Exploring the Rocky Mountain Trench: From Fernie to Golden

3 to 7 Days, 323 km (200.7 mi)

Find adventure and relaxation in the Canadian Rockies

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The Canadian Rocky Mountains are the perfect place to escape the daily grind and truly relax in nature, whatever that looks like for you. High octane adventure? Check. Gazing out over pristine mountain scenery from a pool of mineral hot springs? Check. Come find your personalized experience.

Part 1

Fernie

Island Lake Lodge near Fernie | Kari Medig

Start your journey in Fernie, an hour’s drive from the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook. Fernie is a quintessential mountain town with cute heritage buildings, tons of options for outdoor adventure, friendly locals, and gorgeous mountain vistas.

Fernie Alpine Resort offers about 25 km (15 mi) of hiking trails, as well as one of western Canada’s largest networks of lift-access mountain bike trails. For something a little more low key, consider a 4-km (2.5-mi) return hike to pretty Fairy Creek Falls, a great spot to indulge your senses.

Once Fernie has begun to work its restorative magic and you’re ready for more, take Highway 3 south to Elko, where it joins Highway 93, and head north along 93 toward Cranbrook.

Part 2

Cranbrook and Kimberley

Mount Fisher | Kari Medig

Cranbrook and Kimberley, nestled between the Purcell and Rocky mountains, are home to stellar hiking and biking trails, and local waterways are ideal for fishing, boating, swimming, and paddling. The golf courses are pretty impressive, too, so there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy time outdoors. Come in late September to mid-October to enjoy the fall colours, and if you’re lucky you may be there to see the larch trees change to a golden hue in October.

In Cranbrook, the St. Mary River is a favourite for whitewater rafting, and is considered to be one of North America’s top spots to fly-fish for rainbow, cutthroat, and bull trout. It’s also a great place to see fall colours if you plan to visit in mid- to late September.

While you’re here, don’t miss is the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre at the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino. Learn about the culture of the Ktunaxa people as you peruse artifacts and archival photographs. Call ahead to arrange a tour (250-417-4001).

Next, travel 30 minutes northwest to spend a day or two in Kimberley. This alpine resort community is home to Kimberley Nature Park, the biggest municipal park in BC. Options range from short, easy loop trails to more strenuous trails with a significant gain in elevation. In the summer months, stop in at Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway for a little history. Ride the rails and tour historic Sullivan Mine.

Continue northeast and follow Highway 93/95 toward Fairmont Hot Springs.

Part 3

Fairmont Hot Springs

Fairmont Hot Springs | Zoya Lynch

From Fairmont Hot Springs, you can head into the mountains to hike or mountain bike, soar through the trees on a zipline, or you can take to the water in a canoe or kayak. But the most popular thing to do here is in the name. Whether you take advantage of 45 holes of golf, or you hit the slopes in winter, you’ll want to end each day soaking in the healing waters of the hot springs. Ahhh.

And if Fairmont leaves you wanting more, never fear. Continue north on Highway 93/95, and Radium Hot Springs is the yin to Fairmont’s yang.

Part 4

Radium Hot Springs

Sinclair Canyon | Kari Medig

Surrounded by the towering rock faces of Sinclair Canyon, Radium Hot Springs is a ruggedly beautiful spot located just inside Kootenay National Park. Watch the cliffs above the mineral-rich hot springs, and you may spot some of Radium’s best-know residents, bighorn sheep. Visit in early November to take part in the annual Headbanger Festival and see the sheep in full rutting action as they battle for dominance.

Add some historical context with a hike to the Stanley Glacier, where you can see fossils dating back some 500 million years. Learn about the “Stan animal,” a predator discovered in the area. You can access the site on your own, or book a guided hike and take advantage of your guide’s knowledge and insights.

When you’re ready to move on, continue north on Highway 95 to Golden.

Part 5

Golden

Yoho National Park | Ryan Creary

Golden sits alongside North America’s largest wetland, the Columbia River. The river is popular for paddling and for fishing, and for incredible bird watching. Come in the spring or fall to see 15,000 migrating waterfowl. Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is also popular here.

Nearby Yoho National Park is home to wonders ranging from powerful waterfalls to 500 million-year-old fossil beds. And Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has a fabulous bike park, a via ferrata, and a grizzly bear refuge. End your trip on a high note with dinner at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, the country’s highest-elevation dining experience at 2,347 m (7,700 ft).

Driving Directions

Part 1 - Vancouver
  • 6.25 km
  • 12 min
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