Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2022
Kootenay National Park is nestled in the Rocky Mountains in southeastern British Columbia. It was created just over 100 years ago to establish a new highway across the Rockies between Banff National Park and Windermere, British Columbia. Kootenay offers sweeping views of the mountains, contains hot springs and has an abundance of wildlife. It also shows many reminders from all the past forest fires over the years.
After spending the night at Mount Revelstoke National Park, we drove to Kootenay to spend the day. We arrived at the northern entrance of the park in the early afternoon. To stretch our legs, we stopped at Marble Canyon (900 metres one-way, rated easy) to go for a hike. The trail follows the edge of a gorge and has a few bridges that cross over on the other side for a bit of a choose your own adventure. Along the way there are a series of interpretive signs that provide more history of the canyon and about the massive wildfire that swept through this area in 2003.
Near the end of the canyon, there’s a small path that leads to a set of the Parks Canada Red Chairs that overlook the forest. It’s amazing how the greenery has grown back after the wildfire from nearly twenty years ago. And at the very end of the trail, there’s even a nice waterfall. We turned around and walked back on the other side of the gorge to shake things up.
We stopped to eat lunch at the Numa Falls day-use area, which contained a few picnic tables overlooking the river. At the end of the parking lot, there’s also a short trail that leads to a nice overlook of the falls and river.
We then hit up the Simpson River Trail and hiked the first 1.5km to the Red Chairs. The trail winds through an open valley where a forest fire swept through the area in 2001. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom along the trail, along with many burnt trees. There was very little shade coverage though.
The trail is mostly flat, but involves a short climb up a small ridge that overlooks the valley. This is where the Red Chairs are located. After taking a quick break, we turned around and walked back to the trailhead and parking lot.
We hopped back on the highway and drove towards the Alberta border, stopping at the Paint Pots Trail (1km one-way, rated easy). The path winds through the forest and crosses the river to get to three pools of ochre found in the ground. They were formed by the accumulation of iron oxide around the outlet of three cold mineral springs. In the early 1900s, the ochre was commercially mined for use as pigment in paint. And long before then, it was used by Indigenous people for paintings.
We didn’t make it very far on the trail as it was flooded. While our hiking boots could have handled the water, we didn’t feel like getting them all dirty from the red mud.
We then stopped at the Continental Divide, which marks the dividing line between the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds and the border between British Columbia and Alberta.
We also hiked along the Fireweed Loops Trail, which can be accessed from the parking lot of the Continental Divide. The trail consists of two interconnecting loops (0.2km and 0.7km, rated easy) that weave through the burnt forest from a wildfire in 1968. We started with the shorter loop, which contained a series of interpretive signs that provided more information about the wildfire that swept through the area over fifty years ago. They signs were even constructed using pieces of the burnt trees.
Once we wrapped up our hike, we crossed back into Alberta and headed towards Calgary.