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Fernie is a gorgeous town in the Canadian Rockies that is known for its ski resort but also has incredible hiking in the summer. The trails are much quieter than the nearby Banff and Yoho National Park but are just as stunning. These hikes span from Elko to Hosmer but no further.

I have also only included free hikes. There are a few hikes at the top of the ski resort which you can access by paying for the chairlift then walking a bit further which are fun, but I prefer to only list free hikes.

Get out and explore, you will not be disappointed. 

Fernie Hikes

(These hikes are organized by approximate difficulty from easiest to hardest)

1. Island Lake and Fir Loops 

Distance: 2 to 2.5km | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Difficulty: Easy

This is a sweet little trail at Island Lake Lodge. You can take the shorter loop directly around the lake, or take a slightly longer loop that detours off of Island Lake Loop into the forest (Fir Loop). This is a fantastic short walk to get you out into nature especially if you are already heading out to Island Lake Lodge for the night or a meal.

The trailhead can be driven to in the summer (June through September) but in the winter months, Island Lake Lodge is snowed in and can only be accessed via Snow Cat. If you want to take an incredible tour up to Island Lake Lodge in the winter and snowshoe around the lake, it will be money well spent. 

2. Matheson Falls 

Distance: 1.5km | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Difficulty: Easy

This hike is short and quick and brings you to some beautiful, small, secluded falls. The trail is short but can be challenging as there are lots of slippery rocks to traverse, be sure to download a map before you go and try to stay to the right of the river so that you do not have to cross it.

The road to get to the trailhead can also be a challenge but it’s worth it in the end. The trail is best done without snow on the ground between May and October. 

3. Fairy Creek Falls 

Distance: 4.5km | Elevation Gain: 100m | Difficulty: Easy

This short hike starts at the Tourism Fernie Building and takes you slightly uphill before flattening out and wandering through beautiful trees and next to the water until you reach the falls.

The falls are quite magical and definitely worth checking out.

The trail is usually snow-free as soon as town is and in the winter it is a great snowshoeing trail! Though, if you choose to go in the winter, you will likely only need microspikes because it is a popular trail and well-tracked out. 

4. Old Growth Trail 

Distance: 5km | Elevation Gain: 250m | Difficulty: Moderate

On Mount Fernie Park Road you will find a parking lot before Island Lake Lodge which is where you should start this hike, then weave through the beautiful old growth cedars with mountain views to Island Lake Lodge where you can stop for a meal or a drink and head back down the same way.

The trail is all uphill but not too strenuous. You can add on several more trail if you want a longer day, such as Island Lake or Fir Loop (above), or you can head back down via the Lazy Lizard Trail (though watch out for mountain bikers!) or you can start the trail even lower down the road and take the Rail Trail to connect to Old Growth. There are lots of beautiful options here and the trail is best done between June and October.

5. Silver Spring Lakes

Distance: 1 to 8km | Elevation Gain: 200m | Difficulty: Moderate

These lakes are located east of Elko (just south of Fernie). This is a popular spot for swimming and cliff jumping in the summer (though the water is very cold!) so it shouldn’t be hard to find the other cars parked along the road to identify the trailhead.

The trail to the first lake is steep and not super well maintained so it can be a little odd to follow. Download a map before you go to ensure you are going in the right direction.

Most people stop at the first lake to admire its blue water but you can keep hiking to two more lakes. From the first lake to the third the trail is mostly flat but there are some boulder fields to conquer.

After passing the first viewpoint it won’t be difficult to find a spot all to yourself to take in the beauty of the water and surrounding cliffs.

This hike is best done between April and October, though the lakes will be frozen until the height of summer.

6. Mount Baldy

Distance: 8.5km | Elevation Gain: 650m | Difficulty: Moderate

This hike starts at Island Lake Lodge and is quite the leg burner but will lead you to beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Be sure to take the short scramble of a detour to the full summit, though it may not look like the correct trail.

Do this hike counterclockwise and between late June and September for the best results!

7. Mount Fernie 

Distance: 8km | Elevation Gain: 950m | Difficulty: Challenging

This trail is a steady grind uphill the entire way, but if you pace yourself it isn’t too hard to get to the summit; however, just before the top you will find some steep scrambles that may be challenging for those who are afraid of heights.

At the top be sure to keep pushing yourself along the ridge until you get a full unobstructed view of Fernie and the surrounding mountains.

Though this hike is challenging it is a must-do for anyone in the Fernie area. The hike is best done between June and September when it is snow-free.

8. Castle Mountain 

Distance: 8km+ | Elevation Gain: 500m+ | Difficulty: Moderate/Challenging

The Castle Mountain area has a plethora of multi-use trails, which are very popular with mountain bikers.

At the top there are gorgeous views that overlook Fernie and its easy to kind of make up your own route to get to the top, just download a map before you go and be sure to check it frequently to ensure that you are going in the right direction and you don’t have to backtrack.

The fastest route is about 4km to the top and the longest loop is probably closer to 15. This is also a nice early season hike as it can be snow-free as early as late May/early June. 

9. Spineback 

Distance: 7.5km | Elevation Gain: 600m | Difficulty: Moderate/Challenging 

This is a short and steep hike that starts at Island Lake Lodge. There are some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains from the top.

The first part of the hike is forested and then you end up on a well-trodden rockier trail that has some scree sections.

After emerging from the forest keep an eye out for some fossils! Depending on the time of the year you will also find wildflowers or fall foliage.

If you feel keen on making the hike a bit longer you can continue on along the Goldilocks trail at the top which adds another 2km and about 200m of elevation gain, try to do this additional loop counterclockwise so you can take in all of the views in the most enjoyable manner.

Do this hike from July through September for the best snow-free results. 

10. Lizard Lake Trail 

Distance: 7km | Elevation Gain: 550m | Difficulty: Challenging

This hike starts near Mount Fernie Provincial Park and climbs through an old growth forest to a lake. The trail can get a bit overgrown so I would recommend long pants.

The trail may be steep but it is clear to follow and has lots of interesting things along the way to keep you entertained such as creeks and wildflowers.

The trail is accessible from June through September but the lake will be frozen until mid-summer if you are keen on a swim. 

11. Fernie Ridge 

Distance: 6 to 12km | Elevation Gain: 700m+ | Difficulty: Challenging 

Not to be confused with Mount Fernie above, this trail takes you along the long ridge on the other side of Fernie (the large trapezoid looking mountain you can see from town).

The trailhead can be hard to find and sometimes the road to get there is closed or is too rough for most cars, so it’s a real adventure to get there, but is a beautiful hike in the end.

To get there leave town on Coal Creek Road then turn down Rifle Road and look very closely for a right turn on Spur Road, watch closely for the trailhead ribbons which are about 1.3km further along.

This trail is steep until you reach the ridge, which you will continue to follow for views of Fernie and the surrounding mountains.

This hike is best done between June and September, be aware that this is a logging area so you may come to downed trees and closed roads. 

12. Tamarack Trail

Distance: 9km | Elevation Gain: 650m | Difficulty: Challenging 

This trail starts at Island Lake Lodge and switchbacks through the forest until you pop out onto a rocky open expanse (which continues to switchback).

You will find three viewpoints along the trail and you will find stunning views of Island Lake Lodge, the Fernie valley, and the surrounding mountains.

This trail might be a leg burner but it is well worth it! It’s best to hike here from July through September, and there is some exceptional fall foliage here if you go in late September. 

13. Mount Hosmer/Ghost Rider 

Distance: 10km | Elevation Gain: 1000m | Dissiculty: Challenging

Mount Hosmer is another iconic mountain on the Fernie skyline that you can’t help but want to summit.

This trail starts off of Hartley Lake Road and takes you through the brush up a fairly steep incline until you emerge onto a ridge. From here you can go right or left for different summits if you don’t want to do both I would recommend going right, which is longer and steeper but leads you to an incredible cliff where you can see mountains for days.

It can be quite windy at the top so bring a jacket.

The trail is best done snow free July through September. 

14. Mount Proctor 

Distance: 15.5km | Elevation Gain: 1400m | Difficulty: Challenging 

This trail starts just behind the Tourism Fernie building and takes you up a fairly steep loop that gets you to the top of Mount Proctor, which is just a bit lower than the Three Sisters summit.

Since this hike starts so low the elevation gain will be a real leg burner but it is always worth it in the end for the views. It is best done counterclockwise and between July and October. 

15. Heiko’s/Three Sisters 

Distance: 17 to 36km | Elevation Gain: 1400 to 2000m | Difficulty: Challenging 

This is the crowning jewel of all of the hikes in Fernie, and the most difficult. If you live in Fernie you will surely spend every day looking at the beautiful Three Sisters in the mountainous skyline and the trail to summit them does not disappoint!

The best way to do this hike is as a point-to-point trail if you have access to two cars. Start at the trailhead on Hartley Lake Road and follow Heiko’s Trail.

Note that the Hartley Lake Road can be rough and potholed in places so take it slow.

On the trail be sure to stop at the waterfall and the caves, and to make the detour to the Three Sisters summit. Continue along the trail until you reach Island Lake Lodge. Here is where you should have your second car parked or you can call a friend to come to pick you up.

As a point-to-point trail, the distance is closer to 18km and will absolutely still be a full day of hiking so be sure to start early.

If you choose to do a round trip hike this is also an amazing place to do a multi-day backpacking trek and camp overnight in the mountains.

This trail is best done between July and September and be prepared for epic views and wildlife encounters.

Get out and explore, happy hiking!

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