Table of Contents
Cranbrook bills itself as the basecamp of the Kootenays as it offers easy access to a wealth of outdoor adventures, both within the city borders and close by in Kimberley, Fernie, Elko and on the way towards Invermere. The city of around 21,000 people enjoys a magnificent mountain setting with the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. What that means for hikers is loads of trails across a range of difficulties are within about an hour’s drive. Cranbrook is also a sunny city, boasting warmer, drier weather than many of the nearby communities.
On a fall trip, I set out to knock off five Cranbrook hikes that were easily accessible from the city. (Two other hikes are included from a previous trip.) If I’d had more time I would have headed higher and done some of the harder hikes where you’re likely to find great swaths of larches – even in mid-October, a full two weeks later than the larches in Alberta. The Cranbrook area is a great shoulder season destination if you’re keen to keep hiking until the snow falls.
For more inspiration related to traveling to Cranbrook and Kimberley, both in the shoulder season as well as in summer and winter, visit Rockies Exploring.
This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.
Location map of the Cranbrook hikes
Cranbrook Community Forest hikes – discovering Cranbrook’s lakes
One of the best things about Cranbrook is its 2000-hectare Community Forest. Much of it is accessible within a few minutes’ drive of the downtown though you’ll find access points around the city. Within the forest are over 100 kilometres of trails that are perfect year-round for hiking and mountain biking as well as snowshoeing in the winter.
From the downtown I decided to head for the first parking area I came to – which I found just after the Cranbrook Golf Course heading east on 2nd Street South. I noticed a series of lakes on the map, so I made that my hiking goal. Over three hours I did an out and back hike through beautiful stands of ponderosa pine and larches looking glorious in their fall yellows. I ambled past First Alkali, Sylvan Lake, Four Lakes and ended with a loop walk on an interpretive path around Kettle Lake.
Before heading back to the car, I decided to hike up to Windy Bluff and get a view of the city. What impressed me at the top were the mountain biking trails – though they were out of my league.
Devils Hole hike outside of Cranbrook
The 4.6 km round-trip Devils Hole hike is an easy one. What’s not easy or always apparent is that you are on the right trail as you will never see a sign saying Devils Hole. If you follow the instructions below, you’ll have no problem finding it – and the view from the high point makes it all worthwhile. You will need a couple of hours to do an out and back trip with some time on top to enjoy the views.
Start at a gate and immediately rock hop across a water feature. Continue on a well trodden road, stepping over cow patties as you hike towards an open grazing area. After 12 – 15 minutes of hiking you’ll see orange and yellow markers in a ponderosa tree on your left. Follow that road – and the markers for about the next 30 minutes. You’ll hike steeply a couple of times, but never for long. From the top enjoy airy views of the brilliant-coloured Devils Pond below. Retrace your steps to the car.
Finding the Devil’s Hole hike trailhead
Drive north from Cranbrook on Highways 3 and 95 in the direction on Invermere. Make a right on Lakit Road several kilometres past Fort Steele. Immediately drive over a cattle guard and continue to a T-junction at a sign that says Top of the World Ranch. Go right for 0.8 km. Then make a left on Lakit Creek Forest Service Road. There is a sign that says, “Long Valley Grazing Association“.
Immediately cross another cattleguard. Stay on this road for 2.5 km. Look for a sign on your right at at intersection that says Branch C. Take it and follow the potholed road for 0.8 km to reach a gate. Park here. There is no signage suggesting that its a trailhead.
Eager Hill hike – one of the Cranbrook hikes that delivers big views
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reach the top of Eager Hill in Cranbrook’s Community Forest. Climb just 135 m over a 2.7 km return hike, something you can likely do in less than an hour. It’s a great hike for all ages, and one where you won’t have to worry about getting lost. You can extend the hike and make it into a loop if you take the signed trail near the summit called Waterpark down to the parking lot.
To get to the top, follow a wide trail as it winds up through open forest. Enjoy mountain scenes within minutes of starting out. Should you need a rest, there’s a bench part way up with views of Cranbrook. At the top there’s a picnic table and more benches, all with excellent Rocky Mountain vistas.
Finding the Eagle Hill hike trailhead
Drive north from Cranbrook on Highway 3 and 95. Set your odometer at the overpass to Kimberley and at the 4.2 km mark, make a hard left onto a dirt road, notable because it’s at the base of a large rock bluff. Continue up the dirt road to a parking lot and the trailhead. It can be a bit tricky turning left off the highway as traffic is speeding along at 100 kilometres per hour. Be sure to turn your left-hand blinker on well in advance.
Padawan Trail hike – the newest of the Cranbrook hikes
The Padawan Trail hike, also located in the Cranbrook Community Forest is a 5 km flow trail geared towards mountain bikers of all ages. It was built to meet adaptive specs, so you’ll find it wider than others with longer radius curves. It is suitable for people pushing strollers and for those on three wheeled bikes.
This trail is also a great one for hikers. What I loved is that it’s a loop. I hiked it counter clockwise (the suggested direction for mountain bikers too), picking it up beside the Eager Hill trailhead. On the initial kilometre or two, you’ll hear highway noise, but you also get some great views of a lake and the mountains. Once you reach an intersection after the lake (stay left), you leave the noise behind and enter a forest.
The rest of the hike is very peaceful though you do have to pay attention at signed intersections that you’re following the Padawan Trail. Allow about 1.25 hours to do the full loop. There isn’t a lot of elevation gain or loss.
Wycliff Buttes hike – located halfway between Cranbrook and Kimberley
The Wycliff Buttes hikes is a popular one, probably because it’s short, easy and delivers darned good views. There’s one short but steep climb at the end, but all told you only hike 2.4 km return. The meadows themselves are pretty – and filled with bluebird boxes if you start at the McLure Road Trailhead. In the spring and summer, you’ll find wildflowers. Once you’re on top look east to see the BC Rockies and west to admire the Purcell Range.
This is another family-friendly hike that can be done year round. On the summit, there is some wandering around you can do to check out all the overlooks. A few well-positioned benches are perfect for enjoying the landscape.
Finding the Wycliff Buttes hike trailhead
There are two ways to get to the trailhead. Both require that you drive north from Cranbrook towards Kimberley on Highway 95A.
Turn right onto Stirton Road and look for a dirt parking area on the left almost immediately. The trail starts across from the lot and follows the power lines before heading right towards the viewpoint. I personally think my hike was prettier from the other trailhead as I didn’t follow powerlines.
Another option is to turn right onto Porteous Road. Follow it for 1 km and then turn left on McLure Road. Drive to the end and park. It will feel kind of weird and the initial start to the trail feels like you’re going up someone’s driveway, but you’ll see it splits at the top – going right to the house and straight into a meadow.
The Northstar Rails to Trails hike
The Northstar Rails to Trails is a dedicated multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and rollerbladers that stretches for 26 km between Cranbrook and Kimberley. The grade is minimal, so the walking is easy. I would suggest clicking on the trail map so you can see the options for parking.
Experience two of the prettiest sections of the trail that are close to Cranbrook by parking at the Wycliff Park Road area. In one direction you get a view of eroded white hoodoos and the other provides a scenic look at the St. Mary River from the bridge.
Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary hike in Cranbrook
The Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary, located at the western end of Cranbrook is a 5.9-hectare wildlife sanctuary. Around the lake you can find walking trails and viewpoints. It’s a particularly good place to hike during the spring and fall bird migration, especially at dusk and dawn when the water is calm.
Finding the Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary trailhead
From Elizabeth Lake Lodge drive for 450 m southwest on Highway 95. Make a left and drive to the end of Van Horne Street South.
Signage on the Cranbrook hikes
The one thing I would say about Cranbrook hikes is that trailheads aren’t always obvious, and the signage isn’t great. Even when there were signs, I never found mileage markers. Be sure to download a hiking app like Trailforks or take a topo map with you. Backroads Mapbooks puts out a comprehensive set of maps for the Kootenays.
None of the hikes described needed 4-wheel drive access. But if you plan to spend a lot of time in the area, I think you’ll find many of the hikes at higher elevations require a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Where to stay in Cranbrook
One of the top places to stay in Cranbrook is the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. And if you’re up for a unique experience I highly recommend booking the night in their decked-out railway car.
Another option is the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino. Its location is in a former residential school that operated for 58 years, finally closing in 1970. On their website they say “the St. Eugene Mission is the only project in Canada where a First Nation has decided to transform the icon of an often sad period of its history into a powerful economic engine by restoring an old Indian Residential school into an international destination resort for future generations to enjoy.”
Where to eat in Cranbrook before or after your hike
There are some great places to refuel in Cranbrook – either before you head out hiking or for dinner afterwards.
For breakfast and lunch check out Hot Shots Cafe. It’s got lots of egg dishes, baked goods and delicious granola.
Try the Heid Out for dinner. I highly recommend their Jaeger “Hunter” Schnitzel. They are known for their beers as well.
Fire and Oak attached to the Prestige Hotel is also a good choice for breakfast and dinner. With a wood-burning al forno oven, you can enjoy craft pizzas. They’re also known for their steaks and pastas.
If you’re into beer, burgers, poutine, and pub food head to Firehall Kitchen & Tap. The building itself is a handsome one and served as the main firehall for Cranbrook until 2011.
NOTE: I visited the Cranbrook- Kimberley area in October 2021 in partnership with Explore Cranbrook. My big take-away – this area is an amazing shoulder season destination with no crowds and beautiful fall colours.
Further reading on the Kootenays
- 3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC That Are Worth a Visit
- Logden Lodge: Private Luxury in the Kootenays
- The Stunning Hike to the Kokanee Glacier Cabin
Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.
What is the hardest day hike in the world? ›
- Kalalau Valley, Kauai, Hawaii. ...
- The Dientes Circuit, Isla Navarino, Patagonia, Chile. ...
- The Snowman Trek, Bhutan. ...
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa. ...
- Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea.
|1||Via Dinarica||Western Balkans|
|2||Great Himalaya Trail||Nepal|
- The Death Trail -Mount Huashan, China.
- Drakensberg Traverse -South Africa. ...
- El Caminito del Rey -Spain. ...
- The Snowmen Trek -Bhutan. ...
- Skyline/Muir Snowfield Trail -Mount Rainier, Washington. ...
- Chadar Trek -Himalayas. ...
- West Coast Trail -Vancouver Island. ...
- Kalalau Trail -Kauai, Hawaii. ...
1. Mount Madison. Perhaps overshadowed by its aforementioned Presidential Range brother to the south, Mount Madison offers one of the steepest, most challenging rock scrambles of the entire trail, gaining 2,812 feet over a 2.6-mile span (a more than 20% incline).What's the longest hike in the world? ›
The Great Trail, formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail, runs for a rather daunting 14,912 miles (or 24,000km) and is currently the longest hiking trail in the world. There are also some stunning options elsewhere, travelling through Italy, Japan and even along the coast of England.What is the full meaning of hike? ›
hike verb (WALK)
[ I ] to go for a long walk in the countryside.
But in general, it's a lot further than simply going around the block — or even the entire neighborhood. "For me, 12 to 22 miles in one set is considered a long-distance walk," says Hike Across America founder TShane Johnson. For others, it's even longer. "I've walked 100-plus miles over three days many times.What is the terrifying 25? ›
The Terrifying 25 list (commonly referred to as the T25) includes trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that have slides, rock scrambles, and boulder caves. These are trails that are very rugged, sketchy in places, and usually very dangerous in bad weather.How hard is Dragon's Tooth hike? ›
Trail Length: 1.20 miles. Blazes: Blue blazes on Dragons Tooth Trail and white blazes after converging with the Appalachian Trail. Trail Difficulty: Moderate.Which trails have the highest altitude? ›
- John Muir Trail (California)
- Camp Muir Hike (Washington)
- Highline Trail (Utah)
- Sky Rim Trail (Montana)
- Presidential Traverse (New Hampshire)
- Great Range Traverse (New York)
- Preparing for High-Elevation Hikes.
- Tap Into Those High-Country Vibes.
What is extreme hiking? ›
This site characterizes “The Extreme Day Hike” as one that consumes most of the day in a challenging adventure in a spectacular natural setting, typically gaining an elevation gain of 4000 feet +, 14 miles round trip, and on a trail.What is a difficult hike? ›
When we rate a trail hard, it should be because the trail has many inclines or steep hills; a long, steady climb; many steps or stairs; and roots, slippery rocks or other difficult terrain. Footing is usually very irregular, uneven or otherwise more unpredictable.How long would it take to walk 14 000 miles? ›
The total trip is over 14,000 miles. A real person walking this route at a sustainable pace would need about three years to complete the trip.Who has done the triple crown of hiking? ›
Fifteen years ago, Heather Anderson came up with a crazy idea–and on November 8 it came true. She just completed over 11,265K (7,000 miles) of hiking in eight months, hiking the Appalachian Trail (3,380K+), Pacific Crest Trail (4,184K+), and Continental Divide Trail (4,828K+) in one calendar year.How many Triple Crown hikers are there? ›
Only about 400 people total have completed all three of these trails over a lifetime, most of whom take 4-6 months for each hike. I was the first female to complete the Calendar Year Triple Crown and I am the only woman to have completed the Triple Crown trails each 3 times.What is an activity that touches all walks of life? ›
idiom. When people talk about walk(s) of life, they are referring to different types of jobs and different levels of society: Members of the gym include lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and hairdressers - people from all (different) walks of life.What is the benefits of hiking? ›
- Building stronger muscles and bones.
- Improving your sense of balance.
- Improving your heart health.
- Decreasing the risk of certain respiratory problems.
Hiking Improves Health and Fitness
By doing so, you increase muscle strength, endurance, reduce blood pressure, increase stamina, relieve stress, get your heart rate up, and increase longevity.
To put it in even simpler words, hiking involves a long energetic walk in a natural environment on hiking trails or footpaths for a day or overnight. Trekking involves a long vigorous hike in the wild natural environment for multiple days.What should I eat for long distance walking? ›
Try bananas, apples, berries, orange segments and grapes. Fruity flapjacks/granola bars. The fruit will give a quick boost of energy due to the sugar content, whereas oats are a starchy carbohydrate, which provides longer lasting energy. Oats also contain fibre, which may help you to feel fuller for longer.
Is it possible to walk 50 miles in a day? ›
As others have said, doing 50 miles in a day is a bit of a slog but it's easily do-able. The killer will be getting up and doing it again the next day, and the next day.What is the hardest mountain to climb? ›
At 28,251 feet, K2, which straddles the Pakistan-China border, is about two and a half football fields shorter than Everest, but it's widely considered the planet's toughest and most dangerous mountain to climb, earning the nickname “Savage Mountain.” Unlike Everest, it is not possible to “walk” to the top; all sides ...Is Huayna Picchu hike hard? ›
The Huayna Picchu mountain is considered of medium / moderate difficulty but it is the fact that its paths are built between the walls of the mountain and cliffs hundreds of meters above the mighty Urubamba river, which makes some people choose another trek in Machu Picchu .Is climbing Machu Picchu hard? ›
What is the Machu Picchu trek difficulty? The difficulty of the Classic Inca Trail is considered to be a moderate level hike. The classic Inca Trail Route is 43 km (26 mi) long and often steep, you will hike over four days at an elevation nearing 13,828 feet (4,215 meters).What state has the best hiking trails? ›
Best States for Hiking 2022.
Angels Landing was named a century ago by Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister so in awe of the massive sandstone cliff that he surmised that only angels might land on it. The name stuck, and the trail was built in the 1920s.What is extreme hiking? ›
This site characterizes “The Extreme Day Hike” as one that consumes most of the day in a challenging adventure in a spectacular natural setting, typically gaining an elevation gain of 4000 feet +, 14 miles round trip, and on a trail.What mountain has never been climbed? ›
Based on the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation's criteria, Muchu Chhish (7,452 m or 24,449 ft with a prominence of 263 m or 863 ft) in Pakistan is currently the world's tallest that has not been climbed even though it is legal to do so.Which of the 7 summits is easiest? ›
The Seven Summits of the World
' They are made up of the tallest mountain peak from each continent. You may be surprised by the fact that Mount Everest is considered to be the least difficult.
Which do I choose? While Huayna Picchu is a more dramatic and popular hike, Machu Picchu Mountain offers just as incredible (some argue paramount) views from the summit. As the mountains are facing one another, both hikes offer similar views of the surrounding landscape and incredible views of the citadel.
Is it worth doing Huayna Picchu? ›
It's worth it because: Incredible alternative perspective of Machu Picchu that you don't normally get to see. The hike itself is quite beautiful and the scenery and view up the ridge of the mountain is awe-inspiring. Incan ruins of ancient astronomical observatory.Where are the stairs of death? ›
The Huayna Picchu mountain is the summit located north of the Inca City. It is 2,720 meters above sea level (8,923 ft.) This mountain is famous for its staircases on the edge of cliffs. The most popular and difficult section are 'the stairs of death'.When should you not go to Machu Picchu? ›
Machu Picchu in February
Travelers must be prepared for rain, schedule changes due to landslides, or bad weather. February is one of the worst months to visit Machu Picchu. Most trails will be closed, including the Inca Trails, Salkantay Treks, and Choquequirao Treks.
5. There Are No Bathrooms Beyond the Main Entrance. You'll find a small snack bar, restaurant and bathroom just outside the gate at Machu Picchu before you enter the site — which costs one sol, or about 30 cents to use — but that's all folks.Where do you sleep when hiking Machu Picchu? ›
3: Where do we sleep along the trail? To keep Peru and its ancient trails beautiful, there are set campsites you'll make your way to each night. As mentioned, all of your sleeping gear is supplied and carried to the camps by our team of skilled porters.