Goldilocks Loop – Fernie

Goldilocks Loop – Fernie

Some trails are outstanding in every way! The Goldilocks Loop near Island Lake Lodge in Fernie is one of those trails. The adventure is just right, not too hard, not too easy. But the ideal conditions are not the reason for the name; This trail hikes around a rocky peak called Baby Bear, next to Mama Bear and Papa Bear. There are incredible views of the Lizard Range’s Limestone peaks and the oodles of wildflowers in the alpine valleys between them.

The only downside is you can only do this trail as I’ve described it when the Island Lake Lodge is open to the public. When the Lodge (and the private road to reach it) is closed, you’ll need to add an extra 8km to the trail. That would make it into a full Papa Bear sized hike!

Goldilocks Loop (via Spineback trail) Map

Goldilocks Loop – The basics

Distance: 10km (2.5km for just the loop)
Elevation gain: 788m (alltrails) I recorded 874m on strava
High Point
: 2080m (the pass between Baby Bear and Papa Bear)
Time: 4-5 hours (1.5 hours for just the loop)
What to bring: The 10 essentials, and bring bear spray
Facilities: There are loos at the trailhead and on the Lake and Fir Trail. There is a dining room and a bistro if you would like to eat at the lodge after your hike.
Cost: Free, but only go on days when the lodge (and road) is open. Check the calendar here.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed (on leash)
How hard is it? Intermediate to challenging. The trail up is steep and then around the loop is more technical with some lose, slide-y rocks. The trail is well maintained with good sign posts.

Island Lake Lodge – Getting started

The first part of this walk is the steep Spineback trail from Island Lake Lodge in Fernie. The lodge is a back-country resort that is used for events/adventures in summer, and cat skiing in winter. Reach the trailhead by car; It’s 9.3km along Mount Fernie Park Road from Highway 3. The road to the lodge is often closed for private functions so you need to check this calendar to see if you can visit.

You can see the three bears (peaks) in my photo below from Island Lake. The Goldilocks loop goes around that middle spike, the Baby Bear.

Spineback Trail

I wrote a whole post about the (fabulous) Spineback trail. So if you would like the full details, please click through to that. The Goldilocks loop is entirely in the alpine, starting from the second bench at the top of the Spineback trail. So basically to enjoy the rock-garden-like alpine peaks; First you need to take the effort to hike up.

Goldilocks Loop – Clockwise or anticlockwise?

Most of the descriptions for this trail seem to go anticlockwise or counterclockwise, heading up next to Papa bear straight away. If you go anticlockwise, I think it is slightly easier on the way up, and slightly more treacherous on the way down. I prefer going up steep and down less steep paths; So we decided to go clockwise.

This is looking up to Papa Bear. You hike down from that pass later.

If you fancy the clockwise route, it starts with a nice flat-ish path below the “bears.” This (below) is the view down to Fernie. It’s such a stunning part of British Columbia!

In less than 500m you get to start hiking up, between Mama Bear and Baby Bear Peaks.

Up up up!

The steep part of the trail climbs about 150m in about 300m. This is the tough part. You need to watch your steps, both to stay on trail and because the rocks can wobble. Still it is really fun, and the tough section is relatively short.

Pika Zone:

This rocky area is home to pikas! If you’re lucky, you’ll hear their high pitched “meeps.” They are teeny, mountain-dwelling mammals that are related to rabbits, but with round ears. Pikas are fast, and can be hard to spot as they are so well camouflaged. Can you spot one below?

Pikas cannot cope with the recent hot temperatures in the summer. These fluffy little dudes die if they are exposed to temperatures above 26°C for more than a few hours. This means they’ve had to move higher into the alpine.

Impressive trail building!

The trail is so well built! The hardest section near the top of the pass has solid steps made out of huge slabs of rocks. Later when I was researching for this post, I found out this was all built by a group of 4 trail-building ladies. They hiked up the Spineback trail 3-4 times a week carrying massive backpacks full of supplies to make this route. You can read about it here or watch a video here. I am in awe of them all, and really appreciate their hard work.

Just look at these sturdy stairs (and the view behind them!) You can see down to Island Lake Lodge where the brilliant trail builders would have needed to start each day.

Saddle between Mama and Baby Bears

We made it up to the saddle at about 11am, so it was starting to get hot. I found the last section hard, but doable – just plod up slowly. Do you think it’s worth it for this view!?

One of the trail builders, Brenda, described Goldilocks as a “rock stairway through heaven.” Once you make it up to the alpine valley, it’s easy to see what she means! You’ll be up close to massive cliffs of an un-named peak (that links up to Hunter’s Headwall and Big White)

Wildflowers galore

If you are a fan of wildflowers, you will absolutely love the Goldilocks loop. There was a whole range of colourful, bee-filled beauties; Including gorgeous red paintbrushes and Silky Phacelia (the purple rod-like flowers at the top of the post.)

The trail down is quite dusty and slippery. Marc fell on his arse at one point. You need to climb down about 40m, then up around 100m to the highest point (the saddle below.)

The next climb up was the least well-built part of the trail. It is on shale that must slide down and ruin the path each time they build it! Look out for small flags to see the switchback route. I was just glad to be going up this rather than down.

If you ever find it hard, just turn around to look at the incredible Lizard range. It’s stunning.

Bench at the top of the Goldilocks Loop

There is a bench at the top of the saddle by Baby Bear. The bench is not to tall and not too short, it’s just right. Not a bad spot for a break!

This is Marc’s view from the bench (I was still catching up!)

In the end, we decided to leave the bench for other hikers. We hopped up to a sturdy-seeming knob just above the saddle.

This was our lunch spot, next to the Baby Bear Peak. It was a great place for lunch!

Views back down to Island Lake

This is the view down between Papa Bear and Baby Bear. From this point, we just need to hike all the way back down to Island Lake below.

Heading down Goldilocks

The trail down between Papa Bear and Baby Bear is slightly less steep than the way we took up. You lose about 200m elevation over 0.6km. There were a few snow patches near the top in mid August, but they were easy to cross.

Watch your step as you hike down. It would be easy to roll an ankle on these rocks.

Back to the Spineback

The Goldilocks loop ends at the top of the Spineback trail. By the time we made it down, the trail was starting to be slightly more busy. Lots of people hike to this viewpoint and then stop.

From here you can take one more look at the fabulous views over to Big White and Tua Rock. Hike back down the rest of the trail to Island Lake Lodge and possibly a beer.

Goldilocks Panoramas

I’ll finish with a bunch of panoramas to show off the scenery of the Lizard Range near Fernie.

Goldilocks Loop truly packs a punch in terms of how incredible the views are over such a short, 2.5km loop. Once you add in the steep hike up to the limestone rock gardens it becomes a bit of a tough hike. Still, I loved every single moment of it. If you visit Fernie, I highly recommend this adventure.

9 thoughts on “Goldilocks Loop – Fernie

  1. All your photos are gorgeous! I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts on different hiking trails from your travels. You always inspire the wanderlust in me through your experiences. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Goldilocks loop!

  2. I have friends going on a hiking trip to Canada soon, I will be sure to send them this blog post! Love the photography and all the details in your writing, super helpful!

  3. Making sure the lodge is open to get a headstart on your hike is such a good tip! And wow those views are beautiful!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Yeah! We actually came through the Fernie area twice on a road trip. Luckily the tourist information told us about this area the first time, so we could make sure we visited on the right day on our return through the area. If I go back to the region I will totally plan around their schedule to make sure we can see other nearby trails!

  4. We’d been thinking of doing this trail last time we were in Fernie but our hotel said the road was closed. 😢 You photos are making me so jealous!

    1. Oh no Carly! I hope you can go next time!
      Did you get to hike up in the Fernie Alpine Resort instead? That was pretty spectacular too (I feel like Fernie is just paradise for hikers!)

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