Photographers’ Favorite Stops In Kootenay National Park
Rich in culture, history, and hosts endless options to explore the landscape - Kootenay National Park is a mecca for outdoor lovers of all abilities. Driving through the park is both a tease of all things you can’t do in one visit and a rewarding journey while taking in the views at the same time - the polarizing feeling always captures my attention and holds me present yet begs me to come back.
Heading East to West on Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park, here are a few of my favourite relatively quick spots to visit. When I say quick, I mean you can see more than one in a day, but the number of places per person will depend on how memorized you become by the beauty, undoubtedly affecting your pace and time behind the lens.
PAINT POTS TRAIL
This 2km round trip is well worth it. A beautiful stroll through open meadows is a nice stretch for the legs and after a small up (25 meters) beside a trickling creek you’ll be greeted by three iron-rich mineral springs. These three small bodies of water are a vibrant orange on the shoreline and a crisp glacial teal in the center. On a still day, they also offer hypnotic reflections of the towering old-growth trees surrounding the open area. The Paint Pots were used to collect pigment for paint first by the indigenous and later by a mining company in the early 1900s which came to a halt when the park was formed. It’s a living piece of history and a sight completely unique to Kootenay National Park. One small tip, if it’s been a rainy week, good waterproof shoes are a good idea as the soft malleable soil often makes the boardwalks to access the area a little less efficient.
See the Vermillion Rivers’ power up close and personal by turning into the Numba Falls turn-off. The short but strategically placed trail allows you to explore the rushing falls from multiple angles - my favourite is overhead from the bridge. For the slow shutter lover, get here early or late when the falls are in complete shade. The rushing water is so bright mid-day making it harder to capture at this time, but always beautiful to see regardless of the time of day.
My personal favourite. The trail features epic vistas and links you to the landscape through a series of new interpretive trails. Capture the Simpson River from above and embrace the 360 views of Kootenay National Park. A perfect place to make the most out of the changing fall colours. I especially love the added charcoal trees against the reds and yellows for a moody stark contrast. The winding trail leads you to a final lookout with the classic red Parks Canada chairs. A fun trail with minimal elevation gain features boardwalks and access to much more than the interpretive trail. This area serves as a gateway to the iconic Mount Assiniboine. Noting that, watch for signage to ensure you do the hike you’re after.
KOOTENAY VALLEY VIEWPOINT
Yes, a viewpoint pull-out makes the list. It’s a picture-perfect picnic location. From here you can see the valley opening towards Radium. It’s also in a slow zone for pedestrians so it doesn’t feel like you’re next to a highway.
As soon as you drive through the rocky canyon beside the hot springs you know you want to do it again because it is truly a jaw-dropping experience. Walking allows you to take it slow enough to take in the impressive canyon’s offerings. Peer over into the river view, learn about the landscape from the interpretive signs and make your way through the passage on foot. Highly recommend this as it just seems to go by way too quickly in the car, not to mention, if the hot springs are next on your list, this is the perfect way to reach them!
RADIUM HOT SPRINGS
Nothing like earning your relaxation and celebrating a great day of exploring with a soak at Radium Hot Springs. Perfect time to tuck the camera away, kick off the hiking shoes and soak in the historical healing grounds of the local First Nations.
VILLAGE OF RADIUM
A stop outside the park, or is it? The village of Radium encompasses all things Kootenay National Park including stunning views, wonderful walking trails and easy access to it all. The town itself hosts beautiful views on the adequately named Valley View Trail is part of the Redstreak Campground trail network. While it might be easy to overlook an “in-town hike” , these trails offer epic views across the valley and can keep my camera entertained with ease.
I always enjoy ending an autumn evening in Radium soaking in the last of the sun and the fall colours from the Radium Brewing patio. Equally, as magical, an early morning watching the valley get painted in sunshine from Big Horn Cafe - especially if the iconic animal decides to stroll by. No matter how you explore Kootenay National Park and Radium, you’ll leave with tired legs and a nourished mind.
Abby Cooper Bio
Over the last decade, Abby has crafted a career in the outdoor industry as a photographer and creative director specializing in remote backcountry locations and culture. Whether for work or pleasure Abby is always on the move, usually in the mountains, and relentlessly uniting the backcountry community. Abby is an advocate for endless education, good communication, more best days ever and fostering communities. @abbydells