Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia

We've been biking our way across Alberta and British Columbia this summer and definitely had to include a trip to the small mountain town of Fernie.  Located 3.5 hours south of Calgary, Fernie is most well known as a winter ski destination and until last year I'd never thought much about visiting in summer.  That all changed though when we discovered the amazing camping offered at nearby Surveyor's Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

This year we decided to check out the bike trails in Fernie while camped at Surveyor's Lake and we will definitely be returning next year!  We budgeted one day for biking this year but it wasn't enough by a long shot!

Biking in Fernie

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.

Working on skills in the Fernie Bike Park

Exploring the Children's Mountain Bike Loop at the Bike Park

I have no idea if this loop has a name or not but it's a short little loop located behind the smaller pump track and tucked into the trees.  It's a bit of a treasure hunt to find it and there's no signs.  (Hence, why I don't know the name of the trail.)  However, if you head away from the parking lot into the trees you should find the trail I refer to.  And when you do, you'll find this fun little bridge in the photo below.

Children's Mountain Bike Loop behind the Bike Park

The loop serves to introduce kids to easy single track riding, presents some short steep hills for practice with gears, and then ends with this fun little wooden path.  There are also some jumps in the same area that are fun to play around on.

Playing on the Jumps Behind the Bike Park
Easy Single Track Practice 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 is what we did 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 and the Coal Creek Heritage Trail (which was closed.) 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 was 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.  I can't say for sure because the Coal Creek Heritage Trail was closed when we were there, but Old Stumpy definitely resembles a hiking trail as much as a biking 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.

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. The easiest way to bike the full 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 link above.

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!

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

2015 update to this story:  We rode the complete Coal Creek Heritage Trail this year 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 beginner 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 it is a bike-hike and that you may have to walk the occasional section.  You'll still be biking more than you hike, and it is a lovely ride.

The trailhead at the Coal Creek Townsite


Fun Biking Events for Families in Fernie

If you are planning a trip to Fernie and plan to spend a week or more, check out the Fernie Mountain Bike Club and ask about their Little Critter Criterium Rides.  Once a month on a Monday night, the club offers these evenings at various parks around Fernie and children have the chance to win prizes as they complete laps of a short beginner course. A friend tried one this past summer and said it was awesome! Kids can use pedal bikes or run bikes so even the littlest children can participate. 

Doing a short loop behind the Fernie Bike Park

Biking Outside Fernie in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

If you're going to go to Fernie for a week, you won't find better camping than 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
Biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail

The loop was under 10km in length but it was harder than most of the town trails we did in Fernie.  It wasn't technical at all but sections were very hilly.  See the trail map below with a description of the trails underneath:

Biking at Surveyors Lake

If you follow the map above, the loop from #1 to #7 is about 7km 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.  The trail is a mix of double track dirt, grass, old roads, and even one section that follows a rural gravel road. 

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

What did I miss??

Did I miss any of your favourite bike trails in the Fernie area?  Let me know and I'll be sure to check them out next time we visit.


  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!