Kimberley, BC is the town my husband and I have been calling home for the past 7 years.
We moved here after a winter of ski bumming in Golden and had never heard of the town before. While we both had a pleasant first impression of this community of 7,000 souls nestled at the foot of the Purcell Mountains, it took us a while to appreciate the possibilities this town offers for outdoor recreation.
Unlike Golden, the high mountains are a bit further away and need to be travelled to as opposed to being “in your face”.
It just took us a little bit of time to figure out the logistics and get to know the “insiders” beta, like purchasing a snowmobile to access the endless backcountry skiing terrain and a four-wheel drive vehicle to transport it and access trailheads, some of the more remote climbing areas and scrambles.
We also adapted our recreation habit too, especially since giving birth to a little girl: less alpine climbing overnight trips, more short mountain bike rides. Slightly less epic backcountry skiing, more deep powder tree skiing and lung-busting skate skiing. Don’t be fooled however into thinking that these more hardcore endeavours cannot be done from Kimberley. Between the Purcell and Rocky Mountain Ranges, there is still much unexplored terrain to be conquered.
We soon realized that the slightly more difficult access to the backcountry is, in fact, a blessing for Kimberley. It preserves the secludedness and privateness of many recreation areas and keeps the place more authentic, laid back and down to earth that many other Resort communities.
For instance, Kimberley Alpine Resort is, in fact, more of a subalpine resort as it doesn’t boast any alpine bowls, steep chutes or epic slack-country terrain. However, since the resort is mostly sought after by families, it doesn’t get the same amount of attention from hungry powderhounds. Because the hill is sheltered in the trees, the snow tends to remain fresher, puffier and less wind affected than in higher altitude resorts.
With the sprouting of new information technology such as social networks and the Trailforks, Strava, and other apps, it’s obvious that Kimberley won’t remain the hidden playground for much longer. But overall, we appreciate the new energy and growing services and amenities that more tourism visitation brings to the town.
While the pedestrian Platzl was a desert on a summer evening 7 years ago, it’s now alive with busy restaurant patios, outdoor concerts, fancy specialty stores, a craft brewery and so many more young families riding their bikes, playing in the water fountain and enjoying a cone of gelato.
Don’t take my words for it. Come and see for yourself how Kimberley is #agoodplacetobe. And since I have appreciated the generosity of locals once sharing their favourite trails, ski runs, powder stashes and huckleberry patches (that’s not true, no one shares those!) with me, I now would like to share my very own favourite trails with you.
My top trails in Kimberley:
1.For an after-work trail run:
I like to head out to the Lois Creek Trails and hit Blake’s Singletrack. Covered in fine pine needles, this aesthetic single track meanders gently through the tall trees. Without any significant elevation gain or loss, it’s such a pleasant feeling to just let the legs roll under you. For a 5k run, loop back through Totem; for a 10k, run all the way to the end of Blake’s and return via A-Frame and 401. 5-10 km. Easy.
2. For a quick’n dirty mountain-bike ride:
By living at the ski hill, I can hit Magic Line in just short of one hour door to door. A heart-pumping technical set of three climbs all progressively longer and steeper alternating with three fun and rolly bermed descents. 7 km. Intermediate.
In the Kimberley Nature Park, BC’s largest municipal park, enter via the Higgins Street entrance and head south toward Apache and link it with the nice and steady climb of Duck Pond through the ancient red pine trees. A sharp right turn onto Pat Morrow’s trail (named after the legendary climber & alpinist) for a fun short descent onto Lower Army Road. At the Three Corners, get onto Ponderosa and link it with Eimers Ridge which will take you right back to the Higgins entrance. ~8-9 km. Easy.
3. For a fun hike with my daughter:
In May and June, we love to head to Sunflower Hill to enjoy the dramatic view of the Rockies and the St.Mary’s River Valley along with the sight of thousands of sunflowers also known as balsam root.
While this hike starts near the Kimberley Riverside Campground with a steep climb, the rest is fairly flat and easy and finishes with a gentle descent back to Jimmy Russel road. On a hot day, head down through the campground toward the river for a refreshing foot bath and a snack at the nearby playground. 3-4 km return. Easy.
In July and early August, we like to hang out at the ski hill with a large container to pick huckleberries along the way. Early in the delicious and tart berry season, no need to hike very far as they are plenty of those little wonders just above North Star Drive and toward the bottom of the Boundary ski run. 2 km. Easy.
4. For a leisurely family stroll:
The North Star Rail Trail between Kimberley and Cranbrook was a genius investment for our community. Busy with young families, seniors and anything in between on weekends, the trails turn into the greatest inter-community commuter route on week days.
While the full 26km lenght might be a bit too long for wee children, cruising the trail to Marysville and return via the Lion’s Way along Mark Creek makes a wonderful half-day outing. Leave your vehicle at the skatepark and head across Rotary Drive and onto the rail trail which takes you to Marysville on a gentle downhill involving barely any pedaling. While the return has a slight elevation gain, being near the creek and shaded from the trees makes it a much easier exercise. 7 km. Easy.
The Centennial Loop is Kimberley Nordic Club’s classic easy multi-use trail. It is mostly flat and covered in bark mulch and provides a wide, smooth and cushy ride for the little kids on their bikes or on foot. Start at the Nordic Centre parking lot. Look out for Mama Moose and her calves when looping back via Spruce. 3 km. Easy.
5. To challenge myself:
Kimberley also offers plenty of opportunities for type 2 fun: excruciating calves pain and lungs burning sensations, face as red as a hot lobster and sweat pouring out of your body like you just showered. Kimberlites seem to love challenges, as the presence of many of them amongst the participants and even winners of endurance events such as the Round the Mountain festival, the Black Spur Ultra and the most recent addition, the Spartan Race Rocky Mountain edition.
Classic Ski Hill hike:
For the calf-burning sensation (and quad burning sensation on the way down), the ski hill hike never disappoints. Steep, steep and steep. The ultimate reward is the sensational view on the Rocky Mountains and the trench and beating your own speed record. Park at the base of the resort if you want to add a few metres of vertical or at the bend on North Star Drive for the classic itinerary. Follow the old t-bar line. ~5 km return. Intermediate.
Can also be done on a mountain bike. Also steep, steep, steep…follow the cat track.
Like the namesake event, the trail can be travelled year-round. On foot, on Nordic skis, snowshoes or by bike. This 22-km trail circumnavigates North Star mountain and should not be underestimated by its length, presence of wildlife and the lack of cell service in some spots. Starts at the Nordic Centre. 22km. Intermediate.
Bootleg Mountain Trails:
Bootleg Mountain is a newer recreation area with lots of potential every season of the year. With stunning alpine bowl and chutes, it’s also my husband and I’s favourite destination for a short backcountry skiing day, as it is the close to town and only a short snowmobile ride up. This mountain also offers potential for alpine hiking. However, this area is a sensitive habitat for mountain goats and other species. Travel with respect and always remember that you’re nature’s guest. Be responsible and bear aware. Pack out what you’ve packed in, take only pictures and leave only tracks in the snow!
Because I have never been much of an enduro or downhill type of rider, I find downhill mountain biking also quite challenging and adrenaline-pumping. The new additions to the Bootleg Rec Site and Trails include fun and (more) accessible trails such as Purple People Pleaser and NIMBY (the acronym for Not In My Backyard). Shuttle up the road or ride the up trail to round up the workout. ~4km. Intermediate.
For more information on accommodation, dining, shopping and other things to do visit: www.tourismkimberley.com
Happy trails and enjoy your time in Kimberley!