Canadian Havens

Take a summer road trip to visit these regional recreation gems

By Micah Drew
Mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort. Photo by Nicholas Nault

Oh, Canada!

Living in the Flathead Valley can feel like being on a year-round vacation. During the summer, there’s endless possibilities for recreation, including world-class trout streams, state-of-the-art downhill biking trails and more mountains than even a seasoned alpinist can tackle. 

However, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the local scene and experience a similar, but varied, set of vistas. To change things up this year, look to the north and consider the vast recreational opportunities offered by these nearby mountain towns in British Columbia, including lift-accessed hiking and biking in the Canadian Rockies. 

Fernie Alpine Resort

Time from Kalispell: 2 hours

Nestled along the banks of the Elk River, Fernie, British Columbia, is the nearest Canadian mountain town to the Flathead Valley, and home to Fernie Alpine Resort. With 38 trails ranging from wide, machine-made flow trails to challenging technical singletrack, Fernie offers some of the most expansive lift-serviced biking terrain around. The bike park has expanded its access over the last year, adding an uphill route last summer for enduro/e-bike riding and opening up the Timber Chair this year to cyclists on weekends. 

For young explorers, Fernie also hosts three-day long Kids Mountain Adventurer Camps throughout the summer. The camps are based around the British Columbia Conservation Foundation’s WildSafe Rangers Program, which teaches children about wildlife awareness and hiking safety along their journey to becoming a Junior Ranger.  


Time from Kalispell: 2 hours, 45 minutes

When it comes to a true biking mecca, look no further than Kimberley, British Columbia. The city of 8,000 has trailheads accessing the extensive network of trails just minutes from downtown. Ranging from scenic rails-to-trails cruises to grueling climbs and adrenaline pumping descents, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. 

The true gem in this region is Kimberley Nature Park, the largest municipal park in British Columbia covering more than 2,500 acres. There are at least 130 named trails in the mountains around Kimberley, including nearby Bootleg Mountain for those looking for their downhill fix. The city is also currently revitalizing the Kimberley Bike Park to include a pump track and dirt jump park. 

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Time from Kalispell: 5 hours

Two things really set Kicking Horse apart from other resorts in the area — its via ferrata routes and Boo, the mountain’s resident grizzly bear.

Italian for “iron road,” via ferrata routes are popular in high-alpine terrain across Europe and were derived from methods used to transport military troops around the Alps during the world wars. Today, via ferrata span the recreational avenue between hiking and rock climbing. Travelers are secured to rocky mountainside walls with a harness attached to a steel cable. Metal steps, ladders, suspension bridges and cables are affixed to cliffs and rocky terrain, allowing climbers to travers aspects of the mountain normally only visited by mountain goats. Kicking Horse has three via ferrata routes stretching up to a quarter mile in length. 

After hiking or biking around the mountain, it’s time to visit Boo, the resident grizzly at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Refuge. Boo has 20 acres of land in which to play, forage and explore the natural mountainside habitat just like his wild brethren, while providing unparalleled public education about the species. Interpretive tours are conducted by knowledgeable guides and focus on grizzly bear behavior and natural history.