Kootenay National Park

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.


94 thoughts on “Kootenay National Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There’s something special about being in the mountains. The scenery looks so majestic. We had a wonderful time exploring the sights and trails in Kootenay. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      • Christa says:

        My dog and I called the Kootenays home so much that after he passed, I spread his ashes at the top of Marble Canyon.

        It’s different there now than it was 10 years ago. Tourists used to stay in Banff and now you can barely go on a hike in the summer if not at the trailhead by 7@m.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The Kootenays are such a beautiful area. I am in love with the mountain scenery. Sorry to hear about your dog passing away, but it sounds like he’s resting in a great spot. We visited the Canadian Rockies back in 2016 and were surprised at how much busier it’s become. I wasn’t sure whether it was because travel restrictions have lifted, but it sounds like that’s not necessarily the case. Our parks in Ontario have become way more crowded over the past few years too. Some of the parks now require you to reserve a day-use permit in advance to help prevent overcrowding.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty amazing how colourful the lakes and rivers are out west in the mountains. They actually get their colour from the melting glaciers and appear even more vibrant at the end of June, which is when we visited. The other benefit to visiting early in the summer was that we were able to enjoy all the pretty wildflowers along the trail.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Totally! That’s one of things that I love about the national parks in the Rockies is that there’s so many great hiking options that range from something super simple and short to a multi-day adventure. The Rockwall Trail is definitely on my list!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We had a wonderful time hiking in Kootenay. I love how there are so many different options for hiking than range in length and difficulty. There’s something here for everyone.

  1. Ab says:

    What a lovely day trip you two had. I had to chuckle at your idea of “stretching your legs” is a nearly 1km hike. 😆 That’s like exercise for most people.

    I just can’t stop thinking about that almost emerald water. So so beautiful. I bet you never tire of looking at them.

    The scenic lookouts with the red Muskoka chairs and the picnic tables really are nice investments by the government. Taxpayer money well spent!

    And it’s wonderful how nature renews itself after a wildfire years later. Nature is resilient if we just let it be!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed, the views of the mountain scenery must never get old. I’m sure the harsh winters and all that snow would be tiring though!

      The Red Chairs have been such a great idea. I’m thinking that a future challenge for us would be to try to find all the ones in Ontario! It would be a great excuse to visit many of the historic sites and learn more about Ontario’s history.

      And yes, it is pretty amazing how resilient nature is. Forest fires are often seen as destructive, and they can be. But fires can stimulate new growth and actually help the environment.

  2. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Gorgeous photos, Linda. It’s such a beautiful area and I always love to see that blue-green water! I remember the 2003 fire very well. I was living in Alberta at the time but was holidaying in the Okanagan and trying to figure out a way to drive back home as there was another fire near Kelowna. Both main highway routes were intermittently closing. I finally chosen se the southern route and got through, despite visible flame right up to the road. I could see helicopters dumping retardant! Crazy drive.

  3. BrittnyLee says:

    That looks to be quite a sight. I was shocked to see those charred trees. It always amazes me how life tends to move on. It’s incredible. The water there must be so clean and pure. The blue water is such a light shade. I don’t think I’ve ever come across water that blue before. They’re beautiful bodies of water 🙂 great photos

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There have been quite a few forest fires in Kootenay over the past several decades. It was neat to see the aftermath and just how resilient nature is. The milky blue water is a result of the melting glaciers and it’s apparently more vibrant at the start of the summer. The water really is quite beautiful.

  4. kagould17 says:

    Another great mountain parks post Linda. I have crappy wi-fi right now, so will have to look at the pix when we get back home. Hot and smoky in Jasper right now, but we are still going and doing. Hope you have a great Sunday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It’s pretty awesome that there are so many national parks in the mountains. It’s been a great way to view the majestic mountains and turquoise waters from the glacier fed lakes. Even the drive was super scenic. Hope you’re enjoying your time in Jasper! Take care. Linda

  5. Linda K says:

    Love it! This is where we camped in 2020 and it was fantastic. Have some of those same shots from Marble Canyon…such a pretty spot! You can certainly see the devastation from forest fires in the photos too…so sad. We did make it to the paint pots…using old boards to step on…very small ponds with slightly different colouring…you didn’t miss much 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s wild at just how many wildfires have swept through Kootenay. It was kind of neat to see just how long it takes for new growth to appear and for the forest to recover. Marble Canyon was one of our highlights from our day trip to Kootenay. We’ve actually hiked to the Paint Pots before when we visited Kootenay back in 2016, so we didn’t mind skipping it this time around on account of all the flooding on the trail. The Paint Pots and old mining equipment are pretty cool, but it wasn’t worth the risk.

  6. wetanddustyroads says:

    Although the aftermath of the fire is still evident, it is amazing how nature is restoring itself over the years after such a wildfire – lovely pictures of the waterfalls. And whenever I read about your lovely red chairs, I just want to make myself a cup of tea and sit there – it makes beautiful photos!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, it’s pretty incredible how resilient nature is. It was neat to see the comparison of the landscape from all the various wildfires, but my gosh, do trees take a long time to grow! The Red Chairs are always a great spot to take a break as they are quite comfy and they are often placed at a scenic overlook.

  7. Book Club Mom says:

    Hi Linda, it’s amazing to see how the area has rebounded, although the pictures of the burned trees shows there’s still a long way to go. The water in these pictures looks so fresh and clean, makes me wish I could dip my topes in it!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It’s crazy how quickly a tree can burn or be chopped down compared to how long it takes for it to grow and mature. It goes to show how resilient nature is though. And agreed, if the water wasn’t so freezing, I would have totally loved to dip my toes in it, especially after a long day of hiking.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The burnt trees do add some character to the open meadows. It was neat how one of the trails even used some of the burnt trees as posts for a few storyboards that explained the history of one of the wildfires in the park and the impact it has had in that region.

  8. salsaworldtraveler says:

    That part of Canada is blessed with great national parks and some of the best scenery anywhere. I bet it was hard to leave. Everything looks so fresh and clean. Thanks for the tour. This park will be on the list if I get back to this area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It’s amazing how there are so many national parks located within the Canadian Rockies. It makes for a great road trip to try to visit them all. It was definitely hard to leave the mountain scenery behind. We don’t have views like that here in southern Ontario!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The mountains are so majestic and magical. The hiking was much more rugged than what we’re used to compared to back home, but it was well worth the challenge for the beautiful views. Hopefully you’ll make it to the Canadian Rockies someday. The scenery is breathtaking.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The mountain scenery is gorgeous. If it weren’t for the harsh winters, I would totally consider moving out west. As it happens, we are actually heading to the east coast this weekend! I’ve heard wonderful things about Nova Scotia. I can’t wait!

  9. thehungrytravellers.blog says:

    Those are terrific canyon photos, the colour of the water is beautiful and as you study the photos you can almost hear the rushing sounds. Regarding the fires, nature has an astonishing ability to recover from disaster. It’s only when the disaster is inflicted by humans that things are lost forever.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Marble Canyon was one of the highlights of our visit to Kootenay. I just love how blue the water is in the mountains out west. Plus the sound of rushing water is so soothing. If I can’t sleep at night, I’ll actually put on water related sounds, like rain or ocean waves. And agreed, it is pretty amazing how nature is able to heal itself, but it often takes decades to recover.

  10. Bama says:

    The Continental Divide is really cool! I can imagine visiting it would give you a similar excitement like crossing from the north hemisphere to the south in cities that sit right along the equator. I wonder if wildfires are in fact a normal part of the cycle of life in Kootenay, or if they were man-made. (I hope it’s the former!)

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Continental Divide is pretty interesting. There’s even a trail along the entire stretch that runs through the United States that’s 4,873 km (or 3,028 miles) in length. While I enjoy hiking, that may be a bit too intense even for us!

      Many of the wildfires in Kootenay occurred naturally, but some parks have controlled burns with planned fires to maintain the health of a forest. With climate change, however, wildfires are becoming more common and sometimes more intense, which can have a huge impact on the surrounding communities and wildlife. It was neat to see the aftermath and to see how much nature has rebounded afterwards though.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were only here for the day, so I figured that tackling some of the shorter trails was a great way to see more of the park. The strategy worked well, but it left me wanting to spend more time in Kootenay.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Besides Banff, all the other national parks that we visited weren’t too busy. I’m sure it helps that there are lots of trails to choose from, which thins out the crowds. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for a parking spot or hiking with a swarm of other people. No thanks!

  11. grandmisadventures says:

    Oh I just can’t decide what part of this post I love the most- your stunning pictures of the park, or the group of family red park chairs, or the delightful name of the park. All around great post! 🙂

  12. leightontravels says:

    Gorgeous canyon photos, and the colour of that rushing water is just stunning. Who wouldn’t want to have lunch with such views? What caused the fire that swept through the forest? It will take a long time for the area to recover and the burnt tree remains look quite sad. Hope your week is going well, Linda.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was definitely one of the more scenic day-use areas that we visited and a perfect spot to eat our lunch. There have been several wildfires in Kootenay over the years, many of which have been due to natural causes like a lightning strike. While it was neat to see new growth appearing from the aftermath of the wildfires, it goes to show just how long it takes for a forest to grow and the trees to mature.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Agreed, the colour of the water is very pretty, especially when the sun is shining. The Paint Pots were actually originally discovered and used by the First Nations, mainly for painting and trade.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery in the mountains is stunning. I love how the lakes and rivers appear so milky blue. It’s very pretty. Kootenay has had a lot of forest fires over the years. It was definitely neat to see how resilient nature is though and how much the forest has rebounded, even if it does take many years to do so. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

  13. Josy A says:

    I know you visited early, when there was snow, or flooding on the trails, but goodness you had such beautiful blue skies for your visit! I have visited all these spots too, so I love seeing them through your camera lens.

    Another great post. <3

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It’s funny how the weather can make such a huge difference in terms of how the landscape appears. I’m glad we had some clear skies to better appreciate the views of all those towering peaks.

  14. alisendopf says:

    So glad you could visit Kootenay. It’s an “all or nothing” kind of park. The trails are either the super short and easy ones that you found, or they are epic 20 km return with over 1,000 m elevation gain. Nothing in-between! Still – Marble and Paint Pots are ideal stops and worth the effort.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were only passing through Kootenay for the day, so were thankful for some of the shorter trail options in the park. I would love to return to check out some of the multi-day hikes though. I’ve heard the Rockwall Trail is especially scenic.

      • alisendopf says:

        The Rockwall is spectacular. It is really hard to get the campsites booked. When I hiked it way back when my kids were 12 (so….7 years ago???), I could book the sites on a whim.

        I did a 6 day backpack this summer that was just as beautiful as the Rockwall, and there was no one else there. We went two days without seeing another soul. This was in the heart of Banff. There are so many incredibly beautiful backpacking trips that if you don’t get to the Rockwall, that’s okay.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s crazy how popular certain parks and campgrounds have become. Everyone seems to be into spending time outdoors now, which is both great, but also not great when it starts to interfere with your plans. But as you said, there are definitely a lot of options and new places to explore that are equally as scenic.

      • alisendopf says:

        I’m sure you discovered all kinds of under the radar places when you did your tour of Ontario Parks. The popular places are popular for a reason, but so are many other special places.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh I know. I’m so over the popular spots. I enjoy hiking and camping to be surrounded by nature, not other people. This is why we’ve been trying to make the most of visiting some of the popular parks during the off-season or heading further up north. Thankfully there are a lot of great options to choose from!

Leave a Reply