Slow down and enjoy autumn offerings in and around Cranbrook
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Joanne Elves for #RockiesExploring
Ah, yes. The hubbub of summer is over and it’s time to slow down and enjoy the bounty of autumn. A weekend in the region of Cranbrook, B.C. is easily filled with fall fairs, scenic hikes, fresh food and good times.
Farmer’s Markets to Farmgate sales – it’s all fresh in Cranbrook
Start Saturday morning at a leisurely pace and stroll through the Cranbrook Fall Farmer’s Market. Boxes, bags and wagons leave 10th Street next to Rotary Park in central Cranbrook jammed with fresh produce from local producers and growers. But before they were loaded, the happy customers wandered under the rainbow of canopies that shade the prized produce. But it’s more than just edibles, there are also artisan offerings, everything from earth-saving gadgets to earrings. Music fills the air from the bandstand where local musicians entertain the shoppers. The market runs every Saturday until mid-October.
Enjoy an early dinner noshing on delicious appies and freshly made craft pizza at the recently opened Fire & Oak Restaurant at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. But keep an eye on your watch. You’ll want to have enough time to drive out to the Buttes in Wycliffe on the road to Kimberley to catch one of 365 amazing annual sunsets over the Purcell Range. The trail is only two km long with an easy elevation gain. Stop back at the Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap for a quick pint of local craft beer.
Another hike to consider with a snack in hand is the Eager Trail found just north of Cranbrook in the Cranbrook Community Forest. From the parking lot on the west side of Highway 3, choose a trail to follow. They all quickly dip into the trees and away from the road noise. The easy grade 2.7-km loop is gentle enough for any of the family to enjoy. We stopped to watch some serious mountain bikers as they weaved through the designated banked bike trails. At the top, there are a few outcrops to rest on. Look for Fisher Peak towering to the north before heading back through the trees.
Fort Steele Heritage Town draws you in
Cinnamon. Ahhhh, the smell of cinnamon.
It was Sunday morning and the smell of cinnamon wafting through the screen door at the old City Bakery at Fort Steele Heritage Town acted like a fishing lure catching me by the nose to drag me in. I didn’t fight, I just swam through the crowds to the counter and walked away – released from the hook but still with my catch. A giant, only slightly gooey, warm cinnamon bun rested in my palm.
Head baker, Shauna Baulac smiles and waves when she sees the regulars come in. “I’ve been working here 18 years and I never wake up not excited to come to work. I love baking and making people happy. Hearing how everyone heads here for the treats is really rewarding.”
The Sunday I visited was the Kootenay Country Fair that has taken over the heritage town for a single Sunday in September each year for over 40 years. Live music, exhibits, wagon rides, demonstrations, food vendors, produce and flower competitions fill the dirt streets and the main park. One event that I didn’t expect was the annual zucchini race that is a hit with both the entrants and the spectators.
While pouring a pint of Fort Steele Mountain Ale for a thirsty client at the Windsor Hotel bar, Billy Kennedy said anyone can stay at the hotel over night, noting that during the fall it is spectacular. “You have the whole park to yourself,” says Kennedy. “People love to walk through the streets and either gaze at the stars or look for spooky encounters. When I asked if there really are spooky things, he just smiled, “Not saying for sure. You have to find out for yourself!”
Maybe to test Kennedy’s theory, you should stop by for the Spooktacular Event held the Saturday before Halloween. The kids and the zombies will go crazy with all the activities from trick-or-treats to pumpkin carving to “whoooo” knows. Find out the seasonal events and hours here.
Is your bike on the rack on the back?
An absolutely perfect way to spend the afternoon is riding (or walking) the NorthStar Rails to Trails. It starts on the north edge of Cranbrook and follows the paved trail for 28 km to Kimberley. It’s an old train bed so you know the route is an easy grade. Enjoy the river crossings, the views from the ridges and the backdrop of the Purcells. There are plenty of single tracks too. Find out more and directions to the NorthStar Trailhead here.
When You Go
Cranbrook is a four-hour drive from Calgary using AB-2 S to AB-3W through Fernie, continuing on BC-93S and BC-95S.
From Kelowna, Cranbrook is a six-hour drive. Follow BC-3E, BC-3E and BC-95N.
To shorten your travel time, check out the Canadian Rockies International Airport for arrivals from Vancouver, Kelowna on Pacific Coastal Airlines, and now Calgary on WestJet.
Visit the Cranbrook Tourism Website for any pre-trip research and to connect with the businesses listed in this story, or stop by the in-town visitor centre for more details on the region.