Set in the Rocky Mountains of southeastern British Columbia, Kootenay National Park is a 1,406 square kilometre (543 sq mi) land of startling contrasts.
Kootenay National Park is an area of incredible scenery and abundant wildlife. The park’s long narrow profile is packed full towering summits and hanging glaciers that meet narrow chasms, broad forested valleys, arid grasslands and colour-splashed mineral pools. The best way to experience the park is to travel the 106 kilometre long Banff-Windermere Highway (Hwy 93 south) which cuts through the park from north to south and connects it to Banff National Park.
Every twist and turn of the parkway reveals something interesting to explore. Visitors travelling along this route will discover an ever-changing panorama and an immense variety of plant life. You will find everything from alpine tundra in the upper reaches, to stands of Douglas Fir and tiny prickly pear cactus at lower altitudes in the south.
The drive also offers opportunities for viewing Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, and mule and whitetail deer.
For those who enjoy a good hike, there is a choice of more than 200 kilometres (125 mi) of hiking trails, both casual and challenging, that originate from alongside the highway. There are also a number of breathtaking attractions that stem from the parkway.
At Marble Canyon, a fascinating self-guided nature trail crosses a narrow gorge eroded by the waters of Tokumm Creek. A connector trail from Marble Canyon leads 3.2 km to a cold mineral spring known as the Paint Pots. At the Paint Pots, the iron in the water has seeped into the region’s clay, giving it a vivid orange colour. Long before Europeans began settling in this area, First Nations people from both sides of the Great Divide gathered the clay for decoration and trade and considered the area to be sacred.
The most popular attraction in the park, is the Radium Hot Springs hot pools, located at the southern end of the park. These natural mineral springs are heated deep in the earths crust and are the perfect remedy for travellers’ weary bones. The hot springs are set against a gorgeous rock outcrop – the most natural of settings of all the hot pools in the mountain national parks.
Accommodation & Restaurant:
Kootenay Park Lodge (located at Vermilion Crossing) offers a number of services including cabin accommodation, restaurant, information centre and general store. At the general store, a wide selection of grab and go breakfast items, sandwiches, snacks, coffee as well as souvenirs, unique gifts and Kootenay Park clothing.
Continental breakfast is included with overnight stays. Lodge dining is available to guests and visitors each evening. The menu is unpretentious, lodge made and sourced from local ingredients when possible.
All cabins are non-smoking. Pets permitted in Heritage cabins. Free WiFi in main buildings; no televisions. The heritage cabins have recently been updated but maintain their original character. Four of the cabins still have riverstone chimneys and wood burning fireplaces while gas fireplaces can be found in two modern Vermilion cabins.
Redstreak Campground (242 sites), open early-May to mid-October, 19 walk-in tent sites, 50 power/water/sewer sites, 38 sites with electricity, 125 unserviced sites, 10 oTENTik tent-cabins, shower, fee, reservations recommended on long weekends and from mid-June until early September.McLeod Meadows (88 sites), open late June to early September, unserviced, fee.
Marble Canyon (61 sites), open late June to early-September, unserviced, fee.
What to See and Do:
Winter: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, parkway sightseeing and wildlife watching – elk, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, wolves, owls, showshoe hares. Hot springs swimming and soaking.
Spring: Late-season ski touring and snowshoeing, parkway walks at low elevations. Wildlife viewing – black and grizzly bears, elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes, wolves, owls, snowshoe hares, ground squirrels, migratory birds including bald and golden eagles, songbirds, ducks and hawks.
Summer: Hiking, backpacking, parkway sightseeing and wildlife viewing (same as above, including marmots) swimming, picnicking, whitewater paddling, cycling, interpretive programs.
Fall: Late season hiking and backpacking until early October, parkway sightseeing and wildlife viewing (same as wildlife viewing in spring – elk and bighorn sheep in rut. Also, Kokanee salmon spawn in Kootenay and Vermilion Rivers where bald eagles come to prey on them.)
Park Services and Facilities: Picnic or day-use facilities, hiking trails, swimming facilities, fishing, concession, gift/souvenir shop.