Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge serves as a great base for hiking adventures. It sits on 7,000 acres of private land just minutes from Fernie, British Columbia. The lodge is surrounded by towering trees in old growth forest – with the Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains serving up a spectacular backdrop. That translates to wonderful hiking opportunities both above tree line and in the forest. And you don’t have to be a guest at Island Lake Lodge to enjoy the trails.

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio, Island Lake Lodge

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio

Hiking or cat skiing at Island Lake Lodge?

Hiking however isn’t what Island Lake Lodge is best known for. It’s cat skiing in winter. But word is getting out about the variety of hiking trails, their beauty and how well signed and cared for they are. As a bonus, when you’re finished hiking here, a cold drink and something delicious to eat is available at Bear Lodge Bistro – before you even get back to the parking lot.

Beer with the words Take a Hike on the glass

Island Lake Lodge – Take a Hike and #hikemore

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

Over two days at Island Lake Lodge, John and I were able to hike four of the 15 trails that start at the lodge. We cheated a bit as one trail – Goldilocks – can’t be hiked without doing Spineback Trail – but the bottom line is that we covered a lot of ground in a short time frame. There are at least five more trails I would like to come back and hike. They include Heiko’s Trail, Tamarack Trail Summit, Big White Peak, Goat Pass and Lizard Lake.

If you’re either new to hiking or a nervous hiker – always fretting about what’s around the next corner, then I think you’ll really enjoy hiking from the lodge. You’d have to work on getting lost as the trails are particularly well-signed. And while you may run into wildlife including moose, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, wolves, cougar and lynx – consider it a privilege if you see something. I almost never do. 

Just because you’re starting at a lodge doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go prepared. Take the 10 hiking essentials and for heaven’s sake carry a can of bear spray – and know how to use it.

Read: Bear Safety Tips: What You Need to Know

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Hiking trails at Island Lake Lodge we did

Lake Trail

On the day that we arrived at the lodge it was almost 5 PM. We decided a before dinner hike was in order so we chose the 2 kilometre Lake Trail. It’s an easy loop hike through old growth forest with lots of towering western red cedar and Douglas fir. John particularly loved it for the birds that hung out by an open area with a stream. In short order he amassed 20 birds including the alder flycatcher.

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

You can knock the Lake Trail off quickly – in 30 to 45 minutes if you’re moving. But there are a couple of iconic photo spots where you might want to linger. Down by Island Lake, you can either rent a canoe or catch someone canoeing – perhaps in the early morning as the sun comes up.

Canoeing at Island Lake Lodge

You might see someone out canoeing if you hike the Lake Trail

Note: There are Island Lake Lodge photo spots numbered and documented on all the trails. They refer to the best views! Pick up a map ahead of time so you know where to go.  

Spineback Trail

The Spineback trail offers a good workout and some truly fantastic views. The trail climbs 430 metres from Island Lake through sub-alpine meadows that are dotted with wildflowers come late July. Hike to the end of Spineback Ridge for a great photo opportunity by a gnarly old tree. It’s called the Scott Schmidt tree, named for the first extreme skier.

To do the return 7 kilometre hike, allow three to four hours. If you want another superb view hike half a kilometre more to the bench above the ridge – between the 3 Bears Peaks. Retrace your steps or continue to do the Goldilocks Trail. (See below.)

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail - Island Lake Lodge

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge from the second bench above Spineback

Goldilocks Trail

The 2.5 kilometre Goldilocks trail is the newest trail you can access from Island Lake Lodge. Completed in 2018, it was named for the three women who built the trail. 

The trail begins where Spineback leaves off – at the top of the bench above the ridge. As it’s a loop trail – you can do it in either direction. We hiked it counter-clockwise and I personally think that’s the best way to go.

Climb 210 metres on a trail through scree, past rocks filled with fossils attesting to the time when these rocks were at the bottom of the sea. The trail curves around Baby Bear Mountain as you climb to Upper Nonstop saddle. Savour the views through here. On the backside look for lingering snow into late July. Continue by descending on switchbacks between Baby Bear and Mama Bear peaks. That’s followed by a brief climb up to another vantage point of the valley below. Then it’s one more steep descent, perhaps on snow, to reach a flatter section and the intersection with the Spineback trail. Allow 1.5 hours to do the loop.

Humans look ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Humans look like ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking west

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking east

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

If you only have a couple of hours but you want a trail that delivers a workout with a view, choose the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint. It will take you between 2 – 3 hours to cover the 4 kilometres with an elevation gain of 300 metres.

The beginning of the Tamarack Trail is shared with the Lazy Lizard trail. It starts off flat and easy as it travels through beautiful old-growth forest. Then it begins climbing – reaching a steep section near the viewpoint where a set of steep wooden steps have been added. We startled a grouse through here – and it in turn startled us, causing us to jump.

From the top of the stairs, it’s a short walk to the viewpoint. Park yourself on the bench and enjoy the views to the lodge below and the Spineback and Goldilocks Trail across the way.

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island Lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Look up to the tops of massive old growth trees

Don’t forget to look up

After hiking if you’re a guest at the lodge

Forget that closed in sauna feeling. You won’t find it at Island Lake Lodge. Instead, every sauna – and there’s one in every lodge, offers a fantastic view out the window. It’s a great way to relax and soothe those tired muscles. Just be sure to ask the front desk to fire one up for you ahead of time.

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

The rooms at Island Lake Lodge

We stayed in one of the newer lodges and enjoyed a large room with a superb mountain view. We didn’t end up spending much time in the room but I could easily picture myself enjoying a glass of wine on the deck just admiring the landscape. I loved our big bathroom with a slate shower and heated floors, along with a large soaker tub. And yes there is WiFi here.

Spacious bedroom in the Cedar Lodge at Island Lake Lodge

Our spacious bedroom with a mountain view in the Cedar Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Eating at the lodge

Meals are beautiful to look at, creative and delicious at Island Lake Lodge. The summer salad is one I could eat daily and the beet risotto with mascarpone (not pictured) was also a treat for the eyes and the stomach. Some of the main dishes include Arctic char, bison shortribs (a long time guest favourite), duck breast and free range chicken.

If you had a big hiking day and expended a lot of calories I would suggest choosing a large plate. Sometimes I like to pick two appetizers as my meal but here they are on the small size and I don’t think two would be filling enough for most people. Or pick two appetizers and a dessert!

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Delicious summer salad with flower petals

Delicious summer salad with flower petals that I would happily eat everyday

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt – one of my favourite breakfasts

Booking a holiday at Island Lake Lodge

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for a hiking holiday out of Island Lake Lodge. You can contact them directly if you’re interested in booking by visiting their website.

Further reading

Thank you to Island Lake Lodge for hosting my stay. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

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