Recently I had the pleasure of getting to know the Kootenay community of Cranbrook a little better on my recent photography and writing trip to the city. I was asked to visit the Cranbrook Community Forest and share what I saw and my experiences while there. As a passionate hiker and mountain bike rider I was eager to see why the locals love this parkland so much.
I had a blast experiencing the hiking and the mountain bike trails alongside wonderful locals. For the hiking side of things local well know guide book author and photographer Janice Strong led the way. From the mountain bike side of things local Wildhorse Cycle Club president Ryan Hamilton took us riding on his favorite bike trails. Read my full ZenSeekers story that brought me to the region here; Switchbacks and scenery: Cranbrook’s Community Forest a hub for bikers and hikers.
Cranbrook Community Forest
The Cranbrook Community Forest is a protected wild area of Cranbrook where the locals connect back to earth through the mountains, forest, wildlife, flora and fauna. The forest links the entire Cranbrook region from north to south with endless hiking and biking trails where you can create your own adventure.
Over three decades ago in 1987 the provincial government had the vision to set aside 2000 hectares of land along the north and east boundaries of Cranbrook. Situated prominently in the wide valley of the Rocky Mountain Trench between the Purcell and Rocky Mountain ranges an outdoor enthusiasts playground was created.
This protected land encompasses a mature and well-developed hiking and cycling network easily accessible from the city amenities. Within the park you will find well-marked trails and detailed informative trailhead kiosks at all the major access points.
The forest is divided by highway 95 into two major areas, the Eager Hill section and the Sylvan Lake area. Massive landscapes and stunning views of the iconic Fisher Peak and expansive Steeples Mountain dominate the NE horizon easily seen from the Eager Hill region. While serene lakes, bird watching as well as built up picnic and washroom facilities are some of the amenities you can expect in the Sylvan Lake region of the community forest.
Cranbrook Community Forest : Where to Go
The majority of our hiking and cycling occurred on Eager Hill which can be accessed from the Eager Hill or Fraggle Rock parking lots along highway 95. For hikers the Eager Hill lookout trail is a must do at sunset or sunrise. The vista and scenery with Fisher Peak and Steeples of the Candian Rockies in the distance is stunning and memorable, bring you camera!
For cycling on Eager Hill the brand new loop built by the Wildhorse bike club, R2Dtour is a real treat. Well planned switchbacks and flowly single track allow you to circumnavigate all of the peak of Eager Hill. I wish I had more time to ride more trails in the region as Ryan said the area boasts over 200km of trail. He stated the Roller Coaster downhill is a must do and a fun one for him so this is on my return visit list.
The Sylvan Lake area of the Cranbrook Community forest is a bit more confusing with many more criss-crossed trails so I strongly urge you to use Trailforks there if you are riding. If you are hiking my go to trail resource for digital navigation has always been ViewRanger.
Cranbrook Community Forest on Trailforks
Being a regular mountain bike rider my first resource is always checking with TrailForks online or with the app on my phone.
Cranbrook Community Forest of Google Maps
Love using Google Maps for driving directions? Just use this clickable map to get you there quick and easy. Also did you know you can change your selection to walking and can navigate some of the walking paths right from google maps.
Cranbrook Community Forest Resources
More information on the history, the flora and fauna, where to hike and bike as well as how you can support the forest can be found on the CFCS website. The Cranbrook Community Forest Society was formed in 2000 by passionate concerned citizens that are working to ensure the parkland is beautiful for others to enjoy for years to come.
Hopefully I can return here again soon as not only did I fall in love with the Cranbrook Community Forest but the countless regional trails that link it to other hiking and riding areas. Cranbrook also has many amazing places to eat and recharge at after your outdoor adventure like Soulfood or The Heidout which I both highly recommend. Of course I also want to scramble and stand atop Fisher Peak but that will be a story for another day hopefully.
Looking to extend your Kootenay stay? Consider visiting Ktunaxa Speaking Earth Experience at St. Eugene Resort as an immersive historical and cultural experience to compliment your time outdoors.