I had no idea where to go hiking in Fernie. So I asked the staff at Mount Fernie Campground, and it was clear that Island Lake Lodge is the place to go. Specifically, the Spineback Trail is an excellent option with beautiful views from the ridge. I enjoyed a quiet morning hike up to Spineback Ridge, and then down around the picturesque Island Lake. It was a great choice!
There are many beautiful places to go hiking in Fernie, and Island Lake Lodge comes highly recommended! If you have time, this place is worth exploring. Island Lake includes over 7,000 acres of pristine wilderness and highly maintained trails for every hiker.
About Spineback Trail
Location: Island Lake Lodge, Fernie, British Columbia
Distance: 7 km out and back
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult (depending on skill level)
Elevation: 575 m elevation gain
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must remain on-leash.
Features: The Spineback Trail begins at the iconic Island Lake Lodge just 20 minutes from Mount Fernie Provincial Park. Island Lake itself provides stunning views at the beginning of the hike, before heading into the forest and up several switchbacks. Above the treeline, mountain views abound as you make your way to Spineback Ridge. The ridge walk includes the famous “Scot Schmidt” Bonsai tree at the end. A worthy reward for this leg-burner!
Island Lake Lodge—Great Hiking in Fernie
Island Lake Lodge is known as one of the best places to go hiking near Fernie. There are beautiful family-friendly trails like the loop around the lake and more challenging paths like the popular Spineback Trail. It’s not difficult to fit a couple of trails in before lunch. I started with Spineback and then finished the Lake Trail before calling it a day. If you start early enough, you might even have the trail to yourself.
Interestingly, the entire valley beyond Mount Fernie Provincial Park is privately owned. This includes Island Lake Lodge and the many immaculate trails. These trails are privately maintained and offered free of charge. I didn’t have time, but you could grab lunch or a drink after your exercise, too.
Finding the Trailhead
The Spineback trailhead is located at Island Lake Lodge, about 20 minutes west of our campsite at Mount Fernie Provincial Park. From downtown Fernie, head south on Highway 3 (Crowsnest Highway) until reaching the sign for Mount Fernie Provincial Park. You can’t miss it! Turn right onto Mt Fernie Park Road and continue on this road for about 20 minutes. You’ll keep right at the Island Lake Lodge sign and pass the lower parking beside Old Growth Trail. After about 8 km, you’ll approach the stunning log lodge with the main parking lot to the right. There is no fee for day-use parking.
Hiking the Spineback Trail
Spineback Trail begins near the west end of the iconic Island Lake. To begin the hike, head right on Lake Trail until you reach the marked junction, then follow the signs for Spineback. If you start early enough, you’ll enjoy the peaceful calm of Island Lake on the way in. The glass-like lake reflected the mountains when I started at 7am. It’s worth admiring the lake for a few minutes.
The trail gradually switchbacks up through the forest and above the treeline. The trail narrows slightly as you progress, but it’s well-maintained and never overgrown. Turn around once in a while to enjoy increasingly better views.
As you approach the small boulders, you’ll likely hear the high-pitched alarm of pika scurrying below. If you stand still long enough, they may even appear for a closer look. At this point, you’re parallel with the ridge above on your left.
I didn’t find the trail overly technical, but your experience will be based on your skill level and personal fitness. I recommend at least 3 hours for this 7-km out and back hike. For reference, I finished Spineback and the Lake Trail in just under 3 hours.
Read more: 7 Things To Do in Fernie in the Summer
Before You Go Hiking in Fernie
One of the great things about Island Lake is the variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Consider your fitness level and skills before attempting Spineback Trail. While it’s not overly technical, there are some steep sections and tricky terrain with rocks underfoot. Further, it’s always a good idea to bring hiking essentials along, including water, snacks, layers, first aid, and more. You’ll find no water on the trail after leaving the forest. Brings enough along with you (especially on a hot day).
Remember, you’re in bear country. Black bears and grizzlies frequent the area. While I didn’t see any bears on Spineback, I did cross paths with a momma black bear and her cub on the Lake Trail. Thankfully, I was a safe distance away and the bears darted deeper into the forest. Bring bear spray with you and know how to use it. I also carry an animal deterrent air horn.
Spineback Trail Map
Have you hiked the Spineback Trail or other Island Lake Lodge trails? Where do you hike near Fernie? Share your experience in the comments below.
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