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June 1, 2023

Where to Experience the Great Outdoors

Experiencing the awe and wonder of our big beautiful vistas should be ‘a must’ for everyone visiting the Kootenay Rockies.  And we do deliver these stunning views – many of which are attainable by simply enjoying a delicious meal with a locally-made craft beverage on a patio or shopping at a community Farmers’ Market or attending one of our fun Kootenay festivals. Still, we hope the visitor will be able connect with the ‘great outdoors’ by taking in nature’s wellness benefits, too.

St. Mary Lake Regional Park, photo by Mitch Winton

Here’s a list of areas that are off the beaten-track and visitor favourites – which are easy to explore for families travelling with small children to adventurers with limited mobility. (Listed in alphabetical order).

Top 12 Places to Experience the Great Outdoors

CRAWFORD CREEK REGIONAL PARK (Crawford Bay/East Shore) – is known for its bird viewing; the park has access to Crawford Bay beach with its warm, shallow waters and two sandy beaches, as well as to the nearby Crawford Bay Wetlands and Trails. 

~ There is road access to the beach where bathrooms and picnic tables are located near Kootenay Lake.

KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN RESORT (Golden) – is perched at the summit of the resort (2,347-m / 7,700 ft.); visitors can explore the incredible views of the Rockies to the east, the Purcells to the west and the Columbia Wetlands to the south. Enjoy lunch at the top of the world – the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is the highest elevated restaurant in Canada.

~ Be whisked away on the Gondola; with short trek to Eagle’s Eye Restaurant and 360 degree epic vista views.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Eagle’s Eye Restaurant; photo by Kari Medig

KOOTENAY VALLEY VIEWPOINT (Kootenay National Park) – is a scenic stop in Kootenay National Park. Take in the stunning views of the Mitchell and Vermilion mountain ranges in the Canadian Rockies mountains.

~ It is a short stroll to the viewpoint’s interpretative signs, from the two parking areas.

Kootenay Valley Viewpoint, photo by Andrew Penner

LOOP BROOK TRAIL (Glacier National Park) – is an interpretive trail highlighting Canada’s railway (Canadian Pacific Railway line) history. This trail, part of Rogers Pass National Historic Site, highlights the stone pillars that once carried the railway track across the valley. These features are among the oldest surviving man-made structures in western Canada.

~ The gravel/dirt trail is a 1.7-km (loop) with slight elevation changes.

Glacier National Park, Loop Brook Trail; photo by Andrew Chad

MEADOWS IN THE SKY PARKWAY (Mt. Revelstoke National Park) – is the summit of Mt. Revelstoke. It is just a short walk from your vehicle, once you travel the paved 26-kilometre (16-mi), parkway which takes you up the mountain, offering views of Revelstoke, the Columbia River and the Monashee & Selkirk Mountains.

~ The summit of Mount Revelstoke is a 1-km walk by trail or paved road from the Balsam Lake parking area. Accessible parking is available at the summit for those with permits. Please ask at the Parkway Welcome Kiosk.

Mt. Revelstoke National Park, Summit Parkway, photo by Andrew Penner

NANCY GREENE LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK (Castlegar | Rossland) – is tucked in the Monashee Mountains, it is a popular overnight stop for tourists and also provides day use opportunities for local residents wishing to escape the summer heat of the valley. It is the perfect place to enjoy fishing, picnicking, walking, swimming, and boating (and in winter nordic skiing). The special feature in the park is the sub-alpine lake.

~ There are canoeing and kayaking opportunities with easy access from the beach. Visitors temporarily park and unload at the vehicle turn around. From the turn around, it is a short portage to the beach. Belly boating is also popular with local fishermen.

NORTH BAY BEACH (Riondel) – is managed by the Riondel Community Park & Campground Society who work to sustain the campground & community park. Access for day-use at the secluded North Bay beach on Kootenay Lake.

~ Stay for the night in one of the campsites; or enjoy the beach for the day.

North Bay Beach at Riondel, photo by Shannon Harrison

ST. MARY LAKE REGIONAL PARK (Cranbrook | Kimberley) – is located approximately 20-km west of Marysville/Kimberley on the St. Mary Road. The park offers a great picnic area, with tables, and a place to launch boats, kayaks, canoes & SUPs. The shallow water entry into the lake makes for a great swimming spot (on hot summer days). And, it is one of the most epic spots to watch the setting sun!

~ Open year-round. The park has a private land owner that maintains and operators the park; please stay within the park boundaries.

St. Mary Lake Regional Park, photo by Mitch Winton

SUMMIT LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK (Nakusp) – offers visitors great options fishing for rainbow trout or swimming in the lake’s clear, refreshing mountain water. A natural spectacle occurs at the end of each fall as thousands of Western toads, emerge from the lake foraging for food on their migration to the forest, their winter habitat. Please do not disturb their habitat and observe them from a distance.

~ There are opportunities for canoeing or kayaking in this park. Paddlers can access the lake from either the boat launch or the lake front campsites. Many users leave their canoe and kayak on the beach.

Summit Lake Provincial Park, photo by Field & Forest

TAKAKKAW FALLS (Yoho National Park) – is the most stunning waterfall (free fall of 254 metres) to see in the Canadian Rockies, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of BC.

~ Cool off in the mist as you stand at the base of one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. Snap a selfie from the red chairs and share your adventure!

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, photo by Heidi Korven

TILLEY MEMORIAL PARK (Canal Flats) – has a public boat launch for access to the lake and some protected moorage. There is also an enclosed swimming area and adjacent tables making this a perfect beach setting for lakeside outings. The day-use picnic area has tables (some with sun shelters), grassed area and a large parking area.

~ From the paved parking lot there are washrooms with wheelchair access, and a beautiful beach area.

Tilley Memorial Park, photo by Field & Forest

WILMER WETLANDS & TRAIL (Invermere) – are just outside the town of Invermere. If you enjoy views of the Columbia River Wetlands & catching glimpses of area wildlife – the Wilmer Wetlands hike is for you. It’s relatively flat throughout the trail, which makes it a perfect trek for those looking for a pleasant stroll with gorgeous views of the area’s wetlands.

~ To reach the parking area for the Wilmer Wetlands from Wilmer, head north on Main Avenue for 500 m and continue to Westside Road. After 2-km, you will find the parking area and the trailhead on the right.

Wilmer Wetlands Trail, photo by Carol Patterson Travel Writer

Known as British Columbia’s Mountain Playground, the Kootenay has so many more places to get up-close to nature and experience the Great Outdoors. Be sure to continue adding new locations to your bucket-list and return again & again to see all of the hidden gems only found in the Kootenays!

(Source: Travel Columbia Valley, Wilmer Wetlands & Trail Hike.)

Click on the above mini digital story for photos and video clips highlighting a Kootenay Rockies experience.

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