Shoulder season is upon us in Alberta, but if you’re on the hunt for autumn colours, look no further than interior BC. From brews to golden views, you won’t run out of invigorating things to do in Cranbrook.
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Things To Do In Cranbrook
With all the outdoorsy things to do in Cranbrook, it’s the sort of place where you can’t help but unwind and reconnect to nature. Compared with navigating bustling Banff or stressing to find parking at a Kananaskis trailhead, exploring Cranbrook and its surrounding area actually feels like a vacation.
But don’t take my word for it. Strap on a backpack and try these experiences for yourself. Here’s a look at some not to miss activities.
Hike Perry Creek Falls
If you’re looking for an easy, short hike that delivers one gorgeous reward, you’ll want to head to Perry Creek Falls. About a 15-20 minute drive from Cranbrook, you access the trailhead from a forestry service road.
It’s less than a 30-minute walk to reach Perry Creek Falls, along an easy 1.5 km trail that has a small exposed section that makes wearing proper hiking boots worth it.
This pretty waterfall hike is at its best in autumn when the larches are in their glory. Golden leaves provide a vibrant backdrop to the moss covered rocks, worn smooth by the force of the water.
Rumour has it, there’s still gold in creek, but the water is pretty cold, so I didn’t test this theory.
Just outside Kimberley lays the little village of Marysville, where you’ll find another sweet waterfall. Marysville Falls is easily accessible along boardwalk trail that has a few steps, but is still stroller-friendly. (Wheelchairs may prove to be more difficult.)
Along the 300 m boardwalk are several places to watch little waterfalls tumbling down . After about a five minute walk, you’ll come to the largest waterfall, just shy of 100 ft. The abundance of natural rock steps right next to the mini waterfalls make this a great spot for photos.
Picnic At Mary’s Lake Park
No matter the time of year, Mary’s Lake Park is a capital spot for a picnic or to let the kids burn off energy. Here, you’ll find picnic tables, fire pits, outhouses and even some hiking trails nearby. Bring your SUP, canoes or kayaks and especially your fishing gear.
View the East Kootenays From High Above
The mountains and lush forests encircling Cranbrook truly are spectacular all year round. To gain a different perspective, consider taking a helicopter tour with Eclipse Helicopters, located at the Cranbrook airport.
From picnicking at the peak to a chef-led 3 course dinner, there are several ways to reach your Rocky Mountain High. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to whiz past the stunning summit of Fisher Peak standing tall at 9336 ft.
With Eclipse, you can take 5 guests out plus the pilot. Just like on an airplane, children under 2 years-years-old can sit on your lap and dogs are welcome (and free).
Cycle the Trails
Clock in some time along North Star Rails to Trails, an excellent, 28-km paved bike trail linking the communities of Cranbrook and Kimberley. The multi-use trail runs along the former CP railway bed and is at times enclosed within gorgeous evergreen forests. At other times, you’ll be rewarded with views of both the Steeples and Purcell mountain ranges, in addition to the St. Mary’s River and valley.
While the inclines are gentle, we opted for an eBike option, renting from Northstar Bicycle Company. They also rent regular bikes for kids. Keep your eyes peeled for the bike repair stop and pump, close to the Cranbrook section of the trail.
Take in a performance at the Royal Alexandra Hall
When Winnipeg’s Royal Alexandra Hotel was demolished, its fin de siecle ballroom was carefully disassembled and reconstructed in Cranbrook. Now that the Royal Alexandra Hall has been meticulously preserved, you’ll want catch a live performance so you can admire its beauty. Before 2021 is out, snag tickets to Barney Bentall, the Colin James Blues Trio and even a 9 to 5 musical.
Step Back in Time at Fort Steele
Fort Steele Heritage Town is one of those living history museums that seems to have something of interest for every member of your family. You can meander around the village on foot, take a horse drawn carriage ride or a train ride.
Step into the bakery for wood-fired treats, meet the heritage breed animals – like clydesdale horses, pigs, sheep and chickens or step inside the Wasa Hotel. On the 2nd floor of this hotel is a museum with a Victorian dress up station and an Early History Gallery.
SPOOKTACULAR is their big autumn event and it takes place on October 29 with a hay maze, haunted house, live music and spooky homes for trick or treaters to visit.
Plunge into Pool Time
Sometimes the weather just isn’t in your favour. When you need an indoor day with loads of actives to tire out the kids, look to Western Financial Place, which is the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre.
Here you can dive into lane swimming, 180 ft water slide and a leisure pool with spray features for the kiddies.
*During COVID, it’s quite likely you’ll have to make a reservation.
Hit the Links
I’m not a golfer, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 24/7 golf opportunities in Cranbrook. Within 24 km of Cranbrook are 7, 18-hole championship golf course. Because this side of the Rockies is warmer, courses open earlier – typically from early April until the end of October.
Kimberley is a charming ski town that’s super close to Cranbrook (about a 25-minute drive or 1.5 hr bike ride away), and is worth the visit. Brick streets in the Platzl, a lively pedestrian zone downtown, are lined with indy boutiques and eateries. If you want to feel cozy, order a toasted sandwich inside Creme, a cheese and gourmet shop.
Pop into the Old Crow Emporium if you’re into antiques, the Grater Good if you like kitchen shops, and don’t forget the toy shop and candy store for the littles.
If you’ve got a dollar, you’ll definitely want to insert it into the world’s larges cuckoo clock to watch Happy Hans, the yodelling, lederhosen-wearing, beer stein holding moustachioed man pop out.
Visit St. Eugene
St. Eugene Resort is a former residential school for Indigenous children that closed in 1971. It sat vacant for 20 years until it was reclaimed by the Ktunaxa Nation and turned into an economic venture. The renovated mission now houses a resort hotel, casino and golf course.
It’s an important site and one that that doesn’t try to hide its past, but rather presents opportunities for visitors to educate themselves on this shameful period in Canada’s history. To quote Elder Mary Paul:
“Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission School that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within the building that it is returned.”
Where to Stay in Cranbrook
Guest rooms at Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort are large with and come with a mini fridge, full size tub and granite bathroom countertops.
No lie, The Prestige had one of best equipped hotel gyms I’ve ever been in. Even locals pay to use it. There’s also an indoor pool and hot tub, with plenty of lounge chairs set up outside to take advantage of the sun. Cranbrook is one of BC’s sunniest cites after all.
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Of course, you can also stay at St. Eugene Resort when it’s open from April until mid-October. The resort offers 125 guest rooms, a spa, 300-acres for roaming and 3 eateries.
Campers at the KOA beside the resort are welcome to use its outdoor pool and when staffing levels are normal and can even have restaurant meals delivered to their campsite.
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Where to Eat in Cranbrook
Situated inside the original 1929 firehall, Firehall Kitchen & Tap is a popular spot for lunches and dinner. It sports a dizzying number of burger and poutine selections and is known for its craft beer selections. While the $35 nachos don’t look like they’d be worth that much, I’d order them again, if only to scarf back the juicy morsels of steak and confit garlic.
For dinner, HeidOut has seen several Red Seal chefs work in their kitchen. Portions are large and the menu runs the gamut from traditional Jaeger Schnitzel to a South Indian chicken masala. For appetizers, go for the yorkies stuffed with shavings of roast beef and gravy.
Situated inside the Prestige hotel, Fire and Oak was a pleasant surprise – especially for breakfast. Their Hueovos Rancheros equaled any I’ve had at trendy big city brunch spots, as did their avocado toast topped with a softly poached egg.
Another top breakfast spot was Hot Shots, where you can get a generous hot chocolate and other barista-style drinks. The breakfast burrito was a winner, and the apple pie baked oatmeal tasted like a delicious crumble.
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Have you ever been to Cranbrook or Kimberley? If so, I’d love to hear your recomendations.