Fernie Alpine Resort – Skeleton Flats hike

Fernie Alpine Resort – Skeleton Flats hike

If you are looking for fabulous hikes near Fernie, consider the incredible hiking trails within the Fernie Alpine Resort. In the summertime you can ride the Elk Chairlift up into the alpine, and then hike with amazing views in all directions. We explored a loop from the Summer Road up past an observation deck to Skelton Flats where we met a moose and found hundreds of fossils. From the high point we returned through the lush, wildflower-filled Cedar Bowl. I can’t think of many hikes that have so much variation in such a short time! We loved it.

Skeleton Flats loop trail map

You can see the map to the full loop (no chairlift) here. The alltrails map below is from my strava recording.

You can also see the Fernie Alpine Resort hiking trail map below (available here)

Fernie Alpine Resort – Skelton Flats loop basics

Distance: 10.5km with chairlift (12.7km if you don’t take the lift)
Elevation gain: 380m with chairlift (780m without the lift)
High Points
: 1680m at the top of the Bear Chair
Time: 2-3 hours (we were moving for 2 hours, but our total time was 3 hours)
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
The 10 essentials. This walk is high in the alpine so you need to stay safe!
Bring bear spray
Facilities: There is a whole resort with shops, food, loos and a chairlift.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the base area trails (I’m not sure about the alpine trails so check at guest services.)
How hard is it? Moderately challenging. The way down was very steep, but you could do an easier version, by returning via the Elk Chairlift.
Extra note: We saw a moose on this trail and there are bears in the area, so chat and make noise while you hike.

Hiking in Fernie Alpine Resort – getting started

Fernie Alpine Resort is located just 1.5km from Highway 3, or 7km (4.3 miles) from Fernie. Once you turn off Highway 3, just drive up Fernie Ski Hill Road and follow the signs for day use parking. You can buy chairlift tickets from the Tamarack Lodge, or head straight to the trails.

Elk chairlift details

Chairlift Dates: Summer Chairlift operation dates are late-June to early September.
Chairlift times: Daily 10:30am to 4:30pm (and 7pm on Thursdays).
Ticket Price: $30.95 for a sightseeing ticket ($65.95 if you cycle)

Riding the Elk chairlift is a fabulous start to any hike! It whisks you up 300m with views of the ski runs that were back-lit by sunshine on in the late afternoon.

We drove from Nelson so we arrived in Fernie in the afternoon and headed straight to Fernie Alpine Resort. This meant we were very glad that we could skip the slog up into the alpine via the Elk Chairlift. From the lift, turn left and follow the trails up the summer road trail.

Lizard Bowl Observation Desk

The first viewpoint is just 500m up the trail where there is a deck surrounded by wildflowers. If you want to see views without much of a walk, this would be a great spot to aim for.

Fernie’s Bowls

When glaciers erode a mountainside, they can create a hollow, rounded depression with steep sides, resembling the shape of a bowl. Fernie Alpine Resort is made up of 5 “bowls”, each with different terrain for skiing;

  • Siberia Bowl: Expert level terrain, with steep chutes and challenging tree runs.
  • Timber Bowl: Diverse terrain, with a mix of intermediate and advanced runs. It has groomed runs, glades as well as tree-filled slopes.
  • Currie Bowl: Known for steep, challenging terrain with tight glades and steep chutes.
  • Lizard Bowl: Wide-open terrain and gladed tree skiing – with groomed runs and more advanced powder-filled glades.
  • Cedar Bowl: Mix of beginner and intermediate terrain, with groomed runs and glades. It is known for its scenic views and family-friendly skiing.

The hike I’m describing ascends up the Lizard Bowl and then returns via the Cedar Bowl. You can get the idea from my photos – it looks like skiing in Fernie must be incredibly fun.

Route up to Skeleton Flats

The first part of the trail is pretty mellow, following the winding Summer Road trail. There are oodles of wildflowers, shrubs and long grasses and you can hear pikas “meep” at each other. Watch for a turn-off after 1.6km (there is a sign.) Just before we made it to the turning someone from the resort zoomed up on an ATV and stopped to warn us that there might be a moose above in the Skeleton Flats area.

The trail up to Skeleton Flats is steeper and more rugged. It’s really beautiful though! After the first couple of switchbacks, we started to call “hey moose” every few minutes to make sure we didn’t sneak up on any wildlife.

Hey Moose!

The most exciting part of this adventure was meeting a moose with her two babies. She was chilling on a patch of snow close to the trail. We were incredibly excited to see them, but also wary as getting close to moose can be very dangerous. Luckily this family were happily relaxing in the snow and totally uninterested in us as we inched past.

My photo above was zoomed in. The image below gives you a better idea about how far away the moose family was.

Once we made it past the moose the skeleton flats trail flattened out. There are fabulous views down to the city of Fernie through the stunted alpine trees.

Fossil Zone

The Lizard Range of mountains here is “overturned,” meaning the higher you go the older the rock gets. If you hike up to skeleton flats; At this height, the mountain is limestone made from an ancient sea bed. You’ll see a massive fossil wall with hundreds of easy-to-spot fossils.

Wild strawberries

If you hike in August, then remember to look down. We found some tasty wild strawberries near the fossils.

The Bear Chair

The highest point of this hike is the top of the Bear Chair, with views over both the Lizard and Cedar bowls.

Amazing Fernie Alpine Resort Views

There’s a bench at the top of the Bear Chair with incredible views. It made me want to ski!

You can look down into the Cedar Bowl where you are about to hike, and there are great views over to Mount Fernie. We got here at 5:20pm, when the meadows below seemed to glow.

Is the Fernie Busy in the summer?

I should probably mention that I was very surprised by how quiet the trails were in Fernie Alpine Resort. We hiked late in the afternoon on a weekday in August and although there were a few mountain bikers near the top, we didn’t see any other hikers the whole way. I can imagine there must be more people at weekends, but there are so many trails that I doubt it ever feels crowded.

Hiking down along the Cedar Bowl loop was simply spectacular. It was partly because the late afternoon sunlight was so gorgeous.

I loved the oodles and oodles of bright wildflowers lining the trail, as well as the peek-a-boo views of the surrounding mountains through the glades.

The super steep section

The route we took was on the Fernie Alpine Resort hiking map (it’s not on alltrails) but the last part down to the Gorbie/Cedar trail is VERY steep. The soil is also quite loose, so you may slip (poor Marc fell on his arse!) The photo below is looking back at the steep part.

Turn off the Gorbie loop trail onto the Cedar Trail. From this point it is a gentle downhill trail back to the resort base area.

Note about parking

In the summertime most people seem to leave Fernie Alpine Resort after the chairlifts close at 4:30ish. We made it down at 7pm, so there were very few shops or restaurants still open and the gates to the car park were closed. Luckily the resort staff left a note on our car with a phone number we could call to open the gate. Still, if we had known they close the gates we would have parked in the nearby “lot 2” which does not close.

We absolutely loved hiking in Fernie Alpine Resort. The trail system is well maintained, the views are simply stunning and I still can’t believe we got up so close to a moose, let alone two moose calves! I’ll leave you with a few panoramas from our route.

If you fancy a flower-filled hike with incredible alpine views and the chance of wildlife sightings; Hiking to skeleton flats in Fernie Alpine Resort is a brilliant option. There is a second chairlift (the Timber Chair) that used to be open at weekends, so I would love to return to hike over on that side of the resort. For now, I am just happy to share some of the views of this magical area.

21 thoughts on “Fernie Alpine Resort – Skeleton Flats hike

  1. Wow, this looks like a really fun hike! I’ll definitely have to add this to my list for next time

  2. I’ve hiked around Fernie but not this trail. It looks beautiful with such amazing views. So cool that you got to see the moose and babies. I like the two photos that compare their distance to you. Your detailed guides always make it easy to do the trails if in that area.

  3. How exciting you saw a moose and her two babies! I hope to see that on one of my hikes. You found some beautiful trails within the Fernie Alpine Resort – especially the Skeleton Flats loop.

    1. Oooh I was wondering if you have moose near you in Minnesota. Have you seen one before? I never had, so I was sooo excited!

  4. Great post. I love summer hikes that provide more than great views – like animals in their natural habitats and food – those strawberries look yum. I think I’ll have to check this area out!

  5. This looks gorgeous!!! The light is so pretty in all your photos, I can’t decide which one’s my favorite. That’s a good heads up about the parking lot closing, I’m glad there’s another alternative lot. What a special treat to see the moose and her babies! They really look completely unfazed by you lol, could not be more chill.

    I really appreciate hiking locations that have a chairlift option, like you said it makes things so much more accessible for people who are short on time. They should build some in places that aren’t ski resorts too, lol.

    Will you return to this area and try more trails?

    1. We went back a few weeks later (on our road trip home) and woooow that trails in this area are so good. We did one called the Goldilocks trail and omg you would looove it. It was all up in the alpine, rocky and beautiful! We will have to go back!

  6. I would love to see a moose on a hike–to see a moose *family* is so exciting! This area looks beautiful and it’s nice that it was so quiet while you were there

    1. It really made me wonder how busy it is normally as it was soooo quiet! And yeah that moose family made me sooo happy!

  7. Excellent destination for hiking enthusiasts. The Elk chairlift is a good addition to help hikers enjoy the picturesque views of the location.

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