With a pretty face and adventurous personality, Cranbrook is the largest city in the Kootenay Rockies, an active living community and outdoor recreation mecca in the Columbia Valley
For those who reside between the dogtooth range of the Purcell Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, nirvana it seems, is a likely postmark for Cranbrook.
Mild winters contribute to its success with more sunshine hours than any other BC city, a nod to its popularity for business, recreation, and retirement.
This historic railway town with a colourful past and progressive future was founded in 1898 with the arrival of the Crowsnest Railway; the population was 75. At last count, over 19,319 reside in Cranbrook proper — with no signs of the growth slowing down.
Whether you head inside or stay out, you'll find the relaxation (or adrenaline) you need with these must-see highlights.
Where to Start when You Get to Cranbrook
Fort Steele Heritage Town (Image by Tourism BC/David Gluns)
Cranbrook is located near the junction of Highway 95A and Crowsnest Highway 3 in the BC Rockies, 32 kilometres southeast of Kimberly. Stop by Cranbrook's Visitor Centre on Cranbrook Street North for city and trail maps; tap into your inner explorer with the Heritage Buildings and Monuments Tour Map, a self-guided tour of the downtown core, Baker Hill residential heritage area and the railway heritage area.
Cranbrook owes its existence to the railway, which is celebrated at The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel on Van Horne Street South. Fort Steele Heritage Town, a restored 1890s pioneer boomtown, relives the gold rush glory days; pan for gold at nearby Wild Horse River.
Outings and Activities
Image by St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino
The polished yet ruggedly attractive mountains, valleys and lakes will charm you instantly, flatter you shamelessly (what British Columbian doesn’t radiate wellness in layered fleece), and hook you from your first tryst.
Hikers can scale the highest peak in the southern Rockies, Fisher Peak (2,900 metres) or keep to the more forgiving Cranbrook Community Forest and South Star Recreation Trails (30 kms). Bike, blade, board, jog or walk the Kimberley-Cranbrook Rails to Trails Recreation Path, a 26-kilometre section of converted rail line connecting the two communities. For nature study and wildlife viewing visit Jimsmith Lake Provincial Park or Moyie Lake Provincial Park at the north end of scenic Moyie Lake, encompassed by forest, a small pond, and several trails.
For migratory waterfowl viewing, visit 249-hectare Elizabeth Lake Wildlife Sanctuary; the big birds, however, touch down at Canadian Rockies International Airport, the gateway to the BC Rockies for travellers afar.
Your Kootenay Rockies golf experience is like picking your favourite song. There is no right or wrong choice, and all of them should be on your must-play list: Shadow Mountain, Cranbrook Golf Club, Wildstone Golf Course (Canada's first Black Knight Course by Gary Player Design), and St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino (conveniently, 239 slots are on hand to help you recoup your losses in case of a skins beat down).
Fuel up at Cranbrook's Best Dining Options
St. Eugene Golf Resort Clubhouse and 19th Hole Bar & Grill (Image by Tracey Rayson)
Gluten-free friendly and with generous portions, Heidi's dishes up typical Austrian/German classics; think Berliner Bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel, and homemade baked spaetzle among more traditional options.
The Cottage serves homemade bread, sliced thick and piled high with all the trimmings; you'd be hard pressed to find a better sandwich in the region. Top props go to the turkey club and Eggs Benny for brunch.
Get your locally roasted caffeine fix at Hot Shots Café, an urban forward-thinking java joint with a progressive menu and fair trade, 100% certified organic beans.
The 19th Hole Bar & Grill marries excellent pub-fare with top-notch views in this bistro-style lounge/outdoor patio at St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino.
Satisfy your sweet tooth or give a decadent gift from Sweet Gestures on 12th Ave. South. With some of the finest homemade Belgian chocolate, they'll create signature chocolates as a creative company gift. Sinful and seductive handmade truffles and gourmet truffle torte are on hand, and yes, even chocolate pizza!
Set your alarm because your summer Saturday mornings must start at the Cranbrook Farmers' Market. Supporting local food, crafts and agriculture in the East Kootenays, it runs from June 23 - October 6 with four Wednesday evening markets held July 11 and 25 and August 8 and 22 in Rotary Park.
Image by Andrew Penner; Courtesy of KootenayRockies.com
Every room overlooks Elizabeth Lake and the Bird Sanctuary at Elizabeth Lake Lodge, where they guarantee the finest beds in Cranbrook or you sleep for free. Walking trails around the lake start right outside your door and mini golf and year-round RV sites share the property.
For the discerning corporate and leisure guests, bed down at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort in one of the five designer suites appointed with upscale furnishings and décor. Choose from your very own Renaissance guestroom, the Louis XIV style suite or the opulent African suite with an exotic, wild jungle ambiance; there is also the hidden Egyptian oasis, inspired by the ancient near east, among others.
Jimsmith Lake Provincial Park (4 kms south of Cranbrook on Highway 93/95, accessed via Jimsmith Lake Road - picture above) is popular for year-round outdoor recreation, nature study and wildlife viewing. Take a dip, canoe or kayak, and cast your line for jumbo rainbow trout and large-mouth bass. Twenty-eight vehicle/tent campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Basic facilities include: picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits, firewood and water. The park is also wheelchair accessible. No motorized boats permitted on the lake. Open June-September.