Kootenay National Park | Trekking Days

Kootenay National Park

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Kootenay National Park is located in southeastern British Columbia (Canada) and it is a component of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. The park has 1,406 sq mi (1,406 sq km) and includes parts of the Kootenay and Park mountain ranges. The Continental Divide is the boundary between Kootenay and Banff National Park and a trip including both parks is probably a good idea.

How It Got Here

The first humans to have lived permanently in the area that is now Kootenay National Park were the Ktunaxa people. In 1890, Roland Stuart and H.A. Pearse acquired 160 acres (64.7 hectares) around the hot springs that would become Radium Hot Springs as a provincial crown grant. The federal government built a road from Banff to the park boundary at the Vermilion Pass which was completed in November 1914. The road that the provincial government of British Columbia should have built from Windermere to the border was not completed due to a lack of funds. Railway engineer Robert Randolph Bruce advocated the idea to designate the western end of the route through the Rocky Mountains in order for the road to be constructed as a park improvement. The federal government took ownership of the land through the Banff-Windermere Agreement and the Kootenay National Park was created on April 21, 1920. The completed road was opened in June 1923.


The park has a continental macroclimate with cool summers and beautiful snowy winters. The Kootenay Ranges capture moisture, which makes the area drier than those to the west. The Continental Divide protects the park from the arctic airflow, which makes the climate slightly milder than that of Banff. The average temperature is 19.7 °F (-6.8 °C) in January and 65.1 °F (18.4 °C) July. The average precipitation rates are 1.31 in (33.2 m) in January and 2.11 in (53.6 mm) in July.

Wild Wild Life

Black bears and grizzly bears live in the park, as well as coyotes, bobcats, martens, wolverines, timber wolves, lynxes, and cougars, among others. Some of the birds that can be found in the park include common loon, Canada and Steller’s jays, trumpeter swans, and Canada snow geese. Three reptile species are known to live in the park, namely the common garter snake, the western terrestrial garter snake, and the rubber boa.

bobcatMake sure you don’t confuse a bobcat with a kitten

martenA very angry marten

snow geeseSnow geese

trumpeter swansTrumpeter swans

In the park’s lower elevation, the Montante Spruce zone, forests of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, western redcedar, western larch, and trembling poplar are common. The shrub layer includes kinnikinnick, soapberry, dwarf bilberry, western showy aster, pinegrass, Rocky Mountain maple, Devil’s club, mountain huckleberry. The subalpine zone has white spruce, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and subalpine larch, among others. In the alpine areas, you will mostly find arctic willow, heathers, moss campion, mountain avens, and cinquefoils.

mountain avenA pretty mountain ave

cinequefoilA pretty cinequefoil

Key Locations

There are several things to do in Kootenay National Park. For instance, you can explore Mount Berland and the western and southern faces of Mount Kindersley of the Brisco Range, as well as the Redstreak Mountain and Mountain Sinclair of the Stanford Range. From the Kootenay River Valley, you can see Mitchell Range, Mount Kindersley, and Vermillion Range of the western portion of the Park Ranges.

One of the most popular attractions in the park is Radium Hot Springs, which offers a hot spring (well, yeah) pool ranging from 95 to 117 °F (35 to 47 °C). Near the hot springs you will find the town of Radium Hot Springs, which provides services for those camping in the park and also offers additional accommodation options.

Another key attraction in Kootenay is the Paint Pots, which are a cold acidic mineral spring system from which ochre is deposited at spring outlets. Other popular attractions include the Sinclair and Marble canyons, Stanley Glacier, Kootenay River, Vermillion River, Simpson River, Ottertail River, Numa Falls, and Floe, Kaufmann, Talc, Dog, Cobb, and Olive lakes.

Hiking & Camping in Kootenay National Park

For information and tips about hikes in Kootenay National Park check here. If you are interested in camping check here.



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