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13 Best Things to do in Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada is an absolutely beautiful Canadian National Park found in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This national park in southeastern British Columbia is super close to Banff National Park and Lake Louise but is less well known by international visitors.

If you’re tired of the full parking lots and crowds at Banff and Lake Louise, then a trip to the Kootenay National Park could be just what you need. It’s a great addition to any Canadian Rockies road trip.

You’ll find stunning mountain views, incredible hikes, alpine lakes, and mineral pools. From hiking in Kootenay National Park to white water rafting, there are just so many fun things to do in Kootenay National Park!

We’ve visited this National Park numerous times and have found different things to do pretty much every time. Most recently we visited as part of a longer Kootenays road trip itinerary and took more time to explore the park at a slower pace.

13 Best things to do in Kootenay National Park

There are so many things to do in Kootenay National Park and plenty of beautiful spots. While you can enjoy some of the views and top things to do in Kootenay National Park from the road as you drive through, the views only get better if you take some time to hike or run further into the park.

Top Tip: Kootenay National Park weather can change rapidly
no matter what time of year! Always be prepared for rain and cooler temperatures.

You’ll need a Parks Canada pass to explore these Kootenay National Park things to do. You can buy one online in advance, or you can buy one from visitor centers in the park.

1. Go Whitewater Rafting

white water rafting

We went white water rafting in Kootenay National Park with Kootenay River Runners from their Radium base. It was super fun and such a cool way to experience the national park in a way we’d never see otherwise.

We took their half-day tour which included a drive into the park on some logging roads before getting into the boats and floating down the river.

We got to marvel at cool rock formations, waterfalls, and forests and saw some awesome camp spots along the lake which would be stunning if you’re an experienced paddler looking for somewhere to camp in Kootenay National Park!

This was one of the Kootenay National Park highlights from our recent trip!

2. Go backpacking on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park

floe lake trail

The Rockwall Trail is one of those classic Canadian backpacking trips on par with Mt Assiniboine, Berg Lake and Lake O’Hara.

It’s a 54km long hike through the backcountry of Kootenay National Park that takes you over passes, along creeks, and to the beautiful Floe Lake trail. Along the way, you’ll get to see the incredible Rockwall which the trail is named after which sits as a backdrop to Floe Lake.

You can hike the Rockwall Trail in one go, or you can do day trips or overnight trips to each of the stages. I took a solo overnight hike to Floe Lake campground and Numa Pass a few years ago and it remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve camped in Canada.

It’s definitely one of the best options for Kootenay National Park backpacking trips.

The best time for this hike is mid-July to early October as that’s typically when the snow has cleared and you get better weather (no guarantee though!).

You also need to book several months in advance as the campgrounds get booked up very quickly! You can reserve your spot through the Parks Canada website.

3. See the Continental Divide Marker

things to do in invermere (1 of 7)
Continental Divide

The Continental Divide Marker in Kootenay National Park of Canada marks the diving line between the Pacific and the Atlantic watersheds.

When you stand here it’s said that all the water on one side of the marker goes to the Pacific and all the water on the other goes to the Atlantic!

It’s quite a fun and quick Kootenay National Park attraction to visit too as you drive through.

4. Walk the Kootenay Paint Pots Trail

The Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park are mineral-rich pools of water that were used to make ochre paint by the Ktunaxa People. They’re one of the most popular places to visit in Kootenay National Park.

You can walk the easy trail of about 2km each way to the paint pots. Along the way, you’ll walk over orange soils that are usually quite saturated so you’ll need to make the most of the boardwalks and logs to avoid getting too wet!

At the end are the Paint Pots themselves which are formed by iron oxide and the mineral waters in the area.

5. View Marble Canyon Kootenay National Park

13 Best Things to do in Kootenay National Park marble 870 pc zlynch
image via Parks Canada

One of the best Kootenay National Park attractions is Marble Canyon. The parking lot is right off the highway and the trail along the Marble Canyon is less than 1km.

During that 1km walk, you’ll be treated to the bright, almost Gatoraid-like, blue waters of Tokumm Creek. At the far end of the trail from the parking lot is a beautiful waterfall! You can find other Marble Canyon BC hiking trails on AllTrails too.

Save 50% off an AllTrails Pro subscription and up to 20% off everything in their Gear shop, and gifting AllTrails+ for the holidays! 

AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.

6. Go camping in Kootenay National Park

There are 4 front-country (meaning you can drive to your spot) campgrounds in Kootenay National Park.

All are close to nice walking trails and beautiful scenery. These include the Marble Canyon Campground Kootenay National Park and Kootenay National Park redstreak campground.

You can also rent an oTENTik in the Redstreak campground near Radium where you’ll have the tent, beds, seating area and a firepit all set up for you when you arrive.

Kootenay National Park camping books up quickly so plan to book several months ahead of your trip!

7. Hike to Stanley Glacier

The Stanley Glacier Trail is one of the best hikes in Kootenay National Park. The trail takes you through the area of an old forest fire and up to an impressive view of the Stanley Glacier. If you’re visiting in mid-summer you’ll likely see wildflowers along the way!

It’s about an 8.5km return hike and remember to take bear spray with you as they’re frequently spotted near here.

8. Soak in the Radium Hot Springs

13 Best Things to do in Kootenay National Park fallpools edited
Image via Radium Hot Springs

The Radium Hot Springs are within Kootenay National Park and are very close to the town of Radium itself. They’re the best Kootenay National Park hot springs.

Since they’re managed by Parks Canada the ticket price is pretty cheap (especially compared to some of the other BC hot springs!).

9. Enjoy the views from the Kootenay Valley Viewpoint

A pullout off the highway through Kootenay National Park marks the Kootenay Valley Viewpoint. From here you’ll get an awesome view of the Kootenay mountains such as the Vermilion mountain ranges, the Mitchell mountain ranges and the Kootenay Valley.

If you’re coming from Banff the viewpoint will be to the left of the road. There’s a parking area on both sides and a pedestrian walkway too.

10. Chill out at Olive Lake

Olive Lake is a beautiful emerald-green lake just near the Radium Hot Springs and one of the best things to do in Kootenay National Park.

There’s a short trail through the forest and a boardwalk that takes you to a viewing platform from where you can really soak up the views of the lake.

Olive Lake can get very busy so plan your stop here for earlier or later in the day to avoid the busiest times.

11. Explore Numa Creek

The Numa Creek Trail is another must-do in the Kootenay National Park hike. You’ll wander alongside Numa Creek while enjoying Numa Falls, the creek itself and the surrounding mountains.

12. Visit the town of Radium

best things to do in radium hot springs bc (1 of 1)

The town of Radium sits just outside of Kootenay National Park to the west. It’s a small town with a great Brewery, some fun activities in Radium Hot Springs and hikes and a few places to stay that are close to the park. Plus, you’re super close to the Radium Hot Springs too!

13. See the views of Sinclair Canyon

The first time we went through here was at sunset and it was beautiful! You actually drive through the canyon walls as you drive from Banff to Radium Hot Springs.

As you pass through the rocks (heading west), there’s a small parking area where you can park up and get out to really enjoy the canyon views.   

How to get to Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park is on Highway 93, also known as the Banff-Windermere Highway. The road is 106km long and takes you right through the centre of Kootenay National Park; connecting the town of Radium Hot Springs with Banff National Park.

If you’ve been staying in Golden, you can also get to Kootenay National Park by taking the BC-95 southbound to the town of Radium and then joining up with Highway 93.

  • Golden to Kootenay National Park (via Radium): Around an hour along highway 95 to Radium which is at the border of the national park.
  • Banff to Kootenay National Park: 30 minutes to the eastern side of the national park, 1.5 hours drive from Banff to Radium Hot Springs. Going from Kootenay national park to Banff is very common.
  • Calgary to Kootenay National Park: Around 2 hours to the eastern edge of the park, 3.5 to the town of Radium.
  • Vancouver to Kootenay National Park: About 9 hours via Golden and then south to Radium.
  • Edmonton to Kootenay National Park: 453 km, 4.5 hour drive via Calgary.

Top Tip: There is no cell signal in Kootenay National Park so
download any trail maps before entering the park!

I highly recommend renting a car if you’re just visiting this part of Canada. Getting around without one is very difficult. You could also rent a campervan through a company like Outdoorsy where you can choose from 100s of different types of camper including vans, trucks, and more standard RVs.

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Where to stay near Kootenay National Park

Besides camping (more information below) the best places to stay near Kootenay National Park are in Radium or Banff. Some hotels in Kootenay National Park are suggested below.

Hotels in Banff

$$$ – The Hidden Ridge Resort: This luxury resort accommodation in Banff is in a beautiful setting. With an outdoor hot tub, free shuttle into town, sauna and pool, you almost won’t want to leave the resort. You can also get self-catered accommodation here too.

$$ – High Country Inn: This Banff hotel has an indoor pool, sauna and a hot top as well as mountain views from all rooms. There’s an onsite restaurant and you’re not too far away from downtown Banff either.

$ – HI Banff Alpine Centre: This hostel has double rooms available with a shared bathroom for around $100 a night making it one of the cheapest hotels in Banff. It’s also in a good location just opposite the Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff. You can get a shuttle from here into town.

Hotels in Radium Hot Springs:

While there are no Kootenay National Park hotels, you’ll find some more options in Radium nearby.

$$$ – Mountain Springs Motel: Mountain Springs Motel has motel rooms and suites with self-catering facilities. There are also outdoor games and BBQ facilities.

$$ – Gateway Motel, Radium: The suites here are spacious and some have mountain views. BBQ facilities on site.

$$ – Celadon Lodge, Radium: Modern accommodation with everything you need for your stay in Radium.

Read more: Banff vs Canmore? Should you stay in Banff or Canmore?

FAQs about these Kootenay National Park things to do

What do people do for fun in Kootenay National Park?

In Kootenay National Park, people enjoy hiking, wildlife watching, camping, hot springs, and scenic drives. During winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular.

What is unique about Kootenay National Park?

Kootenay National Park is unique for its mix of ecosystems, from icy glaciers to dry grasslands, and its Radium Hot Springs, which is one of the largest natural hot springs in Canada.

How many days do you need in Kootenay National Park?

A minimum of two to three days is ideal for Kootenay National Park to explore its main attractions and trails. However, the duration can vary based on individual interests and activities planned

Is Kootenay National Park worth visiting?

Yes, Kootenay National Park is worth visiting. It offers a diverse range of landscapes, from glaciers to grasslands, and provides a less-crowded alternative to some of the other national parks like Banff and Jasper National Park.

Final thoughts on what to do in Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park in southeastern Britsh Columbia is a beautiful National Park that’s often overlooked by some of its more famous neighbors such as Banff National Park and Lake Louise or even these things to do in Yoho National Park.

This Kootenay National Park itinerary has included plenty of fun things to do Kootenay National Park has to offer from hot springs to hikes, waterfalls, and more. When it comes to what to see in Kootenay National Park you’re not short on options.

If you’re staying in the area, be sure to check out these fun things to do near Kootenay National Park such as this guide to what to do in Invermere, the best things to do in Fairmont Hot Springs, and this guide to what to do in Fernie BC.

Canada Travel Planning Guide

Should I buy Canada travel insurance?

100% YES! — You should have travel insurance for all your trips. Though Canada has “free” healthcare, it’s only for residents. If you’re just visiting, you’ll need travel insurance should you need medical care. It also helps you claim for delayed flights or lost/stolen baggage. We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance!

Is it safe to rent a car in Canada?

Yes — Renting a car is a good idea in most of Canada as public transit isn’t the best!

Car hire is usually quite reasonable, especially compared to some other countries and they’ll all be automatic so you shouldn’t have a problem driving it if you’re used to manual transmission.

I personally use a mix of DiscoverCars and RentalCars to find the best deal that works for me when I rent a car. I used them in Norway, Italy, and Canada when we first moved, and have never had an issue. For RV rental I recommend Outdoorsy.

What’s the best way to pay/exchange money for Canada?

Wise (formerly Transferwise!) — I use my Wise card everywhere these days. I fill it with a certain currency and then I can spend it in countries across the world, online and even for direct debits. Wise has the best currency exchange rates (and they’ll even tell you when you can get it cheaper elsewhere!). When you pay in another currency through chip and pin or tap/wireless, they’ll automatically convert it for you – it’s easy! This link gets you a fee-free transfer.

Do I need a visa for Canada?

Many countries do not need a visa to travel to Canada — However, you may need an ETA which costs $7 (you need this if you’re from the UK). You can buy them online and they usually take a few hours to come through though it can take longer. Only ever buy from this official website otherwise you’ll end up paying more money necessarily. If you want to move to Canada, check out my guide to the Working Holiday Visa which is how we first moved there! Always check the official Canadian Immigration website to see whether you need a visa to travel there.

Will my phone work in Canada?

It depends — Some American and European companies work in Canada for a certain amount of data or time but many will not work at all. Getting a Canadian SIM card will help you get around with Google Maps and stay in touch with people back home. There isn’t much free WIFI in Canada so you can’t really rely on that, especially if you’re heading outside of major cities.

Where can I book my Canada accommodation?

I always check for hotels or Hostel World for hostels. If I’m looking for something for a bigger group of people, or a bit more unique (cosy cabins, luxury beach houses) then I use VRBO.

When we first moved to Canada we used Trusted Housesitters to get free accommodation!

What’s the best site to buy Canada flights?

I only ever use Skyscanner to find cheap flights no matter where I’m travelling!

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Hannah

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