Only a three-hour drive from Calgary (and a beautiful one at that, featuring the spectacular prairie landscape and, at this time of year, the breathtaking fall colours), Fernie is a must-visit for anyone seeking a respite from city life.
We could have extended the drive with a stop at the incredible Frank Slide Interpretive Centre between Bellevue and Blairmore, AB or a look-around of Sparwood B.C., with the big green truck, also in the Elk Valley. We could have, but we wanted to get to our destination. Next time.
As we entered Fernie, founded in 1898, we found ourselves surrounded by vast mountain peaks, some over 2,000 metres tall, and quickly understood the draw of this popular community. Immediately immersed in some of the world’s most stunning nature – painted with the autumn reds, oranges and yellows of ancient cottonwoods, soaring larches and old-growth Red Cedars – we picked up the casual, laid-back vibe of this picturesque, Canadian Rockies town. Our shoulders dropped and our breathing slowed. It was time to chill out and get down-to-earth.
We chose the relax and reboot theme for this stay and found that there is something magical about the slower pace of a small town like Fernie – we instantly felt calm, safe and at home here.
Our base of exploration on this trip was the Red Tree Lodge, a pleasantly spacious, upgraded hotel conveniently located right off Highway 3 and a refreshing 1-kilometre (10 minute) walk to Fernie’s funky downtown.
Iconic Fernie App
We started our weekend by tapping into the new, free Iconic Fernie App, and this gave us a rich menu of opportunities to explore all the attractions offered in and around town. The app includes the intriguing option of collecting points that can be redeemed for local rewards. As if there wasn’t enough incentive to get out and take in the town.
Some of the activities offered through the app include self-guided tours by foot, bike or vehicle of 13 locations for the best views and photo opportunities, nine different areas in which to explore nature, 10 spots to hit for locally produced food and drink, 26 different options for family fun, 15 different heritage sites to go back into the area’s incredible history and multiple stops in which to absorb the expressive world of Fernie’s diverse artistic community. A must-visit is the Arts Station, a 113-year-old former CPR train station now bustling with art, concerts, theatre, craft workshops, and art classes for all ages.
Our mornings began with an easy run on the town’s trails, breathing in the fresh mountain air and taking in the stunning surroundings. It was easy to find a route within the town or on the trails for a short or long run each morning, depending on our mood. After our run, we enjoyed exploring the charm Fernie has to offer.
We were fortunate to meet the lovely Tricia Clarke who opened Mantra Spirit Studio, a Reiki-inspired yoga studio during the pandemic. Through communication with her Spirit Guides, she was assured that this was what her soul was meant to do. This tranquil studio is exactly what we needed to begin the unwind.
Clarke, a Reiki Master for six years, and a yoga teacher for seven, is very passionate about holistic health care practices and shares her knowledge and experience with the community. Recently completing her Akashic Records Level 3 course enables her to explore the soul blueprint of past lives and helps clients on a healing journey by releasing past life traumas.
The classes we experienced in this calming, lovely studio were Stretching & Calming – a mix of yin and yang yoga poses, focusing on breath, softening tension in the body, and cultivating energy, inviting balance and harmony throughout the body – and Relaxation and Nourishment – the practice of self-Reiki, connecting with the infinite life force of nature, channeling that through the body with intention for self-care and healing. This class often finishes with soft sound healing vibrations from quartz crystal bowls.
We asked Clarke what she loved most about Fernie:
“Fernie is a beautiful town with amazing mountains, beautiful waterfalls, lakes and rivers nearby. There is a lot of natural beauty and good Qi (energy). The best part of Fernie is this is a friendly, small community, where everyone knows everyone.”Tricia Clarke – Mantra Spirit Studio, Fernie B.C.
Absolutely worth checking out: First class is free, Drop-ins $17
Fernie is filled with boutiques, restaurants and cafes, art centres, festivals and seasonal markets, and well, the panoramic view no matter where you land. The people are equally charming, eager to share their stories of what brought them here, and what made them stay. Everyone is familiar with one another by name, which can make for a very long coffee.
Speaking of coffee, one of the best we found was at Freshies Café. We love their motto “Sharing a drink with friends is probably one of the best ways to end a day or waste an afternoon.” Told that this is ‘where you will find a real coffee’ we sipped and supped and had to agree. Freshies serves up organic coffee with a warning – the large has 4 shots, so make sure you know what you’re asking for. Apparently, they also have the best cinnamon buns this side of all the Rockies but we were too busy ending a day.
This is also where we met outdoor adventurist and entrepreneur, Duncan Maisels, owner of Hike Fernie. Previously adventuring in places like Africa, USA, Norway and Europe (in and out of the British Military), he spent a lot of 2000-2008 gaining invaluable experience in the Canadian mountains as a ski-patroller, hiking guide, assistant ski guide, and avalanche-training instructor, spending as much time as he could in the backcountry year round – locally, regionally and internationally.
With a colourful (not checkered!) past, Maisels decided to share his love for the mountains with others with a new professional guiding business that would allow people to explore the mountains without the worries and an always safe return back to base. Maisels offers up amazing day hikes for all-comers. Join a group on a pre-planned excursion or book a custom day hike to suit your needs and wants. He will even discuss your ‘dream tip’ and help make that come true, including custom, overnight hikes.
We asked Maisels what his favourite hike was in Fernie:
“Has to be Heiko’s Trail ….. a phenomenal 20 km valley-alpine-valley traverse through some wonderful remote terrain. It was part of a best 100-hikes-in-the-world list and who am I to argue?”Duncan Maisels, Owner of Hike Fernie
Hikes are available from May to October.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, or just looking for a beautiful small town, mountain escape to enjoy the arts and culture, Fernie will leave you dreaming about your next visit back.
About our trip to Fernie, British Columbia:
Where we stayed:
• Red Tree Lodge – charming, renovated rooms
Where we shopped:
• 2nd Avenue (Fernie’s downtown main street)
• Fernie Art Walk Downtown
Where we hiked:
• Mount Fernie Provincial Park
Where and how to hike:
• Hike in Fernie