Situated in the Rocky Mountains at the highest elevation for a community in Canada (1,300 m), the picturesque community of Elkford, like Fernie and Sparwood further south, owes its existence to the discovery of coal by George Mercer Dawson.
The community of Elkford was built to house the employees of the mine, and now over 25 years later, boasts two highly productive coal mines that provide the main source of employment in Elkford.
Prior to the settlement of the Elk Valley, the area was inhabited by migrant Indians who visited the hunter’s Eden each year to harvest fish and game to carry them through the winter months. Migrants of the Tobacco Plains Band of the Khutnaxa (Kootenay) Indians were probably the first to enter the Elk Valley. Some of their artifacts and drawings can still be found in the area today.
Elkford has dubbed itself the Wilderness Capital of British Columbia, a well deserved name, considering the scenery of the Rocky Mountains, the lush and forested slopes, the spectacular alpine meadows, and the clear glacier-fed lakes and streams that surround Elkford.
Appropriately, this area is home to large mountain goat and bighorn sheep herds, and other wildlife that attracts visitors with cameras, binoculars and sketchpads to view the animals in their natural habitat. Back in the valley, there are historical and cultural sites to be explored.
Location: Elkford is located on Highway 43 in the BC Rocky Mountains, 21 miles (34 km) north of Sparwood and approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of the Alberta/British Columbia border (as the crow flies).
Skiing: The Rocky Mountains are well known for the ample snowfall that benefits downhill and cross-country skiers. Elkford’s local Wapiti Ski Hill offers weekly night skiing and day skiing on weekends. Rates can’t be beaten, and the lines are usually very short.
Winter Activities: Elkford is a snowmobilers paradise, and also offers spectacular sledding opportunities that range from family outings to breathtaking mountain challenges. Many of the trails travel through large mountain basins, high mountain passes and beautiful valleys – all providing fantastic riding opportunities.
Visitors here will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the most spectacular forests including Josephine Falls, Green Hills Viewpoint and one of western Canada’s largest wilderness parks, Elk Lakes Provincial Park. Follow hiking trails through forest and meadow to the Upper and Lower Elk Lakes and the Petain Creek Falls.
Fifty kilometres north of Elkford, is the Elk Lakes Provincial Park, bordering the south side of Alberta’s Kananaskis Park, nestled above the tree line in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking – there’s just something about lakes set against massive cliff faces, headwalls, waterfalls, craggy summits, and hanging icefalls that makes you stop in your tracks and say a profound “wow”.
Hiking and Mountain Biking: Welcome to hiking and mountain biking bliss! Old forestry and exploration roads provide hours of pleasurable hiking and riding. For the more adventurous, there excellent single tracks, intense downhill runs and challenging climbs to test your skills and endurance. With over 40 km of maintained trails in and around town, Elkford is fast becoming a major destination for wilderness enthusiasts. There are several easy to moderate trails that are suitable for outings of half a day or less.
Events: Annual events include Wild Cat Days and Dog-Sled Derby.
The Height of The Rockies Provincial Park to the north of Elkford is a new, undeveloped site. One of its key characteristics is its variation of elevation – from 4,265 to 11,315 feet (1310 to 3474 m). It’s a great place for hiking and horseback riding but should be attempted by experienced hikers and mountaineers only. The 167,960-acre (68000-hectare) wilderness area is located in the Rocky Mountains and stretches northwest along the Continental Divide between the Elk Lakes Provincial Park in southeastern British Columbia, and Banff National Park and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in southwestern Alberta.
Bears: British Columbia is bear country, and in the East and West Kootenays, there are approximately 2,000 grizzly bears and over 16,000 black bears. Around Elkford you are in bear country, yet your chances of seeing a bear are fairly low. We see them on the side of the highway, on logging roads, on the way to a campsite, near town, or in the bush when hiking. Seeing a bear can be one of the most memorable experiences of a wilderness vacation, but it is our responsibility to respect the bear in its habitat.
Wildflowers: The Rockies come alive with wildflowers in the spring. None is as lovely as the rare and protected calypso orchid (fairy slipper). Avalanche lily, arnica, paintbrush and fireweed are but a few of the many varieties of pretty wildflowers that dot the hillsides with colour.
Golf: The Mountain Meadows Golf Club on Highway 43 in Elkford offers virtually “no wait” golfing. Nestled between snow-capped peaks, Rocky Mountain splendour surrounds you at every hole. Challenging greens and contoured fairways are trademarks of this 9-hole layout (2,690 yards). A continuous flow of spring water channels its way through the course, creating water hazards to overcome at three different holes.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Angling for cutthroat trout, dolly varden, and Rocky Mountain whitefish can be productive in the glacier fed waters of the Elk and Fording River watersheds. There are also numerous alpine lakes that have been stocked, and if you are keen to hike to get to these lakes, the fishing that awaits you is well worth the effort.
Indoor Activities: Once you’ve had your fill of the great outdoors, Elkford offers a wide variety of other recreational opportunities. The Recreation Centre houses a 3-sheet curling club and lounge, a full size hockey arena, horseshoe pits, and 6 ball diamonds.
Tucked away in some of the most rugged terrain in the heart of the Elk Valley, and amongst the densest wildlife populations in North America, is the paradise town of Sparwood, immediately south of Elkford. The second largest centre on the Elk River, Sparwood has an amazing history, although it is one of the youngest towns in British Columbia.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop. Circle Tours in British Columbia.