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3 Legendary Kootenay Hikes – You May Have Never Heard Of

# 1 — Easy: Vicky’s View (Nakusp)

Seated placidly on the banks of Upper Arrow Lake, the town of Nakusp has straddled the watery divide between the Monashee and Selkirk Mountains since the time of sternwheelers. First settled in 1892, the 1,574-person town gets its name from the Sinixt First Nation, the valley’s original inhabitants. As does the broad-shouldered hulking peak above it, called Mount Kuskanax. It looms large over the abundance of natural hot springs Nakusp’s lowlands are rich with.

Looking out to the Village of Nakusp, the Upper Arrow Lake and the Monashee Mountains; photo by Kari Medig

To get a view of it all in one frame, follow Hot Springs Road up the Kuskanax mountainside until you reach the loamy 1.5 kilometre forest throughway that leads gently to Vicky’s View. Emerge from a canopy of lush fir trees for a vista of the entire town, the brooding Monashees and the glassy water stitching it all together in one complete tableau.

# 2 — Moderate: Pedley Pass (Invermere)

While less travelled than the trade routes in the deep heart of the Canadian Rockies, the western flank of this sharp range stands tall above the town of Invermere, rising from the Columbia Valley like a silvery fortress wall.

Pedley Pass; photo by Rhiannon Paterson

The three-to-five-hour return trip to Pedley Pass offers entry into the fairer side of these mountains, casting vistas like the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers (and even Mount Assiniboine) against a backdrop of some of the youngest and most dramatic geological tumult on the planet.

Pedley Pass and one of the mountain tarns; photo by Heather Sharpe

Gaining the pass (300 vertical metres) walks hikers past natural mysteries like Bumpy Meadows–oddly symmetric frost heaves in the heather and moss–and delivers them to a broad alpine saddle. From here there’s further adventure up the ridge of Mount Aennas, or calm repose by a hidden mountain tarn. Make the trek on your own or with an ACMG hiking guide through local company Playwest Mountain Experience.

# 3 — Difficult: Sourdough Traverse (New Denver)

Relive the life of a travelling 19th century prospector on this rugged multi-day journey. The 20-kilometre alpine route departs from Idaho Peak above the ghost mining town of Sandon (near New Denver) and laces together five subranges of the Kokanee Mountains.

Sourdough Pass; photo courtesy of Mt. Carlyle Backcountry Lodge

Straddling an average elevation of about 2,000 metres, wander between alpine lakes and distant glaciers in an homage to old-time mountain miners (lovingly dubbed Sourdoughs).

Sourdough Pass; photo courtesy of Mt. Carlyle Backcountry Lodge

It takes most advanced hikers four days and three nights to navigate, through boulder fields and grassy ridge tops exploding in a full colour palette of wildflowers. Want to do it without the weight of overnight gear on your back? The folks at Mount Carlyle Backcountry Lodge can porter and cater the trip for you, with comfortable camping digs pre-arranged along the way.  And Footsteps Eco Adventures offers guided hikes of the Sourdough Pass.

Sourdough Pass; photo courtesy of Mt. Carlyle Backcountry Lodge

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 this summer. 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 this summer 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).

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~ Easy Kootenay Hikes: To 360 Degree Vista Views
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~ Family-Friendly Backcountry Adventures in the Kootenays
~ Hidden Waterfalls in the Kootenays
~ Kootenay Hacks: Tips Before You Go Exploring
Multi-generational Family Hiking in the Kootenays
Outdoor Adventures: Unique to the Kootenays
~ Quirky Attractions Only Found in the Kootenays
~ What’s Open in the Kootenay Rockies (2020 Summer)

Story by Matt Cote. Cover/top photo by Kari Medig from Vicky’s View in Nakusp, BC.

Matt Coté is a writer, editor and wanderer based in Revelstoke. His written musings typically focus on the inner workings of society and ecology, at the intersection of the landscape he most loves: mountains. Equally enraptured by robust stories of adventure and the sweetest spots to find it, no place has won him over more than his own British Columbia backyard.    

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(Originally published in August 2019.)

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