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4 Reasons to Drive BC’s Hidden Route: The Slocan Valley

The road less travelled highlights many of the area’s finest attractions and activities in the Kootenays as we follow Highway 23/6 from Revelstoke to Nelson, BC.

Exploring the shoreline on Slocan Lake (near New Denver); photo by Megan McLellan with Field and Forest

This scenic route is also a favourite for motorcycle touring and road-cyclists. This spring, an ‘adaptive sports’ route is being established which can be explored by trike and paddle. Wander off the beaten path — here are four ‘must-see and dos’ along this route:

#1 — Hot Springs

There are three natural hot springs (with a couple hidden ones too -ask a local where to find them), including Halcyon Hot Springs Resort (a 90-min drive south of Revelstoke), Nakusp Hot Springs (a 15-minute drive from the community of Nakusp) and Ainsworth Hot Springs (via Highway 31A, along Kootenay Lake). (Access to Ainsworth, Halcyon & Nakusp Hot Springs is available to overnight guests; with Ainsworth Hot Springs re-opening on Sep 4.)

Halcyon Hot Springs Resort; photo by Andrew Penner

#2 — The Water

Throughout your travels you will follow the Columbia River as it flows through the Arrow Lakes (Upper and Lower) and Slocan Lake.  And if you choose to take the alternate (Hwy 31A) route, then you’ll travel alongside Kootenay Lake to Nelson.

Bannock Point Rec Site on Slocan Lake; photo by Kari Medig

There are note-worthy stops along this stretch of highway for paddling and swimming.  And fun opportunities if you enjoy ‘chasing waterfalls‘, as there are many to find, including Evan’s Beach Creek, Nemo Creek, Fletcher, Ione, Powder Creek, Springer Creek, Sutherland and Wilson Creek.

Wilson Creek Waterfalls near New Denver; photo by Dave Heath

#3 — Heritage/Culture

This little valley has experienced its own extraordinary history over the years, from the once bustling town of Sandon — which in its heyday had a population of over 5,000 people during the silver mine rush.  Or, the first Halcyon Hot Springs Hotel which opened in 1894 and was accessed by steamboat or sternwheeler. Or, the Japanese Canadian Internment camp in New Denver during WWII, now a Memorial museum with a Japanese garden.  Or, the SS Moyie set on the shore of Kootenay Lake in Kaslo; it is the world’s oldest intact sternwheeler and a museum and National Historical site.

The ghost town of Sandon; photo by Megan McLellan with Field and Forest

The SS Moyie in Kaslo, photo by Megan McLellan with Field and Forest

#4 — Small Mountain Communities

With a population of 1,605, Nakusp is the largest community along this hidden route.  Set on the shores of the Upper Arrow Lake alongside the Monashee Mountains, Nakusp is halfway between Revelstoke and Nelson, BC. 

Along the route you’ll find other secluded communities, and lastly, this area is known for its incredible hiking… shhh it’s one of our best kept secrets.

Backcountry hiking; photo by Kari Medig

Know Before You Go!

~ Take extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many of our tourism businesses and services have adopted new COVID-19 protocols and changes to their schedules or policies to ensure your safety. You’ll want to become familiar with them ahead of time.

~ If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public, and may have less of an impact on the destination.

~ Consider a slower travel pace to help curb the spread. Instead of checking in and out of multiple destinations during one trip, choose one or two destinations and one/two accommodation properties for your entire trip (and explore all the things to do & see nearby).

Story by KootRocks Staffer (Shannon Harrison).  Cover/top cover photo by Kari Medig of Slocan Lake.
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