Having close access to Kootenay National Park growing up has been quite a privilege. It has similar beauty to Banff NP, with slightly less traffic volume. Tucked off the Trans-Canada Highway, down highway 93S, the road narrows and you begin to wind through a highly overlooked National Park. Some of my favourite hikes I’ve ever done have started from highway 93S, and hiking in this Park always feels close to home. These top three hikes are my favorite Kootenay has to offer.
The Kindersley Sinclair hike starts 12km north of Radium Hot Springs on highway 93S. To start, this hike always has a National Park Bear warning. This restriction means you must hike in a group of four people minimum or you could be fined. Though it is unlikely you would be caught breaking this rule, it is there for a good reason. It is prime grizzly bear territory, and I have seen a grizzly on that stretch of highway countless times driving by.
This hike is a loop. I’d recommend starting on the Sinclair side. That way you start higher up, cutting off some elevation gain. On the down side, if you don’t have a vehicle parked at each end of the loop, you’ll gain that elevation walking back to your vehicle along the highway. The loop is a total of 17.5km with 1055m elevation gain. The elevation is spread over a longer distance and it is quite gradual. Give yourself 6-8 hours to complete it. If you start on the Sinclair side the trail starts walking along Sinclair creek. It cuts through a few avalanche paths, and eventually make its way up to a slope heading for Kindersley pass. Try your best to have enough energy to take a quick 15 minute detour up Kindersley peak. You will not regret it once you take out your camera.
The hike to Floe Lake starts 32 km south of Castle Junction on highway 93S. Floe Lake is at one end of the popular backpacking route the Rockwall, but if you only have a day this serves as an incredible day hike.
This hike is a total of 21km return with 715m elevation gain. The hike has a very gradual start, the trail switch backs up to multiple avalanche slopes through burnt trees from forest fires in 2003. It then levels out and you follow the valley until a last uphill section until it levels out again when getting to the lake. Give yourself 7 to 9 hours to complete it. The trail is very scenic. Because so many trees have fallen and burnt during the fires, you have a view of your surroundings for the entire hike. The downside to this is that on a hot day you have very little shade. Once you reach the lake you will see the Parks Canada warden cabin that occasionally hosts staff doing work up there and if you are brave you will dip your toes into the glacial lake before turning around and heading back down.
The hike to Stanley Glacier starts 13km south of Castle Junction on highway 93S. Stanley Glacier is a very popular hike due to how short the distance is for gaining such an incredible view. It is also child and family friendly due to the small amount of elevation gain and shorter distance that the other two hikes listed above. If you are doing this hike on a weekend you’ll want to arrive early in the morning to get a parking spot so you don’t have to parallel park along the highway.
This hike is a total of 8.4km return with 356m elevation gain. After gradual switch backs take you up for first few km of the hike, Stanley Glacier comes into view. The beauty of this hike is that once you get to the “end” of the trail, you can venture farther towards the glacier. With the amount of traffic it gets, there will be paths made my other people before you that you can follow. You can go all the way up the valley to the glacier if you choose or you could stop at different locations, wherever you are satisfied with the view.