The Valley of a Thousand Peaks runs south from Golden down Highway 95 and along the Columbia River, which flows north at this point from Canal Flats, and on to Cranbrook the main urban center of the Kootenay Rockies. Highway 95 joins with Highway 93 at Radium Hot Springs the gateway town to Kootenay National Park.
Radium Hot Springs was first noted for its crystal clear mineral hot pools that were commercially developed by the Canadian Government in 1923. Today the Village of Radium Hot Springs is known as ‘the Flower Capital of the Rockies', and has a lot more to offer the visitor. There are two championship golf courses, alpine meadow trails bristling with wildflowers; pine-scented forests and soaring mountain-scapes to hike; as well as warm therapeutic natural hot springs. Wildlife abounds here at the edge of Kootenay National Park where bighorn sheep and deer form part of the village's resident population.
Kootenay National Park, set in the Rocky Mountains, is a land where towering summits and hanging glaciers meet narrow chasms, broad forested valleys and colour-splashed mineral pools. Kootenay National Park is an area of incredible scenery and abundant wildlife.
The best way to experience the Park is to travel the 98 km (59 mi) long Kootenay Parkway (Highway 93) which cuts through the park from north to south. Visitors travelling along the Kootenay Parkway will discover an ever-changing panorama encountering everything from alpine tundra in the upper reaches, to stands of Douglas fir and prickly pear cactus at lower altitudes in the south. The parkway drive also offers opportunities for viewing rocky mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, mule' whitetail deer and, if you are lucky, a bear.
Kooteney National Park has over 200 km (120 mi) of hiking trails, both easy and challenging, that originate from the parkway. One breathtaking trail leads across the Vermilion River, past iron-rich clay banks, up along Ochre Creek and on to the cold mineral springs known as the Paint Pots. At the Paint Pots, the iron in the water has seeped into the clay of the region giving it a vivid orange colour.
Winding up the road to the west of Radium Hot Springs and through the Toby Creek Valley will take the visitor to the four season resort of Panorama Mountain Village. The route was originally used by native Indians to reach Jumbo Pass and gain access to the western parts of the Kootenays. Panorama caters to skiers, mountain bikers, hikers, horseback enthusiasts and whitewater rafters. Greywolf, one of North America's most stunning golf courses is also located here.
Heading south from Radium Hot Springs along Highway 93/95 is the community of Invermere. Invermere is the commercial centre of the Columbia valley and is located on Windermere Lake. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the charming flower and tree-lined main street of Invermere with its quaint shops, arts and crafts exhibits, outdoor cafes and fine restaurants. On the approach to town is the Windermere Valley Museum that traces the history of this enchanting valley.
Just a few minutes south of Invermere on Highway 93/95 is Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, one of the most complete four season destinations in the world with two golf courses, on site skiing, spa facilities and Canada's largest natural mineral hot pools. Framed by the spectacular peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Fairmont has become a regular stop on the travel itineraries of both domestic and international visitors.
Canal Flats 13.5 km (18 mi) south of Fairmont Hot Springs, is the birthplace of the Columbia River and the Kootenay River. Canal Flats is named after a brief but ill-fated canal that joined the Kootenay to the Columbia. Near the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge in the north is a pull-off on the left with a marker explaining the Canal Flat and a brief history of the ill-fated canal.
Whiteswan Lake Park is situated on a plateau in the Kootenay Range of the Rocky Mountains east of Canal Flats. The abundant fish populations of Whiteswan and Alces Lakes led to the establishment of this semi-wilderness park. Both lakes are managed for high-yield fisheries. Rainbow trout have been stocked in the lakes since 1961, with annual releases of about 30,000 fingerlings.
To the south of Canal Flats is the tiny community of Skookumchuck which was settled by homesteaders in the late 19th century. The large expanse of land known as the Skookumchuck prairies was good for growing crops and ranching. Skookumchuck is situated next to Premier Lake Provincial Park in the Hughes Range of the Rockies. This park has five beautiful emerald green lakes - Premier, Canuck, Yankee, Cat's Eye and Quartz. Fishing is the main attraction at Premier Lake Provincial Park with an abundance of trout, eastern brook, and Gerrard rainbow. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking and hiking are popular pastimes.
Turning west onto Highway 95A at Wasa is the short drive to Kimberley. Kimberley is a city with a delightful Bavarian Flavour and a culture of annual festivals. These include the Kimberley Old Time Accordion Festival in July, July Fest and BC Days in the Plazl in August. Kimberley's energy emanates from the Platzl, an esplanade punctuated with picturesque shops, hanging baskets and attractive hand-painted fire hydrants. A forest-trimmed path leads from the Platzl to the aromatically captivating Cominco Gardens. Scenic biking and hiking paths thread through the Kimberley Nature Park.
Kimberley boasts two fine golf courses Trickle Creek, located halfway up the road to Kimberly Ski Resort, has a deserved reputation as a great championship course. Carved out of the forest, this course captures the true essence of mountain golfing. The Kimberley Golf Club, which was established in 1924, is a mature course etched along the banks of the St. Mary's River.
Turning east at Wasa and on Highway 93/95 will lead to the settlement of Fort Steele. Fort Steele Heritage town is a restored 1890's pioneer boomtown, with over 60 heritage shops and display buildings. Locals in period costume go about their business in the blacksmith's shop and the schoolhouse. Popular summertime features include the Wild Horse Theatre and living history street dramas, a steam railway, horse-drawn wagon rides, blacksmith, harness maker, and re-enactments of domestic life of the times.
The southern point of the Valley of a Thousand Peaks is marked by Cranbrook, the largest town in the region. Cranbrook owes its recent history to the railway and the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. Located downtown, the museum preserves the glory days of the railroad, with elaborately restored passenger cars - including the sole remaining set from Canadian Pacific's 1929 "Trans Canada Limited". Visitors can tour these vintage cars and take afternoon tea in the Argyle, a richly inlaid dining car.
Cranbrook is an interesting city to explore on foot. A revitalized downtown is home to many quaint and diverse shops and services and bounded by beautiful heritage homes. Cranbrook's major festivals include Sam Steele Days in June and the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo in August. The Cranbrook & District Arts Council also coordinates other events throughout the year. Beyond the city, the Gothic-style St. Eugene Mission remains a protected landmark. Also on-site also is the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Interpretive Centre with displays of historic photographs and artifacts.
South of Cranbrook Highway 3/95 runs down to the USA border and over to Creston. Along the way are four provincial parks of note. The first, Jimsmith Lake Park is located just south of Cranbrook and offers swimming, non-motorized boating and picnicking in a day-use waterfront area. Located 20 km (12 mi) south of Cranbrook off Highway 3/95, is Moyie Lake Park day use area where a boat launch provides the only public access to the deep blue mountain waters of Moyie Lake. The 2842 hectare Gilnockie Park is situated southeast of Cranbrook and just north of the USA border. It includes the upper portion of Gilnockie Creek. Gilnockie Provincial Park is home to some of the oldest fir and larch stands in the region where bears, moose, elk, white-tail and mule deer are found.
Located along Highway 3/95 at Kingsgate, 70 km (42 mi) south of Cranbrook and 14.5 km (9 mi) north of the USA and Canadian borders, is Yahk Park. Yahk Park was established in 1956 to provide camping and picnicking opportunities for the travelling public. As well it conserves a short scenic section of the Moyie River. The adjacent town of Yahk has services and tourist supplies.
Explore the Communities of the Valley of a Thousand Peaks
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