Monday July 6, 2020 ~ SQUAMISH, BC
Guest travel article by Amber Turnau | West Shore Voice News
Think you’ve seen big mountains? Head to BC’s eastern ranges, where jutting peaks tower over the land, and everything else seems small in comparison. If you like to play outside, you’ve likely heard about the hiking, biking, and water activities in and around towns like Revelstoke, Fernie, and Nelson.
Though a journey through these mountain passes may take you farther from home, your getaway is guaranteed to pack a punch, with big mountain adventures, jaw-dropping scenery, and a craft beer or two. Plan a longer stay and you may never want to leave.
Summit peaks and chase waterfalls:
Stay a little longer in this part of the province and explore some of BC’s most dramatic (and scenic) vistas, found deep in the Selkirk, Purcell, Monashee, and Rocky mountain ranges.
This area is home to seven UNESCO-designated parks, including the famed Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. The namesake peak in Mount Robson Provincial Park, located near Valemount, is the highest in the Canadian Rockies. Hike in search of craggy volcanoes, hidden tarns, and vibrant foliage. Tip: check out the Mount Robson Visitor Centre.
Lift-accessed alpine trails at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Revelstoke Mountain Resort lead to the fresh scent of mountain air and evergreens. For a truly remote experience, stay at Purcell Mountain Lodge, a heli-accessed backcountry hiking lodge tucked in the mountains near Golden.
There are also a number of well-known waterfalls to explore, like Wapta Falls, located in Yoho National Park, where you’ll find the iconic Emerald Lake Lodge. Wells Gray Provincial Park boasts volcanoes, mineral hot springs, glaciers, and waterfalls, including the famous Helmcken Falls, which stands 141 metres tall. Explore the area further and you will find plenty of lesser-known and equally beautiful spots (cue: Sutherland Falls near Revelstoke, accessible off Highway 23).
Always check trail conditions before you head out, and no matter what outdoor activity you are planning, be prepared. AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.
Ride next-level mountain bike trails:
The Kootenay mountain-bike experience is in a category all its own—remote, rugged, and varied terrain set against the backdrop of historic towns and vast mountain landscapes. There’s a gravity-fuelled experience for all skill levels: bikepacking adventures, relentless alpine climbs, gleeful descents, tight and flowy singletrack, and machine-groomed bike parks. So, while it takes a little longer to get there, you’ll be glad you made the trip. These are just a few of the stops along the way, but the biking options here are plentiful.
There are eight towns in the Kootenays that serve as biking hubs, boasting a combined 600 trails and four bike parks among them. Passionate local riders with dirt-caked hands and time-worn tools are the driving force behind the thriving mountain biking scene in these parts. With five riding areas, the town of Cranbrook and its web of 100-plus cross-country trails makes for a great mountain biking basecamp. Neighbouring Kimberley has everything from challenging enduro rides to scenic cruisers.
Revelstoke, known for its big mountain rides, is a showstopper. Ride flowy blue and technical black downhill trails in BC’s newest bike park, including the famed Fifty Six Twenty (named for its heart-pumping vertical descent). While in town, conquer the Frisby Ridge cross-country trail. With an 836-metre elevation gain over 12 kilometres, the climb is tough, but alpine views and wildflowers are well worth the effort. Wandering Wheels offers guided tours, shuttles, and heli-biking for advanced riders.
Touted as the “Mountain Biking Capital of Canada” by Explore Magazine, Rossland’s 200 kilometres of trails spread across the valley like veins. The Seven Summits is an “epic” trail that descends from peak to valley— Seven Summits Coffee Company is named in its honour (and their coffee is amazing to boot). New Denver (a two-hour drive north) boasts the wheelchair accessible Galena Trail. Head east to Fernie in search of endless singletrack, a skills area, and a lift-accessed bike park—all within a short radius of town.
No ride is complete without an après session at a local craft brewery or pub. Fernie Brewing Co, Whitetooth Brewing in Golden, and the Rockford Bar & Grill are great places to sample brews while swapping trail intel and riding stories.
Paddle pristine lakes and raging rivers:
An intricate network of waterways etch their way down mountains and through valleys, offering plenty of on-water adventure—from peaceful paddles to exhilarating river runs.
The Kicking Horse River near Golden lives up to its name as it rages over waterfalls and through narrow gorges on its way to the Columbia River. Bring your bubble on a whitewater rafting expedition with Alpine Rafting Company—they offer everything from gentle family trips to heli-rafting experiences.
For a more subdued and relaxing water adventure near Nelson, rent a SUP or kayak to explore the many lakes in the area, floating between secluded swimming holes and taking in the mountain views along the way. Before you head out, be sure to grab a pre-paddle coffee and treat at local java joint Oso Negro.
Enjoy tee time in the mountains:
There’s something magical about playing a round of golf surrounded by dramatic 360-degree views of jagged mountains and lush woodland. Tee off at one of the 25 championship golf courses dotted throughout this part of the province.
Kimberley and Cranbrook alone are home to seven golf courses. In Cranbrook, Indigenous-owned St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Purcell and Rocky mountains. The course, designed by renowned Canadian golf architect Les Furber, weaves its way past Fisher Peak and the rushing St. Mary River. Breathtaking views are also par for the course at the award-winning Wildstone Golf Course. If you happen to get peckish mid-game, order online and they’ll deliver food on course.
The Fernie Golf Club, founded in 1918, is a fun and challenging course. Spot foxes dashing across the greens, and take in commanding views of Mount Hosmer, which overlooks the course like a sentinel. Legend has it a ghostly image appears in its rocky faces once the sun begins to set.
Catch fish ‘on the fly’:
In this part of the province, the fish are as grand as the mountains that surround them. The Columbia River Valley is abundant with bull and rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and kokanee salmon; and anglers can have their pick of fish-stocked lakes and free-flowing rivers.
Kootenay Lake near Nelson is home to the famous Gerrard trout, the largest subspecies of rainbow trout. The fish is named after a ghost town located at the far end of Trout Lake, which is about two hours north of Nelson. Get fishing tips and discover secret spots when you book an intimate group charter with Reel Adventures Fishing.
Fly fishing enthusiasts flock to Golden for its bastion of bull trout. The guides at The Golden Gillie offer local knowledge to up your chances of tight lines. Dubbed “trout town,” Fernie is a stunning fishing paradise, where dry fly anglers often visit the Elk River to fish for bull trout and take in the serene vistas.