As the self-proclaimed ‘Basecamp of the Kootenays,’ the city of Cranbrook in southeast BC could also be called the basecamp for adventure.
Nestled between the Kootenay River and St. Mary River with the Purcells and Rocky Mountains on its doorstep, most things to do in Cranbrook centre around enjoying the great outdoors.
With roots dating back to the gold rush, railroads are a big part of the history here, starting with the arrival of the first CPR passenger train in 1898 which led to a population boom. Visitors can learn all about it at the Cranbrook History Centre, where a rail car collection dating back to the early 1900s provides a glimpse of the past.
Sun-soaked days bring activities like hiking, canoeing, lake floats, biking and fishing, and golf fanatics have their pick of groomed fairways with eight courses in and around the city.
From hidden waterfalls to quirky stays to fun hangout spots, here are the coolest things to do in Cranbrook, BC in fall.
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Hit the trails
Adventure-seekers rejoice: with cycling trails, hiking paths and 2191 hours of sunshine per year (the most of anywhere in BC), Cranbrook’s outdoor season lasts all year round.
In fall, larches turn the valleys sunshine gold in place like Tanglefoot Lake and the Mause Creek Tarns nestled in a basin of the Rocky Mountains.
For great views, top Cranbrook hikes are The Bee Line, Windy Bluff and Wycliffe Buttes trails. At Wycliffe, a 20 minute incline leads to panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and St Mary Valley, and it’s a great one to combine with a visit to nearby Marysville Falls.
Cyclists love the Northstar Rails to Trails, a paved, 25 kilometre long pathway along a former CP railway bed linking Cranbrook and Kimberley. Open year round, the gentle grades are ideal for all skill levels so everyone can soak in views of the St. Mary River, Purcells and Steeples range.
Walk to a waterfall
One of the best, free things to do in Cranbrook is heading out for a waterfall walk, with three spectacular sets of falls within a half hour drive of the city.
A favourite with families, this easily accessible waterfall is in the cute community of Marysville just outside Kimberley, about 20 minutes north of Cranbrook.
A beautiful wooden bridge and boardwalk leads straight to a viewpoint overlooking the 30-metre falls, and the walk only takes about five minutes each way.
This former gold mining claim holds another treasure: Moyie Falls, one of the prettiest waterfalls near Cranbrook, BC.
Sometimes referred to as Lumberton Falls, it only takes 15-20 minutes to get to the beautiful waterfall tucked into the end of a narrow canyon. The hike in includes a short river crossing, then along the rocky riverbed until the thundering falls come into view.
Keep an eye out for the Lucky Friday Minesite which extends nearly 250 m underground near the base of the falls: there are remnants scattered around both sides, including the two main entrances.
Driving directions: Head west on Highway 3 and turn right on Lumberton Road. Just after the 7 kilometre marking sign, there’s a small pullout on the left. Park near the yellow gate, and walk past it which is where the trailhead begins.
Perry Creek Falls
This is gorgeous set of falls is close to Cranbrook—however, you’ll have to work a bit just to get to the trailhead. There’s an approximately 7 kilometre stretch of extremely rough, rocky logging road on the way up, so it’s best to drive up in a truck or take it very slow.
One you make it to to the trail, the 20 minute walk in features a grassy clearing, an old cabin, a towering canopy of trees and a knotty wood footbridge. There’s also a bit of a scramble on the edge of the steep path right near the end, so this hike isn’t recommended for those with accessibility issues.
Eventually you’ll see the falls gushing out of the narrow canyon, and you can view them up close by walking up to the right side of them or admiring them the ledge along the trail.
Driving directions: Head north on Hwy 95A from Cranbrook, and turn left on Wycliffe Park Road. Turn right on Wycliffe Road, then another right onto Perry Creek road. Be sure to keep left on the primary road around the 6.4 km mark, then cross over the bridge two kilometres later. This is where the road gets pretty gnarly, and at the 13 km mark there will be a small parking area pullout on the left.
Eat in a fire station
One of Cranbrook’s hottest restaurants is in a former fire hall—and yes, there’s still a fire pole.
Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap is a craft beer tap and gastropub right downtown, inside a heritage building which dates back to 1929.’
The inventive menu is perfect for fuelling up after a day of adventures, with the burgers and extensive poutine list being crowd faves. Don’t sleep on the $35 nachos, which are loaded with the likes of stripling steak, avo, cheese and fresh jalapeños, and are definitely worth every penny.
BC craft beer is exclusively poured, which can be enjoyed inside or on the sunny, street-facing patio
Another great place to eat in town is The Heid Out & Fisher Peak Brewing Company, a longtime Cranbrook fixture. The menu is an inspired blend of traditional dishes and locally sourced ingredients from the Kootenays, with standout dishes being the Jaeger Schnitzel and South Indian Masala.
You’ll find a lineup of Fisher Peak beers on tap, as well beer cocktails which are the perfect way for those who aren’t usually beer lovers to get in on the fun.
Stay in one of the unique Cranbrook BC hotels
Fancy spending a night in a restored rail car? How about an authentic dude ranch, where days start with trail rides under the shadow of mountain peaks and end with campfire cookouts. Or perhaps a heritage town, in a hotel rumoured to be frequented by ghosts?
These are just some of the unique accommodations in Cranbrook, which are the perfect place to keep the adventure going after a day of outdoor fun. Some of the best places to stay are:
Railcar Designer Suite at Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort
In a nod to the city’s long rail history, a train car dating back to the 1920s has been transformed into two suites: the Sante Fe which is like something out of the Wild West, and the glammed-out Crystal suite complete with dazzling chandeliers.
The train car is parked right along the railway behind the hotel, and guests have access to all on-site amenities including the pool and hot tub. Click here to book
Three Bars Guest Ranch
Charming log cabins and modern cabins complete with private hot tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows sit side-by-side at Three Bars Guest Ranch, located about half an hour northwest of Cranbrook.
Giving off vibes as a summer camp for the whole family, this popular getaway includes activities like cattle sorting, fly fishing, hiking, rafting, and of course, daily trail rides.
Once the sun goes down, guests can grab dinner or a drink in the timber-framed dining hall, relax in the pool or hot tub, gather around the fire pit and go stargazing.
Fort Steele Heritage Town
Travel back in time to this living history museum, which was once a bustling frontier town back in the 1800s. Today it counts horse-drawn wagon rides, an old time theatre, an authentic steam train and gold panning among its many attractions, and is considered one of BC’s most important heritage attractions.
The Windsor Hotel is once again open for guests, with six rooms available to book ranging from single rooms to family suites complete with two bedrooms and a bathroom with a clawfoot tub.
READ MORE: Unique accommodations in Cranbrook, BC
Hit the links at one of the Cranbrook golf courses
Perfect your swing and enjoy sweeping views from the fairway at a Cranbrook golf course: there are an astounding seven courses within 24 minutes between Cranbrook and Kimberly, boasting 18 to 27 holes.
I teed off at Wildstone Golf Course, which is conveniently less than 10 minutes from downtown. The best views are from the front nine, and golfers can admire looming Fischer Peak while swinging at the driving range.
For more information on all of the courses, check out Golf Kimberley Cranbrook.
Bowl at a brewery
Beer and bowling combine at Encore, the best spot for a fun night out in Cranbrook.
This family-friendly venue has eight five-pin bowling lanes, classic arcade games and pool tables, while the hangout spaces have a cool mid-century design vibe complete with couches and board games.
Colourful cocktails are available at the taproom, along with their namesake beer and tasty treats like tacos and pizzas made with dough infused with spent barley and wheat from the brewery.
Peek through the glass windows into the adjoining working brewery, and see where all the magic happens.
Head out on the water
Thanks to its enviable perch west of the Kootenay River and south of the St. Mary River, Cranbrook is a paddler’s paradise. Grab your rod and head out with St. Mary Angler Fly Shop for guided fishing, in hopes of reeling in bass, perch, rainbow trout or bull trout in one of the nearby lakes, rivers and streams which are fully stocked by the Kootenay Trout Hatchery.
Kayakers and standup paddle boarders will want to head to Moyie Lake, Wasa Lake, St. Mary Lake, Mineral Lake or Lake Koocanusa to enjoy a day on the water while soaking in the mountain views. For a more laid-back outing, grab a floatie and head to Jimsmith Lake or Peckham’s Lake in Norbury Lake Provincial Park, a favourite with locals thanks to its calm waters.
Need a vessel? Just Liquid Sports loans out SUPs, canoes and kayaks, and also runs community paddle nights during the summer.
Relax in the hot springs
Wind down after all that excitement with a dip in Lussier Hot Springs, located about an hour north of Cranbrook near Canal Flats in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park.
Four hot pools were naturally built along the Lussier River using stones and boulders, and the steamy thermal waters vary between 34°C to a toasty 47°C, making this the perfect place to relax when autumn’s chill sets in.
Entrance is free, there’s a change room and toilet near the roadway, and the springs are open year round. Please be mindful to do your part to keep this area pristine by packing out what you pack in.
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