The Getaway
Cranbrook, Kimberley, and the East Kootenays: Things to Do

Cranbrook, Kimberley, and the East Kootenays have a lot to share with out-of-towners. This region in southeastern British Columbia forms part of the Powder Highway, a collection of eight ski resorts and towns in close proximity to each other. But these towns aren't just magical in snowy winter. They're amazing destinations for a summer mini-break. Alpine hiking and river tubing are just the start of the outdoorsy excitement, and landmarks and museums provide insight into the gold rush and how railways changed the fortunes of various towns. The East Kootenays region caters to all interests and ages—go and see for yourself.

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01 Winter wonderland on the Powder Highway

Skiers were skiing and having fun at the Fernie Ski resort. Timothy Yue / Shutterstock.com

The East Kootenays offer world-class skiing and snowboarding options at various resorts, such as Panorama Mountain Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Kimberley Alpine Resort. Heli-skiing and cat skiing are also popular in these parts. Or go snowmobiling in conditions perfect for novice or experienced riders. You can explore the terrain independently or join a group tour—a local guide can provide peace of mind if you're keen on backcountry skiing.

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02 Step back in time at Fort Steele

Fort Steele, Heritage town from Gold Rush time with Canadian Rockies in the background, British Columbia, Canada

Fort Steele Heritage Town, with its colorful restored buildings, offers visitors an immersive historical experience backdropped by the majestic Rockies. Actors in 19th-century costumes bring local history to life, and it's such time-traveling fun you could stay at this attraction for hours. Be sure to buy fresh cinnamon buns from the bakery before they sell out. Hop on the steam train, catch a live demo, or participate in activities like gold panning and blacksmithing. The family-friendly atmosphere will leave you wanting to return for various events throughout the year.

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03 Hiking the scenic trails

The East Kootenays have a range of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Fisher Peak and the beautiful Cranbrook Community Forest deserve special shout-outs. The former should challenge advanced hikers, requires a four-wheel drive for access, and up to 10 hours to complete a difficult ascent and descent of Mt. Fisher. The Fence Line and Juniper Lane trails in Cranbrook Community Forest are easy, and so is the stunning Chief Isadore Trail, which is part of The Great Trail—it's much longer at 27 miles.

04 Golfing with a view

Numerous golf courses within the region boast enviable scenery. Wildstone Golf Course in Cranbrook is a Gary Player design with a signature Hole 9, well-manicured fairways, and unbeatable views. It offers value for money but is quite challenging in parts. Trickle Creek is another excellent option in the area. This Les Furber-designed course is considered one of the best golf courses in the country, and you'll enjoy it no matter your level.

05 Experience Cranbrook's winter activities

Winter-specific activities in Cranbrook include cross-country skiing at Kimberley Nordic Club, fat biking at South Star Recreation Area, and ice fishing at Mineral Lake. Snowshoeing is an accessible and kid-friendly way to spend a morning in the area. There's also ice skating at outdoor man-made rinks at Idlewild Park, Baker Park, and elsewhere. Or skate on a frozen lake—Jim Smith Lake, Elizabeth Lake, and Wasa Lake are the options often available to locals. You might also want to check out the frozen waterfalls nearby for some frosty fun.

06 Summer cycling and trails

Biking is an all-year pursuit in the East Kootenays, but summer is particularly delightful. North Star Rails to Trails is an accessible 16-mile multi-use trail between Cranbrook and Kimberley that's been around since 2010. You can cycle it, push a stroller along, ride a skateboard, or rollerblade. Do short sections of the trail or the whole thing in one go—it's entirely up to you. Along the way, you'll find gas stations with ice cream and other pit stops.

07 Cultural exploration at St. Eugene

St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino combines a golfing holiday with a casino for those who are feeling lucky. Blush MediSpa rounds out the offering for folks who want to receive the tender ministrations of massage therapists and beauty practitioners. The resort sits on the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation, and the Mission Building was actually a residential school during a dark chapter before being reclaimed by Ktunaxa communities. You can learn more about Indigenous history and culture on site.

08 Discover local history and rail travel

The Cranbrook History Centre used to be known as the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. It's a must-visit for history buffs and train enthusiasts. You can learn how locomotives shaped the region, check out an enormous model train set, and take tours through fancy restored train cars that offer glimpses of how the wealthy traveled back in the day. Guides are friendly and knowledgeable, and you can ask them questions about the exhibits or whatever comes to mind.

09 Relax by the water

Jim Smith Lake is often open for ice skating in winter. But in the summer, it transforms into a prime location for warm weather relaxation. Play mini golf, potter around the playground, and do a bit of birdwatching, or go kayaking and paddleboarding on beginner-friendly waters. You'll find a sandy beach for swimming, a dock for fishing, and lots of spots for picnics. The lake is free of power boats, and the campground is well-maintained and has potable water but no showers.

10 Ski or bike the North Star trail

North Star Rails to Trails's paved greenway between the Purcell Mountains and Rocky Mountain Trench is a favorite. But it isn't just awesome in summer. During spring and fall, you can ski this popular route, which follows an abandoned CP railway track. Note, however, that the trail is not maintained during winter.

11 Day trip to Kimberley

If you're staying in Cranbrook, Kimberley makes an excellent day trip destination. There's so much to do in this neighboring town from rafting class 2 and 3 rapids and fly fishing for bull trout at the St. Mary River to having a blast at Mountain Bike Skills Park or Kimberley Skate Park.

Visit Horse Barn Valley and Kimberley Nature Park for their astonishing diversity of landscapes, flora, and fauna. Kimberley has a small, charming pedestrian-only downtown area called the Platzl if you want to swap the outdoor adventure stuff for culture, architecture, shopping, and dining.

12 Taste the local brews

The East Kootenays region has become a haven for craft beer enthusiasts. From the cozy confines of a renovated bowling alley turned brewery to a charming mountain town brewery with a Bavarian theme, each location promises a memorable experience. Whether you're a fan of traditional ales or looking for something more adventurous like barrel-aged sours, the East Kootenays' craft breweries deliver flavor, innovation, and a dash of local charm.

13 Dine at renowned restaurants

The East Kootenays region has a diverse dining scene. Allegra Restaurant in Cranbrook is an intimate fine dining venue ideal for a date night or just about any night. Try the smoked duck appetizer, the shrimp pasta, the steak, or the Moroccan lamb. Two chef's kisses for incredible service, glorious Mediterranean flavors, and high-quality food. Pedal and Tap in Kimberley puts a unique spin on classic comfort foods, and Yamagoya Sushi in Fernie will satisfy your sashimi cravings.

14 Explore Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary

Cranbrook gets more sunshine than any other city in BC. Savor the blue skies and sun on your skin and treat yourself to a leisurely stroll at Elizabeth Lake, where native songbirds provide a natural soundtrack. Here, migrating birds congregate to nest and loaf. Pick up a bird checklist at Cranbrook Visitor Center and see how many different species you can find. Bonus points for spotting the rare Northern Oriole or Nashville Warbler.

15 Shop at the Cranbrook Farmers Market

At the bustling Cranbrook Farmers' Market in Rotary Park, you can source local fresh produce and yummy ready-to-eat foods like pot pies to fuel your athletic pursuits or relaxed ambles—go early to get your hands on some tasty bakes. You'll also find yourself right in the middle of community life as friendly vendors chat away and families gather. The colorful fruits and veggies change with the seasons, and equally colorful artisanal goods like handmade soaps, jewelry, and pottery dazzle the eyes.

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