East Kootenays Loop
Why We Love Shoulder-Season Travel
Our campervans are usually rented throughout the majority of summer (aka camping season here in BC, Canada). We end up using them mostly in the shoulder seasons, and have found a few perks to travelling at this time of year! Especially with COVID this year (most campgrounds and parks were fully booked months in advance - are even booked up already for next year!), we found finding spacious, private spots much easier at the end of Sept/early October.
We were eager to get to Fernie for the start of our trip, so we drove as far as we could manage our first night and found a perfect, spacious spot just off Highway 3 past Salmo. We found the spot via the iOverland App - a great resource for finding campsites (free and paid), sani-dump stations, potable water taps, etc.
We were greeted by a light dusting of FROST our first morning! LOL. Thankfully the e-bike still fired up with no issues after being left outside uncovered overnight (super fan of my Rad E-Bike).
After a quick bike ride in the nearby trails at our Salmo spot, we headed into Fernie to meet our travel companions for a hike up by Island Lake Lodge. There are numerous trails around the lodge. We went up the Spineback Trail, hoping to tack on the Goldilocks Loop as well, but sunset caught up with us.
We probably could have made it if we didn’t take so many beer breaks, but it was our first day of vacation and we were THIRSTY! 🍻
Thanks to being so late in the season, we were able to nab a beautiful campsite in the Mount Fernie Provincial Park. We were there just three days before the final day of the season (Sept 27th - they close on Sept 30th)!. Since we had such a great spot we decided to stay two nights here. The Provincial Park is ideally located - plenty of biking/hiking trails right from the park, plus only a short bike ride into town/down to the river for fishing (albeit a steep bike ride back up the hill home!).
Must Do’s in Fernie:
So. Many. Mountain Bike Trails (we popped into one of the bike shops in town for a couple recommendations based on what we were looking for)
Head down to the river for some fishing 🎣
Pop into Freyja Boutique and The Green Petal for a little retail therapy
Grab a coffee at Rooftop Coffee Roasters
Big Bang Bagels for breakfast
The Loaf for dinner
Infinitea for Sunday dinner ($10 meals!) plus good late-night vibes
Next stop: Kimberley for a little more mountain biking, golf, and thrift shopping.
We parked in the Nordic Center (also home to numerous bike trails in summer) for one night. It’s a decent spot if you are ok without a campfire for the night. Convenient access to bike/hike trails, beautiful views, and close to town.
Bonus: we saw a black bear on Trickle Creek Golf Course!
Must Do’s in Kimberley:
Play Trickle Creek Golf Course if you can! It’s challenging, but beautiful (plus - wildlife!) Otherwise Kimberley Golf Club is also a great option
Grab a cinnamon bun and coffee at The Snowdrift Cafe (seriously the best cinnamon buns EVER!)
Pop into Arrow and Axe General Store for quality goods
Browse the amazing thrift selection at My Best Friend’s Closet! The owner, Dianne, is an absolute gem!
Grab a beer at Over Time Beer Works
Try the wings (and more beer) at The Shed
Head to Pedal & Tap for more substantial eats
The best part about camping? Tired doggos! After a couple morning bike rides (and big plays with Ruby Sue) Milka was happy as a clam to rest in the van while we went for beers and did a little shopping.
Although we loved camping close to the towns and exploring Fernie and Kimberley, we were pining for some real off-grid camping. iOverlander once again found us the perfect spot just outside of Invermere: Lake Enid Rec Site.
There are 20+ spots at this rec site just 20 minutes from Invermere. The road from town takes you to the south side of the lake. There are a couple spots to camp here right on the lake, but most of the lakefront sites are on the north side of the lake. We ended up taking a steep and windy road in to the north end, only to discover a very large hole to cross in order to get out the other side…
We do not recommend this route without 4WD.
Upon further investigation (after we had already managed our way in and set up camp) we discovered an easier way to access the north side of the lake. There is a right turn off of the Bruce Creek Service Road before the fork at Enid Road. It’s still steep and bumpy… but definitely a better route overall. The back roads are plentiful and confusing - if you have a bike we suggest venturing the back roads this way first to find the way to the lake.
Enid Lake itself is beautiful and warm. It was a great place to relax, catch some fish, and have a much need bath in the lake!
If you’re a golfer, we also highly recommend securing a tee time at Copper Point Golf Club! Although a difficult course (with fairly strict rules!), it offers stunning views and changing landscapes throughout.
We can’t recommend travelling during end of September / early October enough! We did a similar trip last year (check out West Kootenays Loop blog post) and are definitely going to make this an annual tradition.
Highlights of Shoulder Season Travel:
Your pick of the best campsites
Beautiful fall colours as the trees start to change colour (or blossom if you’re in spring!)
Brisk evenings and frosty mornings bring on the cozy toques and cups of miso, following by warm sunny afternoons
Still plenty of outdoor activities in season!