Skip to main content

June 3, 2024

Explore the Untapped Wonders along Highway 3 in the Kootenays

Buckle up and prepare for a mesmerizing journey following the Crowsnest, Highway 3 from the Lower Mainland to the Elk Valley, on the Rainforest to Rockies route. Within the Kootenays, you’ll cross over several captivating mountain pass, offering magnificent vista views of the mighty Columbias (Monashee, Selkirk & Purcell ranges) to the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies. Let’s explore the untapped wonders of this extraordinary route, together!

ROSSLAND

Nestled in the heart of the Monashee Mountains’ ancient volcanic valley, Rossland is the ultimate adventure paradise. Skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, cat-skiing, golfing, fishing, snowshoeing, and beyond – there’s no limit to the adventures awaiting you here. Unleash your ‘wild side’ in Rossland.

Kootenay Columbia (KC) Trail in Rossland; photo by Mitch Winton

Taking on Old Glory Mountain is a true testament of strength. Known as one of the most prized hikes in the Rossland area, it takes you on an inspiring journey to the highest peak around. The reward? A remarkable, historic fire lookout cabin nestled at the summit. This cabin, operating as a weather station from the 1940s to ’60s, has stories etched into it. Soaring high at 2,377-m, Old Glory offers the gift of unforgettable panoramas across the magnificent Monashee mountains.

The Seven Summit Mountain Bike Trail is a IMBA Epic Single-Track Traverse (35-km) in the Rossland Range.  Get ready to feed your adrenaline from the breathtaking alpine views that await you. They promise, the sublime panorama of wildflower meadows, twisted ancient trees, and our magnificently daunting seven mountain summits is completely worth the challenge.

TRAIL

Discover the charm of Trail, nestled between the Monashee Mountains to the west and the Selkirk Mountains to the east. Your journey to this city is incomplete without touring the iconic Trail Museum, the Sports Hall of Memories, and the imposing Teck Trail Operations Interpretive Centre. Brace yourself for a visual treat at the heart of this bustling city where an impressive smelter complex has stood the test of over a century.

Discover the stunning 1.4-km out-and-back Columbia River Skywalk Trail.  This route is perfect for leisurely drives and walks, offering a peaceful escape. Fun Fact: The bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges of its kind in North America at 305-metres (1,000 ft.) landing to landing.

Home to two robust wineries, Columbia Gardens – the pioneer of our regional wineries, and Mountain Soul Winery – our freshest sensation. Among the eight spectacular wineries in the Kootenays – Trail, BC warrants your attention. A toast to innovation and tradition!

Photo courtesy of Sol Mountain Wine

CASTLEGAR

Welcome to Castlegar, the Sculpture Capital of Canada! Nestled between the majestic rivers of Kootenay and Columbia (in the Selkirk Mountains). Hikers and cyclists are drawn to the natural beauty enveloping the town in every direction. Dive deep into the rich and impactful history connected to the Doukhobors, a pacifist religious group that took refuge here from Russia in the early 20th century. The Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park and the Station Museum extend visceral experiences for understanding their enduring culture.

Paddling on the Columbia River in Castlegar; photo by Mitch Winton

Discover the Castlegar Sculpturewalk – an awe-inspiring, yearly showcase of outdoor sculptures nestled in the heart of downtown centre – the undisputed Sculpture Capital of Canada™. Watch as Castlegar’s flourishing downtown metamorphoses into Sculpturewalk’s grand stage, hosting exceptional works from gifted local creatives, as well as international artists from all corners of the world.

Castlegar SculptureWalk; photo by Mitch Winton

Immerse yourself at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre.  Stretched across an expansive four hectares (ten acres) of land, they proudly host ten historical structures, all stunningly maintained. Dive into their culture and heritage with over 1,600 precious artifacts kindly donated over time. Experience history through the audio/visual galleries and engaging interactive displays that celebrate the rich Doukhobor heritage. 

SIDE-TRIP ADVENTURE – HWY 6 (Crescent Valley to Revelstoke)

The road less travelled the ‘Slocan Valley, showcases some of the best attractions and activities in the Kootenays – as you venture off of the Highway 3A and follows along Highway 6/23 from Crescent Valley to Revelstoke. This picturesque route is cherished by motorcycle enthusiasts and road-cyclists alike. Step off the beaten path along BC’s Hidden Route.

Halcyon Hot Springs Resort in Nakusp; photo by Mitch Winton

NELSON

Nested in the arm of Kootenay Lake, in the Selkirk Mountains this mountain community stands grand teeming with electric energy akin to a metropolis. Their welcoming aura and vibrant selection of outdoor exploits are just the beginning – they boast of heritage buildings, 350 in fact, that are alluring all year round. Crowned as Canada’s top Art Town, they transform the downtown into a dynamic art gallery through ArtWalk throughout the summer season. With the sun basking in delight, relish a ride on the historic Streetcar #23 or embark on an exclusive self-guided tour to marvel at Nelson’s outstanding murals.

Aerial views of Nelson and Kootenay Lake; photo by Mitch Winton

Challenging artists to transform the city with their unique murals. Each masterpiece will mark its presence on the map, guiding spectators on an interactive art journey. They are throwing open Nelson’s alleys to local, national, and international muralists, daring them to redefine beauty in their own style. Set your calendar to the Nelson International Mural Festival (Aug 9-11, 2024). 

Discover the charm of the Kootenays with the help of Nelson’s Streetcar #23, proudly serving since 1924. Throughout the summer right up until Thanksgiving weekend, let’s ride this streetcar with lovely waterfront views!

Nelson’s Streetcar #23; photo by Don Weixl

CRESTON VALLEY

Nestled between the Purcell & Selkirk mountain ranges and just south of Kootenay & Duck lakes, lies the thriving Creston Valley. An unbeatable haven for outdoor enthusiasts, food connoisseurs, and creative spirits craving a genuine home-like experience. Thanks to Creston Valley’s unparalleled climate and exceptional geography, this rich region feeds you with royal treats within a 10-mile diet. Between the renowned Creston Valley Farmers Market, charming Fruit Stands, and the close-knit restaurants & cafes, you’re bound to uncover something delectably fresh.

Valley of vineyards in Creston; photo Dave Heath

Explore the exceptional Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, a magnificent RAMSAR designated wetland of global significance. Spanning a vast 17,000 acres and featuring an impressive network of 32-km of walking trails, this phenomenal sanctuary is teeming with biodiversity. Over 300 bird species, 57 mammal types and 29 varieties of fish, reptiles, and amphibians call this place home. Embark on an unforgettable journey at the Kootenay Columbia Discovery Centre situated at the gateway of this area, offering immersive guided canoe tours, an interactive interpretive center and so much more.

Bird watching at the Creston Wildlife Management Area; photo by Jeff Banman

Unveil the captivating charm of Creston’s Wineries that captivates enthusiasts globally. This area of British Columbia is an emerging crown jewel in craft wine (beer & spirits too). Be you a refined connoisseur or a blissful bon vivant, the esteemed local wineries (Baillie-Grohman, Red Bird, Skimmerhorn, William Tell Family and Wynnwood Cellars) promise exceptional tastings.

Red Bird Estate Winery; photo by Mitch Winton

SIDE TRIP ADVENTURE – HWY 3A (Nelson to Creston via the East Shore of Kootenay Lake)

Immerse yourself in the striking fusion of art and culture. Bask in the breathtaking beauty of the East Shore of Kootenay Lake – undoubtedly, the gem of the Kootenays in the warm summer and vibrant fall. Experience the majesty of towering trees, expansive shorelines, and bright summer days. The heart of this extravaganza lies in Crawford Bay, your one-stop destination for superior lodgings, exquisite cuisine, thrilling outdoor pursuits, and a splendid array of world-renowned local artisans.  

Kootenay Lake ‘free’ Ferry connecting Balfour to Kootenay Bay; photo by Mitch Winton

Step right into the realm of the extraordinary! Introducing The Glass House – a remarkable roadside attraction that stands testament to the creative reuse of over half a million discarded embalming fluid bottles. In 1952, after a rewarding career of 35 years as a funeral director, a gentleman named David H. Brown took it upon himself to repurpose these bottles in an unexpectedly brilliant manner. As he gracefully put it, this was his chance to ‘indulge a whim of a peculiar nature’.  Venturing across western Canada, he got a hold of the square-shaped bottles from many of his professional peers in the funeral business, amassing 500,000 of them. The weight? A whopping 250 tons! Today, this monumental structure, born out of one man’s vision and perseverance, awaits you.

The unique Glass house in Sanca Hwy 3A; photo by Don Weixl

CRANBROOK

Cranbrook, born from the heart of the railway and the development of the CPR’s Crowsnest Line, thrived right by the tracks. Nestled in the valley between the Purcell and Canadian Rocky mountain range, is a  thriving community as the biggest centre in the Kootenays. Curate your own adventure with the self-guided City Heritage Tour maps, available at the Visitor Centre. Enjoy the compelling blend of history and evolution dynamic in the revitalized downtown, teeming with captivating shops and top-tier services, all embraced by stunning heritage homes. Cranbrook isn’t just a strategic commercial hub of the region, it’s a robust community offering an impressive array of arts and sports facilities.

Epic views of the Canadian Rockies from the Cranbrook; photo by Mitch Winton

Discover the glory and grandeur of Canada’s rail history at the Cranbrook History Centre, a beacon of national pride with its prestigious National Historic Designation. Fondly referred to as Trains Deluxe, they invite you to step into our world of luxury trains, including the magnificent, million-dollar 1929 Trans Canada Limited. Enjoy privileged access to the restored cars and buildings as our expert guides lead top-tier tours, bringing you a first-class experience in revisiting Canada’s proud railway past.

Trans Deluxe at the Cranbrook History Centre; photo by Kari Medig

The Canadian Rockies, Hoodoos, and Waterways of the Ktunaxa Homelands have stood as a cornerstone of connection, rejuvenation, and sustenance. For millennia exceeding 10,000 years, the Ktunaxa (pronounced ‘k-too-nah-ha’) people have not merely occupied but thrived in the lands adjoining the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, extending into Alberta, Montana, Washington, and Idaho. This includes the breathtaking Kootenay region and the charming towns of Kimberley, Cranbrook, and Fernie. Adventurers and free spirits visit not just to hike, bike, ski, paddle, and bask in the beauty of these lands, but also to tap into the rich vein of the Ktunaxa Indigenous culture connecting them to an ancient heritage.

St Eugene Golf Resort Casino near Cranbrook (transformed BC Residential School; photo by Mitch Winton

KIMBERLEY

Get ready to be charmed by downtown Kimberley’s Platzl, home to Canada’s largest free-standing Cuckoo Clock! Drop a coin and get greeted by the delightful Happy Hans (this community’s mascot). Just a forest-fringed stroll away are the utterly magical Cominco Gardens. Here, you will find enticing pathways, comfort zones for relaxation, and vast areas blooming with countless vibrant blossoms.

Kimberley’s Platzl Downtown Centre; photo by Mitch Winton

Kimberley, the in the Purcell Mountain, proudly showcases some of the best hiking and mountain biking trails you’ll ever tread. Nestled in the Kimberley Nature Park, one of the largest municipal parks in Canada, is nearly 809-hectares (2,000 acres) of paths waiting for your exploration. Experience the network of trails coursing through a beautiful, forested landscape. Another, crowd-favourite Northstar Rails to Trails, a transformed railway into a 25-km multi-use trail (connecting Kimberley to Cranbrook), which is part of the TransCanada Trail

Hop aboard Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway, through switchbacks, and up steep slopes and sharp curves, as it winds through the narrow valley of Mark Creek. Immerse yourself in riveting history of the esteemed ‘Great Sullivan Mine’.  The train will travel through a 750-m (2,475 ft) tunnel and visitors will get a feel for what it was like underground in this historic mine.

Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway; photo by Field & Forest

SIDE TRIP ADVENTURE – HWY 93/95 (Cranbrook to Golden)

Bask in the unrivaled beauty of the Canadian Rocky and Purcell Mountains ranges. Thrill-seekers or aficionados of quaint mountain towns, prepare to fall in love! Immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery and discover the Rocky Mountain Trench, a trove of enchanting vistas, vibrant outdoor adventures, and alluring communities along the route.

Heading north on Highway 95 from Radium Hot Springs to Golden; photo by Mitch Winton

LAKE KOOCANUSA

Behold Lake Koocanusa, a magnificent man-made reservoir stretching 144-km, nestled between Cranbrook in the east and Fernie in the west. This extraordinary lake was created by the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River. Prepare to be captivated by the over 200-km shoreline bedecked with inviting sandy beaches. The area boasts an assortment of campgrounds, marinas, and tour guiding companies nestled alongside residential homes. If you’re seeking top-notch recreational activities (such as houseboating, boating, and fishing), you’ve come to the right place.

FERNIE

Dive deep into the rich heritage of Fernie, a gem nestled in the Rocky Mountains and Elk Valley’s proudest and oldest community. Witness the architectural grandeur of 100-year-old brick and stone structures that punctuate the historic downtown like timeless guardians of history. Adventure is not just a concept here, it’s a lifestyle – from fishing in the pristine Elk River to exploring the vast wilderness that begins right at town’s edge. Uncover Fernie’s captivating narrative enshrined in our superbly preserved buildings. An incredible journey into history awaits you at the Fernie Museum. Discover legendary tales and myths, like the enigmatic Ghostrider, that have been woven into the fabric of Fernie’s past.

Fernie’s historic downtown centre; photo by Mitch Winton

More than just a mountain paradise – Fernie is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be unlocked. From the tranquillity of the Old Growth Trail at Island Lake Lodge to the family-friendly trail to Fairy Creek Falls to the challenging Mountain Lake’s Trail (known by the locals as Heiko’s Trail), there are paths for all levels of explorers. Around every corner, the majestic Rocky Mountains rise to meet you!

Aerial of Island Lake at the Lodge; photo by Mitch Winton

Known by many avid adventurers as Trout Town’.  The pure, crystalline waters sourced right from the Petain Glacier on the illustrious British Columbia – Alberta border grace the charming Elk River. The result? An idyllic environment that simply bursts with Trout. Come and experience the crystal-clear waters that Elk Lakes proudly offers.

SPARWOOD

Sparwood, in the Canadian Rockies, offers untamed beauty is an angler’s paradise with pristine lakes and streams teeming with surprises. Fly-fishing in pristine lakes and streams exceeds every angler’s expectation. Bike or hike along their rich forestry trails and win the chance to spot deer, elk, or bighorn sheep.

Open Pit Mine tours are on for this summer. Launching from the heart of Sparwood Chamber of Commerce/ Visitor Centre, they run every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in July and August. Be there sharp at 1pm for am interesting, 2-hour adventure into the world of mining. There are no age restrictions – everyone is welcome to join this fascinating tour.

An extraordinary testament to Sparwood’s mining history, the Terex Titan truck, landed in this beloved town in 1978, molding the face of local mining. Flashing its rugged strength, the Titan could effortlessly haul an immense load of 350 tons during its reign in the area’s coal mine. Imagine this – it’s so mighty it can fit two full-sized buses and two pick-up trucks in its box. Now, that’s impressive!

Sparwood’s Terex Truck; photo by Don Weixl

ELKFORD

Elkford, perched at the crossroads of the pristine Boivin Creek and the majestic Elk River, is proud to hold the title as the region’s most secluded gem in Canadian Rockies. Just a spectacular 30-minute journey north of Sparwood will take you to this exceptional haven. Experience thrilling outdoor escapades like ATV touring, mountain biking, and hiking that will undoubtedly ignite your adventurous spirit.

Views of the Elk River in Elkford

Venture into the heart of Western Canada’s largest wilderness parks – Elk Lakes and Height of the Rockies Provincial Parks – just a 70-kilometer (43-mile) journey from Elkford. Your path takes you through a rugged gravel road that promises an incredible adventure. Bask in summer’s splendor as the vast 17,000-hectare landscape unfolds to unveil stunning mountain vistas, gleaming lakes, and lingering glaciers, etching an indelible mark on your memory. Here, they boast the highest concentration of Bighorn sheep in all of North America.

Related Stories

Get Social and Share Your Adventure
With Us By Using @KOOTROCKS