The Elk Rim Trail has opened for riding and hiking in South Country. This area is a spring paradise for Fernie’s weather bound hikers and bikers when Fernie’s trails are deep in snow and mud from the colder and wetter climate. The trail is a 20 kilometer, 400 meters elevation gain/loss loop to the confluence of the Elk River and Kootenay and follows part of the historic Old Fort Steele Trail.

Electric bikes are NOT permitted on the Elk Rim Trail. It is a Motor Vehicle Closure Area designated under the Wildlife Act, and electric bikes are classified as motor vehicles under the Wildlife Act.

The Elk Rim Trail work contributes to implementation of the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy. The Koocanusa Recreation Steering Committee (Recreation Sites and Trails BC) hired a contractor to establish the Elk Rim Non-Motorized Recreation (mountain bike & hiking) Trail. This Elk Rim Trail is on the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.

It can be said that the first East Kootenay mountain biking and internet service was along this trail before the CPR arrived in Fort Steele late in 1898. Also of note, this is the historic Ktunaxa route along the Kootenay and across the heart of their lands.

A section of the Elk Rim Trail loop follows the Old Fort Steele Trail that was built in 1864 from Missoula to Fort Steele to haul supplies and smuggle gold back to the US to avoid the 25% BC tax. This tax evasion forced the building of the Dewdney Trail from Victoria. The Fort Steele trail was cycled in June 1897 to Fort Steele by two Americans promoting a proposed telegraph line to Fort Steele.

“When Ella Webber began a hospital in Kalispel in 1895, it was the only one available to East Kootenays and Tobacco Plains residents. Stage coaches allowed the patient to make the trip to the hospital in a much easier fashion. The Kalispel Hospital advertised in the Fort Steele Prospector that, “Patients from Fort Steele and the mines will be received at reasonable rates.” No one told them they had to endure the 140 mile stagecoach ride over the Kalispell Road.

Communication with the outside world was a continue problem for East Kootenay and Tobacco Valley residents. A surprise solution that enhanced communication came in June 1897 when two bicycle riders arrived at Fort Steele having pedaled the distance from Kalispell. The cyclometer registered the distance at 139 1/4 miles. The two men convinced the communication starved Fort Steele businessmen that with their aid a telegraph could connect the two towns within 40 days. Supplies were ordered, posts were planted and lines were strung beside the Fort Steele Road. In August 1897 the Tobacco Plains was linked to the outside world by the telegraph.”

The Old Fort Steele Trail was also travelled by David Thompson (1807-1811), Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1945-46), Blackiston and John Palliser (1858). David Thompson led his pack horses of the Fur Brigade along this trail down to the trading posts south of the border from 1808 to 1811. Father De Smet was the first to report the coal resource in the Elk Valley.

Trail users will have to be careful here, there are ghosts! Stories reference a French Canadian woman who smuggled supplies along the trail to Fort Steele from Tobacco Plains in the 1860’s. She always returned with her smuggled gold but without her current husband, ten in all that were never seen again.

You can mountain bike into history on the Elk Rim Trail. Here is the online Trailforks link to the new trail.

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