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The Kootenays

Photo by Christian Williams

BC's lake district

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While the beauty of Canada’s Rockies generally rests in giant mountains cradling small lakes, just west, in British Columbia’s Kootenays, things are the opposite way around, yet the effects every bit as fantastic. Here large lakes dominate, making majestic mountains more just a backdrop that you contemplate as you wait for the next ferry.

While it’s many of the same group of activities as in the Rockies that appeal – there are subtle differences here, too. Being far further off the beaten track, the trail network is less extensive or well-maintained yet more varied since these include logging roads and home-made biking trails. Canoeing and fishing are predictably popular and the experience wilder, while hot springs developments more comfortably-sized.


The Classic Two Week-Tour

The Kootenays center on a trio of major north–south valleys, which harbor Kootenay Lake; Upper and Lower Arrow Lake and Slocan Lake and create three adjacent mountain ranges: the Purcells, Selkirks and Monashees. This terrain quickly cuts down the number of ways to travel through the region, and one route along its roads is fairly indisputably the best. This combines using Hwy-23; Hwy-6; Hwy-31A and Hwy-3A – but is a far less convoluted journey than it sounds, with one turn-offs involved.

The route begins by travelling south from the town of Revelstoke – which lies on Trans-Canada Hwy-1 and offers a gateway the Glacier National Park – then along Upper Arrow Lake to the minor resort town of Nakusp. From here it leaves the lake to head east over to Slocan Lake as far as the tiny town of New Denver, where the near-ghost town of Sandon and the drive up Idaho Peak make brilliant side trips. From here it’s worth heading east again to the minor mountain town of Kaslo which makes an excellent base for hikes into pristine mountain scenery. Finally, the recommended route follows the shores of Kootenay Lake south to the city of Nelson, the region’s likeable alt-flavored hub.

With a week or two to explore you could add the above journey to a tour of the Okanagan and create a brilliant loop that takes in some of the most scenic spots in British Columbia – and in a province known for its scenery, that’s really saying something!


We will add coverage of Kootenay attractions shortly, so why not drop us a line now to tell us what you’d like to see covered?


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