Fernie, British Columbia is home to a ton of awesome mountain bike trails. If you have limited time to spend riding, you’ll want to get the best bang for your buck when you visit. It can be tough to look at the seemingly endless network of trails around Fernie and be confident you’ll be riding the best the area has to offer. I’ve put together a list of a few trails and activities that I would suggest for a long weekend of riding in Fernie.
Few things go as well with riding as food and drink, so I’ve added a few suggestions in that regard as well.
“It can be tough to look at the seemingly endless network of trails around Fernie and be confident you’ll be riding the best the area has to offer.”
If you’re looking for a place to stay while in town, check out my RideSphere Fernie Campground Review of the Mount Fernie Provincial Park Campground.
In this post I stick to non-lift-accessed trails. But, if park riding is more your style, Fernie Alpine Resort operates lift-accessed riding during the summer season.
Fernie has a lot of trails!
According to Trailforks, the “Fernie Network” is home to 336 trails covering some 726 kilometres. They range in difficulty from beginner to expert and surround the town on all sides.
Boiling all of that down into only three days of riding can be daunting. Here’s how I would suggest spending a long weekend riding in Fernie!
Day 1 – Catch the Swine Flu!
With a name like Swine Flu, this trail may not jump out at you as you search for rides around Fernie. But don’t let the name fool you. This trail is a blast, and as far as I know, nobody has ever caught any sort of flu while riding it. It’s a great trail to start your long weekend of riding in Fernie with as it’s not too long, not too short and a lot of fun. And, better yet, the start/finish of the trail is located just a quick spin from the Fernie Brewing Company.
Swine Flu is approximately 7km in length with 400m of climbing.
Here are a few of the things that make Swine Flu a must-do trail during a long weekend of riding in Fernie:
- A nicely graded, rideable climb
- Great views
- A fun, flowy descent
Climbing up to the start of the Swine Flu descent isn’t easy, but it is well graded and consists of numerous switchbacks. The switchbacks can get tiresome, but they mean that the climb, in general, has a relatively easy, rideable grade.
Once you reach the top of the climb, the trees open up and you are treated to a great view that overlooks Fernie and across the valley. Sit awhile on the bench here to rest as you take in the view and get ready for the descent.
After a rest and a few pictures, it’s time for some fun. The downhill snakes its way through thick forest and is never overly steep. In my opinion, it is only moderately technical with some roots and rocks and twists and turns. A rider can keep a good amount of speed through the entire descent, making it one you will wish you could repeat over and over!
A tip for those dreaded rainy riding days
Swine Flu is a trail to keep in mind if it has rained recently. It is a go-to trail when things have been wet as it seems to stand up well in the rain compared to others in the area. Having said this, please use common sense and don’t ride the trail if it is muddy and susceptible to damage.
The ride described here is commonly known as Swine Flu, but Swine Flu only refers to the descent. As a whole, the ride actually consists of a number of shorter trails that include:
- Swine Flu Access
- New, Unnamed New Swine Climb
- Swine Flu
- More Cowbell
For the most part, the ride is a loop, save for a short stretch called Swine Flu Access that is used as both the start and finish. It begins and ends in the parking lot of the Fernie Visitor’s Centre. This makes locating the trail easy as the Visitor’s Centre is visible from the main highway near the north end of town. The loop portion of the ride is best ridden in a counter-clockwise direction.
See the Trailforks route outline below for ride details.
Please Note: A large portion of the climb has recently been rerouted. The route outline below has not been changed to reflect this reroute and shows the climb running along a faded blue hatched line (the old climbing route). This should be substituted for the trail to the west entitled “Swine Flu Climb (to the pig)”
A post flu brew
As mentioned above, the end of Swine Flu is located just a short spin from the Fernie Brewing Company. If you enjoy a delicious craft beer after a ride, this is a great place to sit with your riding partners and tell stories (whether true or false) about the amazing ride you just finished! It’s possible that you’ll be back a number of times over the course of a long weekend of riding in Fernie.
With numerous core and seasonal beers on tap, the Fernie Brewing Company is sure to have something for every beer lover. One of my personal favourites on a warm day out on the patio is called “Campout”. It’s a West Coast Pale Ale that’s crisp, hoppy and easy drinking.
Day 2 – Unleash your inner Lazy Lizard!
With Day 1 under your belt, it may be time to take things a little bit easier. That’s where Lazy Lizard comes in! Here, you’ll be able to spend a stress-free day eating, drinking and riding.
The Lazy Lizard Trail climbs up from Mount Fernie Provincial Park to Island Lake Lodge, where you can eat and drink while taking in the stunning view. Once finished at the Lodge, take the same trail back down to where you started. Lazy Lizard isn’t short or flat, but if you take your time on the trail and at the Lodge, you’re in for a relaxing day of riding. Or, if you’re up for more, there are options to extend your ride.
The Lazy Lizard ride, if you begin at the Mount Fernie Provincial Park campground, is approximately 10km long with 500-600m of climbing.
Here are a few of the things that make Lazy Lizard a must-do trail during a long weekend of riding in Fernie:
- A straightforward climb
- A wide, flowy descent
- Accessible for all skill levels
- Optional ride extensions
With 500 to 600m of climbing, Lazy Lizard isn’t a walk in the park. But the climb is straightforward. The trail is wide, non-technical and nicely graded. If you take your time on the way up, you won’t feel like you’ve climbed 600m when you hit the top.
Once you start the Lazy Lizard descent, you’ll forget all about the climb. The descent is the same trail as the climb and is fast, flowy and wide. To me, it’s like what riding a bike down a bobsled track might feel like!
There is also the option to cut out the climb altogether and drive to the top. If you’re able to organize a shuttle, you can drive up the Island Lake Road to Island Lake Lodge and begin the descent from there. This makes the trail accessible for all skill levels as the climb is the most difficult part of the ride.
More riding options
If the out and back on Lazy Lizard isn’t enough for you, there are optional extensions that you can add to make your ride longer. One notable extension is Project 9. It is a loop that begins and ends right from Lazy Lizard. It’s only about 5km long, but with approximately 300m of climbing.
“Project 9 is a Fernie classic and I highly recommend it if you have the extra energy!”
The climb up to Project 9 is on Project 9 Access, an old fire road. The descent is technical and at times, steep. Project 9 is a Fernie classic and I highly recommend it if you have the extra energy! Adding this trail to the mix will make your long weekend of riding in Fernie one to remember. See Trailforks for details.
Lazy Lizard is a point-to-point trail and not a loop. I would suggest beginning your ride at the Mount Fernie Provincial Park Campground. As you can see from the Trailforks route for Lazy Lizard below, the trail begins part way up the Island Lake Road. In order to begin from the campground you will need to add the Lazy Lizard Connector and a small portion of the Stove Trail to your route.
See the Trailforks route for Lazy Lizard below.
Long weekend lunch at the island!
Whether you choose to climb up Lazy Lizard or drive to the top, Island Lake Lodge is a great place to stop for something to eat and drink. The Lodge has a full restaurant and bar with a great menu and drink list. One of the highlights of eating at the Lodge on a nice day is being able to sit outside on the patio. It has stunning views of some of the surrounding peaks, and much of the time is frequented by other mountain bikers so you won’t feel out of place in your shorts and sweaty jersey.
Lazy Lizard can be busy on the weekends, so I would suggest taking your time at the Lodge. If you start your descent later in the day, you may be able to miss a lot of the uphill traffic and make the most of your descent!
Day 3 – Let me tell you about Today’s Special!
Now that you’re rested and well fed from Day 2, it’s time to end your long weekend with a bang! I would suggest a great loop that includes Today’s Special. Today’s Special is the newest of the trails described in this post. It is a big descent with great views. To get up to Today’s Special you will need to climb Hyperventilation, a classic Fernie climb. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is well worth the effort. As part of this loop you will also have the opportunity to ride a number of other great trails such as New Roots and Snoop Lion.
“It is not for the faint of heart, but it is well worth the effort.”
To top it all off, once you finish the ride, you will only be a short distance from downtown Fernie where you can reward yourself with a snack and a cold drink on one of the many patios.
This loop is located in the Castle Mountain riding area. It is approximately 12km in length with roughly 600m of climbing.
Here are a few of the things that make this Today’s Special/Hyperventilation loop a must-do during a long weekend of riding in Fernie:
- A well graded climb
- Awesome descent on different types of trail
- Spectacular views
The climb up to the top of Today’s Special consists of a number of different trails. But the main climb would have to be Hyperventilation. Despite its name, this trail is graded quite well. This is thanks to the seemingly never-ending switchbacks that wind their way up the mountain.
Most riders put up with climbs so they can have fun on the descents. If this sounds like you, rest assured that the descent on this loop is well worth the climb. The descent highlights are the Today’s Special and Snoop Lion trails. Today’s Special is a windy and relatively smooth ride. It is steepest near the top where you descend through the trees and around some tight corners. Eventually the trail levels out, but keep an eye out for a few more steep, windy sections. Once you’re onto Snoop Lion, the grade mellows out nicely. Snoop Lion is a well-built, wide, smooth, flowy trail. It is rolling, non-technical and a nice break after Today’s Special.
This suggested loop uses a number of other trails in addition to Hyperventilation and Today’s Special. Here’s a list:
- Lower Uprooted
- New Roots
- Castle Rocks
- South Castle
- Today’s Special
- Snoop Lion
- Montane Blue
To start the loop, make your way to the beginning of Lower Uprooted, in the Castle Mountain riding area. Once you reach the end of Lower Uprooted, continue up New Roots to a ‘T’ intersection where you will see a sign for Hyperventilation. At the intersection, take a left onto Roots for a short distance until you reach the beginning of Hyperventilation. Climb Hyperventilation to Castle Rocks. Ride Castle Rocks until you come to a ‘T’ intersection. This intersection is where the descent begins.
At the ‘T’ turn right onto South Castle. After a short distance you will come across the beginning of Today’s Special. Ride Today’s Special down to its end at Snoop Lion. Turn right onto Snoop Lion and ride it to Roots. From Snoop Lion, take a left onto Roots and then a right onto Montane Blue. Continue along Montane Blue until you hit New Roots. Now you’re back at the trail you climbed up on. Descend back down to where you started at the beginning of Lower Uprooted.
Trailforks doesn’t have a pre-defined route for this loop, but all trails noted above can be found on the map below.
Today’s Special on Trailforks.com
Bike friendly patios!
Once you’re back to the bottom of Lower Uprooted, you’re only a short ride from downtown Fernie. The historic main drag (2nd Ave) is home to numerous patios. They make for great places to fuel up after a long weekend of riding in Fernie. Most of the patios have places to park your bike and it’s likely you’ll see other riders there as well!
A long weekend gives only a taste of Fernie!
Three days of riding in Fernie isn’t nearly long enough to ride all of the great trails the area has to offer. But it’s certainly a start. If you spend a long weekend riding the trails described here, you’ll be left with a great introduction to the wealth of trails Fernie has to offer. But, I will warn you: after this short introduction you’ll be counting the days until you can return again!
“If you only have a day or two, any one of these rides is great on its own!”
If you have more time to spend in the area, these rides can serve merely as a starting point. Alternatively, if you only have a day or two, any one of these rides is great on its own!
I hope you found this post helpful. If so, or if you have anything else to add, please leave a comment below. I would also be happy to directly discuss Fernie trails with you or answer your questions. I can be reached by email or by using the form on my Contact page.
Also, please share this post with others who may be interested in getting the best bang for their buck when they get away for a long weekend of riding in Fernie.
For news and events related to the trails in Fernie, visit the Fernie Trails Alliance and/or the Fernie Mountain Bike Club websites. If you’re looking for more information on things to do in Fernie, check out the Tourism Fernie website.