Fall is one of the most spellbinding seasons to visit Fernie, BC, when the Elk Valley surrounding this scenic city nestled in the Rocky Mountains is transformed into a rich tapestry of golden and sunshine yellow.
Mountain biking, golfing, fly fishing and hiking are just some of the activities that extend well into autumn, making this getaway in the Kootenay Rockies the ultimate shoulder season escape.
From sampling creative cocktails to epic paddling adventures, here are the best things to do in Fernie, BC in fall.
Explore the trails while hiking in Fernie
Fernie is ridiculously photogenic thanks to the surrounding peaks of the towering Rockies, and one of the best ways to soak in the views is by heading out on a hike.
Head out on your own (prep is key here—be sure to dress for the ever-changing elements, bring lots of water and pack bear spray), or book a customized tour with Hike Fernie.
Led by longtime local Duncan Maisels who seems to know literally everyone in town, this is a great way to learn more about the area and explore with a certified guide.
Some of the best Fernie hiking trails are:
- Fairy Creek Falls: This family-friendly 2 km (four km return) trail starts at the visitor’s centre along Hwy 3, is accessible all year round, and leads to a breathtaking waterfall.
- Mount Fernie: It takes about three or four hours to complete this 8km trail, which features thick, lush forests and a scramble near the top. There’s also an option to extend, by joining up with the Rocky Road Trail to the Heiko’s Trail junction, turning this into a full day adventure.
- Heiko’s Trail: A local favourite, this difficult 20 km trail has an elevation gain of 887 metres, and the payoff is steep rocky passes, alpine meadows, the massive Bisaro Cave, dramatic canyons and waterfalls
- The Old Growth Forest Loop trail at Island Lake Lodge (note that the lodge only operates until mid-September)
Chasing fall colours? Time your visit for the third week of September until mid-October when leaves on the trees turn golden yellow, or the second half of October when larches come into their prime, turning from green to gold.
Some of the best hikes to see larch madness in all its glory are:
- Mount Hosmer Trail: This 8 km hike is rated as moderate/difficult due to its 910m elevation gain, which means epic views looking back at the city and peaks of the Three Sisters and Mount Hosmer.
- Castle Rock: It takes less than three hours to hike up Castle Mountain, which is part of the Morrissey Ridge and has sweeping views of Fernie, larches, the valley and surrounding peaks. As this trail is shared with mountain bikers, stay aware and give riders the right of way.
Reel in a big catch while fly fishing in Fernie
Fall is a great season for fishing in Fernie, and you can expect to find outfitter centres packed with guests ready to head out for a fun day on the water.
Cast a line at one of the fishing holes right in the city (try the pullout along the Elk River just under the Hwy 3 bridge on the east side of Fernie) or in nearby Morrissey Provincial Park which is a 15 minute drive from downtown.
During fall, it’s best to head out in late afternoon to try your luck at reeling in cutthroat or bull trout while fly fishing. Operators like Elk River Guiding Company and the Kootenay Fly Shop & Guiding Co also head out on full day trips in their boats, in hopes of hooking a big one.
With the tranquil Elk River winding right through the centre of Fernie, paddling adventures are literally on your doorstep here.
Grab your vessel of choice (stand up paddleboard, kayak), and go for a float from ‘bridge to bridge’, starting near the Canadian Tire on the east end of town, and ending up just past the next bridge overpass at the boat launch near Park Crescent and 1 Street.
It takes about 45 minutes, and you’ll need a drop-off or two vehicles to pull this off.
One of the most photogenic spots to hit the water for a paddle sesh is at Island Lake, where you can rent a canoe and soak in the scenery (note that it’s only open until about mid-September and may also be closed intermittently for private events).
Another local favourite is Silver Springs Lake near Elko, a popular summertime hangout that’s equally beautiful in fall and has stunningly clear water. A forestry road leads to the trailhead, and hikers head up a steep hill for about 15 minutes before arriving at the viewpoint.
Multiple trails branch off from there, with spots to launch a SUP or even go cliff jumping into the chilly, alpine lake.
Please remember to treat this fragile area with care, and pack in-pack out.
Explore historic downtown Fernie
Fernie’s historic downtown area is one of the best kept and most charming in the Kootenays, where the main strip (2nd Avenue) is lined with century-old, rose-hued brick and sandstone buildings, outdoor patios, and flowers spilling out of hanging planters.
While the city was founded in 1898, it had to be completely rebuilt following two devastating fires, and over the years it’s transformed from a pioneer town to a popular mountain playground.
While Fernie is best known for its outdoor pursuits, it also has a thriving arts scene.
Wander through the side streets to see giant murals, get a glimpse of the past at the Fernie Museum, stop into one of the boutiques for handcrafted goods (the Fernie Arts Co-op showcasing the work of local artisans is a great place to grab a local souvenir), or check out a gallery show at The Arts Station.
Globe Guide tip: Download the free Iconic Fernie app which has self-guided tours with different themes like the best viewpoints, family-friendly activities, arts, food, heritage and nature.
This is also where you’ll find some of the best cafes and restaurants; my top picks are:
- Big Bang Bagels or Mug Shots for breakfast
- Rooftop Coffee Roasters for coffee (the smell of beans being roasted in the back is heavenly!)
- Lunchbox for lunch—a solid option for grab ’n go with creative wraps, hearty soups and fruit-forward smoothies.
- Family-run Beanpod Chocolate, Gelato and Coffee for sweet treats like hand-crafted chocolate and gluten free, nut free house-made gelato (seasonal only, ending in early September). Honeycomb, chocolate + brownies and raspberry made with hand-picked berries are the most popular gelatos, while the Fernie Bear bar which blends milk chocolate and honeycomb toffee flies off the shelves.
- Dinner at Bramasole (the bruschetta is my fave) or The Loaf, known for its pizzas, Italian eats and live music nights.
- Drinks at Fernie Distillers, Fernie Alpine Springs Kombucha Brewery or the Fernie Brewing Company (a short drive outside downtown)
Enjoy cool cocktails at Fernie Distillers
Handcrafted artisan spirits, local ingredients and cool cocktails collide at Fernie Distillers, which is one of the most fun, happening spots in town.
Started by a husband and wife team (Andrew Hayden and Jillian Rutherford), the unique blends are all thanks to Rutherford, a former chemist who is now one of only a handful of female distillers in Canada.
Flavourful gins are infused with botanicals grown right on the back deck, and guests can sample their vodka and seasonal liqueurs with a tasting flight. There’s also an extensive cocktail list, and the menu of nearly 30 concoctions completely changes twice a year.
Don’t sleep on their most popular products, the Prospector Gin and Fernie Fog Liqueur—I may have picked up a couple of bottles to bring home!
Relax at Spa 901
Enjoy some much-needed downtime after checking out all the active, fun things to do in Fernie, by heading to the spa.
Spa 901 is housed in a former 1908 schoolhouse that’s since been converted into condos, with a large hot pool right in the centre which is perfect for soaking those aching muscles.
Day passes are available to access the hot tub and relaxation area with comfy leather loungers and a roaring fireplace, and is included for guests who book treatments like therapeutic massages, body scrubs and a Himalayan Salt Ritual.
Accommodations in Fernie
Blackstone B&B: This tranquil getaway in the new Montane area a short drive from downtown has easy access to the Montane trail network on its doorstep, and gorgeous mountain views.
There are three units, and each one gets its own king size bed, large bathroom, seating area, fireplace, mini-fridge and outdoor space.
There’s also an infrared sauna all guests have access to, and thoughtful touches like wine bottle openers and bear spray to borrow. Click here to book
Snow Valley Lodging tiny homes: These tiny homes right off the highway are within walking distance of downtown, and a fun place to hunker down for a few days. Each one has a bedroom in a loft, bathroom, full kitchen and living area, and some units are also pet-friendly.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
- 5 perks of a slope side stay at Lizard Creek Lodge in Fernie, BC
- Fun things to do in Fernie, BC in winter
- Cool and quirky things to do in Cranbrook, BC
- Unique accommodations in Cranbrook, BC
SHARE THE PINSPIRATION! CLICK THE IMAGES BELOW TO PIN:
This post may contain affiliate links, which Globe Guide receives compensation for at no additional cost to you.