to bike on a trail that paralleled the road the entire time.

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail East

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail (connector between East and Lower)

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail (Lower part)

We rode the complete Coal Creek Heritage Trail when our son was 6 years old.  I would have to say that a 20" bike with gears and hand brakes is the minimum requirement for this trail.  It was single track with a few challenging hills that this novice biking mom had to walk.

Many sections of the trail were lovely, flat, and easy going, but then a difficult section would appear out of nowhere and throw us for a loop. (me anyway.)  If you do this full trail with younger kids, just explain to them that they may have to walk the occasional section.  You'll still be biking more than you walk, and it is a lovely ride.

The trailhead at the Coal Creek Townsite

Family Mountain Biking on the Montane Trails


This past summer, 2017, we discovered some amazing smooth, flowy, gentle trails in the Montane area above downtown Fernie, and I fell in love with this area.

I continue to be a fairly novice mountain biker who hates roots, drops, or overly steep trails. My son is now 8 years old and a fairly decent mountain biker - but who vehemently hates riding up hill. We both found the Montane Trail Network to be the holy grail of all things awesome for our abilities and preferences.

A full face helmet definitely wasn't needed on the Montane Trails

The Family Ride that We did on the Montane Trails:

We wanted to "truck drop" the Montane Trails for downhill riding into the Fernie Townsite. My husband would then bike back up for the truck while we played at the bike park in town. Following the Trail Forks App, we drove up the Coal Creek Road until we reached River Road, a forestry road that is definitely open to the public (despite the sign that would lead you to believe otherwise.) - We called Tourism Fernie to verify that we could drive up this road.

We drove up the road while I followed our little dot on the Trail Forks App, and we parked along the side of the road when we reached the trailhead for Montane Blue For Evyr - one of the best trails I've ever ridden!  It's a cruisy machine built trail - and it set the bar petty high for what I now consider to be "awesome trail building!" There are no roots, the hills are all pretty gradual, and this wussy bike mom was never scared. My son flew down the trail and loved it.

Scenic riding on the Montane Trails (photo: C.Hughes)

From Montane Blue for Evyr, we got onto Montane Ruby's Way. This is another machine built, flowy trail, and had a few fun sections with berms, tight corners, and switchbacks - great practice for the harder trails. Again, it was never very steep and we enjoyed this section.

From Ruby's Way we followed a short section of the Montane Blue Trail (part of the Trans Canada Trail) and then got on to the Montane North Trail. This got us close to the town loop, bike park, and a variety of short trail options to finish the ride. - and all of these trails can be seen on Trail Forks.

All in, we biked roughly 5-6 km with approximately 300 metres of height loss, a short ride for the morning when temperatures are hot in the afternoon. Follow the ride up with a swim at the aquatic centre or some time at the bike park.

Switchbacks on Ruby's Way


Family Mountain Biking on the Ridgemont Trails


The next step up for kids who have mastered the Montane Trails. The Ridgemont Trails are more natural (less machine grooming, more roots, more drops, etc.) and they were a bit outside my personal comfort zone as a novice rider. My son did well but got a little intimidated on the Eco-Terrorist Boardwalks. We sent Dad down to test a few trails as well and he came back to report that neither my 8 year old or myself was ready for them.

The next step up! Riding "Broken Hip" in the Ridgemont Area (photo: L. Nanninga)

The Family Ride that We did on the Ridgemont Trails:

Boardwalks on Eco-Terrorist
Again, we wanted to "truck drop" the Ridgemont Trails so we drove up Coal Creek Road until we came to Ridgemont Road, a gravel road that is great for accessing bike trails in Fernie. Following Trail Forks, we drove up the road until we came to the trailhead for Upper Eco-Terrorist. We'd heard about these "fun" boardwalks that my friend's kids loved and thought we'd check it out.

The Eco-Terrorist boardwalks ended up being quite challenging, narrow, and high off the ground - all of which was not ideal on a trail that is technically "multi-directional." My son absolutely freaked out at one moment when he saw another rider coming straight towards him on a boardwalk (because one of them would have to jump off in order to let the other pass) After that, we did a lot of walking and decided we'd only do this trail again mid-week when it was very quiet!!

We'd also consider biking the Upper section of Eco-Terrorist in the UP direction because it only gains 28 metres of height and is definitely more popular with riders going UP to other trails. Ride it down, and you will encounter more riders coming towards you.

- And the boardwalks certainly feel narrower and higher than the photo at the right shows.

From Upper Eco-Terrorist (where all the boardwalks were) we got onto Lower Eco-Terrorist which was at the max. level that I could ride as a novice rider. My son did fine but he doesn't mind steep hills. I found the grade to be more gradual on the Montane Trails and the riding generally smoother (less roots, rocks and drops.) - and this is a trail that you'll probably want to ride down with kids (not up) because it has 125 metres of height loss or gain, depending on which direction you are going. It would be a slog to get up with kids.

From Lower Eco-Terrorist we rode the Cemetery By-Pass Trail down towards the town bike park, and then played there a while so that my husband could bike back up to get the truck.

All in, we biked less than 4 km, losing 200 metres. It was a good short ride and we'd do it again for sure. Got to practice those boardwalks!

Riding the lower Ridgemont Trails down to the Town Centre

 

Biking the Lazy Lizard Trail From Island Lake Lodge


This is our FAVOURITE bike trail in the Fernie area and is very popular with families looking for a good easy downhill ride. Truck drop it from Island Lake Lodge and lose 535 metres of height on the upper part alone! Trail forks says there is also 208 metres of climbing but I don't think this is accurate. There was one section we hopped off our bikes to walk up, but it was short and painless.

Biking through an old growth forest on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Starting from Island Lake Lodge you'll ride down the Upper part of the Lazy Lizard Trail for 7 km. This is where we joined the road and had our truck waiting for us. You could ride further though on the Lazy Lizard Connector Trail for another 1.9 km (more rolly and cross country than downhill at this point.) You'll finish on the lower trails in Mount Fernie Provincial Park (Hedonism/Stove Connector and other trails until you reach your campsite or the final parking lot on Island Lake Road.

Overview of the trail - It is flowy, machine built, and has a lovely grade the whole way down. It's definitely downhill in nature with some berms and banked corners, but is never that difficult or technical.

Boardwalks and bridges on the Lazy Lizard Trai

Shuttling tips: My husband drove my son and I up to the Lodge where we hung out on the patio, looked around the property, and waited. Meanwhile, my husband drove back down to the end of the trail and then he biked back up the Lazy Lizard. This allowed us to all bike down together and to have a truck waiting for us at the end. I really can't recommend making the kids bike up this trail unless they like climbing.

Note that the trail is multi-directional so anticipate meeting other riders coming up towards you, and keep your speed in check.

A great trail for bridge lovers!

Biking Outside Fernie in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park


If you're going to go to Fernie in the summer, you'll find great camping at nearby Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.  And while you're here, you can bike the Great Northern Rail Trail in the Surveyors Lake Campground.

Family Biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail

The loop we did on the Great Northern Rail Trail was under 10 km in length and was generally easy double track riding.  It wasn't technical at all but a few sections were very hilly.  See the trail map below with a description underneath of how we did our ride.

Biking at Surveyors Lake

If you follow the map above, the loop from #1 to #7 is about 7 km in length and is great for introductory mountain biking. Our personal direction of choice is to go backwards from 1 to 7, down to 6, etc. And when you get to the country gravel road, that is what you will follow to connect #6 to #5.  The biking along the road is actually quite pleasant.

There's a short steep hill that you'll probably have to walk up at junction #5 (unless you are coming down this part) and then it's flat easy riding along the old rail bed to junctions #3 and 4. At junction #3, we go left rather than take the trail between Stink and Fisher Lakes.  It avoids a big hill climb and is very pretty through what resembles an old growth forest. (see photo below)

My favourite part of the ride between junctions 1 and 3

I like this loop a lot and we ended up riding it in the mornings when it was cooler at camp.  Then we'd spend the afternoons at the beach. 

To get a map of this trail, ask the campground attendant for one when you drive into the Surveyor's Lake Campground.  They'll give you a little interpretive pamphlet that tells you all about the trail and its history.  There are also maps at the trailhead in a little wooden box.

Parking can be found at the campers beach parking lot where you'll see a trail kiosk with maps.  Don't park at the day use parking lot or you'll have to bike around the lake a short distance to reach the campground.

Easy riding on the old rail bed (numbers 3 and 4 on the map)

This story will be updated annually as we discover new trails. If we've missed one of your favourite family trails, please let me know and we'll check it out next time we're in Fernie.


3 comments:

  1. I have an 8 year old son with cereal palsy but has never ride on a bike and we can't afford a special bike. Can someone help give me information. Thanks

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  2. Looks good. I noticed that all the time kid's bicycles are looks so beautiful. In this post, I also get this proof again. Thanks for sharing your post with.

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  3. Thank your for this post! My husband and I always loved biking and have added a couple within the past 5 years. This summer, since we moved to southern Alberta, we have been biking a lot more but have just recently started to hit the Pass, and Fernie. I was looking for family friendly trails in Fernie when I came across this post. Looking forward to do the trails you talked about in your post, starting tomorrow. Thanks again!

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