Fernie has an amazing network of trails all within easy access of a fantastic town. Local bike shops (LBS) sell a great guide book for $19.95 ($5 of which goes straight back to build and maintain the network of trails) and the book contains excellent information on each trail (over 70). Summer is quieter than Winter in Fernie and accommodation is abundant and great value. A large number of restaurants and bars are available to fuel up pre/during/post ride and if you forgot anything or need a quick fix/tune on your bike several local bike shops (LBS) are right in town and offer great value and service. A good place to start on planning your non riding needs is the Tourism Fernie website.
bikepirate or local sources can provide trail condition information but for the first timer or less experienced visitor the sheer number of trails can make the guide book quite daunting. The below suggestions are offered to help select the best area to ride increasing your enjoyment from the trip but nothing beats personal experience so get down there and explore for yourself. Also be sure to grab a copy of the local magazine Fernie Fix for info on local events, overview maps and tips for enjoying the trails.
Arrival night: Mount Proctor
Mount Proctor contains a few short trails in a separate area of private land a little away from the main areas and makes an excellent place to ride in the evening. The trails clear snow early and dry out quick after rain and give a good intro to what Fernie is all about – technical climbs, awesome downhills and super buff tread. A ‘lap’ is only about 5km (+250m) with a further 1km or so up a gentle climb to access; meaning you can knock out a few quick laps riding straight from your car as you pull into town.
Two big days
The two main riding areas are either side of the highway and are best tackled on separate days. On the East side of town you’ll find Castle Mountain and Ridgemont and on the West side of town you’ll find the Provisional Park and ‘dark side’ trails along with downhill trails at FAR served by chair lifts during the Summer. Both sides offer you the chance to build up a route from 10km to 50km+. Although it generally makes sense to tackle one side on each day the areas can easily be combined if you’re looking to knock out some huge kms or came into town for lunch and want to add a short loop on the other side in the afternoon. Castle and Ridgemont is the better choice on a cooler day with thunderstorm risk. I would hit the dark side when the sun is out in full force and your looking good for a dry day.
1/ Castle and Ridgemont
These two areas run either side of Coal Creek Road and offer an extensive network of trails most of which clear snow early and dry out quick after rain. If it’s early in the season or rained the last few days then these areas are your best bet. Individual trail info is available in the guide book but ‘must do’s’ include:
Hyper Ventilation and Extension loop: warm-up with a gentle climb on the new Lower Uprooted (ask LBS for info) which leads into Upper Uprooted and onto the technical climbing challenge of Hyper Ventilation (all those switchbacks are rideable!). Stop at the top to admire the stunning views then head down Hyper Extension and onto Roots Extension for a big grin downhill blast. The loop finishes opposite a good entry point into Ridgemont to extend your ride. Best to ride this one in the morning as the climb up Hyper Ventilation gets the full afternoon sun and you’ll be sweating pretty hard as it is!
Splitting Bears and Oh Dear downhills: my two favourite trails in Ridgemont these two offer fantastic flow with a few short sharp climbs, tight turns and tricky roots to keep you on your toes, brakes and shifters!
Split Decision and Eric’s climbs: ¾ of the way down Splitting Bears take a sharp right and climb up the steep and challenging Split Decision and Eric’s trail to get back up into the heart of Ridgemont. Can you clean them?
Sidewinder, Eco Terrorist, Broken Derailleur and Deadfall: if you popped back into town for lunch this is my favourite route back up into Ridgemont. Sidewinder is a fairly gentle climb and although Eco Terrorist and Broken Derailleur have some steep pitches they are fairly short. Deadfall is a great 2-way trail and one of the few trails in Fernie that is relatively flat – let her rip!
Extensive and ongoing work from the Fernie trail associations have put wood bridges across many boggy areas and the soil on this side generally soaks up rainfall quickly. A few trails (consult the guide book) do take longer to dry out so plan contingency into your route and be flexible to make adjustments depending on conditions. The trails on this side are very close to town so it’s easy to pop into Big Bang Bagels or Freshies for a quick caffeine and carb reload and back pack top-up as you recount your awesome morning and plan out your afternoon.
2/ The Dark Side
The trails on the West side of town are shaded by the Lizard mountain range so receive and hold more snow and take longer to clear in the Spring. Fernie is rather well known for its Winter snowfall! Some of the trails, particularly in the Provisional Park area also take a while to dry out after rainfall. All the moisture is heaven to cedar trees and many of the trails are in deep dark forest making the area perfect for hot days in a dry spell. Check the recent and forecast weather and hit the dark side on the dryer/hotter day of your trip. Again individual trail info is available in the guide book but ‘must do’s’ include:
Phat Bastard, Mushroom Head, Lactic Ridge, Moc Assassin, Stupid Traverse, Slunt (S-Bomb) and Brokeback. This is ‘THE’ loop to do on this side. The climbing starts gentle but you’ll be seriously tested to clean parts of Lactic Ridge (although the new Moc Assassin trail means its ‘doable’ for more riders now). Ride over on Stupid Traverse enjoying amazing views down to town and get ready for huge ear-ear grins as you hit the super fun and flowly Slunt (S-Bomb) and onto Brokeback – yippee aye yeh! A shorter loop is just to climb Hedonism to access Brokeback – great if your short on time or want another quick crack at Brokeback!
Project 9: gentle start with steeper pitches later on in the climb (starting to feel familiar) lead to some tight singletrack followed by a super-flowy rollercoaster section half way down. Easy to add this one on to the above loop as the start is just a shot ride up the gravel road from the bottom of Brokeback.
Verboten: possibly my favourite individual trail on the dark side and a great way to get into the main area if you’re staying at the ski hill. Accessing it from the provincial park you have lots of options but allow some time for route finding if you enter the Sherwoody maze! These trails are also on the darker side of dark and the last to dry out. Verboten is tight with technical delights (big roots, small drops) and a few steeper descents but opens up lower down where you can get off the brakes a bit and really let her rip!
Dem Bones, Mushroom Head, Red Sonja: this is the best route back to town from the park area. The climbs aren’t too steep but you’ll probably be doing this late into a long day so they’ll still feel pretty tough! Up and over Mushroom Head veer left onto the fast and flowy Red Sonja. Spits you out very close to the Bridge Bistro, which has a great sunny patio to enjoy a well-earned post ride beer (or two)!
On the West side of town you’ll also find Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR). World renowned for epic dumps of powder the ski hill has expanded its Summer program with 7day lift openings and a new zip line and aerial adventure park. Although their trails are more orientated to the big rigs and DH riders many of them would suit a competent XC rider on a medium travel bike and it is possible to buy a single ride ticket to save you some climbing or give DH a go – they rent big rig bikes and all the armour you’ll need! Their trails are managed by FAR and not in the guide book but info can be found on their website. Other DH specific trails exist in a few areas with shuttle drop options (consult the guide book for info on those).
Other than FAR all the trails are maintained by an amazing crew of local volunteers. It might be unrealistic to help volunteer on a weekend trip (although that would be a great way to find out local secrets!) but please consider becoming a member of the local trail association or making a donation. Your donation/membership fee will help maintain the trails to the amazing standard that you got to enjoy and get you on the e-mail list for info updates and event information. Oh, and buy the guide book otherwise nothing you’ve just read will make any sense at all!!
So, check your diary and get planning your Fernie adventure!!
~ Guest post by Trevor Warne
Trevor moved to Canada from the UK in 2008 and settled in Bragg Creek due to the fantastic access to year-round recreation opportunities in Kananaskis Country; also a great place to raise a family! To keep the karma going, Trevor volunteers his time to help the GBCTA build and maintain the great network of new trails in West Bragg Creek.