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Posted: February 6, 2015

Cranbrook a massive outdoor playground

IdlewildSliders2bIf outdoor recreation is your thing – Cranbrook is your place.

Getting out in the winter can be a time-consuming affair but not if you live in the middle of an outdoor winter recreation hot spot.

Cranbrook may be the biggest city in the Kootenays but it doesn’t take long to get away from things.

Elizabeth Lake
Elizabeth Lake

From the 2,000-hectare Community Forest to Idlewild Park to Elizabeth Lake to the South Star Recreational Trails to the city’s network of trails, getting out and about in the winter is a piece of cake with a jaw-dropping backdrop.

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking/jogging, fat-tire biking, skating, wildlife viewing and photography are easy to achieve in Cranbrook if you have the gear and gumption. And if you don’t have the gear, the city has the retail venues to outfit you from top to bottom.

If you are looking for something a little faster, the city, serviced by Canadian Rockies International Airport, is only a 20-minute drive to Kimberley Alpine Resort for some of the best downhill winter fun in the region.

The annual Family Fishing Derby at Horseshoe Lake.
The annual Family Fishing Derby at Horseshoe Lake.

A popular outdoor pursuit in the winter in Cranbrook and the East Kootenay is ice-fishing. There are many easy-to-access lakes around the Key City where hardy anglers can drill holes in the ice, set up their chairs, portable fires and other tools of the trade and spend a great day. Some lakes popular with ice-fishers are Horseshoe Lake (off the Wardner-Fort Steele Road), Mineral Lake (known for burbot), Campbell Lake, Lund Lake and Premier Lake, north of the city near Skookumchuk. However, the best way to find the finest ice-fishing spots is by asking local experts. And please always be aware of the condition of lake ice.

HorseshoeLakeTobogCranbrook and area has numerous fishing guides available for hire and some excellent outdoor stores with knowledgeable staff. Don’t forget to stop at the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce for even more information.

Of course, if you intend to do some ice-fishing, you should ensure you are up to speed on regulations. Go here for B.C. Freshwater Fishing Regulations.

For detailed info about Region 4 – the East Kootenay go here.

CranPlaySnomoThe same goes if you are looking for the best snowmobiling spots but don’t be surprised if you get a wide range of answers. Pick a direction out of the city and there will be a wicked patch of backcountry to ride.

Cranbrook, like most towns in B.C. outside the Lower Mainland, is literally circled by Crown land. Crown land belongs to the people – the taxpayers of British Columbia. In Cranbrook and the East Kootenay’s case, we are encircled by the towering majesty of the Rockies and ancient Purcells, making the area a popular place to haul sleds and ride the wild side.

Before you head out, please become familiar with B.C. snowmobiling regulations and get to know about local riding associations in order to secure the best information.

Elk are plentiful around Cranbrook in the winter.
Elk are plentiful around Cranbrook in the winter.

If you just want to get out and about and enjoy some nature around Cranbrook – the above noted Crown land description applies as well.

However, there are many city, regional and provincial parks located in and around the city, with many offering trails for all variety of outdoor winter recreational pursuit.


Easily accessible parks for some winter fun include:

Fort Steele Heritage Town
Fort Steele Heritage Town

Baker Park – Off 14th Avenue South – Outdoor skating rink maintained by City of Cranbrook.

Cranbrook Community Forest – A 2,000 hectare tract of forested land honeycombed with trails located on the northeastern edge of the city.

Elizabeth Lake – Located at the western entrance to the city along Highway 3/95. A 15-acre preserve with nice trails and incredible views. Oftentimes a skating rink is cleared on lake ice.

Idlewild Park
Idlewild Park

Fort Steele Heritage Town – Stroll around the largest B.C. heritage site in the Kootenays. Take your skates, weather permitting their ice rink is a nice spin. Currently open for lunch, too.

Idlewild Park – Off 9th Street South; Trails, lake, skating, tobogganing etc.

Jimsmith Provincial Park – a 13.7-hectare lake/park four kilometres from the city. Tobogganing and skating potential.

Jimsmith Provincial Park
Jimsmith Provincial Park

Moyie Lake Provincial Park – Located 15 minutes southwest of the city. Mostly a summer park but lovely in the winter, too.

Norbury Lake Provincial Park – Located halfway down Wardner-Fort Steele Road. Spectacular views of the Steeples.

Northstar Rails-to-Trails – Trail connects Cranbrook and Kimberley; not maintained in winter but a great trail nonetheless.

South Star Recreational Trails
South Star Recreational Trails

Premier Lake Provincial Park – Located 72 km north of Cranbrook; beautiful lake – ice fishing.

Rotary Way – Walk and bike trail runs from Idlewild Park through Cranbrook, along Joseph Creek toward start of Northstar Rails-to-Trails off Theatre Road.

South Star Recreational Trails – About 25 km of trails – some easy, some challenging – entrance at end of 38th Avenue South (Gold Creek). Beautiful forest glides for cross-country skiers.

Wasa Lake Provincial Park – Located in Wasa, 25 minutes north of Cranbrook on Highway 93. Beautiful trail circling the lake.

SnowshoeingOnce again, Cranbrook is ringed by expansive tracts of beautiful Crown land, mostly accessible by logging roads. In winter, most roads are not easily accessible but the more industrially active roads are kept open. Always be on the lookout for logging or mining trucks. That said, the roads and the countless side roads stemming from them can make for amazing snowshoeing, ski-touring, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Just be sure you are ready to head into the backcountry in the winter.

Wildlife viewingNever go into the backcountry alone and without informing someone about where you are going and intend to return.

Always be aware of avalanche hazards and if you think you may venture into avalanche terrain, make sure you are avalanche prepared.

Click on images to enlarge
Click on images to enlarge

For more on visiting Cranbrook and experiencing all it has to offer – four seasons of the year, please visit Cranbrook Tourism’s website.

And for even more on outdoor Cranbrook, check out Backyard Traveler.





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