The Columbia Valley (including the communities of Canal Flats, Edgewater, Fairmont Hot Springs, Invermere, Panorama, Radium Hot Springs & Windermere) is one of the major gateways into the province and a favoured destination by friendly travellers from Alberta. A three-day family getaway is a quick 3-hour drive away from Calgary. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your family vacation in the close-knit communities of the Columbia Valley. Before you start on your journey this winter, ensure that you visit DriveBC.ca to view the current highway conditions.
- You’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city and made it to the serene surroundings of the Columbia Valley. Start off your trip with brunch under the enormous deer antler chandelier at Antlers at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. The young bucks will love grazing on the pancakes from the kids’ menu while you enjoy a west coast inspired omelet or a Breakfast Bowl. In Invermere the Elements Grill at Copper Point Resort, offers delicious options & a small kids menu and in Radium Hot Springs the Big Horn Cafe is a speciality coffee shop that carries 49th Parallel coffee and does all onsite baking.
- From the Resort/Lodge, take the 5-minute drive up to the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort to start your day. The uncrowded slopes and family-friendly environment will please your whole household. Your oldest rippers will spend the day sliding the rails and popping off the boxes in one of the two terrain parks on the mountain.
- Back in town, stop into the Fairmont Village Mall to find souvenirs and clothing from Purple Cow Gift Shop and arts and crafts at La Galaria II. When you’re ready for a bite to eat, drop into Fairmont Pizza and Ice Cream for one of the best slices in the Columbia Valley.
- Every traveller to Fairmont has stopped and gasped at the iconic hoodoos along Dutch Creek as they arrive in town from the south (Highway 93/95). Did you know you can hike to the top of them? The 3-km long Hoodoo Trail follows a gentle slope to a scenic viewpoint overlooking Columbia Lake and the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Perfect with snowshoes if there’s recent snow, or micro spikes if the trail is well packed!
- Now that the whole family is as hungry as a bear, make your way to the Bears Paw Bar and Grill (Fairmont Hot Springs) to devour a meal fit for a grizzly. Stacked burgers, Asian-inspired bowls and other pub favourites will leave everyone feeling satisfied. Juniors can pick from Chicken Fingers, grilled cheese, pasta or pizza. If you staying in Invermere or Radium Hot Springs – pick-up/take-away an authentic “poutine” inspired creation from Poutine Queen or dine-in at the Conrad Kitchen & Grill in the Prestige Inn Golden featuring fresh ingredients, cooked-from-scratch meals, and a menu that includes all your favourites like pasta, burgers, and pizza – are great family dining options, too.
- Before settling in for the night, take a dip under the stars in Fairmont Hot Springs naturally-fed hot spring pools. There’s just something so soothing about relaxing in the hot springs on a cold winter’s eve. (Access to the hot spring pools are available to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Lodge Guests, RV Resort Guests, 2021/22 Ski Season Pass Holders and Hot Springs Pool Membership Holders Only.)
- Head out the door quickly with a muffin and coffee combo or stay in and savour a brioche French toast with real maple syrup. The Local Coffee House (Fairmont Hot Springs) will get your day started in any way you like. Or check out the Huckleberry Restaurant (Invermere) their friendly staff & excellent menu variety provide a casual, relaxed atmosphere or Fire’d Up Breakfast and Burgers (Radium Hot Springs) for French toast grilled to perfection. Stuffed with bananas, topped with fresh seasonal fruit and whip cream.
- Ride your way through the forests, glide along the shores of the Kootenay and Cross Rivers, and tackle flowy single track at Nipika Mountain Resort. 30-km of dedicated Fat Bike Trails and more than 50-km of Nordic Ski tracks cross, intersect, and interweave the flats of the Kootenay River Basin. Rentals are available on-site if you need them.
- Lunch it up in Radium Hot Springs at the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery. The Horsethief Platter, a collection of wings, ribs, Mozza sticks, deep-fried pickle spears and homemade tortilla chips, contains something for everyone in the family.
- Take a leisurely afternoon stroll through the Juniper-Sinclair Canyon trail. The out-and-back hike takes you through an open forest of Douglas Firs, above the impressive gap that splits the rock face for Highway 95 and down along the shores of Sinclair Creek.
- If you’re interested in more big mountain fun (skiing/snowboarding) – Panorama Mountain Resort is a quick 20-minute drive from Invermere. Panorama Mountain rises 1,300 metres vertical (4,265 ft.) and has more than 1,214 hectares (3,000) acres of terrain. It’s not until you reach the summit of Panorama that you fully realize the magnitude of what these mountain has to offer.
- Finish off your afternoon by immersing yourself in Radium Hot Springs hot springs pools. The natural rock walls and snow-capped trees above you make you feel as if you’re one with nature.
- For dinner, Old Salzburg Restaurant is a Radium Hot Springs institution. The authentic Austrian schnitzels and spaetzle highlight a visit to the Old Salzburg (1 million guests over the past 30 years can’t be wrong!). In Invermere, the Rocky River Grill is family owned & operated. With generous portions for the big eaters, and a kid’s menu sure to please even the pickiest eater, they’ve got something for everyone and every taste bud.
- Before making your way back to accommodation property for the evening, pop into Radium Brewing for a pint of their Purcell Pilsner, or if you prefer a darker beer, the Kootenay Park Pale Ale. Feel free to bring snacks from the neighbouring restaurants, including the Snack Bar right next door!
- You won’t want to miss the Weekend Brunch at From Scratch (Fairmont Hot Springs). Frittata’s, omelets, and their famous egg benny’s all washed down with organic coffee or a morning mimosa; what’s not to love? Or if you staying in the Invermere-Radium Hot Springs area, Stolen Church Coffee (Invermere) is a specialty micro Coffee Roastery and Gelateria & offers scrumptious sweets, wraps & sandwiches. And, the Invermere Bakery has locally made donuts and a creative monthly donut features, plus other baked-goods and great options.
- Bring out the ice skates and get ready for some good old-fashioned Canadian fun. The Whiteway on Windermere Lake, is the world’s longest outdoor skating path at over 30-km. Don’t feel like you need to skate the whole 30+ km in one go! Perhaps try the James Chabot Loop to start, coming in at 5-km. Check-in with the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club for the latest ice conditions before heading out (a Nordic skiing tracks & a Fat-biking trail is offered too.)
- Grab some lunch at The Station Pub (Invermere), directly across from Kinsmen Beach for the best views with the best food. With lakefront views and $10 appies, you may be tempted to sit and snack all afternoon. On main-street, the Blue Dog Cafe (Invermere) serves fresh whole-foods – a great selection for every taste from carnivore to vegan. Almost everything is made in-house & assembled for you to order.
- After a wonderful weekend of adventure, finish off the day with some retail therapy in the heart of downtown Invermere. High-quality art galleries, boutique clothing stores, and outdoor shops line Invermere’s 7th Avenue, bringing a bit of the big city to one of the Kootenay’s prettiest small towns.
- Don’t leave Invermere empty-handed! Pick up a bottle of Invermere’s finest liquors at the Taynton Bay Spirits. Sample a selection of their liquors in their tasting room before choosing a bottle to take home with you. Or stop by Arrowhead Brewing Co. to pick up one of their craft brews brews without any preservatives or additives.
- For your last night’s dinner – we have several options: Sushi Sawa Kitchen & Eatery (Fairmont Hot Springs) – offers creative sushi rolls, nigiri, combo platters and more will fill up the whole family; Eagle Ranch Resort (Invermere) – sharing appetizers, hearty bowls & winter specials for take-away, plus a Sunday Brunch beginning at 10am; Cliffhanger Restaurant (Panorama) offering a diverse menu inspired by Canadian culture, full of mouth-watering flavours and a focus on hand crafted dishes or Wildside Pizzeria (Radium Hot Springs), home of delicious fresh made pizzas, pitas, salads, calzone, garlic cheese bread, milk shakes and more.
Know Before You Go – Plan ahead so you can travel safely and responsibly. Familiarize yourself with weather, road conditions, general alerts for travellers and provincial health orders & recommendations.
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~ Cozy Up in One of the Kootenay Authentic Cabins
~ Family Fun on the Powder Highway
~ Getting into Hot Water: Kootenay Hot Springs
~ Invermere’s Whiteway & All things Winter
~ Our Kootenay Mountain Culture
~ Outdoor Skating – Gliding on Frozen Lakes in the Kootenays
~ Powder Highway 101
~ What’s New on the Powder Highway?
Top/cover photo by Kari Medig, views overlooking Radium Hot Springs.
Words by Mark Locki. Mark is a photographer and writer based in Kimberley, BC. An avid traveller throughout the Kootenays and abroad, he enjoys exploring the natural world, camera in hand, seeking out compelling stories. He’s often found deep in the backcountry, running, climbing or on skis, challenging himself to discover new scenes and viewpoints.