Rocky Mountains And Kootenay Travel Guide
The Kootenay Rocky Mountains is a diverse region of South Eastern British Columbia. It stretches from Golden in the North to Cranbrook and Fernie in the South. In the Kootenay, you have dramatic mountain landscapes, glaciers, arid plains, and crystal clear lakes and rivers. The scenic highways are perfect for road trips and touring around.
July to August are the best months for most outdoor activities, and for lazy days at the beach. Any time of the year is great for a soak in the many hot springs you will find in the Kootenay region.
The Kootenay Rocky mountains are well known for fly fishing, rafting, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, golfing, camping and mountain biking. Home to the “Powder Highway” the Kootenay Rockies is a world-renowned skiing and snowboarding destination in winter. Cool little mountain towns, full of charm and character are found throughout the area. This corner of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is made for you if you enjoy mountain life and outdoor activities.
Places To See In The Rocky Mountains
Revelstoke is a getaway to serious mountains. It was an important point on the Canadian Pacific transcontinental railroad that first linked eastern and western Canada. You will find lots of history here. It is worth more than just a coffee break when driving on Hwy 1.
Revelstoke is the getaway to Mt Revelstoke National Park. From the summit of Mt. Revelstoke you sill get an amazing view of the mountains and the Columbia River valley.
Revelstoke is a place for keen outdoor enthusiasts and extreme winter sports seekers.
TIP! The back road from Mabel Lake in the Okanagan Valley via Three Valley Cap to Revelstoke is a backcountry adventure off the beaten track. Camp at Cottonwood campground or at Warp lake on the way. A 4WD is recommended for this trip, Check about road conditions before heading out and to make sure the road is open.
Glacier National Park
Located between Revelstoke and Golden, Glacier National Park has an annual snowfall as much as 23 m. Because of the steep mountain slopes, this is one of the world’s most active avalanche areas. Therefore all activities are regulated and you must register with the park warden before heading out.
Rogers Pass is one of the most beautiful mountain passes and if you traverse it by good weather you are lucky. I haven’t managed to do so yet! Be sure to stop at the Hemlock Grove Trail, 54 km east of Revelstoke. a 400 m boardwalk winds through an ancient hemlock rain forest.
Learn the history at the Canadian Pacific Railway dioramas at the Rogers Pass Centre on Hwy 1. You can watch films about the park and take a guided walking tours during summer.
Golden is a small mountain town with a friendly vibe and a tremendous personality thanks to its spectacular location in the Kicking Horse Pass. This is where the Kicking Horse and the Columbia Rivers meet. Surrounded by Yoho, Glacier, and Kootenay National Parks makes Golden the authentic adventure town of the Canadian Rockies.
Use Golden as a base camp from which to explore Lake O’Hara, Takakkaw Falls, the Burgess Shale, Emerald Lake and Rogers Pass. They are all within a 45-minute drive.
Yoho National Park
Yoho is the smallest of the four national parks in the Rockies. it is home to high peaks, pounding waterfalls, glacial lakes and nice meadows.
The park has some of Canada’s most scenic places, such as Emerald Lake, Lake O’Hara, the Takakkaw Falls and much more.
Make sure to stop at this historic railway town. Many of the buildings date from the early days of the railways when it used to be the headquarters for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Radium hot Springs
The Radium Hot Springs is a major gateway to the whole Rocky Mountains national park area. The charming mountain village greets you with the promise that “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace To The People” as you emerge from Kootenay National Park through the cliff walls of the Sinclair Canyon.
The big attraction is the hot springs, 3 km north of town. The hot springs mineral pools are quite modern and can get very busy in summer.
If you are interested in wildlife photography, don’t leave town. It’s not unusual to see Bighorn sheep grazing on people’s lawns.
Fernie is another down-to-earth town in the heart of the Rockies. This town is full of small town charm and big mountain adventures. You will find plenty of outdoor activities close by. Explore Fernie’s downtown core for its treasure of brick and stone Victorian architecture.
Mt. Fernie Provincial Park is only 3 km south of town. During summer the ski lifts bring mountain bikers and hikers up the hills. Travellers come here just to tackle the famous Al Matador, which drops over 900 m before finishing in the amazing Three Kings trail.
Get yourself a copy of the Fernie Mountain Bike Map, which is widely available.
Kimberly is a tourist destination with a Bavarian theme. The little mountain village is located at an 1113 m altitude. Although the “Lederhosen” are mostly gone, it is worthwhile a detour of Hyw 95 between Cranbrook and Radium Hot Springs.
Learn about life as a miner at the Underground Interpretive Centre and rid the underground mining railway through the beautiful Mark Creek valley. Listen to the guide explaining the history of Kimberley and the Sullivan Mine.
The North Star “Rails to Trails” links Kimberly to Cranbrook on a converted railway bed.
Cranbrook is the key city of the eastern Kootenays and the centre of many circle tours. Nearby lakes, rivers and mountains provide many recreational opportunities.
The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is a must stop when you’re in Cranbrook. The museum restores and preserves vintage Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train sets, including cars from the luxury Trans-Canada Limited.
Other attractions are the Casino, Fort Steele Heritage Town, Key City Theatre, Kootenay Trout Hatchery and Rails to Trails Bike Path.
Creston, 123 km west of Cranbrook, is known for its many orchards and the home of Columbia Brewing Co’s Kokanee True Ale.
Take Hwy 3A north for a scenic 80 km drive to the free Kootenay Lake Ferry, which connects to Nelson.
The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, Hw3 11 km west of Creston is a good place to spot birds, including blue herons.
Rossland is set on an ancient volcanic valley deep in the Monashee mountains in the Kootenay Rockies region. The town has a history of mining which left the hills crisscrossed with old trails and abandoned rail lines, which makes it one of the best places for mountain biking. Rossland is an outdoor mecca and it’s big on outdoor activities, uncrowded and unspoilt.
Red Mountain Ski Resort draws plenty of ski bums in winter. Hwy 3B brings you through awesome alpine scenery before rejoining Hwy 3, 28 km north-west of Rossland. Another 170 km west will take you to increasingly dry terrain to Osoyoos.
This town itself is a reason enough to visit the Kootenay’s. Nelson has the name of The Queen City. This small city with a big personality is situated on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains. The waterfront is lined with parks and beaches.
Nelson has hundreds of well-preserved heritage buildings, a crazy number of good restaurants and coffee shops and no shortage of sidewalk cafes.
A funky mix of hippies, artisans, rugged individuals is what really makes this place extraordinary. Definitely, put Nelson on your itinerary if you are travelling in this region.
You have many reasons to visit the cute little town, north of Nelson on Hwy 31. The quaint mountain village is nestled in a valley and surrounded by a lush forest and Kootenay Lake. A downtown park with pristine beaches lines the village. Heritage buildings, lovingly restored, dot the landscape, along with the S.S. Moyie.
The world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler dominates the waterfront, reminding everyone of its glory days. Launched on Kootenay Lake in 1898, this vessel has been beautifully restored by the people of this charming village.
Adventure is only minutes away, whether by kayak, hike, mountain bike or ski. You have many reasons to visit, but you’ll stay because of the friendly community spirit that will make you welcome. Fletcher Falls is worth a visit, having been recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 waterfalls by Canada EH Travel Guide.
New Denver, a tiny community of 560 people is located on the shore of Slocan Lake in the Slocan Valley. Leftovers from the 1890s silver mining boom. Another small Kootenay town, New Denver seems to be a few years away from becoming a ghost town status.
This lively town is situated on the shore of Upper Arrow lake between the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges. Nakusp is a first nation word and means “bay of quiet waters”.
Nakusp and the chain of lakes were forever changed by BC’s dam building projects in the 1950s and 1960s. The water level here was raised and the town had to be moved. This is the reason for its kind of a 1960-era look. The town has some attractive cafes and a tiny museum.
Nakusp is a popular destination for trout and salmon fishing. Heliskiing is among the many winter activities offered in the area.
The town is known for the Nakusp Hot Springs and resort, a getaway for BC locals. The hot springs are too modern and artificial for my taste, but the surrounding lets you forget that.
TIP: Nakusp has a whole circle tour of natural, wild Hot Springs. Halfway River Hot Springs offer you a relaxing soak just north of Nakusp. They are tucked away at the bottom of a steep cliff beside Halfway River. Away from hot spring resorts, you can enjoy the soothing mineral water in its own natural setting for FREE.
St. Leon Hot Springs is another wild hot spring just north of Nakusp. It is easily accessible if you want to stay away from the commercial springs in the area.
The Nakusp area has several wild and developed hot springs and is a great destination or a stop on the way to somewhere else.
Hot Springs In The Rocky Mountains
The abundance of mineral hot springs in the Kootenay Rocky Mountains is one of mother natures gifts. Make sure and stop and have a soak, whether you want it classy or wild, you have the choice.
- Canyon Hot Springs (near Mount Revelstoke)
- Halcyon Hot Springs (Hwy 23)
- Halfway River Hot springs (wild) (near Nakusp)
- Nakusp Hot Springs (Nakusp)
- St. Leon Hot Springs (wild) (near Nakusp)
- Ainsworth Hot Springs (Hwy 31)
- Buhl Creek Hot Springs (near Kimberly)
- Lussier Hot Springs (off Hwy 95)
- Fairmont Hot Springs (Hwy 93)
Put it on your list when you plan your trip, to visit some of the friendly communities in the Rocky Mountains.