The Getaway
20 Things You Must Do in the Kootenays

The Kootenays in British Columbia's Southern Interior is a premier destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and cultural enthusiasts. Want to soak in natural hot springs? You have multiple to choose from. How about some tree-hugging at the world's only inland temperate rainforest? You can do that too. This region is blessed with pristine lakes and the kind of mountains that make people break out into song. There's something for everyone, from the history buff to the outdoorsy adrenaline junkie. Just come and see for yourself.

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01 Soak it off at Ainsworth Hot Springs

Ainsworth Hot Springs is open throughout the year, so if you're in the mood for some hydrotherapy, pack your bathing suit and make your way to this tiny town with a population of about 50. Soak in healing mineral-rich waters the Ktunaxa First Nations called spirit waters and enjoy odorless pools absent of a sulfur smell. Unwind in a 150-foot natural horseshoe cave, kick back in the lounging pool, and complete the experience with a cold pool fed by a stream.

02 Challenge yourself with Kicking Horse River Rafting

Experience thrilling white-water rafting on this iconic river with over 12 miles of class 1-4 rapids. Kicking Horse's three sections are suitable for all skill levels, so whether you're a beginner or have lots of experience under your belt, you're bound to have fun. If you're looking to kick up your pulse, the middle and lower canyons offer more than floating, and rapids have names like Man Eater and Roller Coaster, which should tell you all you need to know about what awaits you.

03 Discover the Enchanted Forest's Magic

The cute house in the enchanted forest Pawel Serafin / Shutterstock.com

Walk among folk art figurines and climb BC's tallest treehouse about 20 miles west of Revelstoke. This family-friendly attraction has a magical atmosphere thanks to an old-growth forest in the Monashee Mountains, and famous characters from the fairy tales and nursery rhymes we all know and love. Step into the domains of heroes and villains, hop on a row boat tour of the wetlands or embark on a short and sweet self-guided nature walk. When you're done, check out Sky Trek Adventure Park next door to keep the good times rollin'.

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04 Step back in time at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre

History buffs will enjoy this foray into the lives of Russian immigrants. The Doukhobors were spiritual Christians and expelled pacifists who, in the latter part of the 19th century, adopted a vegetarian diet and avoided intoxicants like alcohol and tobacco. Approximately 8,000 Doukhobors settled in Canada, funded in part by Leo Tolstoy. Continued pacifism led to incarceration, and the Freedomites subgroup led nude protest marches and barn burnings. Engaging tour guides, ten historical buildings, and 1600 artifacts tell these peoples' stories with greater context and nuance. Be sure to sample the borshch while you're there.

05 Marvel at the architectural wonder of The Glass House

Visit a distinctive house built from over half a million glass embalming fluid bottles. This castle-like recycling initiative overlooking Kootenay Lake comes to us courtesy of Mr. D.H. Brown, a man who worked in the funeral industry for decades before retiring in 1952. Mr. Brown made his retirement count, and you can see the fruit of his efforts all these years later. Stroll around the attraction's gardens and pathways and make a wish at the well.

06 Hike the trails of Glacier National Park

Whether you're in the mood for a long climbing hike or a short amble along a valley floor, options with breathtaking views abound at Glacier National Park. The park's diverse ecosystems and stunning mountain scenery are best appreciated in summer when avalanche risks are lower, and wildflowers are prettily in bloom. Remember to exercise caution around wildlife and prepare for possible weather changes.

07 Soak in the Radium Hot Springs

There's more than one hot spring to choose from in the region. Relax in natural mineral waters at family-friendly Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park, and let your troubles vanish like water vapor. The scenic Sinclair Canyon setting is postcard-perfect—you'll be bathing surrounded by cliffs that are often frosted with snow. The hot and cool pools are filled with scentless minerals, so you won't get any rotten egg whiffs.

08 Enjoy panoramic views from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Take the 18-minute gondola ride at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort during summer or winter, and you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of five national parks. Play "Where's Wally?" except this time, you'll be looking for Boo, the resort's grizzly bear. The journey doesn't have to end at the summit. You can do an alpine hike or sit down for an elevated meal at the popular Eagle Eye Restaurant.

09 Follow the BC Ale Trail

After a day of exploring the natural wonders and historical sites of the Kootenays, there's no better way to unwind than by sampling some of the region's finest craft beers. The BC Ale Trail in the Kootenays takes you on a journey through quaint towns and lush landscapes, all while introducing you to the local brew scene that's as diverse as the region itself. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, each brewery offers something unique, reflecting the character of its surroundings. Start your ale adventure in Nelson, known for its vibrant arts scene and historic charm, and make your way through the scenic routes that lead to hidden gems where friendly faces and frothy glasses await. Don't forget to chat with the brewers; their stories are as captivating as their beers. Whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or new to the craft beer world, the BC Ale Trail is sure to add a flavorful twist to your Kootenays adventure.

10 Paddle through the Columbia Wetlands

North America's largest intact wetlands stretch for over 100 miles and provide a tranquil kayaking experience. Fall into a satisfying rhythm while you keep your eyes peeled for wildlife in this important ecosystem. Rent equipment from Columbia Wetlands Outpost for half a day or a full day, and they'll give you information about optimal routes for your abilities. You can go SUPing, canoeing, or pedal boating with birdsong as the soundtrack.

11 Explore Kinbasket Lake's beauty

Autumn in the Canadian Rockies with Kinbasket Lake in the foreground, British Columbia, Canada

There's so much to do at the expansive, man-made Kinbasket Lake, from fishing for bull trout to floating along with snow-capped peaks in sight. This 160-mile body of water sandwiched between Valemount and Golden is a favorite among locals looking for some rest and recreation. Trains whistle as they pass by and the whole scene has the makings of an idyllic summer's day on turquoisey waters. Besides swimming, fishing, and paddling, you can go whitewater rafting.

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12 Visit the Historical SS Moyie

The SS Moyie situated in Kaslo, BC is a paddle steamer sternwheeler that worked on Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada from 1898 until 1957. Nalidsa / Shutterstock.com

For almost sixty years until 1957, SS Moyie flitted across Kootenay Lake carrying passengers or freight. Today, the restored boat is a National Historic Site, complete with a museum to regale visitors with tales of turn-of-the-century British Columbia. Learn about the oldest surviving sternwheeler in the world, a vessel that played a significant role in Kootenay Lake's history, on your next trip to Kaslo.

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13 Ride the historic Streetcar #23

How about a visit to a free, volunteer-run museum in Nelson? Turn back the clock and enjoy a picturesque half-hour ride on a 1906 streetcar along the waterfront. Kids will be just as delighted as the grown-ups as the trolly winds its way to Rotary Lakeside Park while attendants recount some of the century-long history of this mode of transport in Nelson.

14 Delve into mining history at Kimberley's Underground Railway

The fun doesn't end there for train buffs. Take a ride through a 2,475 ft tunnel and historic mining sites on Kimberley's Underground Railway, and hear from former mine workers at the interpretive center. This tourist attraction is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and gives visitors a peek at just what goes on during these subterranean excavations.

15 Experience the Quirky Zuckerberg Island

Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park in Castlegar invites you to imagine a time thousands of years ago when the Lakes Salish people constructed winter pit houses and lived out their days here. Much later, in 1931, a Russian man named Alexander Zuckerberg came to the area to teach Doukhobor children and set about building the Chapel House. Upon visiting, you'll find a pit house reconstruction, a Hiroshima memorial, and the Chapel House, as well as lots of trails and off-leash dog-walking areas nearby.

16 Gaze at the Fairmont Hoodoos

Hoodoo Trail at Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia, 2015

Crane your neck and look up at the turret-like hoodoos formed by erosion, and you'll be suitably impressed by these unique natural formations overlooking a wildlife migration corridor. Follow that up with an hour-long hike to the top for amazing views. The Hoodoos trail is easy enough for the whole family and you'll manage to take a bunch of cute photos. Be sure to carry your bear spray.

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17 Witness the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway

Craigellachie is where you'll find the ceremonial Last Spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. Pictures speak to the momentousness of the occasion after five years of railway construction. This was a significant time in Canada's development. Explore the exhibits and learn about the Chinese laborers who were crucial to the project's completion.

18 Discover ancient life at Burgess Shale Fossils

UNESCO World Heritage Sites have a certain aura about them, so if you're a keen voyager, you'll know just how important these sites are to a land's cultural and natural history. The well-preserved Burgess Shale Fossils allow us to pull back the curtains and peek into the distant past (we're talking 500 million years ago) when ancient marine ecosystems looked a little different from the ones we're familiar with today. Guided tours will give you a lowdown on how these uncommon soft tissue fossils came about.

19 Walk among giants at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk

Giant Cedars at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail, Mt. Revelstoke National Park

You'll feel it when you step foot into the cool embrace of the ancient cedar forest in Revelstoke National Park. A different vibration surrounds old-growth trees, or at least it feels that way. The leaves whisper of a time before we were on the earth, so tune into the frequency. The Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail is accessible and dotted with interesting exhibits. Contact the park to find out whether the trail is open.

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20 Conquer the Great Divide Trail

Landscape of The Great Divide Trail in the Rocky Mountains. Alberta, Canada. Hikers seen in the distance. Stunning Landscapes.

Experienced hikers clued up on the ten essentials and proper wilderness planning should find this extensive trail intriguing. It crosses spectacular national parks and diverse landscapes between Alberta and British Columbia, and the entire trail takes eight weeks, although you don't have to do the whole 700-mile thing. Are you willing to take on the challenge?

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