West of the Canadian Rockies’ destinations of Banff and Lake Louise, British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies region draws outdoor enthusiasts to its snow-topped mountains, turquoise lakes, and hiking, biking, and paddling routes for all skill levels. The region is also home to funky mountain towns, offering plenty of craft beverages and unexpected art.
Plan your travels to the region with these 10 Kootenay Rockies trip highlights–featuring must-see national parks, unique lodging accommodations, outdoor adventures, and more. If you’re roadtripping in an EV, this area is making significant investments in electric vehicle technology, so you’ll find plenty of places to recharge in most Kootenay towns.
1. Visit four national parks
In the varied terrain of Kootenay National Park, you can hike through deep canyons and soak in mineral hot springs. In Mount Revelstoke National Park, drive the winding 16-mile Meadows in the Sky Parkway for views over the mountains, then explore old-growth forests in Glacier National Park. For more dramatic scenery, head to Yoho National Park to canoe Emerald Lake’s blue-green waters, hike to cascading Takakkaw Falls, or follow a guide to the Burgess Shale, where fossils date back more than 5 million years.
2. Explore alley art
There’s no need to go indoors to explore the Kootenay art scene. Walk through Fernie’s back alleys where local artists have painted the town’s dumpsters with whimsical creatures and colorful landscapes. Wander Revelstoke’s “Art Alleries,” an outdoor gallery downtown, and check out more than two dozen murals throughout Nelson. In Kaslo, find art in the forest, with fanciful Hide and Seek sculptures featuring stone people peeking out from behind trees and under rocks.
3. Sway across suspension bridges
Test your nerves at the Golden Skybridge, two suspension bridges 426 feet above the canyon floor—currently the highest in Canada. On a clear day, you’ll have sweeping views over the Purcell and Rocky Mountains. If that’s not enough of a thrill, challenge yourself on the ropes course or whiz over the canyon on the 1,000-foot-long zipline.
4. Kayak the wetlands
You might spot beaver dams, bald eagles, and a variety of birds when you kayak the wetlands with a guide from Columbia River Paddle, or paddle the Columbia River from Invermere to Radium, a half-day flat-water excursion.
5. Learn the history of Japanese internment
During World War II, the Canadian government imprisoned more than 20,000 Japanese Canadians in internment camps across British Columbia. Several sites, including the Sunshine Valley Tashme Museum near Hope and Kaslo’s Langham Cultural Centre, tell you more about this history. A former camp in New Denver is now the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, where visitors can walk through cabins and other buildings where residents were detained.
6. Stay in a residential school reclaimed by Indigenous communities
Another dark chapter of Canadian history unfolded throughout the 20th century when the government required Indigenous children to attend residential schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their languages or practicing their traditions. Several First Nations have reclaimed one of these schools, the St. Eugene Mission near Cranbrook, and converted the property into an Indigenous-run resort. Stay in former classrooms, pause in the hallways lined with historic photos, and learn more at the onsite cultural center.
7. Eat local foods
Nelson has a vibrant food scene, with everything from contemporary Vietnamese-inspired plates at Yum Son, to BBQ and whiskey at Broken Hill. In Fernie, start your day with a creative brunch at Blue Toque Gastro Diner, while at Golden’s Reposados Tacos, you can pair inventive margaritas with excellent tacos, including a colorful broccolini and beet version. At Dose Coffee in Revelstoke, try the intriguing green pea pancake topped with a poached egg. The stylish Velvet Restaurant, in the slopeside Josie Hotel at Rossland’s Red Mountain Resort, serves house-cured charcuterie, wild game, and local produce to skiers and other adventurers.
8. Ride an e-bike on a rail trail
Rent an e-bike to ride the 15-mile North Star Rails to Trails between Cranbrook and Kimberley, where you’ll cruise beneath the mountains and spot unusual hoodoos. From Nelson, pedal the Great Northern Rail Trail above Kootenay Lake. For a longer excursion, ride the Columbia and Western Rail Trail between Castelgar and Christina Lake, or the Slocan Valley Rail Trail along the Slocan River.
9. Sip kombucha and craft beer
The Kootenays is a craft beer hub; highlights include Whitetooth Brewing in Golden, Angry Hen Brewing in Kaslo, Fernie Brewing Company, and several microbreweries in Nelson. Prefer your brews alcohol-free? Taste the fresh kombucha at Fernie Alpine Springs’ self-service kombucha bar.
10. Sleep in a tiny house
Fernie’s Snow Valley Lodging rents six tiny houses—cute cabins with compact kitchens and cozy sleeping lofts. Around the corner, Raging Elk Adventure Lodge converted its dorms into more private, individual pods. For a romantic cottage getaway, consider Kaslo’s Wing Creek Resort overlooking Kootenay Lake, Cathedral Mountain Lodge in Yoho National Park, or welcoming Moberly Lodge in Golden.