Located in Southeastern BC, Cranbrook is a central transportation hub due to its proximity to the borders of Alberta and the U.S. It’s also the largest urban centre in the East Kootenay region.
The Ktunaxa peoples originally inhabited the land. In the late 1800s, Colonel James Baker named the growing town after his home in Cranbrook, Kent, England. In 1898, the European settler convinced Canadian Pacific Railway to establish its Crowsnest Pass line through his town rather than nearby Gold Rush boom town Fort Steele. Thus the wheels of history turn. On November 1, 1905, Cranbrook was incorporated as a city.
While much of the city is relatively flat, Cranbrook is surrounded by hills lined with residential homes. The city faces the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the north and east. Nearby lakes include Jim Smith Lake, Wasa Lake, Lazy Lake, Moyie Lake, Monroe Lake, Norbury Lake and Elizabeth Lake.
Cranbrook’s climate is classified as “humid continental.” The town receives the most hours of sunshine of any city in the province. It is also fairly dry precipitation-wise throughout the year, though it does get some snow.
Major industries include mining and forestry services, trades, and health care.
There are seven elementary schools and two middle schools, and one high school: Mount Baker Secondary. There is also a local home-school network.
Cranbrook is home to the main campus of the College of the Rockies, which has over 2,500 full and part-time students from over 21 countries.
A paved, two-lane 28 km (17 mi) trail between Cranbrook and Kimberley constitutes a section of the Trans-Canada Trail. Known as the Rails to Trails, it’s suitable for hikers and mountain-bikers. In addition to this trail, the region encompasses 2000 acres of community forest.
The Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo is an annual cycling challenge for all ages and abilities. It takes place at the foot of the Rockies and crosses three rivers.
As mentioned, Cranbrook is surrounded by lakes. Visitors and locals use them for boating, fishing and camping. There are also public beaches and provincial campgrounds.
Pool and hockey arena Western Financial Place was formerly the home to the Kootenay Ice until that team relocated to Winnipeg in 2019.
Key City Theatre hosts live performances throughout the year. Cranbrook Community Theatre presents plays and musical performances. Comedy fans can get their laughs at the Comedy Circus, which presents live stand-up and sketch comedy. In the summer, crowds gather at Rotary Park for live music in the series Summer Sounds in the Park.
Galleries showcase local artisans’ work, including art from the local Ktunaxa Nation.
Cranbrook is also home to the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. Passenger rail cars built in the 1920s for the CPR and in the 1900s for the Spokane International Railway are on display.
Festivals include a wine festival in the spring and Sam Steele Days in summer. The latter is a family-oriented arts and sporting events festival.
Cranbrook’s range of places to dine include everything from food fast to fine dining. A farmers’ market runs all summer long. In 2021, Trip Advisor listed Allegra (Mediterranean), Heid Out Restaurant and Brewhouse, Sakura Sushi & Grill, and Soulfood Farm to Table as the top restaurants.
Baker Street in downtown Cranbrook is the main shopping area. There, you’ll find bike shops, outdoor gear, clothing, ladies wear, jewellery, a chocolate shop, gifts and many independent stores.
Other shopping areas include Cranbrook Street, the Tamarack Mall and several big box stores.