Kootenay & Rockies, Alberta
The Kootenay Rockies
The Kootenay Rockies region of BC includes five different mountain ranges, each offering a vast wilderness of rivers, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, mineral hot springs, alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains. During the winter, the Kootenay Rockies offers some of the continent’s finest powder skiing and snowboarding, while summer brings white water rafting, fishing, windsurfing, mountain biking, and authentic cattle rides at dude and guest ranches. Be sure to visit wonderfully restored heritage towns, ghost towns, gold rush boom towns, and thriving art communities. The name “Kootenay” is derived from the Ktunaxa First Nations word Quthni which means to “travel by water”.
The Kootenay region is home to four National Parks; Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, and Kootenay. Visit Yoho National Park to see the famous Spiral Tunnels, cut through the seemingly impenetrable Rocky Mountains in 1909, to make way for the railroad. Enjoy the soothing effects of the region’s many natural hot springs. In Kootenay National Park, enjoy the scenery while hiking through alpine meadows, old-growth forests and valleys carpeted with colourful summer wildflowers, with many species not found anywhere else in BC.
Approximately 170,000 people live in the Kootenay Rockies. The lifestyle is laid back with an emphasis on outdoor living. The Kooteney Rockies area starts east of the Shuswap on Highway 1, travelling through Revelstoke to Golden and continuing on to the Rocky Mountains. South from Golden take Hwy 95/93 through the Hotsprings, Kimberley and Cranbrook. To turn west again, take Hwy 3 from the Rocky Mountains through the Crows Nest Pass, through the towns of Fernie, Cranbrook, Creston and Castlegar. A loop via Hwy 22 takes you through Trail and Rossland. Hwy 6 takes you south through Naskup, New Denver and Nelson to the US Border.
Starting east on Hwy. 1 from Sicamous, visit Three Valley Gap, a historic ghost town and resort. Take a guided ghost tour or visit one of the 25 heritage buildings. Continuing East on Hwy 1, you will arrive in the town of Revelstoke where the surrounding natural beauty captivates visitors year-round. Hike or camp amidst the rugged expanse of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks. Fish freshwater lakes, paddle fast-flowing rivers or enjoy countless recreation opportunities in the area’s three provincial parks. Revelstoke itself has plenty of scenic hiking trails and an extensive mountain bike trail network. On your way east of the town visit Craigellachie to see where Donald Smith struck the Last Spike to complete Canada’s first cross country railroad, or head to the Revelstoke Railway Museum. Don’t miss the Revelstoke Dam, one of North America’s largest hydroelectric developments. From Revelstoke you travel east into the Rockies, or wander south to the history rich communities and the rugged scenery of the Arrow and Kootenay Lakes area.
Starting in the south east, you will find the town of Creston, situated in a valley at the south end of Kootenay Lake, and an important business centre with a thriving diverse economy. From Creston, a drive up Highway 3A north will provide a beautiful scenic trip along the east shores of Kootenay Lake. Visit the Glass House before making your way to the artisan shops and studios in Crawford Bay. The beauty of this area has attracted numerous artisans, including blacksmiths, glass blowers, fibre & ceramic artists and more. Take the Balfour ferry, the longest free ferry in the world, offering spectaculars views of Kooteney Lake. Go north of Balfour on Hwy 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs, then on to the town of Kaslo, one of British Columbia’s prettiest villages, with wide tree-lined streets and stately old houses. Set on the shores of Kootenay Lake, the Purcell Mountains tower above the town, which was built on the wealth created by the silver boom of the late 1800’s. The hills surrounding Kaslo are rich in the history of those bygone days with many heritage sites restored. Kaslo is also home to the world’s oldest passenger sternwheeler, the SS Moyie, an international treasure, resting permanently in her former port of call at 324 Front Street.
From Kaslo travel northwest on Hwy 31A on your circle tour through the Slocan Valley, turning south on Hwy. 6 at New Denver. Known as the Silvery Slocan because of the discovery of silver, this valley attracted thousands of prospectors and fortune hunters in the 1890’s. Today the towns of New Denver and Silverton are still thriving communities. The south end of the Slocan valley was largely settled by farmers, the most famous of which were the Russian Doukhobors who came west to British Columbia in 1908. The Doukhobors were escaping religious persecution in their homeland and the Slocan seemed the ideal place to settle and practise their communal lifestyle. There are many Doukhobors living in the Slocan today.
Continuing south on Hwy 6 through Slocan and Winlaw, which hosts an annual mountain bike race called “Shredding the Loop”, you will reach the historic town of Nelson with its over 350 heritage buildings. Nelson’s storybook charm and stunning scenery create the quintessential small town setting. Enjoy a trip on the historic Streetcar #23, stroll through Lakeside Park, or explore the many quaint shops and the historic museum. The meticulously restored Capitol Theatre, which began life in the era of silent movies, is the centerpiece of an abundant cultural life. Nelson has been described as the best “Small Art Town in Canada”. For the entire summer, “Artwalk” turns the downtown core into a living art gallery. Nelson is also home to the renowned Whitewater Ski resort, one of the best powder mountains on the continent, and the scenic Granite Pointe Golf Club.
Continuing south from Nelson take Hwy 3A to Castlegar, population 16,000, which sits at the confluence of the Columbia and the Kootenay Rivers. The Arrow Lakes, the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers flow in from the north. Castlegar is the focus of no fewer than 9 dams controlling the water flow and generating electricity for all North Americans, supporting its claim that Castlegar is the best “Dam” city in the world! The strong Russian influence of the Doukhobors is still very much in evidence today as seen in such fascinating attractions as the Doukhobor Museum, Zuckerberg Island and the Castlegar Rail Station, which has been recently converted to a museum.Castlegar today reflects a vibrant mix of commerce, industry and recreation. The Arrow Lakes waterway offers a navigable recreation corridor some 240 kilometres long, providing access to boating, sailing and world class fishing.
From Castlegar loop around Hwy 22 to the towns of Trail and Rossland. Trail is home to the largest non-ferrous lead and zinc smelter in the world and is the biggest employer in this region. Industrial tours of the Cominco smelter can be arranged through the Chamber of Commerce office. Steeply terraced homes and bright gardens are tucked away among the winding streets of “Little Italy” and are a testament to the Italian immigrants who came to this country to build the railway’s in the 1900’s and remained. Stop by the newly erected Home of Champions monument in downtown Trail commemorating locals who have proved themselves champions in their field.
Rossland is one of Canada’s highest cities. Rich arteries of minerals that bubbled near the surface eons ago were discovered in 1890 and in a few short years Rossland’s fame spread because of its new found deposits of gold. The Le Roi gold mine was established and the town boomed until the mine was shut down in 1929. Today you can take a tour of the gold mine, which highlights all the mines of this area and the history of the gold found here. The area is a popular winter destination with Rossland being voted “Canada’s Best Ski Town”. Nearby Red Mountain Resort offers 83 ski runs, back country heli skiing and cross-country terrain as well.
Traveling east on Hwy. 1 from Revelstoke, through Rogers Pass and Glacier National Park, you enter into the region of the Rockies. The town of Golden, a town of 8500, is situated between 4 National Parks: Glacier, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay. This makes Golden a four-season recreation destination. Travel one hour east of Golden to the world famous Rocky Mountain town of Banff, Alberta.
Picking up Hwy 95/93 south of Golden, you travel through Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs where you can enjoy the soothing waters of odorless natural hot mineral pools. This area is also home to Panorama Mountain Village, a ski resort where during the season you can try a day of heli-skiing, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing and ice-fishing, or head out on a horse-drawn wagon ride and cookout. Continuing south along the highway you will reach the small community of Wasa and Wasa Lake Provincial Park, one of the best recreational lakes in the region.
Further along Hwy 95/93 you will reach the city of Cranbrook, the largest community in the Kootenay Rockies region. It is home to 40 heritage buildings and the Canadian Museum of Railway. Just north of Cranbrook is Fort Steele Heritage Town where history comes to life along with the days of the Kootenay Gold Rush. Be sure to include the “Gossip Tours”, a walking tour of the old townsite lead by one of the colourful historic characters. These tours run twice daily from April 30 to June 30.
Northwest of Cranbrook is the Bavarian town of Kimberley, known as the “City of Festivals”. This Bavarian themed town is located on the Platzl, an esplanade lined with picturesque shops, hanging baskets, bavarian restaurants and hand-painted fire hydrants. Visit the captivating Cominco Gardens, or enjoy one of the many scenic biking and hiking paths that thread through the Kimberley Nature park. Discover the many activities available at the Kimberley Alpine Resort, a four season resort including mountain biking, hiking, skiing, golf and horseback riding adventures. The Underground Mining Railway, an authentic mine train, offers a transportation link between the Resort and the Platzl, and to an Interpretive Centre through a 227 metre (750 ft) underground tunnel.
Visit the Kootenay Rockies, a four season playground no matter what your sport or activity. Or maybe you would just like to enjoy the drive along one of the many circle routes and enjoy the scenery, history and the culture of BC’s “Mountain Playground”.
Many travelers planning a trip to British Columbia, start their journey in the neighbouring province of Alberta with a flight into Calgary.
Considered one of Canada’s three “Prairie Provinces”, along with Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta differs in that it shares the Canadian Rockies with British Columbia. The natural border is the imaginary line of the Continental Divide that separates Alberta from B.C. From the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the rolling grasslands of the prairie, the variety of natural areas and ecosystems support hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which are endangered or protected. The fourth largest province in Canada, Alberta is also the fastest growing province in Canada, with a population of more than three million people who live primarily in the international gateway cities of Calgary and Edmonton. Smaller urban centres include Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
The highlight of a visit to Alberta are the Rocky Mountains. Visitors from around the world come here year round to enjoy this spectacular four season mountainous region. The Canadian Rockies are home to alpine meadows, emerald lakes, wild waterways, untrammelled backcountry wilderness and some of the best hiking and skiing in the world. In the area, you will find all the amenities from roadside campgrounds to five star resorts. Most famous are the national parks of Banff and Jasper as well as the numerous provincial parks and the recreation areas of Kananaskis Country. Visit Lake Louise for its beauty. Visit the Columbia Ice Fields, a series of ice-age old glaciers forming the Icefields Parkway. Visitors can explore the six massive glaciers at Columbia Icefield . These colossal monoliths are slowly retreating and the subsequent meltwaters feed into three different oceans, a distinction the Icefields share with only one other spot in the entire world. Must sees are the Stutfield and Athabasca Glaciers. The world famous resort town of Banff is located in the centre of Banff National Park, flanked on all sides by Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. The town is situated above Bow Falls near the junction of the Bow and Spray Rivers and is located about 135 kilometres (85 miles) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. The resort town is a very popular tourist destination and is known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a major destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking and skiing areas within its region. Two ski resorts are located in close proximity: Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay ski resort. Founded in 1907 and surrounded by scenic wilderness, Jasper National Park, which celebrates its centennial this year, is Canada’s largest Rocky Mountain Park and one of North America’s largest natural areas, spanning 10,878 sq. km (4,200 sq. mi.) of awe-inspiring, scenic splendor. Must sees in this area include the breathtaking Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, the natural Miette Hot Springs, The Marmot Ski Basin, The Maligne Valley with Maligne lake and Canyon, and Whistlers Mountain. The town of Jasper is the homebase to explore this beautiful natural paradise. A visit to Canada’s “Rocky Mountain Playground” and the vibrant cities of Alberta will not disappoint.
For quality Bed & Breakfast accommodation in this area, view our lodging directory