hikes in Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is one of the most distinctive and beautiful parks in the Canadian Rockies, shaped like a lightning bolt and surrounded by epic, towering mountains. Often overlooked by visitors, Kootenay offers a fabulous diversity of scenery, with lush valleys, arid peaks, and wide, grassy plains, and is packed with incredible hiking trails. Welcome to the wild side of southeast BC.
If you’re in search of beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife and plenty of outdoor adventures, Kootenay National Park is the place for you. The scenery here is as wild, rugged and spectacular as anywhere in the Canadian Rockies, with looming, snow-clad peaks, lush wildflower meadows, hot springs, deep valleys and stunning views whichever way you turn. Hiking in Kootenay National Park is a real treat, with unbeatable trails and plenty of scenic variety.
The most famous hiking trail in Kootenay National Park is, without doubt, the Rockwall Trail, an epic 55.0km backpacking trail that passes through some seriously stunning scenery. Follow the river past gushing waterfalls, meander through dense forests, and gaze in wonder at the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. However, you don’t need to commit to a multi-day backpacking adventure to enjoy the Rockwall Trail – many sections can be completed as day hikes, tailored to your fitness level. On this trail, and many others in the park, you can expect to see an abundance of wildlife, as well as impressive vistas over turquoise lakes and immense glaciers.
Next time you’re planning an adventure in the Canadian Rockies, why not explore this beautiful part of the region? To whet your appetite, here’s our list of the top hikes to enjoy in Kootenay National Park.
Top 8 Hikes In Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is one of the most overlooked parts of the Canadian Rockies, but this beautiful region has plenty to offer hikers, whatever their ability or fitness level. Like other Rocky Mountain parks, Kootenay National Park offers towering peaks, craggy ridges, and plenty of strenuous trails to challenge even the most experienced adventurers. However, it’s also a popular destination for families and beginner hikers, as there is an abundance of lower-elevation, easy trails that kids will love. Gaze on majestic glaciers, stroll through forests of pine and aspen, or dip your toes in a cool alpine lake – there’s something here for everyone.
- Floe Lake Hike: The route to Floe Lake takes you through one of the most iconic parts of the Rockwall Trail, with incredible views. The trail ascends steeply, passing by sections of burnt forest with a carpet of wildflowers and a lovely gushing waterfall. Floe Lake itself is simply stunning, named after the icebergs that once flowed into the lake in summer, products of glacial calving.
- Cobb Lake Hike: This wonderful route is an excellent option for families, especially on hot days, as the cool forest provides ample shade from the summer sun. The route through the woods is magical, with scented foliage and tall trees, and the final destination, Cobb Lake, is the perfect place for a refreshing paddle. Make sure to check in advance as the trail is often closed due to bear activity.
- Paint Pots Hike: Looking for a fun, family-friendly hike in Kootenay National Park? We love the walk to the Paint Pots, a series of small, multicolored pools set in vibrant clay soil. This is a region filled with history and local significance, from the miners who settled here in the early 20th century, to the First Nations inhabitants who continue to hold the site as sacred. Kids will love this easy hike, and there’s plenty to see and learn along the way.
- Ball Pass Hike: Ball Pass is one of the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies, and is frequently overlooked by visitors to Kootenay National Park. Beginning at Hawk Creek, this is a challenging day hike, passing through rugged forests up the Ball Pass, where a stunning wildflower meadow awaits you. The trail itself is exceptionally pretty, passing by waterfalls, meadows and beautiful mountain scenery. The real treat awaits you at the summit – a magnificent panorama that takes in the best of the Canadian Rockies, including Mount Ball, the Ball Glacier, Isabelle Peak and Shadow Lake.
- Marble Canyon Hike: This accessible trail is one of the best easy hikes in Kootenay National Park, passing through the deep, dramatic Marble Canyon. This is an excellent way to see the power of nature in action, as the canyon has been carved over millennia by the rushing waters of Tokkum Creek. The views are wonderful, and the path is easy and accessible for children, with fencing along most of the route (although it’s still important to take care with younger kids).
- Kindersley-Sinclair Loop Hike: The Kindersley-Sinclair Loop is a classic hike in Kootenay National Park, and allows you to appreciate the magnificent diversity of this corner of the Canadian Rockies. You’ll pass through expansive meadows filled with wildflowers, pretty forests, and spectacular peaks, high above the treeline, with jaw-dropping views over the valley. Come in late July and early August to see the delicate, colorful flowers at their best.
- Olive Lake Hike: Olive Lake is an excellent option if you’re looking for an easy hike in Kootenay National Park with wheelchair-accessible trails. The emerald-colored Olive Lake is a stunning sight, surrounded by rocky peaks and dense forest, but the trail is easy to follow and perfect for strollers. Bring a picnic and find a spot next to the water where you can appreciate the beauty and majesty of the Canadian Rockies.
- Stanley Glacier Hike: The trail that leads to Stanley Glacier is one of the best hikes in Kootenay National Park. The ascent is gentle and relatively easy, but you’ll enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way, with stunning wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and views over the wonderful Stanley Glacier. It’s possible to extend or shorten the hike according to your energy levels, making this an excellent option for families with older children. Make sure to stop off at the Storm Mountain Lodge, for a delicious meal to reward you for your efforts.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Kootenay National Park?
Like other parts of the Canadian Rockies, the best time to hike in Kootenay National Park is in the summer, between early June and the end of September. The snow is usually clear from the higher-elevation trails by the end of May or early June, and the weather is warm, clear and perfect for hiking. Spring brings wonderful displays of wildflowers, and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting as the park’s inhabitants wake up after a long period of winter slumber. Summer can be very busy, although the trails in Kootenay National Park aren’t as crowded as other parts of the Canadian Rockies. If you’re looking for spectacular photo opportunities, however, we’d recommend visiting in September, when the forests are ablaze in a riot of fall colors.
Other Outdoor Activities In Kootenay National Park
The Canadian Rockies are a haven for hikers, but there are plenty of other outdoor activities in Kootenay National Park that will keep all adventurers happy! This is a fantastic spot for a backpacking trip, especially for families, with easy, accessible and fun trails that will introduce younger kids to the delights of camping out in the wild. Kids will also love the guided tours of the Burgess Shale, packed with incredible fossils that showcase the earliest history of our planet. For those with plenty of energy, why not try mountain biking, rock climbing, or wildlife watching in the heart of the park? As a treat after a long day out in the mountains, you can also relax in the Radium Hot Springs, the perfect place to soak your aching muscles! In winter, the park remains open for all kinds of winter sports, including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing.
How To Plan A Trip To Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is one of the most overlooked destinations in the Canadian Rockies, but it offers everything you might have come to expect of this incredible mountain range. If this park is on your hiking bucket list, make sure you check out our guide to how to plan a trip to Kootenay National Park. We’ve gathered together all the information you’ll need to make your vacation a success, including insider tips on all the best hikes and places to visit. Beat the crowds and start planning a trip to this beautiful part of the Rockies!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Kootenay National Park
Do you need a Park Pass for Kootenay National Park?
Passes are required for all of Canada’s national parks, including Kootenay. It’s possible to purchase either a daily or an annual pass at any of the park entry gates, or by visiting the Parks Canada website.
What does Kootenay mean?
Kootenay National Park takes its name from the Kootenay River, which in turn is named after the First Nations Kutenai people.
How far is Kootenay National Park from Banff?
Kootenay National Park is approximately 132.0km from Banff.
Are there bears in Kootenay National Park?
Grizzly bears and black bears can be found in Kootenay National Park. Although encounters with humans are relatively rare, make sure to stay alert on the trail and come equipped with bear spray and if camping, make sure to store food securely in bear-proof containers. For more information, check out the bear safety guide.Read More
The best hikes in Kootenay National Park
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