Our favorite "go to's" when we visit Koocanusa and Fernie? This is what I'd tell ya.

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Hello friends


In the coming weeks, my family and I will be traveling to British Columbia to the Okanagan and Vancouver Island. I plan to write about our trip and our favorite places we like to visit, however, I will be sharing this with you when we return as I will not have access to a computer, and I would really like to practice being on my phone less during this time away. I will share pictures on Instagram of our travels. You can follow me on Instagram at rikkineukom or on my Facebook page at Rikki N. I look forward to spending time with my camera in another beautiful part of the country and I am crossing my fingers to capture some very special images.


But for now, I would love to share some of our favorite summer spots around the Koocanusa and Fernie area of BC, a destination we have traveled to several summers over the years. We do not have any association or partnership with these places. They are just some of our favorites and if you were to ask us where to go, this is what we would say. A side note: Koocanusa is named after the Kootenay River, Canada, and the USA.


I love Fernie and have dreamt in the past of moving there. It’s a small mountain town in Southeastern BC. It’s a little tourist summer and winter playground, but it does not have the feeling of touristy at all like Banff or Canmore. It reminds me of Canmore from two decades ago when I lived there. One feature I love about this mountain town is that you don’t have to drive too far to reach a lake you can swim in without freezing a part of your body off or going into shock. Within less than 30 minutes you can have both mountain and lake life. Plus, Fernie has a lot of green. What I mean by green is that they have several different types of trees with leaves, and they have FERNS. Being from Alberta, it's not considered a green luscious province, so I really appreciate the nature BC has to offer. Ferns are one of my favorite plants. I am drawn to them very much. They remind me of New Zealand, a country I love. No matter how hard Thomas tries and grows them in our garden, they just don’t like it there.


Last summer since we weren’t allowed to camp at Kikomun Creek Provincial Park due to the Provincial regulations, we decided to rent a condo at the ski hill in Fernie. This was so luxurious for us as we have always had this mindset that in the summer we should only be camping and staying in a hotel or VRBO as a special one-night event. My family thanked me by day two for choosing a condo for our holidays. It was nice and with Covid very much on our minds, we felt protected and safe just having our own space and did not have to share outhouses with strangers. We ended up doing a lot of exploring in the area and had a great holiday because we were in a “touristy” frame of mind rather than the laid-back “camping” mindset.

The ski hill in Fernie is a great place to stay in the summer as the prices are a little more reasonable. Not all amenities are open like in the winter, but the views are beautiful. There’s great hiking or biking trails and you can easily drive into town to grab a meal.

Ski Hill in Fernie

As for camping, we have always stayed at Kikomun Creek Provincial Park either in the first come first serve Kalispell Loop, but mainly the reservable Ponderosa Loop. Both loops run along Lake Koocanusa and are a great place to paddle your board or kayak, go for a waterski, or putter around in a fishing boat trying to catch a big one. Depending on the time of year you can go swimming from these sites. But this year as I write this post in July 2021, it seems that they missed cleaning up a lot of the driftwood floating in the water, so the first few feet out isn’t the most pleasant to wade through. But, many people did and enjoyed a swim and float further from the shore. There’s not a ton of shade at these sites, but I am willing to sacrifice to be close to the lake.

There’s another campground loop called Surveyor's Lake which is in the forest and is nice and shady for the +30 degree days. There’s a swimming lake and a beach which is perfect for families with little kids. However, when we were visiting in July 2021 there was a swimmer’s itch advisory, so you would need to make sure you take the proper precautions if you want to jump in. This isn’t always a problem at this location. There were people who chose to go in the water and the campsite does have warm free showers.

Camping in Ponderosa Loop

In Kikomun Creek Provincial Park there are hiking and biking trails throughout. One little hike that is fun to take the kids is Hidden Lake where you can catch a glimpse of the resident Painted Turtles. Depending on the time of day, you can sometimes see them tanning on the logs. I tried to get close enough to take an epic picture, but they can hear you coming from a mile away and they quickly retreat to the water.

Painted Turtle swimming away from me.

If you want to take a chance at another camping location in the Koocanusa, there’s a recreation campsite called Englishman Creek. Here, campsites are on a first come first serve basis. We found this place last year as we wanted to go swimming and floating on Lake Koocanusa. The sites are up on a hill and if you’re lucky, overlooking the lake. There’s a day-use area with a couple of parking spots. The beach area is on a sandy hill but the water is instantly deep and it is clean and clear to jump in. It’s a great spot for floating or paddling with pretty views of the surrounding hills.

Englishman Creek Recreation Area Day Use

The Koocanusa Campsite and Marina only have seasonal full-time campsites, but the public is allowed to use their nice sandy beach and the floating docks are approved by the Nueke girls. Apparently, the water is deep enough that you can practice backflips safely. There’s also a little general store there where they sell ice cream.


If you are more of a daredevil, you can opt to hike to Silver Springs for some cliff jumping. Click HERE for directions.

You need to hike about 1 km into the first lake. There are different levels of rocks you can jump off of from 5 feet to apparently 60 feet high. I could not jump myself as I am scared of heights. I was so impressed by my girls who have really embraced the motto “Screw it, Just do it” and jumped off some of the higher cliffs. I just held my breath and hoped for the best. The views are so beautiful here and the water is an emerald color and very deep. If you don’t have a fear of heights or want to overcome it, this is a great place to spend a few hours on a hot summer day in the area.


In Elko, there’s an old-fashioned take-out Dairy Bar called 3 and 93. Here you can pick up burgers, footlong hotdogs, fried pickles, waffle fries, milkshakes, and ice cream, just to name a few. There are picnic tables set up outside to enjoy your treats. We like to order milkshakes and fries for a middle of the afternoon snack. The waffle fries are crispy and tasty.


Waffle Fries

Heading into Fernie, you can take a road up to Island Lake Lodge. You can stop halfway up and hike through an Old Growth Cedar Forest. It’s a beautiful hike and I just love being amongst those old trees. If you don’t want to hike that trail, you can park up at the top by the lodge and take the trails around the lake or deeper into the backcountry. Here’s a LINK for more information. Another option is to have lunch on the patio at Island Lake Lodge and enjoy the views. One day I would love to stay overnight here. I bet the night sky is amazing out in this remote location.

At the Visitor Centre in Fernie, there’s a trail we took for the first time last year called Fairy Creek Falls. It’s another beautiful short 4 km round trip hike. When you arrive at the falls you really do feel like you have arrived at a place where fairies live. Green leaves everywhere, mossy rocks, a beautiful waterfall with a small pool at the bottom flowing into a pretty little creek. I could have sat there for hours. I felt like I had arrived at a place I quite often go to during a visualized meditation when I am being told to go to your “happy place”.

Fairy Creek Falls

I will end this post with a couple of our favorite places to eat. First and foremost it is not a trip to the area without grabbing a fresh-baked bagel from Big Bang Bagels. We love this place and always make sure it is our breakfast to go on our way back home. Usually, our order consists of at least a couple of Everything Bagels, a Jalapeno and Cheddar, Cinnamon Raisin, and Chocolate Chip. All toasted. If you want to grab a coffee there, you can borrow a mug to stay or if you are on the run bring your own mug or you can rent one. They do not have paper-to-go cups, as they are doing their part to save the planet.


Finally, our girls love to stay at the Stanford Inn and eat at their restaurant, Indian Kitchen Tandoor & Grill Restaurant. We have treated ourselves in the past for a night or two at this place on our way to Montana or on return. The Standford Inn has great family suites and is pet-friendly. The highlight for the girls is the waterslide and the “make your own waffles” in the morning, as breakfast is included. We love the Tandoor Grill as they serve up great Indian cuisine. We love their samosas that are spiced just right and their creamy butter chicken. The restaurant also has a great atmosphere.


So that’s it for our favorites in the Koocanusa and Fernie area, in the summer. If you have never spent time there, I would definitely recommend exploring and enjoying what it has to offer for a few days or more. There's so much to do I didn't even talk about. Check out the Tourism Fernie website for more information.


If you have visited the area before, what are your favorite spots you like to hit when you visit? Please share in the comments below. It's so wonderful to share with each other the places we love to visit. Or if you're a local, maybe a secret place not everyone knows about. {It's ok, not too many people read this blog anyway} I believe very much in the tourist guide of "word of mouth" to help me plan my holidays. You never know, your favorites could become someone else's favorites the next time they visit and they will thank you for it.


Have a beautiful couple of weeks. I hope you can get outside and explore while summer is still here.


Speaking of Getting Outside...

I am one of the Ambassadors for the apparel company "GTFO". Please check out their website www.thegtfocompany.ca. Not only do they encourage people to "Get the F%^k Outside" or the kid version "Get the Family Outside", but they also help mental health facilities and MH youth organizations as well as the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

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Me at Emerald Lake and my GTFO shirt

Once again, please follow along on my Instagram page or my Facebook page as we begin our adventures to the West Coast after the long weekend in August.


www.rikkineukom.com


Take care

Peace...

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