Scenic sites, charming towns and opportunities for adventure.
Many travel to the Kootenay Rockies, the region that borders Banff to the west and south, for the day or a multi-day vacation. Motorized adventures restricted in the national parks, such as ATV tours and lift-assisted downhill mountain biking, are a big draw. Others visit unique sites such as the Burgess Shale fossil beds, Columbia River Wetlands and Fort Steele Heritage Town. Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse and Elk rivers is popular, as are the area’s many excellent golf courses and hot springs. Take the Trans-Canada Hwy west of Lake Louise. Crest the Continental Divide and descend to the scenic wilderness of yoho National Park (1-250-343-6783). • Lake o’Hara, 11 km/6.8 mi from Hwy 1, offers many stunning hikes; try Lake Oesa day-hike. Access is only by bus (summer June 20-Oct 5); call 250-343-6433 early to reserve an 8:30 am or 10:30 am ride. • Spiral Tunnels roadside stop offers a look at the spiraling railway cut into Mt Ogden and Cathedral Mountain; the reduced rail gradient lets trains ease into the valley.
BANFF To GoLDEN: 139 km/86 mi
• Takakkaw Falls is one of Canada’s highest at 384 m/1260 ft. Access is via Yoho Valley Rd. • Town of Field is 30 km/19 mi from Lake Louise; find food, lodging and the Parks Canada Visitor Centre with a small fossil display. • Burgess Shale World Heritage Site quarries contain 500-million year old invertebrate fossils. Access by tour only; 1-800-343-3006. • Emerald Lake is reached via Emerald Lake Rd; see Natural Rock Bridge en route. Circling the lake is a 5 km/3 mi trail; also try the short walk to Hamilton Falls. Dine or rent boats at Emerald Lake Lodge, 1-800-663-6336. • Wapta Falls, 23 km/14 mi west of Field,
is worth the 30-minute access hike for its 30 m/98 ft height, 150 m/490 ft width and Ottertail Range backdrop.
Split by the boisterous Kicking Horse River and bordered by the Columbia River Wetlands, the Town of Golden (1-800-6224653) is 83 km/52 mi west of Lake Louise. Discover a history steeped in railway construction, logging and the legendary Swiss Guides who pioneered tourist forays into the Rocky Mountains. With full tourist amenities and close proximity to Yoho and Glacier national parks, Golden is a great staging area for hiking, biking, sightseeing, backcountry adventure and family-friendly activities. • Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Golden is North America’s longest freestanding timber-frame river crossing. Watch for free summer concerts and weekly farmer’s market at the adjacent Spirit Square. • Edelweiss Swiss Village is a historic area of town where the families of the Swiss Guides were housed over a century ago. • Golden Museum & Archives (1-250-3445169) interprets early days through exhibits on Swiss Guides, the first Sikh people, geographer David Thompson and Columbia River riverboats. Travelling displays are presented. • Columbia Wetlands is the longest protected wetlands in North America. Birders and wildlife enthusiasts take guided tours or rent boats for a self-guided paddle trip. • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (1-866754-5425), 14 km/8 mi from town, offers the world’s largest grizzly bear refuge for resident ‘Boo’, and a sightseeing gondola that rises to Eagle Eye restaurant (Canada’s highest), lift-assisted downhill mountain biking and summit hiking trails. • Mount 7 at 1200 m/3937 ft is accessible by road. Enjoy the Columbia Valley view and watch the paragliders and mountain bikers. • Fishing at local lakes and streams offer cutthroat, brook and rainbow trout, kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass. The Municipal Campground (1-866-538-6625) sell permits and lures, and recommend guides. • The Rotary Trails for pedestrians and cyclists run parallel to the Kicking Horse River before winding through residential areas and past Golden’s Reflection Lake. • Moonraker Bike Trails and Mountain Shadows Trail System offer over 100 km of maintained cross-country cycling routes that can be accessed from downtown. • Thompson Falls on the Blaeberry River is 28 km/17 mi northwest of Golden along gravel roads. Find its crystal waters on the 1.4 km/.9 mi Thompson Falls Trail loop. • Kicking Horse Whitewater Rafting (outfitters p 74 ranges from scenic family-friendly Upper Canyon tours to maximum thrills on class 4 rapids during Lower Canyon runs. • ATV Quad Tours (outfitters p 61) are an adrenaline-charged way to travel local trails. • Climbing and Mountaineering Hire a local guide and get into the mountains or get started with a learn to climb course at the indoor climbing gym. • Tandem Paragliding and Skydiving Get a bird's eye view of spectacular Rocky and
The 15,070 hectare Columbia Wetlands that connects Golden with Invermere is one of the longest and most biologically rich in North America. Eco-tours introduce visitors to its diverse population of plants, birds, fish and mammals. Columbia mountain scenery. • Golden Golf Club (1-866-727-7222) offers two layouts (Newis front 9 and Les Furber back 9) along the Columbia River between the Rocky and Purcell ranges. • Rogers Pass Historic Site is west of Golden via Hwy 1 through Glacier National Park and over Rogers Pass, named for Albert Bowman Rogers’ expedition to find passage through the “impenetrable peaks” of the Selkirk Mountains. There’s hiking and picnicking, plus interpretive programs at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, 1-250-837-7500.
BANFF TO CRANBROOK 278 km/173 mi
South off Hwy 1 between Banff and Lake Louise, the Banff-Windermere Hwy 93 S rises to the BC border, descends into Kootenay National Park and ends at Radium Hot Springs. Amongst the mountain scenery and between the fast flowing Vermilion and Kootenay rivers are backpacking routes and these short hiking trails: • Fireweed Loop (.8 km/.5 mi) explores a 1968 fire and regenerating forest. • Marble Canyon (.8 km/.5 mi) boasts unique polished rock formations and seven footbridges over the 40 m/131 ft deep gorge where raging Tokumm Creek flows. • Paint Pots (1.5 km /.9 mi) trail leads to colourful springs and ochre beds used by First Nations for ornamentation.
Exit Kootenay National Park through the red rocks of Sinclair Canyon to reach the Village of Radium Hot Springs (Visitor Centre 1-888-347-9331), 139 km/86 mi from Banff at the crossroads of Hwys 93 and 95. Motels, shops, restaurants and mini golf line Radium’s main streets where Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep often wander. • Radium Hot Springs (p 86) is situated amongst rust-red cliffs; it features Canada’s largest mineral springs pool, a 25-metre long cool pool, a plunge pool, steam rooms and spa services. • Queen of Peace station of the cross sculptures are located behind the Canadian Martyrs Church at 7528 Main St East, two doors from the Radium Visitor Centre. • Backcountry Activities near Radium include fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, camping, canoeing and kayaking. • Hiking trails are abundant. Olive Lake (.5 km/.3 mi) boardwalk has bronze bear paw, tree bark and fish displays. Valley View (1.8 km /1.1 mi) is a Douglas fir-lined trail from Redstreak Campground. Juniper Trail (3.2 km/2 mi) along swift flowing Sinclair Creek connects the town to the hot springs. • Columbia Wetlands prime wildlife habitat is popular with canoeists and bird watchers. • Biking trails over diverse terrain offer cyclists of all abilities a chance to enjoy the scenery. There are trails for cross-country and singletrack bikers; tricks and air are found at Radium Pump & Jump Track. The Columbia Valley Cycling Society’s trail map is available at the Radium Visitor Centre. • Backcountry travel by horseback is permitted. ATV and dirt bike riders are encouraged to contact recreation sites and Trails BC
at www.trailsbc.ca. • Whitewater Rafting companies operate tours on the Kicking Horse and Kootenay rivers, and Toby Creek. Voyager trips are offered down the Columbia River. • Golf options include The Resort and Springs Courses (1-800-667-6444) located within the Village of Radium Hot Springs. There are 8 championship courses along the Columbia Valley Golf Trail as well as many 9-hole par 3 courses.
The Town of Invermere (1-250-342-2844) is 11 km /8 mi south of Radium via Hwy 93/95 on the north end of Lake Windermere. Both the Kinsmen Beach and James Chabot Park have sand beaches and shallow swimming areas that are ideal for children. Boat rental options include jet skis, water ski and wakeboard boats, fishing boats, peddle boats, kayaks and canoes. • Golf courses include Eagle Ranch (1-877877-3889), 18 holes perched along bluffs overlooking the Columbia River and Rocky and Purcell mountains; their Rustic Steakhouse and Trader’s Lounge are well-regarded dining venues. Copper Point (1-877-4184653) also offers championship golf.
Detour 18 km/11 mi west of Invermere to Panorama Mountain Village (1-800-6632929) to find Mile 1 sightseeing chairlift that accesses hiking and downhill mountain biking trails. Greywolf Golf Course is a scenic 18-hole course, and there’s mini golf too. Paved hiking and bike trails run alongside Toby Creek, popular for whitewater rafting and kayaking. ATV tours are offered nearby.
Eighteen km/11 mi south of Invermere is Fairmont Hot Springs (Resort 1-800-6634979), home to Canada’s largest mineral hot pools complex. Golf at the 18-hole Mountainside and Riverside golf courses, or family-friendly Creekside Golf Course par-3 (1-800-665-2112).
Eighty-four km/52 mi south of Fairmont via Hwy 93/95 and 95A is the City of Kim-
berley (1-866-431-7669) that bustles with activity during the summer. • The Platzl outdoor pedestrian area features shops, cafés, a museum and Canada’s largest freestanding cuckoo clock. • Cominco Gardens boasts 45,000 flowers and trees; it’s popular for a picnic or stroll. • Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway (1-250-427-0022) travels through Mark Creek valley as a guide speaks about the history of Kimberley and the Sullivan Mine. • Hiking options in the Purcell and Rocky mountains include easy strolls, walks to waterfalls and multi-day treks. • Wasa Lake is popular for swimming and water skiing. Nearby Premier Lake is a good spot for fishing. Local rivers are good for fly fishing. • Golf Courses 18-hole courses include: Bootleg Gap Golf Course (1-877-427-7077); Kimberley Golf Course (1-877-427-4161) and Trickle Creek Golf Resort (1-800-258-7669).
Thirty km/19 mi south of Kimberley is the City of Cranbrook (1-800-728-2726). Kootenay Rockies’ largest city was founded over a century ago following the arrival of the Crowsnest Railway. • St Eugene Golf Resort & Casino features an 18-hole course (1-877-417-3133) and the only casino in the Kootenay Rockies. Its history as a residential school for aboriginal children is honoured at the resort’s Interpre-
tive Centre where Ktunaxa Nation stories, artifacts and handcrafts are displayed. • Fort Steele Heritage Town (1-250-4267352) recreates pioneer life as it was during the gold rush, railway and lumbering days of the late 1800s. Attractions include the Wild Horse Theatre, steam train and horse drawn carriage rides, and blacksmith and gold panning demonstrations. • The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel (1-250-489-3918) showcases restored historic train cars and the beautiful 1906 Royal Alexandra Hall. • Kootenay Trout Hatchery (1-250-4293214) has exhibits, kid’s fishing pond and moat with trophy size trout. Open year ‘round, guided tours and scheduled activities are May through August. • Paved cycling Over 40 km of routes include North Star Trail that connect Cranbrook and Kimberley along a former rail line. • outdoor activities in the area include hiking, boating, hunting, cycling and fishing.
CRANBRooK To FERNIE 96 km/60 mi
Located 87 km/54 mi east of Cranbrook via Hwy 3, the City of Fernie (1-877-933-7643) draws visitors with the promise of outdoor activities and adventure. Fernie was founded in 1898 following construction of the railway and the opening of Coal Creek mine. This historic town is full of character; stroll its park trails along the Elk River and visit the grand 1899 courthouse. • Fernie Alpine Resort (1-877-333-2339) operates the Timber Express Chairlift that travels up the mountain to spectacular Elk Valley views, hiking trails, Lost Boys Café and an aerial playground with a rippin’ zipline. From the top, biking options include cross-country, downhill, single track and dual slalom trails; bike rentals are offered. • Island Lake Lodge (1-888-422-8754) sits on 7000 acres that includes a lovely lake, old growth ‘coastal-style’ forests and hiking trail. Overnight and day visitors enjoy fine dining, fly fishing and the spa. • Fernie Miners Walk City Hall garden pathways, interpretive displays and sculpture
recognize the contribution of local miners. • Clawhammer Press (1-778-519-5010) is a working downtown Fernie letterpress studio and gallery that employs century-old equipment for design and printing. • Fernie Golf & Country Club (1-250-4237773) par-70 features strategically placed water and sand hazards, along with spectacular mountain views. • Coal Mine Tours of Elk Valley Coal’s Fording River and the Elkview mines are offered during the summer from visitor centres in nearby Elkford (1-877-355-9453) and Sparwood (1-877-485-8185). Sparwood also displays a Terex Titan, one of the world’s largest tandem axle dump trucks. • The Fernie Derrick, BC’s last wooden oil derrick, is located next to the Visitor Centre off Hwy 3. Its metal components were the first to drill oil wells in the province. • Ancient Cottonwood Trail Along a short Elk River trail 15 minutes west of Fernie are 400year old black Cottonwood trees (the world’s biggest) and old-growth western red cedars. Watch for endangered western screech owls and songbirds while you walk. • Fly Fishing Fernie is a world-class ‘dry-fly’ fishing destination. The Elk River is full of westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout; use a drift boat or walk and wade this spectacular river. Guide services are available. • Hiking trails range from city riverside paths to alpine routes above treeline. Over 60 trails offer choices for all ages and fitness levels. • Whitewater Rafting companies offer trips that include the wild rapids of the Elk River as well as relaxing Bull River floats.
Rustically elegant accommodation such as Island Lake lodge (shown) are off the beaten path yet have the amenities that sophisticated travellers expect.
The Kootenay Rockies offer championship golf courses like Eagle Ranch (shown) as well as par 3 and 9-hole courses suitable for a more casual round.
Ride the gondola to Canada's highest restaurant, hiking and downhill biking at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden
By Best Impressions Photography
Radium Hot Springs