It doesn’t matter if it’s early spring or late fall, hiking is accessible all across the area. Lower elevations take you on long walks along the Kaslo, Kootenay and Columbia rivers, and along the shores of Kootenay Lake. As the snow rescinds to unveil the wild flowers at higher elevations, the old growth forests and evergreens flourish and welcome visitors. It really is a magical hiking experience, for all ages and levels of fitness.
Fancy an adventurous hike to the alpine with soaring 360 vistas? Got ‘em. How about a quick and accessible hike for a bird’s eye view of our charming mountain towns? Yup. Or a leisurely walk in the woods or along the river that even the little ones will love? Oh yeah, we’ve got those too. Big crowds from the big city? Nope, sorry. Just awesome hikes with all kinds of natural beauty and peaceful quiet.
With multiple communities on the shores of our rivers and lakes, there’s all kinds of lower elevation trails to choose from. Our mild climate means that most of these trails are accessible from early spring to late fall. And with loads of great restaurants, cafes and even ice cream and chocolate shops in town, you’ll take comfort in knowing that you can treat the kids (and yourself) to a post-hike reward just around the corner.
Head to Kaslo for a gentle hike along the town’s namesake river that feels like something out of a fairy tale. Mossy banks, towering trees and burbling waters are bookended by twin picturesque covered bridges on the 3.2km loop trail. Take the scenic Kootenay Lake ferry to the East Shore and explore Pilot Bay Provincial Park with an extensive network of trails. A short hike leads to the beautifully restored lighthouse overlooking all three arms of Kootenay Lake.
Stretching from the shores of Kootenay Lake all the way to the town of Salmo, the Great Northern Rail Trail is another family favourite option. A 5km out and back from either trailhead in Nelson features soaring trestles and easy grades. At just over 1.5km and 100m of elevation gain, the Kootenay Columbia Trail in Rossland leads to a stellar viewpoint overlooking the mountain town. Link up with other trails or head back to town and imagine how much snow must fall to explain those super steep roofs that sit like a hat atop all the houses.
If getting high (in the alpine) is your thing, you might want to extend your stay. Take a scenic drive to Meadow Creek and up quiet forest roads to the trailhead for Monica Meadows, one of the most incredible hikes in North America. Glaciers, wildflowers, fiery larch trees in the fall and real deal wilderness are your reward. Between Nelson and Balfour is the gateway to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, featuring some truly jaw-dropping and challenging hikes to alpine lakes and scrambles to rocky summits. If you want to stick closer to Nelson, you’ll find our version of Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. Follow the steep trail to Pulpit Rock for great views, or keep going all the way up to Flagpole for over 650m of heart-pounding hiking. If you’d prefer more peace and quiet, tackle nearby Toad Mountain for a more mountainous expedition.
Rossland is home to some meaty hikes too, including the punchy Old Glory Trail. With over 1000m of elevation gain and just under 20km out and back, make sure to pack a few energy bars and lots of liquid. The celebrated Seven Summits Trail is even longer, with a rollercoaster route that features plenty of scenic vistas and is a brag-worthy bucket list hike.
There are plenty of easy and short hikes in and around Castlegar. For example, paths wind their way through Millenium Park, past the river and various amenities that include a bike park and playground. And there’s the 1.5-kilometre Waldie Island Trail that passes through a protected Blue Heron bird sanctuary.
The Dove Hill Trail, because although it’s short, it offers excellent views of the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers. There are a few different variations of the trail but most people hike the 2.4-kilometre out-and-back from the power substation to the summit of Dove Hill and there’s only 160 metres of elevation gain.
With multiple communities and all kinds of hikes to choose from, take your time to explore the region and enjoy the mild to wild trails.
MUST DO – ADVENTUROUS HIKES
- Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park to the Glacier – Balfour
- Monica Meadows – Meadow Creek
- Toad Mountain – Nelson
- Pulpit Rock and Flagpole – Nelson
- Old Glory – Rossland
- Antennae Trail – Montrose
- Seven Summits Trail – Rossland
- Brilliant Overlook/Skattebo Reach – Castlegar
- Dove Hill Loop – Castelgar
Family friendly hikes are all around the area, and sit at lower levels so they can be done spring to fall.
MUST DO – FAMILY HIKES
- Pilot Bay Provincial Park – Kootenay Bay
- Kaslo River Trail – Kaslo
- Great Northern Rail Trail – Nelson
- Kokanee Glacier Prov Park to Gibson Lake – Balfour
- Kootenay Columbia Trail – Rossland
- Centennial Trail – Rossland
- Millenium Park – Castlegar
To learn more about hiking in the area visit the tourism websites.
Enjoy your #KootenayRoadTrip