Kootenay National Park – An Original Not To Be Missed!

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Kootenay in Winter

Kootenay National Park in Winter
Photo: Travel Canada

If you’re traveling through British Columbia and heading west to Alberta through Mount Revelstoke, Glacier and Yoho National Parks…get off the Trans-Canada Number 1 highway at Golden, then continue south to the town of Radium, known for it’s spring fed sulphur hot spring. Radium marks the western entrance to Kootenay National Park. Not as well known as Banff, or Jasper; Kootenay is possibly the most interesting and definitely the most diverse in terms of geography.

Traveling from the east, the park can be reached from Castle Mountain Junction, on the Icefields Parkway, north of Banff/Lake Louise. This park is only 94 kms. long and quite narrow, with its main feature being the ecosystem that ranges from alpine, in its eastern section to semi-arid in the west.

With over 200 kms. of trails it offers some of the best adventure tourism and trekking in the Canadian Rockies. For backpackers, of special note is the 66 km. Rock Wall Trail, that can take trekkers north to Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. The Rock Wall Trail can also be travelled in segments with its many short access trails that follow the creeks coming down from its high country (Helmet, Tumbling, Numa and Floe), all of which make excellent day hikes.

Day hikers with an interest in glaciers, may want to take the 4.2 km. trip to the Stanley Glacier. Those seeking an alpine view, should try the longer 9.8 km. Kindersley Pass, which can also be travelled as a 16.2 km. loop.

Also well worth the short excursion is the short trip up Marble Canyon, which also is the trailhead to Kaufman Lake a 15 km. backpack trip. No traveller to the park should miss the geologically and historical Paint Pots, which were a source of red ochre for aboriginal people and later mined for the manufacture of paint for railway boxcars and barns.

Kootenay National also has adequate facilities for camping, operated by Parks Canada. During the summer months sites in campgrounds in the park are at a premium and it is suggested that campers should use Parks Canada’s online Campground Reservation Service. Travelers using hotels, motels, hostels and bed and breakfast are also encouraged to make reservations.

Anglers and and fly fishing enthusiasts will really enjoy Kootenay but you need to have National Park fishing permit and motor boats are not allowed. You also have to be aware of catch limits and many anglers practice catch and release, but it’s also great to keep one for the pan.

As Kootenay is a National Park, backcountry overnight travelers will require permits and must also be appropriately equipped and skilled in mountain weather conditions, map and compass, food storage and bear avoidance skills.

Radium Hot Springs Pool

Radium Hot Springs Pool
Photo: Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce

At Radium Hot Springs, be sure to have a soak in the the largest hot springs facility in the Canadian Rockies! Located at the base of a dramatic rock wall in Sinclair Canyon. Whether you are watching bighorn sheep from the comfort of the hot pool or hiking through the lush vegetation on nearby trails, you are certain to find something unique! Redstreak canyon’s unusual habitats created by the combination of hot springs, sheltered slopes and rock walls provide for some of Kootenay National Park’s rarest inhabitants such as the reclusive rubber boa snake. The narrow canyon’s meadows provide a crucial wildlife corridor for park animals.

The charming town of Radium Hot Springs, although adjacent to the park and the hot springs, is outside of the park. It offers a wide variety of accommodations, as well maintains a somewhat non-commercial atmosphere.

Sinclair Canyon, the narrow gorge that the highway and walkway travels between the town and the pool. The canyon is a fabulous example of the long term erosion power of water. Basically Radium is a great place to stay and enjoy the outdoors, hospitality and, of course, the hot springs.

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