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 2021 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 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 several 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 12 km. The trails are all mostly easy with the odd challenging section (ALL on Old Stumpy,) and much of the loop is 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.

Follow this link to the Tourism Fernie website where you can read more about the loop and download a map! Note that the color of trail does not indicate easy vs. intermediate.  Green is just green.  Blue is just blue. They are all easy!

Below is my personal overview of the trails that make up the big loop:  

The Kootenay Elk Trail - This trail is part of the Fernie Main Loop which is 8.2 km 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 more of a singletrack trail and has a couple sets of stairs that you may have to walk around depending on the direction that you are going. There is also a fair amount of climbing (from both directions) so expect to be walking some hills with young riders.

Scenic Biking on the Old Stumpy Trail

Old Stumpy is 2 km long and is part of the green Great Northern Loop.  This loop is 5.7 km in total length. 

Note that this area was recently logged and we haven't biked it since that time. This trail may look quite different.  

The Great Northern Trail - I like this trail and my son loves the train track crossing. Be careful crossing the tracks as this is an active rail line. 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 are the two easiest trails in the blue loop. Hardly mountain biking, they are still fun and kids love this section along the river.  You can stop to throw rocks in the river and stop at the Annex Pond for a rest spot.

Easy riding on the Dogwood Trail past the Boat Launch

The Brewery Creek Trail - I love this trail because it feels like you are out riding in the country (see the photo below.)  It is easy biking but feels more natural (and remote) than the section along the river.   It is part of the blue loop and connects the river section with the Coal Creek trail.

Note there has been a lot of recent development around this area and the trail may look different from my photos.

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 singletrack 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 recreational loop only covers a very short portion of the Coal Creek Heritage Trail. 

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

The Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie   (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 with a second adult. 

You can find the trail on the trail forks website/app in four 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 singletrack with a few challenging hills.

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. 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

We've 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 started riding the Montane Trails at age 8 when he was a fairly decent mountain biker - but he vehemently hated 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

We like to "truck drop" the Montane Trails for downhill riding into the Fernie Townsite. My husband bikes back up for the truck while we play at the bike park in town. 

Following the Trail Forks App, drive up the Coal Creek Road until you reach 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.

Park along the side of the road for the trailhead for Montane Blue For Evyr 

Connect onto Montane Blue (heading downhill) after 200 metres to continue this flowy trail. 

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

Montane Blue is a cruisy machine built trail - and it has 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 even this wussy bike mom is never generally scared. 

It's possible to bike all the way down Montane Blue to Coal Creek Road if you follow the Trail Forks app as you ride. Cross the road and you're at the town bike park and aquatic centre.

Switchbacks on the Montane Trail

And depending on which route you take on Montane Blue, there is a scenic viewpoint with a winter warming hut. 

All in, we usually bike 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.

Biking down the Montane Trail near the warming hut

And for families who don't mind a bit of climbing, you can park at the bottom of the Montane Trail system and bike up Easy Beaver, an easy wide double track multi use trail.

Easy riding on the Montane Trail in Fernie

Family Mountain Biking on the Ridgemont Trails

This is 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.) 

Note this area has been recently logged and I haven't ridden here since the trails opened again. I'd suggest stopping in at a bike shop in town to get first hand info on the best trails to ride now. 

In the past, my son has enjoyed Broken Hip (AKA Space Unicorn,) and Eco Terrorist (where you'll find dozens of cool boardwalks.) 

The next step up! Riding Broken Hip AKA Space Unicorn  (photo: L. Nanninga)

Biking the Lazy Lizard Trail From Island Lake Lodge

Lazy Lizard has been our FAVOURITE bike trail in the Fernie area and has been very popular with families looking for a good easy downhill ride.

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.

In the past, we've always driven up to Island Lake Lodge  to start the ride (where you'll lose 535 metres of height on the upper part alone as you ride down Lazy Lazard.) My husband would drop my son and I off, drive down to the bottom, bike back up to the top, and then we'd all ride down together. (My son and I would hang out at the lake while my husband biked up.)

Biking through an old growth forest on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Note as of 2021, Island Lake Lodge is not allowing "truck drops" from the top. It is required that you bike both up and down this trail. Suffice it to say, a lot of people will no longer get to enjoy this trail without renting an e-bike because 500+ metres of climbing is not feasible for the average family looking for an easy bike ride.

If you want to take your children on this trail consider bringing a Tow-Whee tow rope to assist with the climbing.

And no, you can not bike up the road. You must bike up the singletrack Lazy Lizard Trail.

Boardwalks and bridges on the Lazy Lizard Trail

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)

Biking at the Next Level - Advanced Trails for Rad Riders

Got some rad riders in your family looking to try trails at the next level? I'll be adding to this section over the next few years as my son progresses and we get to try more trails. 

Riding Contra, one of Fernie's newest downhill flow trails

Contra is one of Fernie's newest downhill flow trails. This trail is full of giant table tops, berms, and steep descents. It is rated black and deserves that rating. Make sure your children have done some serious downhill riding before trying this one. 

Table top jumps on Contra 

Shuttle directions: Drive up the gravel Coal Creek Road until you get to the Rifle Range Road. Turn left onto this road. Take this road until you come to the Rifle Range Road Spur 3  where you turn right. And these are all shown on the trail forks app in case you're worried about getting lost. 

Large berms on Contra

Note you'll likely want a vehicle with high clearance for the spur road at the end. The other roads were not too bad. 

A good look at what to expect on Contra

For more epic downhill biking, check out my new story on resort biking at Fernie Alpine Resort.

Read: Family Downhill Mountain Biking at Fernie Alpine Resort 

Downhill mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort

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.


  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

  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.

  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!