British Columbia’s Vancouver and Whistler have always been popular getaway spots, but if you’re willing venture a bit off the beaten path everything from beaches and waterfalls, to mineral hot springs are waiting for you during the fall season in the Kootenay Rockies.
Set between Vancouver and Calgary, the Kootenay Rockies has some pretty popular neighbors, but don’t let them distract you. Because sometimes it’s the spots you’ve never heard of, that really know how to get your attention. Like Fletcher Falls. This 50-foot waterfall is maybe a 10-minute walk (And that’s if you walk slow.) from where you park the car, so you don’t have to be a hard-core hiker to be rewarded. The trail has a bit of grade, but there’s plenty of opportunity to stop along the short trek if needed. (It’s less than a mile walk, roundtrip.) Fletcher Falls is located on the shores of Kootenay Lake, so you get the added bonus of yet another view that comes complete with a beach.
So much about visiting the Kootenay Rockies is being outside. In the fall especially, you’ll want to take advantage of its impressive park system. This is Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Along with a number of trails that wind through old-growth forest, elevated boardwalks give you a fantastic view of a salmon channel. Mid-August through the end of September Kokanee salmon flood the water to spawn. If you’ve ever wanted to see a salmon run, it doesn’t get much easier.
If you’re after a hike that packs a little more of a workout, the Kootenay Columbia Trail will get your blood pumping in a good way. It’s a moderate trail – maybe a 30 minute walk each way depending on how fast you go and how often you stop to snap a picture. There’s some fun art along the trail gives you reason to stop from time to time. But it’s what’s waiting at the summit that inspires most folks to make the trip. The Kootenay Columbia Viewpoint offers great views of the area and helps solidify that understanding of the lay of the land.
The more miles you cover on the trail, the more exciting soaking in hot springs may sound. But Ainsworth Hot Springs is a bit unique thanks to a swim-through horseshoe shaped cave. Complete with stalactites, the father you venture in, the darker and warmer the water gets. Think temperatures that average about 108°F. The mineral water in the caves cycles through six times a day. The pool is cooler spot to be averaging about 96°F.
If you’d rather just look at some pretty water, Kootenay Lake is one of the largest lakes in British Columbia. From the late 1800s to the late 1950s, sternwheelers were a common sight. What’s said to be the oldest intact passenger sternwheeler in the world – the SS Moyie – calls downtown Kaslo home. Mid-May through mid-October visitors can explore throughout the ship.. from its engine room to its cabins, and kitchen. It takes you back to a simpler time, to an era when traveling by boat was more common.
Flying Notes: From the West Coast, you’re most likely flying into Vancouver and hoping a quick flight to Castlegar, the main airport in the Kootenay Rockies. Travelers can also fly to Spokane, Washington, and drive into Canada in about two hours.
Review and photos by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer and television correspondent Dana Rebmann. Her stay was organized by Kootenay Rockies Tourism, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.