Winter in Kootenay National Park

Ice climbing

Ice climbing (Photo by S. Stevens / Parks Canada)

Kootenay National Park, being one of the great natural treasures of the southeastern part of British Columbia, offers so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors that there is something to delight everyone -– and then some! It is truly a winter wonderland at this time of the year and whether your idea of great winter fun is to get right out there in the snowy wilderness or enjoy it from the luxury of a soak in a historic hot pool, why not make a date to take in some of the many adventures available this winter?

There are many great places to check out if cross-country skiing is your wintertime passion. Although none of the trails is track-set, groomed or patrolled and conditions may vary, they all provide winter wilderness experiences to delight everyone. One place to try out if you like lots of variety in your surroundings, is the Kootenay Fire Road by Dog Lake. Only 26.5 km north of Radium Hot Springs, the trail features river and lake views, two suspension bridges and lots of forest.

The best snowshoeing can be found in the northern half of Kootenay National Park which experiences heavier snowfalls, making good supportive snow-packs. A couple of great options if you like shorter hikes are the Fireweed and Paint Pot trails but there are lots of others. If you want longer and more challenging experiences, the Ochre Creek and Stanley Glacier trails may be more to your liking. Make sure you arm yourself with knowledge of your chosen area, and the skills and rescue equipment you will need because some of the routes go through avalanche territory.

Love ice climbing? Just near Marble Canyon lies Haffner Canyon, offering exceptional opportunities to the climber. There are several routes to choose from but make sure you have the skill and experience necessary and climb with a certified mountain guide. Avalanches are always a possible danger.

No matter whether you choose camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking or ice climbing -– or a bit of them all — there are some things to remember to make your adventure a safe and happy one.

First of all, make a call to a Parks Canada information centre (403-522-3833) for help in planning your trip. Visit DriveBC’s website at http://www.drivebc.ca for current road conditions. Study the trail descriptions and maps, the weather forecast and the current trail conditions before you leave home and be prepared for any and all emergencies and weather changes. Choose a trail that the least experienced member of your party can easily manage and travel with a friend or in a group. Let someone back home know where you are going, when you expect to return and who to call if you don’t return in a reasonable time. Remember that the trails in the national parks are not patrolled so you will be using them at your own risk.

Take with you a trail guide and a map, a full water bottle or thermos, some high energy food, sunscreen and sunglasses, a first aid and repair kit, headlamp or flashlight, lightweight blanket, candle and lighter or waterproof matches, extra clothing for layering and extra hat and gloves. Camera and binoculars are optional but you will want those too.

If you would rather enjoy the snowy winter beauty of the mountains from the comfort of your automobile –- and lots of people would -– you will most certainly enjoy a 320-km, five-hour sightseeing tour through the Kootenay-Yoho triangle. The trip will take you into Kootenay, Banff and Yoho National Parks and you can begin your adventure at any corner of this unique driving triangle -– either Castle Junction in Banff National Park, the town of Golden just west of Yoho National Park or the gateway to Kootenay National Park at Radium Hot Springs.

Wherever you begin your trip, you will be delighted with the vistas of the continental divide as well as the Columbia valley. You will travel along the Bow and Kicking Horse river valleys through the communities of Lake Louise and Field, along highway 93 south through the majestic Sinclair Canyon, and highway 95 along the beautiful Columbia valley. Drive carefully though and keep a watch out for wildlife.

No matter how you want to experience this breathtaking part of the world in winter, we highly recommend that when you come through Radium Hot Springs, BC, you dip into the soothing and refreshing waters of Canada’s largest natural hot springs. Lay back and let your tired muscles relax and your cares drift away as you gaze at the incredible Rocky Mountain scenery around you.

If you would like more information about winter activities in Kootenay National Park, visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/kootenay

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