Get to Kootenay National Park
There’s only one way to get to Kootenay National Park and that’s by car on British Columbia Highway #93. You can get to Kootenay National Park from the north through Banff National Park or from the south through the town of Radium Hot Springs. We drove down from Banff National Park. We turned on to Highway #93 at Castle Junction about halfway between the towns of Lake Louise and Banff.
Highway #93 is the only route through Kootenay National Park. You drive through a large glacial valley with lots of great views. The entire route on Highway #93 takes slightly longer than an hour. The striking thing about this park is how isolated you feel. The only facilities are located at Vermillion Crossing, which has Kootenay Park Lodge, a gas station and a small convenience store. Most of the traffic is weekend commuters heading south from Calgary to the Windermere Lake area. Very few people stop in the park, which gives it a much different feel than nearby Jasper and Banff.
Kootenay National Park – Marble Canyon
As we drove south, we soon stopped at the parking lot for Marble Canyon and went on a hike. Marble Canyon is probably the most popular spot in Kootenay National Park. The canyon isn’t very deep, but the walk is beautiful. You soon cross a great bridge over the river, where you can look down at the waterfall. As you head upstream, the hike rises out of the small canyon. The trail then follows the river along the valley floor. We also stopped at the Paint Pots Trail nearby. At the beginning of the Paint Pots Trail, there’s a magnificent foot bridge over the Kootenay River with a lovely view. Visit the bridge, but if you love Yellowstone, don’t go beyond the bridge because you’ll be disappointed by a hike to the Kootenay Park Paint Pots.
Hikers will enjoy a Stanley Glacier hike, which starts a few miles north of Marble Canyon. Stanley Glacier is a 5.5 mile return hike travels through an area burned out by a forest fire in 2003. The forest fire has created an area for wild flowers to bloom.
Kootenay Park Lodge
Kootenay Park Lodge is the only lodging in Kootenay Park if you don’t want to camp. The Kootenay Park Lodge is located right on the highway at Vermillion Crossing. We enjoyed our small rustic wood cabin with a fireplace. Even though it was mid July, the temperatures at night were cool enough to have a fire. The small main lodge had a restaurant, but I’m not sure how they stayed in business with so few people stopping by. The summer weather was pleasant enough that we were able to have dinner on the deck by ourselves.
A gas station and convenience store are right next to Kootenay Park Lodge. The small store closes early in the evening and there are no other facilities in Kootenay National Park, so enjoy the isolation! We took a short walk into the woods, but we were warned that a bear had been visiting the lodge grounds every evening searching for scraps. We had a pleasant walk and never saw the bear. That night, the wood cabin was very comfortable. I felt like an early pioneer settling in safe from the elements for the night.
Kootenay National Park – Wildlife
In the morning we continued our drive south through the park. We could see wildlife close to the highway as we drove. A herd of mountain goats were searching for food a few feet off the roadside. When we stopped the car, the mountain goats completely ignored us. We also came across a moose and her calf in a meadow at the side the road. The adult moose paid us no attention at all when we stopped. The moose calf was quiet excited though and kept glancing up at us. It seemed like the calf wanted its mother to notice us, but couldn’t get any reaction.
At the southern end of the park, the highway drives through Sinclair Canyon. The canyon walls close in on the road and you twist and turn through the canyon. Just when you think maybe the canyon will get even deeper, you suddenly emerge into the flat valley at Radium Hot Springs. The town of Radium is outside of the park boundaries and it marks the end of the isolated beauty of Kootenay Park.