Nathan Siemens @nathan-siemens

The real top 17 things to do in Cranbrook!

17, give or take a few

Trip Advisor recently posted a top 17(?) things to do in Cranbrook list. 

I am going to come right out and say that it sucked, but that is up to you to decide. Personally I think we have a lot more to offer than 5 golf courses, one closed down bar (that closed down for good reason), and a generic movie theatre. So here is my list, off the top of my head in no particular order. 

My criteria in writing this is as follows; must be accessible to individuals of below average physical ability, must be able to access the activity with an average rental car and limited knowledge of the area. Now let’s have fun. 

Ride the Northstar Rails to Trails 

Go and rent a bike from one of the friendly and accommodating cycleries in town (Favorit Cycles or Gerick Sports), throw a banana in your backpack along with your favourite refreshing beverage and lazily rotate your pedals along the 25km (one way) trail that links us with our good northern neighbours in Kimberley. 

BBQ at Idlewild Park 

Stop by one of our two (yes two!) 7-11 corner stores, buy yourself a bundle of firewood or a bag of charcoal and some wienies, head up to our in town lake and use one of the great permanent fire pits/grills to get your roast on. The kids can have a zooming good time on the zip-line, or chasing painted turtles off of their sunning rocks. Bonus points if you pedal your bike or perambulate along the Rotary Trail to get there. Double bonus points if you are under 16 or over 65, because then it is open season for sticking a hook in to the greedy mouths of the many trout that populate the lake. 

Mini-golf at Elizabeth Lake Lodge 

Fine, I’ll admit it. Trip Advisor nailed it with this one. This is the greatest, if not most frustrating mini-golf course that I have played. The styling is top notch too. Sweet little nods to our vibrant local history make up the different holes and a river runs through it. Don’t leave with out some neon blue shaved ice to stain your shirt with. 

Walk around Elizabeth Lake 

Now that you have been humbled by the most challenging golf course in the area (see above) it is time for a relaxing stroll. Located right behind Elizabeth Lake Lodge is a 249 ha marshland that is protected by the Ministry of Environment and The City of Cranbrook. This place is amazing for viewing birds, spying on turtles and finding frogs or muskrats. Unless it is the dead of winter, frogs and turtles don’t like winter. If you are up for it, stop by Just Liquid on your way and grab a rental canoe to really get up close and personal. 

Canadian Museum of Rail Travel

Yeah, yeah, Trip Advisor had this one too. History and heart are dripping off of this place. You don’t need to be a train buff to enjoy the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. Well thought out tours and displays help to piece together the history of post colonial Western Canada. The dedication to the preservation of this history is evident and easy to appreciate in this local gem. 

The Fire Lookout on top of Eager Hills

There is a great lookout just east of town on HWY 3. A gentle hike that is accessible year round takes you up to a retired fire lookout post that offers an expansive view of the Kootenay River valley from this perch you can see Skookumchuck to the north, the Kootenay Trout Hatchery to the south-east and Fort Steele Heritage town. Oh yeah, there are also those pesky Rocky Mountains, if that’s your thing. ###Fort Steele Heritage Town. Another amazingly preserved piece of our history. This place is truly world-class. Go in the spring and check out all of the baby animals, take carriage rides around the historical townsite, buy candy from the corner store, watch the blacksmith smash red hot metal, catch a live stage play, ride the fully operational steam train, peer inside the storefronts and heritage homes. Or just walk lazily down the dusty streets with an ice cream cone. 

Kootenay Trout Hatchery

This place makes it possible for sport fishing to survive in the Kootenay Rockies. Take in their free tours, or just walk around the beautiful grounds and stare at rainbow trout that are bigger than your dog. Make sure to learn about Fresh Water Fisheries Society’s amazing Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative and take a look at these amazing pre-historic creatures while you are there. if you have a youngster bouncing around the back seat of your Camry then now is their chance to catch their first fish. The learn to fish pond is a well stocked fishing pond located at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery that almost guarantees novice anglers a chance at hooking the big one. There are even loaner poles and tackle. 

South Star Trail System

 This is a wonderful place in every season. A 30km trail system that is lovingly maintained by an army of dedicated volunteers and advocates that is perfect for cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. This area really shines in the winter while there is white stuff on the ground the trails are well groomed and suitable for both classic and skate skiers. If you decide to go for a winter stroll, please respect the hard work that the groomers are putting in and stay to the side of the trail. In the many snow-free months, South Star is a great place to go and see what is happening in the woodland realm. the trails are well marked and fairly easy-going. 

The Cranbrook Community Forest 

2000 hectares of protected space with endless opportunities for hiking, cycling, birding, horseback riding or just general escapism. This place is truly our under utilized gem. It is easy to go for hours without seeing another human, wildlife is a different story, those guys seem to be everywhere. You can easily access views pointing in every direction, or stay lower down and explore the lakes, wetlands and rocky crags that litter this little wonderland. Maps are readily available at various outdoor stores around town, as well the trails are well marked. If you only have time for one adventure in Cranbrook, make it this one. It is free, peaceful and amazing. 

Art. Art? In Cranbrook? 

Take a walk around the Baker Street area. Poke your head into The Cranbrook and District Arts Council, 1710 Workspace or The Vaults at Cranbrook Photo. Murals and public art sculptures too, who knew? Sometimes it feels like you may need to dig a little harder to find it, but it is definitely there. Cranbrook has so much to offer, we are not just a golf destination. 

The ideas keep popping up but my fingers are growing tired, so it is time to go point form. 
  • White Water Rafting 
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking and Stand-up paddle boarding on more than 50 lakes within an hour of town 
  • Beer tasting at The Heid Out and Fire Hall
  • Guided Fishing 
  • Helicopter tours 
  • Farmers’ market 

You get the point...

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