Kootenay Overview

Kootenay National Park, located in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, is a stunning representation of the diverse landscapes and ecological zones of the Canadian Rockies. Established in 1920 as part of an agreement to build a road connecting the towns of Banff and Windermere, the park spans approximately 1,406 square kilometers (about 543 square miles). It forms part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation that acknowledges the unparalleled natural beauty and ecological significance of the region.

Kootenay National Park is renowned for its varied landscapes, ranging from lush forests and alpine meadows to stark rock faces and hot springs. One of the park’s most famous features is the Radium Hot Springs, a soothing natural spa that offers relaxation amidst stunning mountain scenery. Another highlight is the Marble Canyon, a deep limestone gorge that has been carved by centuries of water erosion, showcasing the park’s dynamic geological processes.

The park’s diverse ecosystems support a wide array of wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and bears, offering visitors the chance to experience Canada’s wilderness up close. Birdwatchers will also find Kootenay a haven for avian species, with opportunities to spot both resident and migratory birds.

Kootenay National Park offers a plethora of recreational activities for nature enthusiasts. Hiking trails range from leisurely walks through forested valleys to challenging treks up rugged peaks, providing breathtaking views of the Rockies. The park’s scenic drives, particularly along Highway 93, also known as the Banff-Windermere Highway, offer panoramic vistas and access to numerous natural attractions.

With its stunning natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and wide range of outdoor activities, Kootenay National Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking to explore the Canadian Rockies. It serves as a gateway to the region’s awe-inspiring landscapes, offering a unique blend of relaxation, adventure, and natural wonder.

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Kootenay National Park Highlights


Kootenay National Park, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, is a landscape of stunning contrasts, where predators roam freely, playing essential roles in the park’s diverse ecosystems and offering visitors a glimpse into the complex web of natural relationships that define this majestic wilderness.

Grizzly Bear A symbol of the wilderness, Grizzly Bears are apex predators in Kootenay, respected for their strength and for their role in maintaining ecological balance.

Black Bear More common than their grizzly counterparts, Black Bears adapt easily to various habitats within the park, from forests to alpine meadows, foraging for a wide range of foods.

Wolf The elusive Wolf is a key predator in Kootenay, moving in packs to hunt deer, elk, and other animals, their presence vital to the natural order.

Cougar Silent and powerful, Cougars are solitary hunters that roam the park’s vast landscapes, their agility and strength allowing them to take down larger prey.

Coyote Adaptable and intelligent, Coyotes thrive in Kootenay, hunting small mammals and birds, their howls a haunting soundtrack to the park’s night.

Bald Eagle Majestic Bald Eagles patrol the skies over Kootenay, their keen eyesight and powerful talons making them formidable hunters of fish and small mammals.

Kootenay National Park’s predators, from the formidable Grizzly Bear to the soaring Bald Eagle, illustrate the park’s wild heart, inviting visitors to witness the beauty and brutality of nature in balance.


Kootenay National Park, a jewel in the Canadian Rockies, not only boasts dramatic landscapes but also shelters a variety of wildlife, each species playing a crucial role in the park’s vibrant ecosystem and offering visitors a chance to marvel at nature’s interconnectedness and diversity.

Elk A common sight in the park, Elk are admired for their majestic antlers and are often seen grazing in meadows or crossing rivers in groups.

Bighorn Sheep Renowned for their impressive curved horns, Bighorn Sheep navigate the park’s rocky terrain with ease, a testament to their adaptability and resilience.

Mountain Goat Iconic residents of the high crags, Mountain Goats are easily recognized by their white coats and sure-footedness, epitomizing the rugged beauty of Kootenay.

Hoary Marmot Often heard before seen, the whistle of the Hoary Marmot is a familiar sound in alpine areas, where they sun themselves on rocks.

Pika The small but hardy Pika is a vital part of the alpine ecosystem, collecting plants for winter in the rocky landscapes of Kootenay.

Columbia Ground Squirrel Columbia Ground Squirrels are a common and sociable presence, their burrows dotting the park’s grasslands, contributing to the soil’s health and aerating the earth.

White-tailed Deer Graceful White-tailed Deer move silently through the park’s forests and clearings, their distinctive tails flashing as they flee from perceived threats.

American Dipper Unique for its aquatic lifestyle, the American Dipper dives into the park’s cold streams, searching for insects and small fish beneath the surface.

Harlequin Duck Brightly colored Harlequin Ducks navigate the swift, clear waters of Kootenay’s rivers and streams, a vibrant splash of color in the natural landscape.

Common Loon The haunting call of the Common Loon over the park’s lakes and ponds is an iconic sound of the Canadian wilderness, especially at dusk.

Kootenay National Park’s diverse wildlife, from the grazing Elk to the diving Common Loon, highlights the ecological richness of this spectacular Canadian park, inviting visitors to explore and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.

Engaging Kootenay National Park

Explore the diverse landscapes of Kootenay National Park on its extensive network of hiking trails. From leisurely strolls to challenging treks, the park offers options for hikers of all abilities. Discover hidden waterfalls, alpine meadows, and panoramic viewpoints as you immerse yourself in the park’s pristine wilderness.

Highlights include the Stanley Glacier Trail, which leads to a stunning glacier viewpoint, and the Floe Lake Trail, a scenic trek to a picturesque alpine lake. Hiking in Kootenay provides opportunities to connect with nature, spot wildlife, and experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies up close.

Experience the breathtaking beauty of Kootenay National Park from the comfort of your car on one of its scenic drives. Cruise along the famous Kootenay Highway, which winds through spectacular mountain scenery, deep river valleys, and dense forests.

Stop at scenic viewpoints and pullouts along the way to capture photographs of the park’s iconic landmarks, including the Vermilion River, Marble Canyon, and Radium Hot Springs. Scenic drives in Kootenay offer a leisurely and immersive way to explore the park’s natural beauty and diverse ecosystems, with opportunities for wildlife viewing and sightseeing.

Kootenay National Park Trails

Marble Canyon Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.6 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This short, accessible trail offers an up-close look at the dramatic Marble Canyon, a deep, narrow gorge carved by the Tokumm Creek. Boardwalks and bridges span the canyon, allowing hikers to gaze into the turquoise waters below and appreciate the geological forces at work. The trail also passes through an area recovering from wildfire, showcasing nature’s resilience.

Paint Pots Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1.7 miles round trip with about 49 feet (15 meters) elevation gain

Description: The Paint Pots Trail leads to ochre beds—natural mineral deposits that have been used by First Nations for thousands of years for ceremonial paint. Surrounded by striking iron-rich red and orange earth, the trail crosses a scenic bridge over the Vermilion River, offering a gentle walk through open meadows and forest.

Stanley Glacier Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 5.3 miles round trip with about 1,150 feet (350 meters) elevation gain

Description: This trail takes hikers into a breathtaking valley with views of the Stanley Glacier. The path winds through a forest recovering from fire, across creeks, and past waterfalls, leading to an open valley where the glacier hangs above. Wildflowers and wildlife sightings add to the experience, making it a memorable hike.

Floe Lake Trail

Rating: Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 13.1 miles round trip with about 2,300 feet (700 meters) elevation gain

Description: One of Kootenay’s most challenging and rewarding hikes, the Floe Lake Trail climbs through a burn area with spectacular wildflower displays, into the heart of the Rockies, and ends at the stunning Floe Lake, set against the backdrop of the Rockwall.

This demanding hike rewards with panoramic views and the serene beauty of Floe Lake’s crystal-clear waters.

Dog Lake Trail

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 3.1 miles round trip with about 164 feet (50 meters) elevation gain

Description: Starting from the Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre, this trail meanders through dense forest to the tranquil Dog Lake. The path offers a peaceful forest walk, ideal for families and those looking for a less strenuous hike. Dog Lake is a serene spot for a picnic, surrounded by nature’s quiet and the occasional wildlife sighting.


1. What is Kootenay National Park known for?

Kootenay National Park, located in British Columbia, Canada, is known for its stunning mountain landscapes, turquoise glacial lakes, and abundant wildlife. The park is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its outstanding natural beauty and ecological significance.

Visitors come to Kootenay to explore its diverse ecosystems, including dense forests, alpine meadows, and rugged mountain peaks. The park is also renowned for its scenic drives along the famous Kootenay Highway, which winds through breathtaking landscapes and offers opportunities to spot wildlife such as elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears.

Additionally, Kootenay offers opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and hot springs soaking, making it a popular destination for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation.

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