Kootenay National Park

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location

The Kootenays or Kootenay (/ˈkuːtni/ KOOT-nee) is a region of southeastern British Columbia. It takes its name from the Kootenay River, which in turn was named for the Kutenai First Nations people. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains of southeastern British Columbia, this National Park is 1,406 square kilometres (543 sq mi) of land of startling contrasts. The park's long narrow profile is packed full towering summits and hanging glaciers that meet narrow chasms, broad forested valleys, arid grasslands and colour-splashed mineral pools. The best way to experience the park is to travel the 106 kilometre long Banff-Windermere Highway (Hwy 93 south) which cuts through the park from north to south and connects it to Banff National Park. Every twist and turn of the parkway reveals something interesting to explore.

From the city of Calgary, Kootenay National Park is 166km west, passing through Banff National Park on your way. From Vancouver to the east access of the National Park it is a 823km drive passing through Glacier National Park (Canadian), Yoho National Park and the west corridor of Banff National Park where both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are located. Alternatively the nearest town is Radium, BC which is just on the western border of the National Park and includes every amenity that you could need including the Radium Hot Springs, which were once though to heal moonier exposure to radiation, hence the name. Radium is a paint town with a strong Bavarian influence. 

 Morning coffee with friends at Floe Lake, photos / Bruin Alexander 

Morning coffee with friends at Floe Lake, photos / Bruin Alexander 


most iconic views

The first morning sun along the Rockwall at Floe Lake is one of the most beautiful sights in the Canadian Rockies. Although you would need to either hike through the night or obtain a campaign permit at the Floe Lake campground (information on how to do that below) - it is more than worth it. The lake typically melts by mid-July and in mid-late September the abundant larch trees turn a golden orange in the entire area. 

 First light on the rockwall face and a morning swim in Floe Lake, photo / Bruin Alexander

First light on the rockwall face and a morning swim in Floe Lake, photo / Bruin Alexander


explore

beginner - Marble Canyon

Length: 1.6 km (1 mile) roundtrip
Hiking time: 30 minutes
Elevation: 25 m (82 feet)
TrailheadMarble Canyon parking lot, 89 km north of Radium Hot Springs.
Habitat: Limestone gorge, burnt forest, many small mammals.

No need to drive all of the way to Jasper for dramatic canyons! This roadside pullout features the beautiful blue water of the Tokumm Creek and is a perfect place to stretch your legs. At the end of the looping trail you are rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. 

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moderate - Stanley Glacier

Length: 8.4 km (5.2 miles) roundtrip*
Hiking time: 3 hours
Elevation: 365 m (1,198 feet)
TrailheadStanley Glacier parking lot, 91 km east of Radium Hot Springs. 
Habitat: Regenerating forest, glacier, glacial moraine, cliffs, many small mammals. Watch for fossils.

Most of the trail is in an area of re-growth from the 1968 Vermilion Pass forest fire which destroyed 2,500 hectares (6,177 acres) in an 18 day burn. The initial 2km (1.2 miles) of this hike contain the majority of its elevation gain in the form of switchbacks. After the switchbacks the trail flattens along the valley floor and the maintained portion (distance above) is marked a a sign indicating that the trail is no longe maintained. From here the trail continues through a bolder pass and up into the belly of the valley. I recommend staying to the left when possible. You will be rewarded with a treed overlook below the toe of the glacier overlooking the trail - this is a perfect place to eat your lunch. 

*to the foot of the glacier the total roundtrip time is approximately 11km (6.8 miles)

 The hike out to Stanley Glacier on an overcast day, photo / Ryan Clennett

The hike out to Stanley Glacier on an overcast day, photo / Ryan Clennett

challenging - Floe Lake 

Length: 21 km (13 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 7 hours
Elevation: 715 m (2,346 feet)
TrailheadFloe Lake parking lot, 72 km east of Radium Hot Springs. 
Habitat: Open and meadowy trail, burnt forest, glaciers, peaks and a large lake.

One of the most iconic hikes in the Canadian Rockies. Floe campground features 18 sites that typically are used as the final night along the Rockwall trail. This day hike can also be done as a single night backpacking out and back trip from the Floe Lake Parking Area and is what I would suggest to watch the sun light up the rock face at Floe Lake. The first 7 km of the hike are relatively easy walking along the valley side. The entire area was burned in July 2003 by the Tokumm - Verendrye Creek fire, so most of the trip is through burned forest where re growth is slowly starting to happen. The final 3 km to the lake is an approximately  30% up hill climb along a series of switchbacks before the lake emerges. This is some of the coldest water I have ever swam in. 

 The Warden's Cabin at Floe Lake.

The Warden's Cabin at Floe Lake.

note: the ratings and estimated hiking times have been provided by Parks Canada, I have personally done all of these hikes. There is no technical sections of these hikes and no additional equipment outside of comfortable hiking shoes or boots, water and snacks should be required.

If you are looking to complete more challenging objectives in Kootenay National Park I recommend this book - I have no vested interest in your purchase but personally utilize it for planning my trips.


additional information 

  • Wildlife that can be found in Kootenay National Park includes black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, wolves, lynxes, cougars, martens, wolverines, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, mountain goats, moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and marmots.
  • The ghostly spindles of once-burned trees carpet many parts of Kootenay. The fresh green trees and plants among them is awe-inspiring evidence of the destructive and regenerative power of fire - vital to forest renewal and health. Watch for fuchsia fireweed along “Lightning Alley” where it is uniquely prominent in Kootenay National Park.
  • UNESCO named the region a World Heritage Site because of the mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, caves, fossils, and canyons located in the area.
 Stanley Glacier, photo / Ryan Clennett

Stanley Glacier, photo / Ryan Clennett


passes and permits

note: all prices in CAD and include all taxes and fees

ADMISSION

Daily

Adult - $ 9.80
Senior - $ 8.30
Youth - free
Family/Group - $ 19.60

Parks Canada Discovery Pass - these passes are valid for entry to all National Parks in Canada for a full year

Adult - $ 67.70
Senior - $ 57.90
Family/Group - $ 136.40

Order your 2018 Discovery Pass here!

CAMPING

Per Night

Redstreak (water, sewer, and electrical) - $ 38.20
Redstreak (electrical) - $ 32.30
Redstreak (unserviced with washroom building having toilets and showers) - $ 27.40
McLeod Meadows (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 21.50
Marble Canyon (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 21.50
Dolly Varden (primitive) - $ 15.70

Group Camping, per night

Crooks Meadows, per person - $ 5.80

CAMPING SERVICES*

Fire permit - $ 8.80
Campsite day use permit - $ 8.80
Dump station - $ 8.80

BACKCOUNTRY USE AND CAMPING*

Overnight, per person - $ 9.80
Reservation fee (per reservation)- $ 11.70

Camping and backpacking in Kootenay National Park can be booked here. A map of the park is added below.

*all fees indicated are per night unless otherwise noted

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