Summer in Cranbrook, Canada feels like it lasts forever. That’s because it almost does! Blessed with the most amount of annual sunshine in all of BC, it’s not unusual to feel those balmy summertime vibes from early April until Thanksgiving.
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When you’re encircled by the lofty peaks of two mountain ranges, and bathed in golden light from the crack of dawn until 9pm, you want to be outside as much as possible. Luckily that’s a cinch to do here. It’s the kind of place where you can spend bluebird days being as ridiculously active as you like, or kick back poolside with a locally made craft brew.
Around this time of year, most Rocky Mountain destinations find their trails packed with weekend warriors kitted out in Lululemon gear, keen to get away from it all. Not so here. Cranbrook, Canada is still an under-the-radar mountain hideaway – and that’s just the way locals like it.
Those looking to swap the oversubscribed biking and hiking trails of Kananaskis and Banff for something a little more laid back (with just as many awe-inspiring views!), ought to take this as their cue to head to Cranbrook. As an added bonus, your wallet will thank you. Here are 5 reasons why it’s worth making a trip to Cranbrook this summer.
Epic Mountain and Gravel Biking
You don’t have to be a hardcore cross-country or downhill mountain biker to appreciate the trails surrounding Cranbrook. (Though single-track supporters DO love this region.) Kimberly, a 20-minute drive away, is now home to one of Canada’s first purpose-built trail networks for e-bikes. This new e-bike trail meanders through the 840-hectare Kimberley Nature Park and neighbouring Nordic Centre.
What’s more, you can easily bike from Cranbrook to Kimberley along the 28-km, paved North Star Rails to Trails link.
Gravel bikes are surging in popularity and Cranbrook is quickly earning serious cred a notable gravel bike destination. Case in point, it’s hosting a gravel cycling tour in August led by former American world champion Tyler Hamilton. And October 1 Cranbrook is hosting the Gravel Grind, one of the newly popular gravel bike races in Canada.
Chief Isadore Trail
One of the most accessible gravel trails lies just on the outskirts of the city. Ramparts Loop on the Chief Isadore Trail is a good starter ride for gravel bikers, kids and eBikes as there’s few people on this 6.3 km loop.
We accessed it the loop from a starting point of the Chief Isadore Trail that begins on a former railway road, so it sports a nice wide gravel track. The trail then morphs into a small single track section, before giving way onto a flat trail through the grasslands. Though the full Chief Isadore Trail is a 43.5 km in one direction, there’s several sections along the trailhead to start and finish on.
Cranbrook Waterfall Hikes
Hiking is particularly rad when all that effort is rewarded with a spectacular view. Could there be a hike more gratifying than one that culminates in a thundering waterfall? I don’t think so… Fortuitously, there are some gorgeous, easily accessible waterfall hikes near Cranbrook and even more outside of Kimberley.
Perry Creek Falls
It’ll take you around 30-minutes to reach Perry Creek Falls on a short, but at times steep 1.5 km trail that begins along a forestry service road. The falls are surrounded by greenery and surge into Perry Creek, once a popular site for gold miners. In fact, there’s still gold in the creek today! The trailhead is about a 20-minute drive from Cranbrook.
Lumberton (Moyie) Falls
There’s no consistency on how locals refer to these falls, but regardless, a hike here rewards you with a great little swimming hole to cool down in. Best is how fast you can get here. It’s only 1 km in to access the falls on a fairly easy trail quite close to town.
Situated in the community of Marysville, about a 20-minute drive from Cranbrook, you won’t find falls more accessible than if you were situated in the town of Niagara Falls.
The 300 m boardwalk trail is stroller friendly (there are a few steps though) and guides you past several chutes of varying length. The big gusher at the end is almost 100 ft long. This is the spot to take non-hikers so they can get their nature fix and pics for the ‘gram.
More waterfall action close to Cranbrook can be found here. And if you don’t mind extending a bit further beyond Cranbrook, you’ll want to check out these hidden waterfalls in the Kootenay Rockies region.
Hit the Links
If golf is your game, you’re sure to be impressed with the courses surrounding Cranbrook. In fact, many of its courses are found on Canada’s Top-100 golf lists. Few people realize there are 7 championship courses located within a 24-minute drive of Cranbrook. That’s what all the 24/7 golf references are about. (Obvs their courses aren’t open all night!:)
It’s in this region that renowned Canadian golf course architect Les Furber, developed his signature style. Aligning holes with nearby peaks, rippling greens, white-sand bunkers and prioritizing shot value – it all was inspired and came into fruition here.
Courses of note include St. Eugene Golf Course, where you’ll be golfing in the picturesque woodlands of the Rocky Mountain trench, occasionally driving alongside the gushing St. Mary’s River. Side note: A golfer I met in early June at St. Eugene told me he scored 5 nights accommodation and 5 golf games at St. Eugene for $1000. Seemed like a deal…
You’ll also want to suss out Cranbrook Golf Course which has long stretches of lovely manicured fairways and Trickle Creek Golf Resort, with its all new golf carts. More info on all the courses in the Cranbrook vicinity can be found here.
Visit Kimberley, a Sweet Mountain Resort Town
Sorry, folks, but the secret is out! A recent CBC competition revealed that Kimberley was voted the best small town in all of British Columbia. While it’s a year-round destination, Kimberley is particularly charming in summer. I mean, what’s not to love about strolling through an uncrowded, Bavarian-themed, mountain resort town?
Here, the hills truly come alive with the sound of music. Symphony on the Mountain takes place at Kimberley Alpine Resort July 8-9. There’s a gala event on the Friday night, with the symphony concert, bbq and beer gardens taking place on Saturday.
Also not to miss this summer is July Fest, a fun weekend running each July. While the main event is the Canadian Bocce Championship, there’s live music, a parade and other sport activities going on all weekend.
In between all that festival hoping, you can explore the town itself. Kimberly has a lovely pedestrian zone flush with cafes, independent shops and pubs. Not to miss is the world’s larges cuckoo clock. Make sure you have a loonie coin at the ready to see Happy Hans come to life!
Where to Stay in Cranbrook
Probably the most refreshing aspect of visiting Cranbrook in summer is that you won’t get fleeced by soaring high season rates. Though Cranbrook is the basecamp of the Kootenays with the Rockies to the east and the Purcell mountain range to west, it doesn’t consider itself a mountain resort town.
This means visitors get all the benefits of a stunning mountain destination without the staggering high price tag. Nowhere is this more evident then at St. Eugene Resort. This charming spot is situated on the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation, and is less than a 10-minute drive from Cranbrook.
What makes the property unique is that its set upon a former residential school. Now if the prospect of staying at a former residential school gives you a moment’s pause, know this: St. Eugene is a story of hope and resilience.
The centuries old former mission building was renovated to the nines in the early oughts. It’s a charming spot now imbued with good, calming energy.
Guest rooms are tastefully decorated with comfy armchairs and large windows that open onto a leafy courtyard. For wellness devotees, there’s a fitness centre, spa, outdoor pool, two hot tubs and sauna facilities. Golfers have an 18-hole championship golf course at their disposal.
And if camping is more your style, you can get back to nature without having to rough it at their KOA Campground. That’s because staying at this campground affords several perks such as the ability to order room service from the resort, plus a host of other amenities, in addition to full hook-ups.
Mark my words, a visit to Cranbrook will leave you pleasantly surprised, though expect to be annoyed you didn’t discover it sooner. Better late than never…
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