Hikes in the Elk Valley, BC
There is a popular saying around the Elk Valley, “If you don’t like the weather wait five minutes, and it’ll change”.
The Elk Valley is your typical mountain environment. The weather can change without warning, so it’s important for hikers to have protection from the wind, rain, sun, cold and snow.
Wildlife in the Elk Valley, including deer, moose, elk, bears, goats, mountain sheep, coyotes and cougars, thieves. Smaller animals such as beavers, skunks and a variety of gophers, chipmunks and marmot type creatures are also in abundance. Bald and golden eagles, loons, ducks and geese are just a few of the birds found in the valley.
Of course any hiker in the Elk Valley has to be aware the most dangerous animals they are likely to encounter on trails and in the wilderness, are bears. The Elk Valley is home to a large grizzly and black bear population and all hikers in the area need to be suitably bear aware.
Hiking Trails Ratings
There are five ratings for hikes in the Elk Valley, according to the excellent Rumours, Routes and Rapids – Making Your Way in the Elk Valley.
Easy – suitable for families and those with little experience, easy hikes will have no steep grades.
Moderate – up and down grades, suitable for those in average physical condition.
Strenuous – steep grades of a technical nature, suitable for those in excellent physical condition.
Trail – a marked track which can be easily followed, with obstacles removed.
Route – usually just a course which you follow to your destination. Not well defined and sometimes requiring bushwhacking along game trails.
Ferry Creek Falls and Mount Proctor
This demanding yet rewarding hike offers a little something for anyone interested in the natural history of the Elk Valley. The gain in elevation allows hikers to see a range of wild plants and animals. Alpine meadows to woodland areas make for excellent bear habitat while some of the trail crosses avalanches paths.
Access to the start of the hike is from Highway 3 East, where hikers should take the first left after the bridge leading to Sparwood. There are a couple of options from here, the visitor information centre is one starting point or alternatively hikers can follow the road for 400 metres to a turn-off to the right onto Fairy Creek Road. Follow this road for 800 metres going under the powerline and turning right before the closed gate to the park. From here follow the trail head up the road for 200 metres where there is a sign indicating the Fairy Creek trail.
Hiking to Fairy Creek is an easy one-hour hike through a forest, with an elevation gain of 260 metres.
The Mount Proctor section of the trail is simply a continuation of the Ferry Creek Trail and well worth the extra time and effort. The hike to the top of Mount Proctor takes approximately four hours for those with a good level of fitness, with an overall time period of seven to ten hours for the entire trail.
There is another route to the summit of Mount Proctor, the south route follows the power lines and then deviates into the forest. Be careful because it easy to start hiking up a bike path, once you reach the top of Swine Flu, the path continues. Some trail finding ability may be needed.
Mount Fernie is impossible to miss, you first gaze upon as you enter town, from any direction the mountain looms over the town like its protector. It also offer the shortest hiking trail to a view overlooking Fernie. Just be warned, it is very steep.
To access the Mount Fernie hiking trail head west out of town and turn left at the bridge over the Elk River, just past the Bridge Bistro. Turning off Highway 3, hikers follow Riverside Road before taking the first left onto Beach Street and continuing. When Beach Street curves round to the right it turns into Burma Road, continue for 0.25 miles before parking off the road at the trailhead sign.
The extremely popular hike begins by walking up the privately owned Mutz Creek hydro access road, crossing under the powerlines hikers need to take the right fork in the road. The road then climbs steadily to clearing known as the Moccasin, which offers great views of the Elk Valley, Fernie and Morrissey Ridge.
For those wishing to continue to the summit of Mount Fernie, the trail becomes a lot steeper. Climbing straight up a steep, gravelly scree slope, the ascent is around 0.6 miles rising around 380 metres. The views are once again well worth the extra effort. Those who do make it to the summit will be rewarded with views of the Three Sisters, Mount Proctor and Mount Hosmer.
Recently described by Explore magazine as a ‘great unknown’, Heiko’s Trail is the crown jewel amongst Fernie’s numerous hiking trails. Heiko’s is also one tough hike, climbing a total of 1400 metres the trail is also known as the Mountain Lakes Trails – except you won’t hear anyone in Fernie calling it by that name.
Heiko’s traverses through old-growth forests, passes caves, waterfalls and alpine meadows while also crossing not one but two mountain passes.
The trail itself was created with the help of thousands of volunteers and only completed in 2003. Starting around 20km down Hartley Lake Road, the trail is rated as a long hike and physical fitness is required. Leave by mid-morning at the latest if you wish to return before dark.
The highest point in Fernie at 7,000 feet, the Three Sisters is a dominant sight in the Elk Valley. While it doesn’t hover over the town to such an extent as Mount Fernie it is impossible to miss the imposing peaks of the Three Sisters.
Catching the first of the morning rays and one of the last peaks to lose it in the evening, the Three Sisters trail is a challenging high elevation hike. As with other Elk Valley hikes, the Three Sisters trail goes through old growth forests and alpine meadows and offers close views of Olivia Creek.
To access the Three Sisters, hikers must travel around five miles along the Hartley Lake Road to the first left turn past Hartley Lake itself. Entering a dirt track, which is accessible by those with four-wheel drive vehicles, you travel 1.5 miles before the trails starts. The approach to the Three Sisters is from the back.