Kootenay National Park, located in southwestern British Columbia, is one of Canada’s national parks clustered together in the Canadian Rockies that make up the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Each park’s unique features create a spectacular hub of outdoor recreation and jaw-dropping scenic vistas, making the area a favorite place for RV campers from both near and far. With its 543 square miles (1,406 km2) of land, Kootenay National Park has much to explore. Because of the size of the park, there is something new to see around every corner.
The park is known for its unique features like the Radium Hot Springs, the paint pots, and some of the most intricate and well-preserved oceanic fossils in the area. Kootenay offers excellent hiking, fishing, and other outdoor recreational activities, so visitors won’t have a shortage of ventures to pick from.
Whether you're renting an RV from nearby or hauling your own trailer, you won't be lacking for recreation or relaxation. Kootenay National Park is open year-round, but facilities like the Visitor Center, campgrounds, and other points of interest operate on a changing seasonal schedule. When planning your visit, prepare for changing weather conditions and choose your camping based on amenities as well as operations, as each campground has different peak seasons. RVs and trailers under 21 feet will have no problem fitting into any of the three campgrounds in the park. In Kootenay, all campers and guests must adhere to the Bare Campsite regulations. The Bare Campsite program is an initiative created to keep wildlife and visitors safe by requiring that guests store wildlife attractants whenever they are not in use. Food, pet food, and other food and pet-related items must be kept in a hard-sided vehicle, motorhome, trailer, or the park’s storage lockers.
Kootenay National Park is located 103 miles (166 km) west of Calgary in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. The Rockies connect Kootenay with nearby Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, and Jasper National Park, making day trips to different parks possible. Because the park rests in a mountainous region, the roads leading in and around the park may have steep grades and switchback roads. Those hauling large RVs or trailers should drive with caution at all times, and in the winter months, driving with extra vigilance is recommended. Visitors should always be aware of weather conditions as well as other road restrictions when heading out toward the park. The park is open year-round. The Visitor Services Centre is open during peak season. Entry fees apply for admission to the park. Fees vary. Contact the park for details.
The McLeod Meadows Campground is a small camping area that is best for campers with small RVs and trailers up to 27 feet in length. The turning radius is tight in many areas, so larger RVs are not recommended. McLeod Meadows allows site-specific reservations during the campground’s peak operations. Campers wishing to stay in this campground outside of peak operations may do so on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each space has a packed dirt driveway, food storage, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a grill. There are no hookups in this primitive-style campground, but there are potable water spigots, a kitchen area, toilets, and a dump station. Campfires are permitted, but you must purchase a fire permit. Please extinguish your fires and keep all noises and conversations to a minimum during quiet hours, which are from 11 PM to 7 AM daily. Generators are permitted, but only between the hours of 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM and 5 PM to 7 PM.
The Marble Canyon Campground is located near a hiking trail that follows a gorge with tumbling turquoise water. This smaller campground allows shorter RVs and trailers up to 21 feet in length and allows site-specific reservations during peak operations. Campers wishing to stay in this campground outside of peak operations may do so on a first-come, first-serve basis. The primitive sites don’t have hookups, but the campground provides potable water, toilets, and a dump station for camping guests. Each space rests on natural surfaces and has a picnic table and a fire pit. If you’d like to have a fire, purchase your wood and a fire permit from the campground and enjoy your chilly nights around the campfire. Please extinguish fires and keep noises and conversations to a minimum during quiet hours, which are from 11 PM to 7 AM daily. Generators are permitted, but only between the hours of 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM and 5 PM to 7 PM.
The Redstreak Campground is a large facility that offers wooded spaces for all of its guests, regardless of the site you reserve. The campground operates seasonally with peak season allowing site-specific reservations. Guests visiting the Redstreak Campground during the off-peak season may stay on a first-come, first-serve basis. The campground has three types of sites to choose from, full hookup, electric (15-30 amps), and unserviced (or primitive), and each space has a food storage box, a fire pit, and a picnic table. Sites allow RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. Guests wishing to have a fire must purchase a fire permit and wood from the campground. Inside of the campground, there are dumpsters, access to potable water, kitchen shelters, playgrounds, flushable toilets, showers, and a sanitary dump. There is also a trail, 1.2 miles long (1.8 km) that leads to restaurants and services. For guests who want to walk to the pool area, another path, 1.6 miles long (2.7 km), leads to the Radium Hot Springs Pool. Please extinguish fires and keep noises and conversations to a minimum during quiet hours, which are from 11 PM to 7 AM daily. Generators are permitted, but only between the hours of 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM and 5 PM to 7 PM.
Outside of the peak operating season, many of the campgrounds in Kootenay National Park have first-come, first-served camping. Details vary from campground to campground, so it's best to check out the campground you hope to visit before heading to the area.
If you want to take your truck camper or small camper van with you to Kootenay National Park, but you prefer to sleep outside of your rig, there is no need to resort to basic-tent camping. The Redstreak Campground's oTENTiks are part cabin-part tent, and they have space for more people than a traditional tent might have. These structures have raised floors and zipping windows, so your camping experience is more along the lines of a glamping experience. All of the oTENTiks are located in the Redstreak Campground, and all oTENTiks glampers have access to all of the campground amenities such as food lockers, restrooms, and showers.
During peak season, sign up for one of the park’s ranger-led interpretive programs. The programs and the special events, created with the whole family in mind, are meant to inform and entertain guests of all ages. Many of the programs are free with your discovery pass, and there are evening programs, activity stations, guided tours, and programs planned just for kids. Stop by one of the campground kiosks or the Visitor Centre for more information.
Seeing the park on foot is different than experiencing the park from the windows of your Sprinter van. Hiking is one of the activities that visitors crave when they visit Kootenay National Park. The best hiking is done between July through mid-September because the snow is still present on many of the trails early in the summer. The trail system is extensive, and there is a trail for almost every kind of hiker. Choose from paved casual walks or short hikes, or tap into your adventurous side and take a full-day hike or even an overnight backpacking excursion. The park provides detailed maps so you can plan your hikes according to your needs. As always, come prepared for any weather. Bring warm layers, proper footwear, and plenty of water for your trek!
Pack a picnic lunch, your binoculars, and your cameras and spend the day seeing some of Kootenay National Park’s most scenic places. Before you navigate the rig out onto the Banff-Windermere Highway, a 58-mile (94 km) drive, download the guided tour on your phone. The app, available in two formats, provides information on the stops along your route, and it is the next best thing to a personal interpretive tour guide. The road is curvy and may be difficult for large vehicles to maneuver. It has 93 turns throughout the two mountain passes. Go slowly and enjoy every turn because you don’t want to miss an inch of the scenery!
Kootenay National Park has dozens of mountain and road biking trails for cyclists of all skill levels. So, attach the bike rack to the back of the motorhome and prepare for a wild ride. Breathtaking views, historical sites, and adrenaline pumping trails can all be seen and experienced without a windshield to impede your view. For a moderate mountain biking treck, check out the Dolly Varden Trail. This 12.5-mile (20 km) trail will take you past an abandoned silver mine and the scenic Kitsault River. Road cyclists should hop on Highway 93 South for some scenic views along the Kootenay and Vermillion Rivers. You will most likely be sharing the path with other hikers, horseback riders, vehicles, and possibly even bears, so always be alert when riding.
There are several guided hikes offered at Kootenay National Park during the summer season. Stanley Glacier is a family-friendly hike that will take you through a fire swept forest to the base of Mount Stanley. This hike is the easiest trek of the three offered. Walcott Querry is a strenuous trek that starts at Takakkaw Falls and leads you through scenic mountain views and backcountry terrain. Mount Stephen is the third and final guided hike and is the most challenging of the three. The steep mountain terrain is the name of the game on this route, but in the end, you will be rewarded with stunning views of mountain landscapes. All three guided hikes include a lunch break and fossil hunting halfway through the hike. You may even discover some fossils that date back to prehistoric times. Campers interested in participating in a guided hike should reserve their spot in advance. Check on the park's website for more detailed descriptions of the hike you are interested in.
During the winter, many of the trails inside Kootenay National Park transform into well-groomed cross country skiing trails. Bring your skis along in the RV and traverse the park by weaving in and out of the pines and the snow-capped mountain peaks. If you don’t have skis, consider renting them as a part of a package and sign up for a guided Nordic tour from one of the local outfitters or tour companies. Experiencing the park during the winter months is just as exciting as seeing the park in the summer. Don’t let the colder weather stop you from seeing some of Canada’s most beautiful places!
During the winter, bring your sense of adventure and your snowshoes along with you in the campervan and plan to snowshoe the Paint Pots Trail. The Paint Pots Trail is a pathway that leads to the paint pots, the spring-fed colorful pools the area is famous for. It’s a generally flat surface with minimal elevation gain. The scenery is unmatched, and the experience is unforgettable. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, or if you’d prefer to take a guided snowshoe tour, contact one of the area's outfitters for a schedule of tours and the cost of renting snowshoes for a day. Don’t forget your winter-weather gear and your cameras—wildlife often frequents the trails near the paint pots.
The Radium Hot Springs is a place where the whole family can have a relaxing, enjoyable time. The mineral hot springs are open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. You can choose to soak in the mineral baths or if warmer water isn’t your style, cool off in the swimming area, a pool that’s not as warm as the hot springs. The Radium Hot Springs also has a day spa where you can pamper yourself and bring on next-level relaxation. If you stay at the Redstreak Campground, it is a short walk from your Airstream to the pools and hot springs. Visit the website, or contact the Radium Hot Springs Pools for hours of operations and pricing.
One of the best parts about camping is being up close to nature in its natural habitat. At Kootenay, this means you may be sharing some of that nature with the animals that call the park home. If you're lucky, you may catch sight of elk, moose, bears, white-tailed deer, caribou, big horned sheep, mountain goats, wolves, bears, and more. If you come during the off-season, your chances of glimpsing these animals increases because there are fewer people making noise within the park. The park has stringent laws about interfering with local wildlife, so do not approach, entice, or feed any wild animals that you see. The park enforces this rule to keep both visitors and animals safe. It's also essential to observe the Bare Campsite regulations and keep all food items adequately stored while not in use.
The Rocky Mountains of Canada are famous for their unparalleled ice climbing opportunities. Hundreds of options await you at Kootenay National Park along with a long winter season and reliable conditions. Routes are rated from one to three (simple, challenging, or complex) depending on the type of avalanche terrain. Avalanches are frequent in the Rockies, and it's essential to know how to avoid them. The park offers a recreational avalanche course, and there are professional guides available to lead you in your climb. Always be prepared for changing conditions and know your options before you begin climbing.