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How does a week-long hot springs road trip through the Kootenay Rockies sound? Adventure through stunning mountain ranges, soak in mineral rich hot pools, and explore cultural, historical, and culinary delights along the way. Below is a suggested driving route for a memorable Canadian Rockies vacation, courtesy of the BC Visitor Centre @ Golden.
Cranbrook, home to the region’s biggest airport, is a great place to start your adventure. Don’t miss the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel’s award-winning collection of restored railcars and locomotives. The area’s aboriginal population, the Ktunaxa First Nation, is also celebrated here, and there are many quaint 19th century heritage homes throughout the area offering great photography opportunities.
From here, head to the hot springs. Fairmont Hot Springs boasts the double whammy of Canada’s largest natural hot spring and a popular local ski hill – the perfect combination.
Looking for something less developed? Head south to Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park and the natural Lussier Hot Springs. These hot mineral pools sit beside the Lussier River and are accessible via a forest service road.
Continue to Radium Hot Springs, located in Kootenay National Park. It is one of the largest hot spring mineral pools in Canada. Relax while surrounded by the jagged red cliffs of Sinclair Canyon above, and keep watch for bighorn sheep, longtime local residents.
The town of Golden is well known for its backcountry lodges and for being a hub for outdoor adventure. Get some powder time at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and while you’re there, stop in and see Boo the bear, who lives atop Kicking Horse in the world’s largest protected and enclosed grizzly bear habitat. Golden also has a local wolf sanctuary which is definitely worth a visit.
Rogers Pass, between Golden and Revelstoke, is one of BC’s great mountain crossings. Check out the Rogers Pass Visitor Centre, and take advantage of the many nearby snowshoe trails, as well as snowmobile and backcountry skiing areas.
The quaint mountain town of Revelstoke is home to outdoor enthusiasts, and to Revelstoke Mountain Resort, home of the longest lift-accessed vertical in North America. It is also the continent’s only resort to offer cat-skiing and heli-skiing from one village base. Downtown you will find some fantastic dining options, as well as many local shops and galleries to stroll through.
South of Revelstoke, take a short ferry ride from Shelter Bay to Galena Bay, and you come to Halcyon Hot Springs, featuring four mineral-rich pools to relax in. From there, continue along the shores of Arrow Lakes to the village of Nakusp. Stop in at the local museum, stroll along the waterfront and Japanese gardens, then enjoy a dip in the soothing hot springs. Also in the area is the Halfway Rivers Hot Springs, if you’re up for an adventure. Access is a little more challenging, but the Visitor Centre can help you find the way.
Next up, New Denver and Silverton sit on the eastern shore of Slocan Lake, where you’ll find museums, artisan studios and plenty of outdoor activities. In New Denver, visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, a National Historic Site dedicated to telling the story of more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly relocated during World War II. Also worth a visit is the town of Sandon, a historic gold rush ghost town that was once known as the “Monte Carlo of the North.”
Kaslo‘s beautiful and historic natural harbour once bustled with activity, and is now home to an incredible settlement story. The SS Moyie was launched in 1898, making it the oldest surviving sternwheeler in the world, and it is open for tours. It is one of the most significant preserved steam passenger vessels in North America.
Finally, end your journey at Ainsworth Hot Springs and sink into the odourless, soothing mineral waters that remain open year-round. Overlooking Kootenay Lake and the Purcell Mountains, this unique hot spring has a horseshoe-shaped cave, lined with stalagmites and stalactites, that creates a natural steam bath. Ahhhh.
For maps, driving directions, and additional information on each stop, click here.
Hot Springs Circle Route
Featured image: A person relaxing in the pools at Fairmont Hot Springs. Photo: Kari Medig
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