Rocky Mountains Kootenay Travel Guide
Start your journey into the wild Rocky Mountains. Visit unique colourful towns, and discover unexpected adventures along the way.
The Canadian Rocky Mountains and Kootenay
Facts About Canadian Rocky Mountains and Kootenay
The Kootenay Rocky Mountains are 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.
Read more: West Kootenay Route
The Rocky Mountains and Kootenay
Outdoor Activities in the Rocky Mountains
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.
Top 10 Destinations East Kootenay 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 Highway 1.
Revelstoke is the getaway to Mt Revelstoke National Park. From the summit of Mt. Revelstoke, you will 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 road conditions before heading out to make sure the road is open.
Read more: Hiking McCrae Mountain near Revelstoke
2. Glacier National Park
Located between Revelstoke and Golden, Glacier National Park has an annual snowfall of 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 in 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 of the Canadian Pacific Railway dioramas at the Rogers Pass Centre on Highway 1. You can watch films about the park and take a guided walking tour during the 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 River 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.
4. 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, 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.
6. 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. In 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” is mostly gone, it is worthwhile a detour of Highway 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 is 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, Highway 3, 11 km west of Creston is a good place to spot birds, including blue herons.
Most probably West Kootenay will be less touristy than East Kootenay,
9 Beautiful Hot Springs In The Rocky Mountains
The abundance of mineral hot springs in the Kootenay Rocky Mountains is one of mother nature’s 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 (Highway 23)
- Halfway River Hot Springs (wild, near Nakusp)
- Nakusp Hot Springs (Nakusp)
- St. Leon Hot Springs (wild) (near Nakusp)
- Ainsworth Hot Springs (Highway 31)
- Buhl Creek Hot Springs (near Kimberly)
- Lussier Hot Springs (off Highway 95)
- Fairmont Hot Springs (Highway 93)
Make a plan for visiting some of the friendly communities and Hot Springs in the Rocky Mountains next time you’re venturing that way.