Discover Kootenay National Park

Got your heart set on exploring the dramatic landscapes of Canada? Kootenay National Park in British Columbia should be at the top of your to-visit list! Famous for its hot springs, picturesque trails, and the ever-present chance to spot some local wildlife, this national park perfectly intersects nature’s tranquility and raw power.

Kootenay National Park allows you to bask in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Hugging the western edge of the Rockies, the park offers a spectacular drive through Highway 93, also known as the Banff-Windermere Highway, which stretches over 106 kilometers (65 miles) and serves as a scenic link between Kootenay and Banff National Parks.

Did you know that while you’re wandering through the wonders of Kootenay, you’re also walking through a gauntlet of natural history? Glaciers have chiseled the landscape over eons, and traces of ancient forests whisper tales of wildfires that have shaped the ecology here.

Whether you’re seeking solitude amidst nature’s tranquility or craving the thrill of outdoor exploration, Kootenay National Park beckons with its unparalleled beauty and boundless opportunities for discovery.

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Top 3 Facts About Kootenay National Park

01

Ancient History

Kootenay National Park is home to some of the oldest fossils in the Canadian Rockies, dating back over 500 million years. These fossils offer a glimpse into the region’s ancient marine life, including trilobites and brachiopods, which once thrived in the shallow seas that covered the area.

02

Continental Divide

The park straddles the Continental Divide, which serves as the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. This geographic feature not only offers stunning panoramic views but also plays a crucial role in determining the direction of water flow, with rivers on the eastern slope eventually flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, while those on the western slope drain into the Pacific.

03

Hot Springs

Within Kootenay National Park lies the Radium Hot Springs, renowned for their rejuvenating properties. These natural thermal springs emerge at a temperature of around 44°C (111°F) and have been enjoyed by visitors for relaxation and healing for over a century.

Camping and transportation in Kootenay National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Kootenay National Park

Getting to Kootenay National Park is relatively straightforward, with several access points available depending on your starting location:

  • From Calgary, Alberta: Kootenay National Park is approximately a 2.5-hour drive west of Calgary. Take the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) westward towards Banff and continue through Banff National Park until you reach the entrance to Kootenay National Park.
  • From Vancouver, British Columbia: If you’re traveling from Vancouver, you’ll embark on a longer journey of about 10 hours by car. Take the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) eastbound, passing through the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, and Revelstoke, until you reach the entrance to Kootenay National Park.
  • From Banff, Alberta: If you’re already in Banff National Park, you can reach Kootenay National Park by driving westward on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours, passing through stunning mountain scenery along the way.
  • Public Transportation: While there isn’t direct public transportation to Kootenay National Park, you can take a Greyhound bus or VIA Rail train to nearby towns such as Banff or Golden, and then rent a car or join a guided tour to reach the park.

Places to Stay Near Kootenay National Park

There are several options for accommodation and camping near Kootenay National Park, catering to various preferences and budgets:

  • Campgrounds within Kootenay National Park: The park offers several campgrounds, including Redstreak Campground near Radium Hot Springs and Marble Canyon Campground near Vermilion Pass. These campgrounds provide basic amenities such as picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets, offering a rustic camping experience amidst the park’s stunning natural surroundings. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak summer season.
  • Radium Hot Springs: The town of Radium Hot Springs, located just outside the park’s western boundary, offers a range of accommodation options including hotels, motels, and vacation rentals. Visitors can enjoy the convenience of staying close to the park while also taking advantage of amenities such as restaurants, shops, and the famous Radium Hot Springs pools.
  • Invermere: Situated approximately 30 minutes south of Kootenay National Park, the town of Invermere provides additional lodging choices including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals. Invermere boasts scenic views of Lake Windermere and offers a variety of dining and recreational opportunities.
  • Backcountry Camping: For those seeking a more adventurous camping experience, backcountry camping is available in Kootenay National Park with permits required. Several backcountry campgrounds and wilderness campsites are accessible via hiking trails, allowing you to immerse yourself in the remote wilderness of the park.
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Best Time to Go to Kootenay National Park

Summer

Summer

Summer, from July to September, is the peak season in Kootenay National Park when the weather is warm, and outdoor activities abound. The days are long, allowing ample time for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife spotting. The park’s iconic lakes, such as Vermilion Lakes and Olive Lake, offer refreshing opportunities for swimming and paddling. The high alpine meadows come alive with a kaleidoscope of wildflowers, creating picture-perfect landscapes for photography enthusiasts. While summer brings larger crowds, there are still plenty of secluded spots to discover, especially in the early morning or late evening.

Winter

Winter

Winter, from December to March, transforms Kootenay National Park into a winter wonderland blanketed in snow. While some trails may be inaccessible due to snowfall, winter opens up opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice climbing for adventurous visitors. The park’s hot springs, including Radium Hot Springs, offer a warm reprieve from the cold and provide stunning views of snow-covered landscapes. Winter also provides unique opportunities for wildlife viewing, with chances to spot animals such as elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats against the pristine white backdrop. Though temperatures can be chilly, winter in Kootenay National Park offers solitude, tranquility, and the chance to experience the beauty of nature in its frozen splendor.

Spring

Spring

Spring in Kootenay National Park, typically from April to June, is a magical time when the park awakens from its winter slumber. As the snow melts and temperatures rise, the landscape bursts with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom across meadows and valleys. It’s an excellent season for wildlife viewing, as animals emerge from hibernation and migrate to higher elevations. Visitors can enjoy moderate temperatures, fewer crowds, and the opportunity to witness stunning waterfalls fueled by melting snow. Spring is ideal for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the park’s many trails before the summer rush.

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Fall

Must-See Attractions

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Paint Pots

Explore the unique geological formations and vibrant ochre deposits at the Paint Pots. This historic site offers a short hike through forested trails leading to colorful mineral springs, providing a fascinating glimpse into the area’s cultural and geological history.

Marble Canyon

Marvel at the impressive limestone canyon carved by the rushing waters of Tokumm Creek. Follow the interpretive trail along the canyon rim, crossing over footbridges and offering spectacular views of the turquoise waters below.

Radium Hot Springs

Relax and rejuvenate in the soothing mineral waters of Radium Hot Springs. Surrounded by towering cliffs and forested slopes, these natural hot springs provide a tranquil setting to unwind and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Kootenay National Park

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Before your visit, research the park’s attractions, hiking trails, and facilities to prioritize your must-see destinations. Check for any road closures, trail conditions, or weather advisories to ensure a smooth journey.

Pack Appropriately

Pack Essentials

Bring along essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a first-aid kit. Dress in layers, as mountain weather can be unpredictable, and be prepared for sudden changes in temperature or weather conditions.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Wildlife

Kootenay National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bears, elk, and mountain goats. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never approach or feed them. Store food and scented items properly to prevent attracting animals to your campsite or vehicle.

Stay Informed

Stay Safe

Be aware of your surroundings and stay safe while exploring the park. Carry a map, stay on marked trails, and inform someone of your itinerary if venturing into remote areas. Respect trail closures and exercise caution near cliffs, rivers, and steep terrain.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Kootenay National Park

When you first lay eyes on Kootenay National Park, you’ll want to make a beeline for Radium Hot Springs to soak in the warm mineral-rich pools. Don’t miss the stunning vistas at Sinclair Canyon, and if time allows, a drive along the Banff-Windermere Highway offers breathtaking scenes that define the Canadian Rockies.

For camping under the stars, Redstreak Campground near Radium Hot Springs offers convenience and comfort. You’ll have facilities and services to make your stay enjoyable, plus, you’re just a stone’s throw away from the hot springs themselves – talk about the perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring!

Absolutely! Let’s break it down:

  • For beginners, the Marble Canyon Trail is a short and sweet trek that’ll give you a taste of the park’s beauty without much strain.
  • If you’re ready to step it up a notch, the Paint Pots trail mixes history with scenery.
  • Seasoned hikers, the Rockwall Trail awaits you! It’s a multi-day journey that will challenge your limits and reward you with some of the most spectacular views in the park.

Keep your eyes peeled as Kootenay is teeming with wildlife. From majestic elk grazing in the meadows to bighorn sheep scaling steep cliffs, you’re in their backyard. You might even spot bears or cougars, so remember to respect their space and keep a safe distance!

In a word: dramatically! Summer in Kootenay is prime time for hiking, with July through mid-September offering the most stable weather. Winters are snowy and cold, perfect for snowshoeing and cuddling up by a fire. Spring and fall? Unpredictable, so pack layers and be ready for anything.

Yes, you’ll need a Parks Canada Discovery Pass for the duration of your stay. These passes help maintain the park’s beauty and are essential for accessing the spectacular trails and facilities that Kootenay offers. Remember to grab yours at the entrance or online before your adventure begins!

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