Exploring the Kootenays

Hello everyone! Happy September 🙂 can’t believe we are already approaching fall, time flies!! I hope you all enjoyed my last post about part of my recent road trip exploring the Alberta Rockies. It was definitely a memorable experience, but the incredible Rockies weren’t the only thing I saw on our road trip. I also had the chance to explore the Kootenays, both before visiting the Rockies and on the way back to the Okanagan. The Kootenays are a vast and diverse region, and though I have visited before, it had been quite some time and I was really excited to explore again!

We started the journey travelling up through the Okanagan, into the Shuswap, and into the Kootenays in Revelstoke. It was a long day of driving on our first day and we didn’t make it to Revelstoke until it was dark. The next morning was pretty damn incredible though to wake up surrounded by the mountains. We explored a bit of downtown Revelstoke, such a quaint town to explore and I wish we could have had more time to check it out. But, we were set to travel onward towards Alberta, and the first stop along our journey was in Glacier National Park. This is one of the first times I was exploring Glacier National Park and it was pretty incredible to be driving through all of the stunning scenery. We stopped to hike Bear Creek Falls, which was amazing. It was the perfect hike, hardly anyone around and we got all of the amazing sights to ourselves! We could see the river as we hiked down to the base of the waterfall, which was stunning. We got so close to the waterfall and could practically have stood in the water if we wanted to, and could feel the water spraying on our faces regardless. It was the perfect break from driving and I would highly recommend checking it out if you are passing through Glacier National Park!

Before we knew it, we had made our way through and were continuing on to Yoho National Park. Along the way, we stopped in Golden, another quaint town with an adorable bakery that made the best shortbread cookies I’ve ever had. Again, wish we could have had more time to explore, but we were running on a tight schedule. Pretty soon we had reached Yoho National Park, which was equally if not more incredible than Glacier National Park. We stopped to explore Natural Bridge, which is exactly as it sounds, a completely naturally-formed rock bridge that creates an impressive waterfall. You can walk all around the area to view the bridge from different angles, and we got so close, I was almost standing on top of the bridge (though you can’t actually stand on top of it for safety reasons, the bridge could break or you could drown if you fell into the water as it is very fast-moving). All in all, a super incredible site to see, definitely pretty touristy but I think it’s worth it! It’s not every day that you get to see a naturally defying creation.

We continued through the Park and passed the entrance to Field, which also seemed like a cute town, though we did not have much time to stop and check it out. We drove up to the Upper Spiral Tunnels viewpoint, which provides a view of the mountains and the tunnels that are carved into the mountain side, used by trains. It was pretty neat. I think one of the most incredible things about the park is the further in you get, the closer to the mountains you are, and the more incredible everything seems. Shortly after we were crossing the border into Alberta and seeing the Rockies up close and personal. We had an absolutely fantastic time exploring the Alberta Rockies in Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff. Read my most recent post for more details about our wonderful time during this portion of the trip!

After we completed our journey throughout the Rockies, we crossed the border back into BC to continue exploring in Kootenay National Park. We crossed the continental divide when we got there, which is the borders of Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park coming together at the Alberta-BC border. It was pretty neat to see that and have the opportunity to explore so many national parks during our trip!

Kootenay National Park is a big one, and we stopped for a hike at Marble Canyon. The hike follows the canyon that has multiple waterfalls along it, culminating in the big falls at the top of the hike. It was similar to the canyon hike in Jasper that we did, but on a bit of a smaller scale and much less busy. We also got the chance to get extremely close to the water near the top of the falls, and at the very bottom of the falls, there is a swimming hole – though the water is glacier water and it is very cold 😉 but still a refreshing dip, and the water colour is a wonderful green-blue. I could tell right away the difference in the vegetation from being back in BC, and it was really neat to check out this area of the park.

We continued our journey throughout the park and came out the other side in to Radium Hot Springs, which was a really incredible drive. It literally feels as if you are driving through a canyon and coming through it to see the view. Unfortunately, the hot springs were closed due to COVID, so we will have to come back another time to check them out! We journeyed onward south and were starting to get pretty warm at this point, as it was quite hot out, so we were on the search for a lake to take a dip in. That’s when we found somewhere to stop at Columbia Lake in Canal Flats. The beach was incredible and the water was so refreshing, and definitely not as cold as the glacier lakes we had been in previously for the majority of the trip. It was so nice to take a dip in the water, and revitalized us to keep going for the rest of the drive. We traveled along the Kootenay River for the majority of the drive, which was very neat, then passed through Fort Steele, and eventually started heading east again towards Fernie. Fernie reminds me a lot of Jasper as it is situated in the middle of many mountains, and they are everywhere you look. It was a hell of a drive, and we were so glad to have made it to Fernie!

Fernie is the cutest town. I say this about a lot of places, but I truly truly mean it when it comes to Fernie – this place takes the cake. Their downtown has the cutest shops and restaurants, and it was such a nice vibe. Unfortunately, we had a very limited amount of time in Fernie, so we did not get a ton of time to explore and decided to spend our time soaking up the downtown area – it was well worth it. We had a great dinner and stayed at Snow Valley Lodging, a super cute motel-style place that was quite close to downtown. The next morning, we got some incredible coffee and tea lattes at Rooftop Coffee Roasters and amazing breakfast bagels at Big Bang Bagels – highly recommend checking them both out if you are in town. We also got the chance to check out some of the incredible artwork around town. I would love the opportunity to come back and explore Fernie again, and I am sure I will do so at some point! Would highly recommend visiting this incredible place if you get the chance.

Quickly, we were back on the road travelling west, this time towards Nelson. Previously, all of the places we had explored were in the East Kootenay region, closer to the Rockies, and now we were heading in to the West Kootenay region, a bit more rural and plain-like with a lot of valleys and lakes as well. There is a time change between these regions, which is something to keep in mind! We travelled through Cranbrook, which had a super cute downtown and one of the cutest chocolate shops I’ve ever seen, and is actually a much bigger city than I had anticipated. Then we continued on to Moyie and Moyie Lake area, and though we did not have time to stop, it seemed like an incredible place.

Eventually we hit Creston, and by this point you could definitely tell we were reaching more of the West Kootenay area by the vegetation and scenery. We stopped at a fruit stand here which had incredible produce that we ate for the rest of the trip, a huge win 🙂 From Creston, there are two different routes to get to Nelson, and we chose the northwest route that passes through Salmo for time constraint reasons. If you want a more scenic route, you could take the north route that travels along Kootenay Lake, and you will then need to take a ferry across the lake to get back over to Nelson (I winded up taking the ferry later on which is why I wasn’t too upset about missing this route initially).

Finally, we reached our destination of Nelson, and headed straight to the beach. The Lakeside Park is one of my favorite spots in Nelson, it has the waters of Kootenay Lake right at your feet and the mountains right in front of you as well. It has both sand and grass, so lots of options for relaxing also. After spending some time at the beach and checking in to the hotel, we headed downtown to do some exploring and grab some dinner. I winded up eating at the coolest taco place called Cantina Del Centro and chatting with a super friendly bartender – definitely give it a visit if you’re in Nelson. Shortly after, it was off to bed to get some shut eye before the next busy day.

The next morning I decided I wanted to venture out of Nelson a little bit and explore the surrounding area. I started my journey north towards Kaslo, a very cute town situated on the shores of Kootenay Lake. The drive is absolutely beautiful, as the entire time it is winding alongside Kootenay Lake with jaw-dropping views. I kept stopping along the way to take photos. Kaslo itself was a treat as well, a great place to stop and explore. The beach right in Kaslo Bay is the perfect place to go for a dip in the water. I had lunch on the grass before taking a dip, and it was so nice and refreshing! This day was very hot so I stayed in my bathing suit for most of the day and kept stopping at different locations along the drive to go in the water, which was super fun.

From Kaslo, I continued on to Kootenay Lake Provincial Park, near Davis Creek, which also had some nice views and was a good spot to go swimming. I would have liked to go even further north along the lake, but at some point I had to head back, so I decided to turn around and head back towards Nelson, stopping in multiple places for additional swimming along the way. I wound up back at Lakeside Park in Nelson again and took in one last swim before the sun started to dip behind the mountains. After spending some time laying in the grass and writing, I ordered some takeout and brought it to a park near my hotel to have a little picnic. It was a truly lovely day and evening.

On my last day in the Nelson area, I decided to take the ferry across Kootenay Lake towards Kootenay Bay. The ferry is free and departs from Balfour multiple times a day, taking about half an hour in crossing time to get to Kootenay Bay. Unfortunately, I forgot that ferries make me very nauseous, and since I was not allowed to get out of the vehicle due to COVID it was a bit of a rough journey. Nonetheless, I made it and was off adventuring in the area. First, I decided to do a hike in Pilot Bay to the lighthouse. Make sure you look up the instructions for this hike ahead of time, as the trail is not well marked and there is a lot of driving on a dirt road. It is a short but steep hike up to the lighthouse, which rewards you with absolutely incredible views of Pilot Bay. Definitely worth it to check it out, it was one of my highlights on that side of the lake.

Next, I drove back towards Kootenay Bay and continued on towards Crawford Bay. There is not a ton to see in this area if you are not camping or staying right near the water, as it is inaccessible to get to that area unless you are doing so. It was also quite remote, so it wasn’t really my speed, but still an interesting place to explore for a bit and definitely a nice drive along the water (though if we’re comparing, the drive from Nelson to Kaslo and further north was much nicer). I took a nice dip in the water in Kootenay Bay before hopping on the ferry again back across the lake towards Balfour, then drove towards Nelson to Lakeside Park – obviously my favorite spot in Nelson 😉

After spending the last few moments of the daylight in Lakeside Park, swimming and laying on the beach, I decided it was time to move on to Castlegar. I had decided to spend my last night in Castlegar before travelling en route to the Okanagan. Castlegar is only about a thirty minute drive from Nelson, so I made it there quite quickly and grabbed some Greek takeout from The Wandering Greek Oven in Castlegar. I went to a nearby park to enjoy my dinner and it was absolutely amazing, probably the best Greek takeout I’ve ever had (especially the calamari)! Highly recommend checking them out if you are in Castlegar. Shortly after enjoying dinner, I was headed to bed to get some rest for the last stretch of the journey tomorrow.

My final day of the trip was bittersweet. I spent some time exploring Castlegar in the morning, getting in a quick hike at Waldie Island Trail near the Castlegar-Robson Railway Bridge. Checked out a bit of downtown as well before I was heading onward, journeying west back to the Okanagan. The next destination I passed through was Christina Lake, which I was very excited about, as we used to go camping in Christina Lake quite frequently when I was younger. It had been a long time since I had been back. It was a very hot day and I was ready to jump in the water, and headed straight to the beach at Christina Lake Provincial Park. The water was amazing and I truly could have stayed there all day. Alas, I had to make it back to the Okanagan at some point and decided to head out, but not before stopping at Kool Treat for some sorbet. (If you’ve been here before, you know how good it is!!).

Next stop was Grand Forks, a much bigger city than I remembered. I walked around downtown a little bit but it was pretty quiet. I did get the chance to see some pretty incredible murals though, and a very cool cafe called The Board Room where you can rent and buy different games! Very neat. I continued onward to Greenwood and explored the murals there as well, before stopping at Copper Eagle Cappucino & Bakery. It is a wonderful place to stop at and I had an amazing chai latte from here, and the ladies working were so sweet. Greenwood is the smallest city in Canada and it was nice to pass through on my way west.

The last place I wanted to stop before reaching the Okanagan is a place that is very close to my heart, Kettle River. We used to camp here every year when I was younger and I absolutely loved it, but it had been many years since I had been back. I stopped at the recreation area in the campground, went for a swim and watched everyone jump off the bridge, and it was so nice to be back in a place that I had so many memories in! I could easily have stayed here much longer, but it was already starting to get late, and I wanted to make it back a bit earlier – so I continued onward to Osoyoos. It had been a long time since I had travelled down Anarchist Mountain and saw the views coming into Osoyoos, and my goodness was it absolutely incredible! The lookout was the perfect place to stop and take it all in. Moments like these make me realize how incredibly lucky we are to live in this beautiful place, and I am so grateful to have had the chance to grow up here. The drive down was spectacular and I headed straight to Osoyoos Lake for one final dip. The water was amazing and it truly felt like summer with the sun beaming down! Finally, the journey had reached an end and I drove back to Oliver where the real fun begins: unpacking.

It was truly an incredible road trip and I am so thankful I got the chance to experience so many beautiful places, many of which I have never been to before and some which I have not visited in a long time. BC and Alberta are both pretty incredible provinces and we are lucky to have the opportunity to explore, especially during such trying times of COVID. It was really nice to be out in nature for awhile and do so safely during these times. As it seems like these circumstances are going to continue for quite some time, I hope you all are taking the chance to connect in whatever way you feel fits, especially out in nature before the weather gets too cold. Thinking of you all during these times, and if you do decide to take a road trip and explore some of these areas, let me know if you have any questions! As always, stay in touch with me on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates 🙂


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