East Kootenay Section
Trail information and most images sourced with great appreciation from TrailsBc.ca.
From the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake, the route climbs over the rugged Purcell Mountains via the 'Grey' (Grey Creek Pass) into the Rocky Mountain Trench. This section is the most challenging part of the route.
After climbing Grey Creek pass, Kimberley is the travelers first destination then via Canada’s newest rail trail -the NorthStar Rails to Trails it is 25 km into the regional hub of Cranbrook.
Cranbrook lies in the heart of the famed Rocky Mountain Trench, a valley on the western slopes of the Rockies that runs 1600 km from the Flathead Lake in Montana all the way up to the Liard Valley in Northeastern BC. Here the route is mostly a route is mostly composed of rural and forestry roads with a few trails sprinkled in.
Grey Creek to Kimberley (Grey Creek Pass)
Travelling the route from Gray Creek to Kimberley is an arduous journey in the wilderness for 80 km on a forestry road, plus an extra 10 km through Kimberley Nature Park with minimal amenities, no supplies and limited-to-no cell service until approaching Kimberley.
The route follows active forestry roads and cyclists are asked to USE CAUTION along the way; the road's poor visibility and heavily laden logging truck traffic can make this route a potentially hazardous journey if users do not remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Give all traffic - particularly logging trucks - extra room to pass.
Note: The Gray Creek Pass road is normally closed to vehicles through the winter, opening as late as early-mid July - for 2016 we have a moderate snowpack and expected opening is 1 July - so it should be fine when we go through. Late snow and the occasional washout can delay the annual opening. Riders often pass through these obstacles.
The history of the route over Gray Creek Pass goes back to the 1950s, when Cominco (now Teck Metals) built a power line over the Pass. Cominco employees who had relocated from Kimberley to Riondel were keen to have a shorter route back to the East Kootenay, and at the time two roads were considered – one over Gray Creek Pass, and one over Rose Pass to the north. It wasn't until the late '80s when the push for the backcountry route finally gathered momentum. Rose Pass would have required a three-mile tunnel so that idea was abandoned. Gray Creek Pass was finally completed in the 1990s, and officially opened in July 1990. Since, the powerline has been abandoned.
Russell Musio of the Backroad Mapbooks rates the Gray Creek Pass as the Most Important Backroad in BC.
Oliver Lake Recreation Site has picnic tables and an outhouse, about 1/4 mile before the summit. The lake is not visible from the road but is worth taking 10 minutes to walk to and a few more to walk around. A trail crew built a neat path around the lake, splitting big boulders to make a path that travels through 400 year old larches. Residents of Gray Creek village say that the water of Gray Creek and the south fork is safe to drink.
Take note of the steep climbs/descents:
Average of nearly 9% grade for 17 km from Kootenay Lake up to Gray Creek Pass
Average of nearly 6% grade for 12 km from Gray Creek Pass down to Parker's Creek
Heading north from Riverside Campground closer to Kimberley , a lovely trail climbs into Kimberly proper via the Kimberley Nature Park.
Kimberley to Cranbrook
The mountain views get bolder as the route travelers move form the eastern edge of the Purcell mountain range at Kimberley, down through the Rocky Mountain Trench beyond Cranbrook, and up toward the western fringes of the Rockies at the community of Wardner.
Kimberley is BC's highest city at 1113 meters and is known as the Baverian City of the Rockies. Close to the downtown center of KImberley at the Platz, the route emerges onto the new NorthStar Rails to Trails to Cranbrook.
Cranbrook to Wardner
The route from Cranbrook follow a new section of the Trans Canada Trail - mostly complete but some surface work is still scheduled for this summer - for the most part it will utilize an abandoned rail corridor on crown land from Cranbrook to Warder with a bypass around private interests at Mayook utlizing Highway 3
The trails follows the Isadore Canyon Trail out of town to the north and then wraps round to east and south to Wardner. Further trail info will be added closer to the Depart date.
Wardner to FINISH (Fernie)
The route from Wardner to Fernie is leaves Wardner on the west shore of the the Kootenay River (Lake Koocanusa) on former forestry roads, heading south and eventually running parallel to Caven Creek Road and crossing Lake Koocanusa (Kikomun Newgate Road bridge) and entering Kikomun Creek Provincial Park and utilizing bits and pieces of a former rail grade. From Bayne's Lake, the trail is mainly forestry roads - some of which can be muddy - which begin to travel north, eventually reaching Highway 3 and the town of Elko.
The route enters the Mount Broadwood Nature Conservancy. The route leaves Mt. Broadwood at it the east boundary and travels north to Fernie, using a series of rural roads, taking in views of the looming mountain ridge lying on the west side of the Elk River. Once in you victoriously roll into Fernie you head to the City Hall the front steps of which marks the finish and the end of your BC Epic 1000 ride!
Some final highlights of this section of the route include:
The calm waters of Lake Koocanusa and camping opportunities at Kikomun Park
Remote, wilderness trail experience at Mount Broadwood
Mountain views approaching Fernie
Excellent services and friendly atmosphere in the city of Fernie after you finish!