AMP: Vineyards, Valleys & Lakes Stories
Relaxing in natural hot springs is good for the soul. From the soothing sensation of being enveloped in warm water to the therapeutic value of the the natural minerals, BC’s hot springs perfectly complement the adventure found on local mountains and waterways.
Begin your tour in Cranbrook, which over the years has transitioned from a thriving railway town to become the largest city in the Kootenay Rockies, and home to the Canadian Rockies Interntional Airport. Admire 19th century heritage homes, and visit the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel’s award-winning collection of restored railcars and locomotives. Make time for a detour to Fort Steele Heritage Town and go back in time to experience “wild west” life in a restored 1860s gold rush town.
Drive north along Highway 95A to Kimberley.
Plan to spend a few days in Kimberley. This alpine resort community is an excellent destination for those who want to commune with nature. The immense Kimberley Nature Park—the biggest municipal park in BC—offers everything from short, easy loop trails to more strenuous trails with sufficient gain in elevation.
Kimberley is located between the Purcell and the Rocky mountains, which means access to spectacular hiking opportunities. Or head to the St. Mary river, considered to be one of North America’s top spots to fly-fish for rainbow, cutthroat, and bull trout.
Continue north on Highway 93/95 to Fairmont Hot Springs.
Invermere and Windermere are popular summer destinations. Bring your mountain bike (or rent one) and hit the local trails—The Johnson is a particularly scenic option for intermediate riders. Nearby Panorama Mountain Resort also offers some fabulous biking trails, and golfers owe themselves a round at spectacularly beautiful Greywolf Golf Course. Cool off with a swim or a paddle in Lake Windermere, or enjoy the serenity of a canoe or kayak trip down the Columbia River.
Continue north to Radium Hot Springs.
Radium Hot Springs, located in Kootenay National Park, is one of the largest hot spring mineral pools in Canada. Soak away your tensions while gazing up at the red cliffs of Sinclair Canyon. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, and if you’re here in November you won’t want to miss the Headbanger Festival, a celebration of rutting season. Think two 70 kg (150 lb) animals running at one another full tilt, horns colliding with a deafening crash in a battle for dominance.
Continue north on Highway 95 to Golden.
Golden is set on the banks of the Columbia River, North America’s largest wetland. It is close to national parks, including Yoho National Park, home to wonders ranging from powerful waterfalls to 500 million-year-old fossil beds. Mountain biking and whitewater rafting are popular activities here, and a literal and figurative highlight is a meal at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort—Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is the country’s highest elevation dining experience at 2,347 m (7,700 ft ).
Take Highway 1 east to Rogers Pass.
Rogers Pass National Historic Site, between Golden and Revelstoke, is one of BC’s great mountain crossings. Visit the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre to learn about the discovery of the pass and the completion of the railway, and to see natural history displays. Set in the Columbia Mountains between Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks is Canyon Hot Springs, home to two natural mineral hot pools that ease muscles sore from travelling.
Continue east to Revelstoke.
During the 19th century mining boom, Columbia River sternwheelers connected the rugged town of Revelstoke to the railway. Today, walk through the alpine city to see some 60 restored heritage buildings as well as the Revelstoke Railway Museum. Nearby, drive to alpine meadows in Mount Revelstoke National Park and head to Revelstoke Mountain Resort to ride the Pipe Mountain Coaster. West of town, stroll past hundreds of hand-crafted folk art figurines on the Enchanted Forest’s Wild Land Interpretive Walk, and visit the ghost town of 3 Valley Gap.
Drive south on Highway 23 to Halcyon and Nakusp hot springs.
New Denver and Silverton sit on the eastern shore of Slocan Lake, where you’ll find museums, artisan studios, and plenty of outdoor activity options such as popular Galena Trail, a favourite among hikers and mountain bikers. A section of the trail includes a cable-car crossing of Carpenter Creek that accommodates bikes. In New Denver, visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, a museum that pays tribute to the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II. Another must is a visit to Sandon, a historic gold rush ghost town once known as the “Monte Carlo of the North.”
Follow Highway 31A to Kaslo.
Kaslo’s natural harbour once bustled with activity as ore-barges, rowboats, steamships and sternwheelers jostled for a place alongside the busy wharf. Today you can tour the S.S. Moyie, the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler. Depending on your schedule, a foray into nature here may consist of a quick hike to powerful Fletcher Falls, or it may mean pitching a tent and staying a while. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park boasts long, sandy beaches and great frontcountry camping, or embark on a backcountry adventure in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park to truly get away from it all.
Continue south along Highway 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs and the Kootenay Lake Ferry.
Sink into the soothing mineral waters of Ainsworth Hot Springs. Owned by the Yaqan Nukiy people of the Ktunaxa First Nation, this unique hot springs features a horseshoe-shaped cave lined with stalagmites and stalactites. Fifteen minutes south, take the free Kootenay Lake ferry—the longest free ferry ride in the world—and drive to Crawford Bay. This charming arts community is home to a proportionately huge number of artisans specializing in media ranging from soap to brooms.
Travel south on Highway 3A to Creston.
Creston is home to four wineries, so sampling should be on your agenda. Another must is a visit to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, a refuge for more than 250 bird species. Take the boardwalk trail to a three-story viewing tower, or head to Duck Lake to fish for largemouth bass.
From here, it’s about a 75-minute drive back to the starting point in Cranbrook.
Opening image: Halcyon Hot Springs. Photo: Dave Heath
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