iStockphoto.com / SGDFphoto
DescriptionStraddling the Banff-Windermere Highway (Hwy. 93) from the Continental Divide to the Rocky Mountain Trench, Kootenay National Park encompasses 1,406 square kilometres (543 sq. mi.) of Rocky Mountain landscape. Following the Vermilion and Kootenay river valleys, this slender 94-kilometre-long (63-mi.) park embraces several significant geologic features and is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kootenay's western entrance provides one of the most dramatic gateways to any of the national parks in Canada. The highway clings to a sheer cliff before snaking through a narrow gorge and running along an iron-red rock face where bighorn sheep are a frequent sight. Visitors driving this scenic highway will see dramatic landscapes as they travel the Golden Triangle or Hot Springs routes.
Wildfires and prescribed burns in the northern part of the park have left charred trees visible from the road, but nature's renewal is visible through stunning wildflower displays in the burn areas during the summer.
Extensive faults created two of the park's most significant features: the Radium Hot Springs and the Paint Pots. Located in the southern end of the park, Radium Hot Springs is a result of rainwater and runoff being vaporized deep underground. The steam returns to the surface and is condensed in these clear, odorless springs. First used by the indigenous peoples in the area, the hot springs were later popularized by health buffs at the turn of the 20th century.
iStockphoto.com / brytta
Good grazing conditions bring herds of bighorn sheep. Bears, deer, mountain goats, mountain goats, elk and countless species of birds are commonly seen throughout the park.
General InformationThe park is open year-round. Parks Canada's facilities, including three frontcountry campgrounds—Redstreak, Marble Canyon and McLeod Meadows—are open during the summer months, with Redstreak staying open the longest. Phone ahead to confirm the schedule.
Kootenay provides a variety of trails ranging from easy hikes to multiday backcountry treks. In July and August, Parks Canada offers guided hikes to the recently discovered Burgess Shale Fossil Beds near Stanley Glacier. Hidden in the mountains near the continental divide, the Burgess Shale fossils continue to help scientists unravel the mystery of life on earth 505 million years ago. Fees range from $27.50-$55 and reservations are required; phone (877) 737-3783.
All backcountry campers must obtain a wilderness pass. Information about trails, park features and facilities can be obtained from the visitor center in the village of Radium Hot Springs from the Victoria Day weekend through Labour Day and at the park's west gate during the remainder of the year.
Nonmotorized watercraft are permitted on all lakes and rivers in the park.
ADMISSIONADMISSION to the park is free in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Otherwise admission is $9.33; $7.90 (ages 65+); $4.67 (ages 6-16); $18.67 (all occupants of a private vehicle with up to seven people). An annual pass, valid at most Canadian national parks, marine areas and historic sites, is available.
PETSPETS must be leashed at all times. Pets are permitted in the backcountry overnight.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Kootenay National Park, Box 220, Radium Hot Springs, BC, Canada V0A 1M0; phone (250) 347-9505.
Things to SeeMarble Canyon
Extensive faults are responsible for two of the park's significant features: Radium Hot Springs and the Paint Pots.