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Cool Kootenay

From Lake Louise, another good option is a day trip into Kootenay National Park. You can take the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) east or the #1A Bow Valley Parkway in the direction of Banff and, half way there, take the exit for Highway #93 South to Radium Hot Springs. Kootenay is an intense variety of landscapes in a small amount of space. You can experience a lot in the course of one day — the life and beauty of a burned forest, the cool, fragrant breezes of a canyon, the intense colour of vermilion rocks, and, the burning heat of the desert (well, almost!).

The Vermillion Pass Burn

As you begin to climb up Highway #93S, the road takes you past the 1968 Vermillion Pass Burn. It may seem like a desolate landscape, but look again. It has it’s own beauty and it is some of the best wildlife habitat around. Moose love the tender ends of bushes that grow well when they get lots of sunlight. And bears love the berries the bushes produce too. Hummingbirds are attracted to a host of blooming flowers. Finally, the burn is good habitat for the rarely-seen lynx, who like to hunt snowshoe hares along the edge of it. To best experience the life in a young forest, stop at the Arnica Lake/Twin Lakes trailhead and take a walk as far as you feel comfortable, or, stop at the short Fireweed Trail to learn more about fire’s role in renewing the landscape.

Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots

There are two more short trails that make enjoyable walks. Marble Canyon is a narrow, deep canyon and the trail takes you along its edge, while bridges allow you to get good views of the interior. Also check out the trail to the Ochre Beds and Paint Pots. Colourful sediments the flow from the runoff of cold springs were mined here for use in paint.

Mt. Wardle Mineral Lick

Kootenay National Park’s official symbol is the mountain goat. Close to 300 of these sure-footed creatures inhabit the park, and one of the best places to see them is at a natural mineral lick by the side of the highway (watch for the sign). During May and June, dozens of goats will descend from their steep haunts to lick the dirt. Mixed in with the soil are essential minerals like calcium, especially important for nannies who have recently given birth.

Wide Valleys mean Wildlife

A good portion of your trip is in the bottom of a low elevation valley, the Kootenay Valley. Unlike the high mountain peaks, winter is easier and summer is more bountiful in the grassy meadows and open forests of the montane life zone. You might see black bears, coyotes, moose, elk and deer. Drive carefully, particularly at dusk.

Click the logo for short side trips and stops on this tour