Kootenay National Park
AccessThe Banff-Windermere Parkway (Highway 93) runs through Kootenay National Park. It is at least a 3-hour drive.LandscapeKootenay National Park ("kootemik" is Indian for "places of hot water") is in the Rocky Mountains, in south-east British Columbia. It adjoins the more famous Banff National Park and Yoho National Park, and takes in the magnificent western flank of the Canadian Rockies.
Radium Hot Springs, Canada
Still within Kootenay National Park, Radium Hot Springs was a place prized by the Indians for its hot springs, and these continue to be the source of its fame. Its Aquacourt has two swimming pools (39°C (102°F) and 28°C (82°F)), thermal baths, set in the natural rock surroundings, and a restaurant. Radium Hot Springs Lodge, above the springs, also has beautiful views. Whitewater rafting is possible as well.Near the Radium Hot Springs, Sinclair Canyon forces its way through a stupendous defile.At Radium Hot Springs visitors will find golfing, fine dining, skiing, and many other activities on offer.
Marble Canyon is a deep narrow gorge, formed by Tokumm Creek, which owes its name to its pale marbled limestone and dolomite walls. An interpretive trail of about a mile circles the canyon to a waterfall. Marble Canyon is spanned by several bridges, and has a small information center open to visitors in summer.A little trail of about 1 km (2/3 mi.) leads from the next parking area over the Vermilion River to the "Ochre Beds", and the three small pools known as the "Paint Pots". These are fed by mineral springs with a high iron content, hence the color. The Indians came here from far afield to get the ochre-colored clay for their war-paint and for dyeing their clothes and tepees. The Europeans took advantage of the red clay, too, using it to produce dyes in Calgary.
The Banff / Windermere Highway Exhibit at Kootenay Crossing is worth seeing, particularly for its account of how this part of the Rockies was opened up by the highway, and how the national park was set up.Further south from Kootenay Crossing, the highway passes by Crooks Meadow, Dolly Varden, and McLeod Meadow, all pretty resorts where campsites should be booked in advance.There is a wonderful view from Kootenay Viewpoint over the Kootenay River valley to the Mitchell and Stanford mountain ranges.
About 120 km /75 m from the Kootenay Valley the Banff/Windermere Highway crosses Sinclair Pass (1486 m / 4877 ft) to get into the lovely high-mountain valley of fast-running Sinclair Creek. After the Iron Gates Tunnel steep limestone and dolomite walls, colored red by iron oxide form a kind of gateway. In spring and in August big-horn sheep congregate here.The Sinclair Pass area is also known for it's hiking and mountain biking trails that are popular in the summer with outdoor enthusiasts.
The scenery around Vermilion Pass is reminiscent of the Swiss Alps: the famous Stanley Glacier, on the slopes of Stanley Peak (3155 m (10,355 ft)) to the south, can be reached by a lovely if rather strenuous hike in one day through the Stanley Creek hanging valley.The Stanley Glacier hike is a fairly low elevation hike, meaning it is open earlier in the season. From the trail there are great views of Stanley Peak, Storm Mountain, Mount Whympe, and Boom Mountain.
Mount Whymper (2844 m (9334 ft)) to the west of Vermilion Pass also has its glacier. It is named after the conqueror of the Matterhorn, who also climbed many of Canada's mountains.Many people come to Mount Whymper to climb it although it requires some skill and is not for the average hiker. The east side of Mount Whymper has unfortunately been effected by forest fire and suffered serious damage.
The Vermillion Pass (summit 1651 m /5382 ft), only 38 km / 24 mi north-west of Banff, is where the Parkway crosses the Continental Divide, and where Alberta meets British Columbia and Banff National Park meets the Kootenay National Park.In 1968 a forest fire, started by lightning, raged for four days in the Vermillion Pass area and devastated 2440 ha (6029 acres); the results are still clearly visible.Nonetheless, the green hills and snow capped mountains make this area stunning.