Kaslo City hall


Take a trip back in time on a walking tour through some of the most colourful heritage towns in British Columbia. The main streets of Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, Kaslo, Crawford Bay, and Rossland feature striking storybook buildings and stunning mountain and lake backdrops unique to the Kootenays.

As the “Queen City” of the Kootenays, Nelson features more than 60 heritage buildings all within walking distance. Most date from the late 1800s and early 1900s and are a testament to Nelson’s booming silver mining era of the time. For a small town in the interior of BC, Nelson has some grand architecture.

The heart of Nelson’s downtown boasts the greatest concentration of noteworthy designs, including the Courthouse, K.W.C. Building, Burns Building, and multiple banks. Victorian era influences abound along with nods to Italian and French styles. Further uphill you’ll find the iconic red-brick Fire Hall and the clapboard gray Nelson Brewing Company across the street.

The rich variety of stone, brick and wood buildings is complemented by public art and murals. The annual Nelson International Mural Festival provides a growing legacy of large-scale outdoor artwork. Wander Nelson’s alleyways and side streets to discover all kinds of hidden gems, including the many bold murals. Rotating public art installations add more character to Nelson’s historic Baker Street and are easily found on foot.

As you make your way to the quaint village of Kaslo, a visit to JB Fletcher Store at Ainsworth Hot Springs will be an absolute delight. You’ll be smitten with memorabilia that take you back in time.

Serene Kaslo is in many ways a smaller version of Nelson but with grander views. Historic Front Street includes the remarkable SS Moyie Sternwheeler and colourful wood clad buildings. The Langham Cultural Centre, City Hall, and multiple churches are other standout structures all within a short walk of each other. Continue your walking tour of Kaslo beyond the downtown and along the Kaslo River Trail, bookended by twin crimson covered bridges.

Taking the road less travelled through the West Kootenays will take you through the quiet towns of Ymir and Salmo. Like the larger communities in the region, you’ll find influences of bygone days in the rustic architecture that provides a strong sense of place.

Cross over Kootenay Lake, on the free ferry, and immerse yourself in the village of Crawford Bay, filled with artisans and quaint cafes. Home spun yarn, metalworks, pottery, jewellery, brooms and more will tantalize your artistic interests, and pocketbook.

Roughly half the size of Nelson, the alpine city of Rossland features big views and a picturesque downtown that still reflects a frontier era enthusiasm and design. The Rossland Courthouse is a signature building worthy of its National Historic Site status, while the Fire Hall, Miners’ Union Hall and Bank of Montreal building are also iconic structures. The majority of noteworthy buildings are within a ten-minute walk from end to end.

Rossland’s passion for recreation and culture is also best discovered on a walk through town. Impressive statues, monuments and sculptures pay homage to the town’s alpine heritage, including the towering Olaus Jeldness, the father of skiing at nearby Red Mountain. The picturesque trees that line Main Street turn a vibrant red each fall while bright murals add colour year-round.

Discover the heritage towns of the West Kootenays for yourself at a slow pace. A leisurely walk through each downtown reveals the past and present colliding in a timeless and distinctive style.

To learn more about walking tours in the area visit the local tourism websites.


Bird on Kootenay Lake

If you’re dreaming of visiting a mountain paradise with lush forests, fresh water, and all kinds of wilderness, you’re not alone. Sure, there are all kinds of mountain folk that dwell throughout the West Kootenays, but they’re not the only creatures to call this special place home.

From the top of the food chain to the bottom, a wide range of species can be found in the region. One of the densest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America resides north of Kootenay Lake amidst old-growth trees and the crystal clear Lardeau River. These iconic animals are also known to frequent higher elevations throughout the area’s dramatic inland temperate rainforest.

Black bears are a more common sight, especially closer to townsites. Although it’s common to think that bears can be identified just by their colour and size, it’s best to consider multiple attributes to be sure. Black bears lack the grizzly’s pronounced shoulder hump, tend to have a flatter face, and have shorter claws and more pointed ears (if you can zoom in that closely). They also have more of a tendency to scavenge for human food, so it’s critical that you have a “bare” campsite and use bear-proof garbage bins.

Without access to a high protein salmon diet like their burly relatives on the coast, our bears rely on a mainly vegetarian diet, with an emphasis on berries. If you’re in the bush huckleberry picking, do the bears a solid and leave them most of the buffet. Rossland’s alpine elevation is especially prime habitat for bears, so it’s important to be bear aware; make lots of noise when in the backcountry, carry bear spray, and know how to use it.

Deer are the most spotted large mammal in the region. White-tailed deer favour the valley bottoms, while the mule deer is more common the further you head uphill. Watch for them on our twisty and turning roads, particularly when you see the bright yellow jumping deer signs. Elk are also known to graze on meadows around Kootenay Lake, including a large field just south of Kaslo. Be particularly cautious if you come across them in the fall rutting season, or protective mothers and their calves in the spring.

Skunks, coyotes, otters, muskrats, beavers, marmots, chipmunks and ground squirrels are just some of the other animals that make this area home. The Western Toad, Pacific Treefrog and Columbia Spotted Frog all sport their own signature camouflage to blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators. Painted turtles and the Western Garter Snake can also be found around Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River.

Pint-sized to prehistoric fish can be found under the surface. Minnows are the most common aquatic species and provide nourishment for larger fish, including Kokanee sockeye salmon. These iconic red fish can be seen spawning each fall in streams at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park and Meadow Creek. Rainbow trout, including the prized Gerrard species, feast on Kokanee and can grow to more than 30 pounds, although it’s more common to find them under 10 pounds. But the real beast of the deep is the White Sturgeon. These ancient bottom dwellers are massive, with the largest catch from Kootenay Lake weighing 350 kilograms. Dams have created impediments to their reproduction, but longstanding conservation efforts are hoping to help the species thrive. The free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River between Castlegar and the US border is prime fly fishing territory.

It’s not just fishermen that seek a prized catch from the lake. Birds also depend on fish, including ospreys. These migratory birds can be seen in aerial nests around our lakes and rivers when not chasing the winter sun in Central and South America. With a wingspan of over two meters and a white head and tail, bald eagles live near the water year-round and are known as the boss on the lake. You’ll often see full-on bird fights over fish and rodents. Owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, crows, ravens and kingfishers flit amongst trees, while turkeys and grouse can often be found near waterfront roads. Loons, swans and colourful mallards are some of the other birds commonly found.

From high above to under the water, from the forests to the streams, all kinds of wildlife have found a mountain paradise in the Nelson and Rossland region. We encourage you to tread lightly, safely, and with respect for these special creatures.

To learn more about winter activities in the area visit the local tourism websites.


It doesn’t take much to experience something that is part of the arts world on the Kootenay Road Trip. Public Art decorates the streets and alleyways. Museums and galleries are the cornerstone to our past, present, and future. Theatres, bars and lounges showcase the true Kootenay lifestyle with local musicians and actors dominating the stages.

Artisans are prominent as Crawford Bay’s main street, with broom weavers, potters, ironsmiths, weavers and more creating a fascinating destination. Venture further afield along the East Shore to discover more galleries on a leisurely drive.

Playful and historic statues line Rossland’s main street in homage to wildlife, pioneers and free spirits. You’ll find all kinds of independent shops around downtown, including an artisan chocolatier. Learn about the area’s rich mining and ski history at the Rossland Museum & Discover Centre. Fun fact: guided tours include a gold panning demonstration. Bet the kids didn’t see that one coming!

Murals, murals, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? That’s for you to decide on a stroll through Nelson’s alleyways and downtown streets, and just a taste of what to expect when it comes to arts and culture on your road trip. The Nelson International Mural Festival has created a legacy of supersized public art. A combination of permanent and temporary installations on historic Baker Street and beyond is yours to discover.

Nelson theatres, bars and lounges showcase local talent and top-notch touring artists. Visiting in the summer or fall? Don’t miss our many attractions, and a ride on Nelson’s historic Streetcar 23 as it clicks and clacks its way along the waterfront. Colourful murals, iconic heritage buildings, art galleries, boutique shops and museums give Nelson it’s storybook feel.

Kaslo’s historic Main Street has a similar feel, with a nod to the past and an eye to the future. Discover artisans ranging from potters to musical instrument makers in the compact downtown. Make sure to visit the trio of historic buildings, two of which are National Historic Sites: the SS Moyie Sternwheeler, City Hall, and Langham Cultural Centre. Other nearby heritage attractions include the Lardeau Valley Museum in Meadow Creek, JB Fletcher Store and Museum in Ainsworth, and artisans in Balfour.

Arts and culture are front and centre in communities throughout the region. Happily, a road trip is the perfect way to discover them for yourself.




To learn more about arts & heritage in the area visit the tourism websites.

Enjoy your #KootenayRoadTrip