Top 10 Attractions in the Kootenay Rockies
The Kootenay Rockies is a huge area that covers a large part of south eastern British Columbia.
It’s home to many National Parks, mountain ranges, glaciers, rivers and forests. There’s wildlife, activities and outdoor attractions, making the Kootenays a quintessential Canadian destination.
With so much to do it can be hard to know where to start. As long time residents of the Kootenays, here are our recommendations.
1. Rafting the Kicking Horse River
The Kicking Horse River is a world renowned white water rafting river. It’s wild and scenic, and with the adventure you’ll experience, this is a stop you won’t want to miss.
There are 3 sections of the river that are raftable, each offering a different experience. The upper canyon is the calmest part of the river, providing a gentle float that has scenery for days. The middle and lower canyons are where you get into the big class 3 and 4 rapids, with either a full day or half day option.
There are 5 trips to choose from, each comprised of different canyon combinations. You can choose a trip that’s as long or short, exhilarating or calm, wild or tame as you’d like.
You’ll experience a national park, the expansive peaks surrounding the river valley, and a pristine mountain river.
No experience required and all ages are welcome (starting as young as 4 years old). You’ll get all the river gear you need so all you need to bring is your sense of adventure.
2. A Soak in Radium Hot Springs
Sit back, relax and soak away your worries and tightness. Whether you’ve been hiking, sightseeing, or need a break after a long drive, Radium Hot Springs deserve a place in your holiday plans.
The natural mineral water offers a refreshing, rejuvenating and restoring experience . There are two pools here – a hot pool for soaking, and a cool pool for swimming.
The water in the hot pool is naturally warmed, and it stays around 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
The pools sit tucked down in the Sinclair Canyon. The large rock walls surrounding the hot springs creating a private and cozy feeling. There’s lots of space to spread out and we know you’ll leave feeling more relaxed than when you arrived.
3. A Day Hike in Glacier National Park – a long and short option
Glacier National Park is one of the most jaw dropping areas in the whole Kootenay Rockies. Everything you’d want in postcard perfect mountain scenery exists in Glacier.
The peaks are steep, the valleys deep. The forests are lush, waterfalls and creeks paint the landscapes. The evergreen forests and carpet of thick mosses are vibrant and soft.
There are many hikes worthy of your time, and here’s our recommendation for both a full day or half day option.
Full Day Hike: Abbott Ridge
The Abbott Ridge hike will bring you to one of the most impressive views in the whole National Park. It brings you well above the tree line into the alpine tundra, to a rocky ridge with views in all directions.
There are rocks as flat at tabletops, the perfect perch to take off your shoes and stretch out your legs. Spend time here to soak in the sun and fresh mountain breeze.
At 6.8 km, one way, you’ll need to plan for a full day on your feet. Pack layers, snacks and lots of water.
Shorter Stroll: Asulkan Valley Trail – the first half
This trail could be a full day mission, but hiking the first few kilometres offers a gentle walk. The Asulkan is one of the few trails in Glacier National Park that winds through the valley bottom.
It offers spectacular scenery while still providing a gentle introduction to hiking. Lush forests, glacial creeks, waterfalls and mountain peaks will greet you.
The trail is an out and back so walk for as long or as little as you’d like.
4. A Day Hike in Yoho National Park – a long and short option
Hiking in Yoho National Parks brings you into the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s another beauty with endless options for hiking and sightseeing. Yoho National Park is home to well known Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls, but the whole area will have you pulling out your camera. For stretching your legs in a big – of not so big – way, here’s what we recommend.
Full Day Hike: Iceline Trail
We imagine you’ve heard of the Iceline Trail. As far as alpine hikes in the Canadian Rockies go, the Iceline is as iconic as they get.
At 20.8 km, this hike will bring you along ridge lines and valley bottoms, past mountain streams and glaciers. You’ll stroll through meadows and at the base of towering waterfalls.
Adventure high in the alpine on glacial moraines, with hoary marmots to keep you company.
We prefer starting at the Whiskey Jack Hostel and ending at Takakkaw Falls, but the circuit is possible in either direction. Do you want a steep climb to start or to end – it’s up to you.
Shorter Stroll: Sherbrook Lake
The trail to Sherbrook is well worn in, and it’ll bring you through thick forest to a glacial lake. This hike is about as flat as you can get in Yoho, so if your legs need a break or aren’t after a steepy, you’ll enjoy this walk.
Pack a picnic for a lakeside lunch, or a little blanket for a snooze in the alpine meadow.
*Note – if you get to Sherbrook Lake and would like to keep going, you can walk around to the back of the lake. This brings you to a meadow where you can relax on the boardwalks, or continue up to the ridge line above.
5. Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park
Kootenay is the southernmost National Park of the three we’ve mentioned, and the landscapes feel very different here. In many areas the dense evergreen forests become grasses and deciduous trees instead.
There are many spots to stretch your legs, but a stop at Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots offer an easy one.
From Marble Canyon you can take the few kilometer trail to the Paint Pots. A vibrant place, the Paint Pots are an area where iron has soaked into the area’s clay, making it a bright orange colour.
This is a family friendly activity and will add to the photo bank you’ve been collecting on your trip.
6. Fairmont Hot Springs
Another hot stop to soak your hard working body. With all we do in a day, we’re all for taking the time to relax and soak in some geothermal goodness.
With so much hiking and sightseeing in the area, taking time to recover is as important as being on the go.
Sit outside, take in the views of the surrounding mountains and soak in the warmth of the natural springs. It’ll do wonders for your soul and we know you won’t regret it. We’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Gee, I sure wish we didn’t go to those hot springs’.
The pools are open to guests of the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, and also to travellers who are passing through. They’re beautiful and spacious and worth a visit.
7. Big Views from the Top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
If you’re driving through the Kootenay Rockies, we imagine you’ll want big views of the mountains that make up this area. Taking the gondola to the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort will give you what you’re after.
360 degree, panoramic views, mountains as far as you can see in every direction. Hit the top of this mountain on a clear day and we guarantee it’ll blow you away.
We’ve been up many times in both the winter and the summer, and it amazes us every time. You can look deep into the Purcell Mountain Range, and across the valley at the Canadian Rockies.
The gondola ride offers an easy way to cover a lot of vertical. To get high into the alpine with a very enjoyable ride. It’s easy on the legs, easy on the cardio, and the landscapes you’ll be taking in are easy on the eyes.
8. Follow the BC Ale Trail
With all the activities you’re enjoying, you’re bound to get a bit thirsty. Be sure to check out the local microbreweries in all the small towns you visit.
The BC Ale Trails highlights 12 microbreweries in the East Kootenays. Starting in Golden, BC, you can head south to Cranbrook, west over to Nelson and north up to Revelstoke. Depending where you start, you can take the route in any direction or pattern you please.
Experience the local culture, support the local businesses, and sample the local brews.
Kootenay Rockies Tourism has a map and more information on each of the 12 breweries, and you can check it out here.
9. A paddle in the Columbia Wetlands – North America’s largest intact wetlands
You’re in a canoe, floating down a river, surrounded by mountains, wetlands, osprey and beaver. Can you create an experience more Canadian than that? That seems about as Canadian as it can get to us.
There are many sandy beaches, so packing a picnic and setting out is a beautiful way to spend a day (or two, or three).
You can start as far south as Columbia Lake near Canal Flats, and go as far north as Revelstoke. From Revelstoke the river starts flowing south towards the US. It makes its way to Astoria Oregon where it’ll drain into the Pacific Ocean.
A day trip we recommend is starting in Nicholson and floating north into Golden, BC. There are several different options for inflatable kayak, SUP and canoe rentals. Here is one rental recommendation for getting you out onto the water.
The Columbia Wetlands are the largest intact wetlands in North America. Home to hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles, they provide a critical ecosystem for many of our area’s creatures.
Bring your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled because there’s always lots to look at.
10. Explore Kinbasket Lake
What are your go to activities in the summer? Swimming, boating, camping, sightseeing, floatin’ on the lake, or spending time with your family and friends? Well, lucky you because Kinbasket provides an ideal location for all of this!
We all have different interests and if you’re hanging out with a crew, chances are different people are going to want to do different things.
Why not base yourself from a spot that has options for everyone.
If camping isn’t your (or someone in your groups) style, Kinbasket Lake Resort is an option for more amenities.
Beyond the activities, the location is stunning. The Kinbasket stretches from Golden, BC in the south, up towards Valemount in the north. You can imagine the peaks that surround a valley of this size, as well as the views and landscapes.
So there you go. The Kootenay Rockies is a huge area and there’s a lifetime worth of things to see and do. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices or need a place to start, we hope these recommendations are helpful.
It’s such a beautiful part of the world, and one that’s definitely worth the time you’ll spend exploring it.