Trip Ideas

Nelson, Rossland and Fernie

Looking for some high-altitude downtime? Soak in the energy of Nelson, Rossland and Fernie in the Kootenay Rockies and enjoy mountain biking, hiking and whitewater river rafting.


7 49.479599,-117.305342|49.078842,-117.800095|49.512783,-115.068412
  1. Nelson
  2. Rossland
  3. Fernie


Nelson. Photo Credit: David Gluns

Charming, historic and artsy, Nelson is a popular stop on the edge of Kootenay Lake. Bursting with craft shops, galleries and heritage buildings, it’s also a gateway to gorgeous hikes in the surrounding mountains.

For an easy day out, head for the trails in lakeside Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. For more challenge, tackle an alpine route in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Post-hike, relax at Ainsworth Hot Springs and wander through a cave where hot mineral water surfaces from the earth and stalagmites form in abundance.

Every Saturday in the summer, Nelson’s Cottonwood Falls Market is the place to be. Set in Cottonwood Falls Park, a city park complete with a waterfall, this outdoor market offers everything from woodworking crafts to home baking, live music and organic food.

Organic, regional fare also features in local restaurants. Have coffee with charm in Nelson at Oso Negro or the Kootenay Bakery Café, or savour a pasta dinner while listening to live music at Max & Irma’s. The All Seasons Café features seasonal menus showcasing local ingredients. Pizza connoisseurs will appreciate the made-from-scratch pies at Thor’s Pizza – especially the Apollo’s Harvest pizza; it’s loaded with fresh local veggies and roasted garlic.

Thor’s is just a few blocks from the Dancing Bear Inn, one of the cozy and places full of character to stay in Nelson. It’s a hostel, but with private (as well as shared) rooms, hardwood floors and duvets, taking budget travel up a notch.


Rossland. Photo Credit: © Rich Wheater/All Canada Photos

Experience breathlessness as you bike in Rossland, about an hour southwest of Nelson. Miles of old wagon roads, pack trails and rail beds, including the legendary Seven Summits Trail, create one of Canada’s leading mountain biking destinations.

After a day on the trail, relax in the hot tub, sauna or spa at Rossland’s Prestige Mountain Resort. Try one of the gourmet meals combining flavours from around the world at Gypsy at Red, or baked goods and sandwiches on home-made bread on the Alpine Grind’s valley-view deck.


Fernie. Photo Credit: Dave Heath

East of Rossland, the historic mining town of Fernie, with its Victorian brick heritage buildings and mountain backdrop, has become a major outdoors destination without losing its small town vibe. In summer, visit Fernie for hiking, biking, and especially rafting. On a hot summer day, nothing beats shooting the class IV rapids through the Elk River Canyon. In cooler weather, bike up to 659m/2,162ft of vertical at Fernie Alpine Resort.

There is a wealth of great places to eat and drink in town. Some top picks include the fresh sauces and whole-wheat crusts at the homey Elk Valley Pizza Shoppe, and the California rolls at local sushi favourite Yamagoya. On weekends, ride the chairlift for a cold beer on the deck of the mountain-top Lost Boys Café. Another fun option? Take a tour of the Fernie Brewing Company (call ahead to check availability), a local craft brewery making such offbeat drafts as huckleberry wheat and Belgian white ale.

If you’re staying overnight, enjoy a mountain-view condo near the lifts at the Lizard Creek Lodge and take advantage of the spa and heated outdoor pool.


West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar (about 40 minutes from Nelson) and the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook both have direct flights of about 75-90 minutes from Vancouver, and 50-65 minutes from Calgary. Nelson, Rossland and Fernie are each about 8 to 10 hours by road from Vancouver, and 3 to 5 hours from Spokane, Washington.