My Top Trails in Kimberley, BC

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.

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Fresh dirt on this new addition to the local network, Trickle Down!

 

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.

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The recent bike skills park will sure produce a generation of agile little rippers!

 

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.

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Kimberley boasts over 150 km of high-quality trails. Pick your poison!

 

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.

Mother's Day Family Hike on Sunflower Hill
Mother’s Day Family Hike on Sunflower Hill

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.

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Huckleberries are a great incentive for getting children to hike!

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.

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Lois Creek Trails have great itineraries for the whole family

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.

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With resident mule deers, bears, moose and more Kimberley is wild at heart.

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.

Round the Mountain loop:

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.

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Riding the Round the Mountain Loop is fun but challenging on a hot day

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

www.skikimberley.com

 

Happy trails and enjoy your time in Kimberley!

 

 

 

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Finale Ligure: Pizza, Playa & Outdoors

The “Outdoor Capital”

Upon entering the town of Finale Ligure in the Province of Savona, Italy nothing tells it apart from the other resort towns on along the Riviera – a continuum of densely urbanized settlements squeezed between the coastline and the mountains. Nothing but maybe a sign with Capitale dell’ Outdoor written on it.

Then upon taking a closer look, it doesn’t take long to realize that Finale is a place where all the enthusiasts of the great outdoors collide. In the brisk temperature of this late afternoon in December, a few surfers are gathered near the coast catching the few waves reminiscent of the last storm. Up high on the cliffs at the entrance of the town, a few stainless steel bolts are shining in the last sun rays. On the street, two mountain bikers with full-face helmets pedal down from the hills somewhere.

Late in the fall, sunbather and swimmers have vacated the place and trail runners, cyclists of all types, long distance trekkers and rock climbers are replacing them.

Welcome to Finale Ligure where you can get your outdoor fix at any time of the year!

The layout of Finale is quite interesting in itself and seems to have three very different towns crammed into one: 1- a mediterranean seafront resort with a sandy beach, long boardwalk and seaside touristy restaurants and shops, 2- an authentic modern Italian downtown core with streets busy with vespas, piaggios – the mini three wheeled pick up trucks – as well as elegant Italian women pushing baby strollers and talking on their mobiles with their arms moving like windmills, 3- the old fortified town – Finalborgo – that boasts ancient buildings, cobbled streets AND at least a dozen outdoor and bike shops, which is more shops per square foot than Chamonix or Zermatt!!

 

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The beach after the storm

 

On the outskirt of town lie an endless playground, very mountainous in nature, olive tree orchards and other agricultural lands, quaint villages and many campgrounds.

Blame it on my tourism development background by I soon realized that Finale and its surroundings have done a tremendous effort to develop, protect but also brand and market its territory in a cohesive manner around a shared love for the outdoors and the local culture. I found this was quite innovative and forward thinking in an area where the warmth, sun and sea suffice to fill most businesses on the seafront several months of the year.

 

That means that the public and private stakeholders have decided to share the wealth in a more sustainable manner beyond the beach and main downtown core to the many surrounding villages and rural areas and foster a year-round visitor base and a viable economy, while ensuring that the development of new trails/areas/routes is done in a respectful manner with the residents, the other industries and the environment.

 

Some online research has proven the theory to be true:

“On October the 14th 2015 in Finale Ligure an Agreement between the 5 municipalities of Finale Ligure, Calice Ligure, Orco Feglino, Vezzi Portio, Rialto and the Association Finale Outdoor Resort was signed. It established  the starting point of the union called Finale Outdoor Resort, thanks to which  Finalese is not just a territory but becomes an identity brand that defines a district from the great historical and cultural richness, strongly connected to outdoor activities.” finaleoutdoorresort.com

While the main pillars of Finale’s tourism development are the hiking, climbing and mountain biking, every outdoor sport can be experienced in Finale and the territory is well laid out to provide a great deal of enjoyment and skills development.

 

The Outdoor Pursuits

Having heard many great things about Finale and with a full week ahead of us before the holidays, we decided to check the place out. We are eager to enjoy a bit of warmer, drier weather than what can be found in France at this time of year.

Hervé has only had his knee surgery three weeks earlier but he is feeling great and would like to slowly get into climbing again. Since there is just the three of us with no other adult partners to climb, we also arrive in Finale with the goal to climb a little, hike quite a bit and get into the Italian vibe (meaning eat lots of pizza and gelato!) and walks on the beach.

On our first morning, our first stop – after caffe latte obviously – is in a friendly little climbing store with the goal of foraging some beta on accessible, kid-friendly crags.

The salesman at is a great source of information and the gear and clothing in his store so very attractive that Hervé can’t refrain but purchase an Italian-made E9 pair of pants. Might as well dress like Cesar when in Rome after all!!

At the Rocca di Petri, we find a nice south facing crag with mellow routes and an easy 20-minute walk access to spend our first family climbing day. If at first, we find a bit odd to drive right below the autostrada to access the crag, the view and the peacefulness aren’t disturbed too much once at the crag. There is plenty of space for our daughter to play safely and the rock is solid as well as the routes well equipped. It feels so good to enjoy a day out without a down jacket on!

 

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Cragging at Rocca di Petri on a warm December afternoon

 

The next day we set off for a hike in the nearby town of Borgio Verrezi where we find a varied network of hiking trails, all of them very diverse in length, elevation and also very well signed. They take the hikers from gorgeous rural churches to ancient caves, geological wonders and stunning sea views. There is even a trail that links all the towns on the Riviera and provides a one-of-a-kind multi-day hike.

 

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The Riviera- between coastline and mountains

 

Way up on a road so steep and winding, we find the trailhead to a great 5 km loop with lots to entertain us along the way. This close to Christmas, there are many outdoor nativity scenes around the hamlet and even in the caves. Some steeper sections of the trail are even equipped with iron cables and steps like a via ferrata, to our daughter’s greatest delight.

 

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Italy’s Holiday vibes

 

The other crags we explore over the course of the week are Monte Cucco near the village of Orco that is simply the best for young kids as some easy top ropes routes are located less than a 5-minute walk from the parking area. The only downside on a colder winter day is that it’s in the shade.

 

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The area boasts many sporty hikes and scrambles to suit every taste

 

 

Finally, we also spend a very nice day at Pianmarino, a spot popular amongst the mountain bikers and also one of Finale’s most historical crag. The hike in is fairly easy and short (25- 30 minutes), south facing and benefits from a very flat area at the bottom. The routes are however fairly short, and just like in Finale’s older climbing areas, the bolts are quite far apart and the routes quite challenging.

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Fall is the prime season for Mountainbiking

 

The lodging

Every night, we retreat to our humble studio quite early as the temperature drops fairly quickly after the sun goes down. We have rented the apartment for the week with Residence Adelaide, a rental agency located downtown on booking.com for the unbeatable prices and convenience. The place is spotless and fairly well appointed, there is a reception open during regular office hours with friendly and helpful staff (some even speak French!) and the prices are reasonable (300 euros for a studio for 4 people for a week).

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Our vacation rental in the morning sunshine

Finale counts a large number of apartment rentals and hotels as well as many campgrounds and outdoor people hangouts where you can meet fellow travellers from all over the world and ask around for information.

One day on our way to Monte Cucco our daughter was asleep in the car and we were desperate for a ristretto. (tiny little cup of very strong and delicious espresso).

 In the village of Orco, we asked the first guy we saw where we could find a bar and he answered in Italian “Let me go inside and get the coffee machine on!”  Actually, I must say that the only thing we understood was “la mac&china” and then we saw him run inside a building with a sign written “ Bed & Climb” on it… We figured in astonishment HE was going to make us a cup of coffee! We learned a great deal about the area by talking to Mauro who is just so knowledgeable and adorable and enjoyed a pure moment a warm Italian hospitality…or perhaps is it that strong worldwide connection between climbers.

Anyhow, we thought that his bed & breakfast and adjacent associative bar would be a cool place to stay in the future for an affordable and friendly experience and to meet fellow climbers and route setters. Orco Bed & Climb also offers guiding services and social events in the community.

Him & his wife Paula, along with their local climbing society had been investing time, energy and money in training the new generation of young climbers and getting the locals to open up to this new clientele and source of income while encouraging a healthy way of living in the local youth, all of which is fitting greatly in with the “Finale Outdoor Resort” philosophy!

 

The pizza, the pasta, gelato & Vino!

Blame it on the exchange rate or our tight travel budget, we were struck by how expensive the cost of living is in this resort town and namely the cost of gas, food and drinks. In Finale, an ordinary croissant costs 1.20 euros and at least 3.50 euro for a kilo of mandarines (although they were in season). The most simple bottle of wine costs way over 5 euros and poor quality bread that becomes inedible the next day costs 3 euros, which is way more expensive than in France. Hence, we have dined in most nights and have done most our shopping at the Co-op, the Fruiteria and the bakery and have packed a picnic lunch every day.

 

Of course, we have indulged in a few gelati here and there (those are inexpensive!) and a few happy hours with (German!) beer and an antipasti platter for 3 people for around 20-25 euros. There seems to be a rule in Italy that one shall not serve alcoholic drinks without some food to sponge it up! To the greatest delight of us, hungry penniless travellers!

 

 

 

On the last night of our stay, we have also treated ourselves pizza and tiramisu at the nearby Trattoria…because one can’t spend a week in Italy without eating pizza, right!?

The bottom line of our Finale experience is that this area really is worth visiting and it can easily be accessed from any western European cities (4 hours from Lyon, Geneva or Milano; 1.5 hour from Nice or Genoa and their international airports). This means it’s the perfect spot for a quick getaway any time of year but that could also be a destination on a longer euro climbing road trip in a van.

The climate is quite pleasant and the culture vibrant; the opportunities for outdoor recreation are endless (although the snow sports are a little far away!)

I personally never get tired of discovering the Italian flavours and of hearing my four-year-old practicing the few words of Italian she has learned during our trip: “Grazie! Ciao Bella! Brava! Per Favor!”

 Arrivederci!

 

More info:

Hiking guidebook Trails of Finale

Climbing guidebook: Finale Climbing by Marco Thomas Tomassini – translated into several languages and to be purchased at a local store or online.

Official Visitor Website:  www.turismo.comunefinaleligure.it