A local’s guide to Kootenay National Park
Classic experiences can be found in countless guidebooks, but the true secrets of the national parks can only be found by talking to quirky locals or staff. If you are looking for inspiration for your next national park adventure, read on, some gracious locals let us in on the goods.
Charlie McLellan, Parks Canada Resource Management Officer:
Favourite memories from Kootenay?
While doing grizzly bear research one fall, I was doing vegetation plots and camped close to a lake for the night. In the morning I woke up to see the mist rising off the lake and a herd of elk by the edge of the lake. It felt like a dream! And those types of experiences are everywhere in the park.
Favourite local thing to do?
Canoe the Kootenay River in the spring when the birds are singing.
Best kept secret?
Everyone comes to Kootenay for the alpine, but near the southern end of the park by Radium Hot Springs, there are spectacular grasslands with amazing views of the Columbia Valley. You can also find so many ponds with frogs. If you want to hear the frogs, head to Kootenay in the spring!
Alan Dibb – Retired Resource Conservation Manager
Favourite local thing to do?
The classic long day hike in the southern part of the park named the Kindersley-Sinclair trail. It is a gem with only a short drive to the trailhead. Views from the rocky trail summit are spectacular in all directions, and there is always a good chance of seeing bighorn sheep in their wild habitat, and occasionally mountain goats. Some of the grizzly bears seen along the highway in the spring are foraging up along the trail in summer and fall, and it would be very easy to surprise a grizzly while walking this trail. Be sure to check the trail report before heading out, as a mandatory group of 4 requirement may be in effect.
Best kept secret of the park?
If you are soaking in the Radium Hot Springs hot pool, and look carefully along the rocky bluff and concrete retaining wall on the side opposite the changing rooms, it is occasionally possible to see a rubber boa; a harmless little snake but genuinely a boa! Occasionally snakes have been seen here even in winter too. These snakes are a species at risk so be sure to let the pool staff know if you do see one.
If the insider scoop isn’t enough, here are a few other ideas for how you can celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth experience, register for a guided hike to the Stanley Glacier Burgess Shale fossil site. You could also challenge yourself on the Rockwall trail, one of the Rockies’ best multi-day hikes.
For the history buff:
Canada’s National Historic Sites are also celebrating a birthday this year. Celebrate their 100th anniversary with a visit to one of Canada’s oldest historic sites. Located just north of Invermere, BC, Kootenae House was established by explorer David Thompson in 1807. Guided by Indigenous People, David Thompson established Kootenae House as the first trading post in the Columbia Basin.
Road side attractions and scenic drives:
As you travel Highway 93 South, take time to stop along the way: take a short walk at Marble Canyon, keep driving to snap a quick picture from the Kootenay Valley Viewpoint or pack a picnic lunch and learn how Parks Canada is helping wildlife to safely cross the highway at Dolly Varden day-use area.
For more unique stories from Parks Canada staff, download the Kootenay National Park Explora App and take the scenic drive through the park from a true insider’s perspective.
Get away for a unique camping experience:
Redstreak Campground’s oTENTiks are where it’s at for camping! These cabin-like structures include beds for six and are perfect for family escapes on chilly mountain nights.
What you need to know?
Save the date and reserve early: January 12, 2017 is when the Parks Canada’s reservation system opens for campgrounds and guided hikes.
Entry is free to Canada’s National Park in 2017. Save yourself time get and your free Discovery Pass online, or stop at any Parks Canada gate or visitor centre to get a free daily entry pass. For more information: www.pc.gc.ca/kootenay