Spineback Trail at Island Lake Resort
3.9 km
580Elevation Gain (m)
The autumn day was cool and misty with red and amber leaves of the metre-tall bushes of false azalea brightening the deep overcast. Ferns and thimbleberry hung damp across our legs. We climbed in silence, noticing elk tracks in the soft clay of the trail. Far away in the mist an elk bugled his haunting call in the morning fog and I felt privileged to be in such a wild place with such a regal animal.

Spineback Ridge is a pleasant trail on the west slopes of Lizard Creek that climbs to an impressive alpine basin. Views of the Mount Fernie, Three Sisters Mountain, Mount Bisaro and Mount Proctor all line up against the eastern skyline. The city of Fernie is far below the ridge, nestled quietly by the Elk River.

Massive layers of limestone standing vertically define much of the Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains. Spanning the entire upper basin, these massive layers heaved into upright slices and it is one stack of those slices that forms the unique Spineback Ridge. The Spineback is an intriguing jagged profile rising from the talus in a narrow spine-like ribbon. The trail follows beside the Spineback up into a stark limestone basin at the base of Three Bears Mountain. The resort’s trail maps further name the peaks Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear.

Island Lake Resort (Island Lake Lodge)

Outdoor recreation is the prime motivation for guests at Island Lake Resort. The lodge offers cat-skiing on the powder slopes of the Lizard Range and in summer they have a well-managed and well-signed trail network around the facilities and up into the high country of the nearby mountains.

The trails, roads and facilities are all located on the resort’s private property. Please use the area respectfully. In addition to the great hiking, the resort is available for overnight stays, conferences, retreats, weddings or small groups. They book accommodation in their beautiful, traditional, log lodge complex and offer fine meals for overnight guests and day-use visitors. Stop in for an appetizer or meal and a drink after your hike: www.islandlakeresorts.com.

See also the Island Lake Resort trails:

Old Growth Trail, entry #63

Baldy Loop,entry #62

Tamarack Trail, which connects with Mountain Lakes Trail to Three Sisters, entry #59

Island Lake Resort’s Spineback Trail follows a jagged limestone strip of vertical standing bedrock.

0 km: Trail leaves from the Island Lake Resort parking lot. Head downhill toward the shallow lake on Lake Trail. Head toward the west side of the lake. Take Lake Trail to Fir Trail.

810 m: Pass the junction with Fir Trail and Baldy Loop Trail.

1 km: From Fir Trail take the right fork onto Spineback Trail, N85100-E31600. The trail crosses a footbridge over Lizard Creek and starts to quickly gain elevation in the dense forest, occasionally switchbacking up the steep incline. The forest gradually thins, exposing grey limestone summits and knolls. Some 50 m south of the trail rises the Spineback Ridge. Leave the forest and ascend through the limestone talus on a well-made trail. The trail climbs into an alpine limestone basin.

3.3 km: A carved wooden bench awaits hikers at 1800 m (5,900 ft.) after a gain of 450 m (1,500 ft.) from the trailhead. The bench sits atop a portion of Spineback Ridge enjoying the 180-degree mountain views.

3.9 km: Continue southeast from the first bench across an upper talus slope and gradually gain another 120 m (400 ft.) elevation on a well-made trail to the second carved bench at 1920 m (6,300 ft.) elevation. The trail ends here, at the top of the vegetation and just below limestone rubble boulders and a talus slope, between two of the dome summits: Baby Bear to the left, Papa Bear to the right.


Road: any vehicle; gravel to Island Lake Resort; washboards

Take Highway 3 for 2 km south of the south Elk River bridge in Fernie. Turn west off the highway at the sign for Island Lake Resort and Mount Fernie Provincial Park. (The junction is north of the Fernie Alpine Resort turnoff.)

0 km: Turn off Highway 3 onto paved road leading into the provincial park. Road continues past the park on good gravel.

800 m: Continue straight (west) on main road through the Mount Fernie Provincial Park Campground. (Left fork goes to Mount Fernie picnic area.)

1.1 km: Sign saying 8.2 km to Island Lake Resort.

2.5 km: Island Lake Resort gate; take right fork onto the private property of the resort.

2.6 km: Cedar Valley Rail Trail trailhead. (The short trail links with Old Growth Trail following Lizard Creek.)

5.9 km: Parking for Island Lake Old Growth Trail and Cabin Ridge. Large parking lot with outhouse.

9.3 km: Island Lake Resort visitor parking; road ends. Island Lake Resort trails are on private land but are open to the public. They are in great condition, well-signed and properly constructed.

Hike Map
Janice Strong

Janice Strong

Janice Strong is an established professional outdoor photographer. Her images grace collections all over the world and appear in many respected publications. She is passionate about hiking and is also an avid snowshoer and skier, exploring the outdoors of the East Kootenay in southeastern BC year round.

She openly shares her passion for the outdoors with others and has introduced hundreds of people to the joys of hiking. For a decade she led hikes for the City of Cranbrook – Parks and Recreation. With her guidance, many people have themselves become enthusiastic hikers.

Climbing mountains, finding new places and enjoying the experience of the journey have always been important to Janice. She cherishes the little things she sees along the trail, as well as the grand destinations.

When Janice is not writing, hiking or taking photographs, she is involved in various creative digital, website design or photographic projects for her clients. She and her husband, Jamie Levine, enjoy their rural property, near Cranbrook, BC.

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