Monday, August 24, 2015

Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids

We try to do one backcountry paddling trip each summer and wanted to do a river trip this year. We knew we definitely didn't want to do a lake circuit with multiple portages (hard when you use kayaks) and we wanted something casual, fun, and safe for young kids - which meant no glacial mountain lakes! Finding an easy river float was therefore the best option for us and if we chose something that had at least a small current, we wouldn't have to paddle as much.

Easy Paddling on the Columbia River (and yes, the whole trip was this calm!)

I know many families shy away from rivers but we love the Columbia River and once you see the photos in this story, you'll understand why we chose this paddle for a very EASY overnight trip. I shouldn't admit it, but at one point I was floating down the river on a stand up paddleboard, with no PFD on, and while drinking a beer. (stop reading now if this bothers you because we were pretty relaxed with the whole trip.)

Easy relaxed paddling on the Columbia  River (yep, I did an overnight trip on my SUP board!)

Introduction to the Columbia River

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific NW part of North America and starts its journey in Canada at Columbia Lake near the town of Invermere, BC.  From there it flows gently for approximately 300km to Golden and beyond to Kinbasket Lake before it turns south into Washington and Oregon, finishing its journey at the Pacific Ocean.

What families will want to know is that from the river's exit out of Lake Windermere in Invermere to the town of Golden, (a traveling distance of 120km by road) the river is perfectly calm, benign, and rapid-free.  There is not a single riffle that I've ever seen and the water is swimming pool warm.

Is it a lake or is it a river?  Hard to tell on the Columbia!

Why to Choose the Columbia River for a Family Paddling Trip

1.  Warmth of water.  While you still have to take water seriously at all times (and our kids were always in PFDs,) it's easier to relax a bit when you know that a wet exit from one's boat isn't going to be dangerous in this river. At the very most, somebody floats up beside you and plucks you back into a boat.  No danger of hypothermia, no danger of freezing to death while you sit in your boat shivering in wet clothes, and no danger of heart failure when you hit the water and suddenly go numb.

Our kids spent a lot of time in the water and that's a priority for us when we choose a river trip.

The Columbia River is Swimming Pool Warm

2.  Calmness of the River.  The question one will likely ask at several points in a trip down the Columbia is this:  "Are we really on a river?"  Along with:  "Are we moving at all??"

There are no rapids, no riffles, no waves, and no obstacles.  No sweepers or strainers, no sand bars to steer around... - nothing!  I've done several trips on the Columbia River now and I've never found a single challenge on any of our paddles.

Families still need to be aware while paddling on the Columbia River and I wouldn't take off down the river for an overnight trip with zero knowledge of how to paddle, steer, or navigate on the water. This is still a river!! And there is always danger on a river.  However, by choosing the Columbia River, the danger is significantly reduced as compared to other rivers.  Novice paddlers will feel comfortable on this river if traveling with another experienced family.

Family-friendly paddling on the Columbia River

3.  Opportunities to play, camp, and relax.  While I aspire to do more technical rivers, there's just something alluring about a river where you can relax, take it easy, and not have to always be concentrating on the next set of rapids ahead.

We stopped at sand bars to play in the mud, camped on a gorgeous little island, swam in the river, and even used my paddleboard as a jumping raft at one point.

Relaxed paddling (let me see you do this while running rapids!)

The kids could have stayed at this sand bar ALL day!!
This little guy was pretty chill on the trip.

Our Route that we Chose and Where we Camped


We started in the town of Radium Hot Springs and paddled just past the next town, Edgewater, on our first day.  We paddled for maybe 4-5 hours (hard to keep track with rest stops) at a very leisurely pace!

We camped on an island about an hour past Edgewater and then continued on to the next town, Brisco, on our second day.  This is where we took out and had a second vehicle waiting for us.

The second day was a bit shorter with maybe 3 hours of paddling.  This allowed us to wrap up our shuttle and get back to our campsite in Kootenay National Park for the evening.

Beach Camping at its finest!!
Cooking dinner on the beach
Sunset over the Columbia River

Wilderness Camping Guidelines for Paddle Trips

Doing an overnight trip on a river is similar to backpacking into a backcountry campground. The biggest difference is that you don't have to carry anything!  Follow these rules below and read the document on Leave No Trace Camping at the end.
  • Pack out everything you bring in with you!! Nobody is coming to your island or sand bar to collect garbage and clean up after you!

  • Bring bio-degradable soap for washing dishes and do not wash them directly in the river.

  • Dig a pit to use as a communal bathroom.  Put a bit of sand over your contribution to the pit each time you use it, and then cover it well before you leave. Pack out your toilet paper!

  • Bring a water filter and use it for all water you'll drink from the river.

  • Use a small backcountry stove to cook your food.

  • Hang your food up in a tree or do as we did and pull it out into the river for the night. (we had a great spot in the river to hang our food - see photo below.)

  • Don't need a fire?  Don't light one!   If you must have a fire, consider how you will get wood for it, is there a fire ban, is there an established fire ring or pit, and how will you put it out to ensure you won't start a forest fire?
For more tips on "No Trace Camping" please check out this story:  The Leave No Trace 7 Principals 

This was our campsite and we paddled our food out to the logs behind us for the night

Other Suggestions for Overnight Paddle Trips

Pack as you would for backpacking but protect things like cell phones, keys and cameras with dry bags.  I even wrap my keys and phone in a ziplock bag first.  Also, wrap anything that should not get wet in big heavy-duty garbage bags.  (think, sleeping bags and mattresses.)

Depending on whether you are using a kayak or a canoe, you may also want to pack your gear in several small bags Vs. one or two big ones.  Small bags stuff more easily into the front and back of the kayak.

By the end of the trip, we were pulling our food in our toy kayak. (should have packed differently!)

Finally, start early and plan to arrive at camp by mid afternoon (4pm at the latest.)  It's important to allow for lots of time to get to camp in case you underestimate the distance that you'll be traveling, can't find a campsite and have to travel an hour or two further to find one, or (god forbid) there's only one beach along your section of river and it's already claimed by another big group.  (This could happen!)

There was only one good  beach along our section of river and if it had already been claimed, we would have needed a plan B, which in this case, would have been finishing both the first and second day of paddling all in one day. (before dark.) Hence, start early so that you don't find yourself still hours from a campsite with darkness approaching.

It's easy to take one too many rest stops and find yourself rushing to find a site late in the day
Floating the Columbia River

Day Trip Options for the Columbia River

Want to float the Columbia River as a day trip?  Start in Invermere at the bridge that crosses over the river as you enter town (referred to as the Athalmer) and float your way down stream to the next town of Radium Hot Springs.  Known as the "lazy river paddle" in the valley, you can rent boats from the Columbia River Paddle Company for this easy 4 hour tour.  You can choose from guided tours to self-guided tours and the company will pick you up if you need in Radium Hot Springs.

To see our photos from paddling between Invermere and Radium Hot Springs, check out this story:  Exploring the Columbia Valley Wetlands - by Boat, Hike, and Bike.

Lazy Kayaking down the Columbia River

Other Activities to do While in the Columbia Valley

Check out my last story:  The Best of the Columbia Valley - From Radium Hot Springs to Invermere (and beyond) for more information on what to do, where to stay, and how to spend a week in the valley.

Family-friendly canoeing on the Columbia River
As serene as it gets on the Columbia River

Disclaimer and Safety Notes

First, this story was not sponsored by anybody and I included a link to the Columbia River Paddling Company as helpful information for my readers.  It isn't an official endorsement for the company and we have never actually used their services.

Second, I can not stress enough the importance of getting an early start on the river if camping overnight and having a back up plan in place.  We were lucky to find a place to camp on a beach, but really had no information on good spots to camp when we started.  We went into the trip blind and were definitely getting a bit nervous as dinner time approached (and we still hadn't found a place to camp yet!)

I referenced "beer" in one of the first paragraphs.  I do not endorse or encourage drinking while paddling.  We ran into another group on the river who were very generous with their beer stash and wanted to make sure we had some to enjoy.  I considered the idea of drinking on a paddle board to be "novel" and took some sips of my beer while floating down the river.  Never would I have done this on a serious stretch of water. 

We took this trip with a very relaxed approach because we are all experienced paddlers, have taken lessons, and have done this sort of trip before.  For our abilities, the Columbia River is a "walk in the park."  If you have never done a paddle trip before, have never been on a river, or have never done an overnight river trip before, you will want to go with an experienced group to ensure your family's safety.  (especially with young kids.)

Finally, of a more "how to make the trip fun" nature - I highly recommend a wide assortment of boats for the trip.   The kids enjoyed taking turns riding in the canoe, kayak, on the toy kayak, and on the stand up paddle board. If I were to pick a vessel that brought the most overall enjoyment to the group, it would be the stand up paddle board that got shared around a lot.

The Stand Up Paddleboard was a lot of fun on the trip

For more tips on How to Plan an Overnight Paddling Trip with Kids, please read my newest story for River Sport Magazine.

Friday, August 21, 2015

No More Hot Dogs! How to Plan a Camp Feast

Hamburgers and hot dogs are ok for the first night on a camping trip but then what do you do to shake things up? You can’t live on hot dogs and marshmallows for the whole week long summer vacation camping trip.

We’ve gotten creative over the last few years and have created a bunch of fun theme meals that can be prepared while camping with your family. Camp with a group of families and you can make the meals even bigger as you collaborate to create a giant outdoor feast!

Fajitas for Mexican Fiesta Night at Camp

Mexican Fiesta Night

This is our go to group camping meal because options are endless with this theme. We also love this fun camp feast because it pairs well with a plastic tub of cold Coronas or camp margaritas if you have the ability to use a blender at your campsite. Without a blender, be prepared to bring a large knife for crushing ice or buy crushed ice ahead of time.

To take the feast one step further, buy a piƱata and fill it with candy for the kids. Hang it from a tree at the campsite and you’ll have the best camping feast ever!

Making fresh margaritas at camp 

Menu suggestions:  

  • Do it yourself Taco Bar (hard taco shells, soft tortillas, ground beef, chicken, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and onions, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole)

  • Chicken or steak fajitas (barbecue the meat on skewers with vegetables and then serve with tortillas, salsa, and sour cream)

  • Corn on the cob

  • Taco salad

  • Cheese quesadillas (these are easy to grill on a barbecue with a lid)

  • Pulled Pork or Chicken tacos (Prepare the meat at home ahead of time and heat in a skillet at camp. Serve with tortillas and taco chips, grated cheese and fresh cilantro)

Pinata night at camp 

Other Fun Theme Nights for Gourmet Camp Feasts

Indian – Butter chicken is easy to prepare at camp in a large skillet over a stove or campfire. Serve with grilled naan bread and rice.

Greek – Chicken, pork or beef souvlaki is easy to make at camp by grilling the meat on skewers and serving with grilled pita bread and Tzatziki sauce. And don’t forget the Greek salad.

Italian – Spaghetti is just as easy to cook at camp as it is a home, the kids love it, and you can save a lot of money by preparing this simple meal rather than going out for dinner after a big day hiking or exploring. We also love making barbecue pizza at camp. Buy flat bread, top with pizza sauce, your favourite toppings and cheese, and then cook over a barbecue with a lid. Tinfoil helps to keep the crust from burning.

Italian Night at Camp with Fresh BBQ Pizza!

Ukrainian – One of our favourite camping meals is perogies with grilled apples, onions and peppers. And here’s a fun idea for you – you can put everything (including the perogies) on skewers and barbecue it together. Serve with sour cream and you have a fun camp meal that’s original and sure to please the kids.

European – This is a very broad category but I love making couscous salad while camping and serving it with simple grilled pork or chicken. It’s great for a hot day when you want a light meal.

Asian – Marinade chicken, pork or beef at home before you leave and stir fry it at camp in a large skillet with fresh veggies. Serve with rice or noodles for a fast meal that requires little prep. (Hint:  you can buy mixed bags of frozen or fresh Asian veggies so that you don’t have to do a lot of work chopping vegetables at camp, and you can add the noodles right to the same skillet in the last few minutes of cooking to save extra pots.)

SW Barbecue – This is another great feast idea for large groups. Hamburgers or steak, corn on the cob, salads of all varieties, and a mixture of Tex-Mex style dishes all combine together for a SW Barbecue themed meal.

Skewers for a SW barbecue night 

For more fun ideas, check out my Camp Cooking board on Pinterest. You’ll never have to eat a hot dog at camp again.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond)

The Town of Radium Hot Springs is easily reached in a three hour drive from Calgary.  It's close enough for a weekend jaunt, or just far enough away to justify spending a full week.  It's also a good jumping off point for exploring the Columbia Valley and the towns of Invermere or Fairmont Hot Springs to the south.

The Columbia Valley and our Second Home

We love exploring this sunny valley to the west of us in British Columbia and usually visit in spring or autumn when days are getting cooler here in the Rockies.  We've been exploring the valley now for the past 10+ years and I'm starting to feel like it is my second home.


Camping in the Columbia Valley

We love camping when we're in the Columbia Valley.

Radium Hot Springs

In the Radium Hot Springs area we either stay at Redstreak, the Kootenay National Park campground or at Canyon RV Resort, a private campground for those using trailers and RVs. If you're tenting, Redstreak would be your best option here because Canyon does not allow tents.

Camping at Redstreak Campground, Kootenay National Park

Read more:  Why We LOVE Camping at Redstreak Campground, Radium Hot Springs. 

Read more: Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC 

Bighorn sheep near the Redstreak Campground

And, want to try yurt camping near Radium Hot Springs? Check out this newly published story:

Read: Yurt Camping on top of a Mountain at Radius Retreat 

Yurt camping at Radius Retreat, Radium Hot Springs

Fairmont Hot Springs

In this area we enjoy camping at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort. Here you'll find full service sites for those with trailers and RVs. They do not allow tents. Those camping at the RV Resort receive access to the hot springs at a discounted rate. 

If you are tenting, you can camp at the Spruce Grove Campground nearby (also managed by the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.) This campground has a swimming pool and is located on the Columbia Pool. There's a great sandy beach area beside the river and you'll get access to the Fairmont Hot Springs at a discounted rate. 

Read: Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. 

The Aboriginal Baths (natural hot springs at Fairmont Hot Springs)


Further to the south in the small city of Kimberley we've recently found an amazing gem of a private campground, the Kimberley Riverside Campground. They have full hookup sites for trailers and RVs and they also allow tenting. Add a swimming pool and a mini golf course, and you've got an amazing place to spend a week!

Kids will love the swimming pool at the Kimberley Riverside Campground

Some of our Favourite Hikes in the Valley  

We certainly haven't done all of the hikes in the valley (something we'll be working on over the next many years) but we've definitely found a few family favourites between Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs.

Radium Hot Springs and area hikes

For hikes in Radium Hot Springs check out the story below where I've written about our favourite trails in detail.

Read: Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC 

Hiking in Sinclair Canyon, Radium Hot Springs

Invermere area hikes 

1.  Mt. Swansea - This is one of the only mountains where you can drive most of the way to the summit! (high clearance vehicle recommended)  The upper parking lot takes you to within 500 metres distance of the summit with only 100 metres of height to climb.

For a longer hike, and if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, start from the bottom parking lot for a 6 km return hike (750 metres of height gain.)

There's also a great loop option (shown on the All Trails website) where you'll also reach the summit of the south ridge.

Read more about our last hike here with photos at Exploring the Columbia Valley Wetlands by Boat, Bike, and Hike.

Views from the top of Mount Swansea over the Columbia Valley

Mount Swansea Cave extension: If you're able to drive to the top parking lot at Mount Swansea, add on a side trip to visit an old copper mine cave. 

To find the cave, walk down the road from the parking lot a very short distance. If you arrive at the South Ridge Trail you've gone too far. The trail to the cave is unmarked but it heads off on the downhill side of the road into the trees. (Left side as you walk down from the summit.)

It's a short 5 minute hike. Turn right when you come to a trail junction and you're almost there. The cave is quite large with several corridors. Bring good headlamps.

The entrance to the old copper mine on Mt. Swansea

You'll see the old rail tracks in the cave

2.  Pedley Pass and Bumpy Meadow - This is another great hike that requires a high clearance vehicle.  It's a short walk to Bumpy Meadows (suitably named for the round bumps found throughout the meadow) and then it's a steep climb to Pedley Pass from where you can either hike along the ridge to your left or hike to a lovely tarn to your right.  All Trails has the hike marked as 7.6 km return but that assumes you are going to both the summit on the ridge along with the tarn. Taking in both objectives brings you up to 550 metres of height.

Pedley Pass Tarn 

Alternately, if you're a fan of ridge walks, check out the new Pedley Ridge Trail which makes a loop by going up a series of switchbacks, and across the ridge over a series of small bumps and two summits, before reaching the pass where you can detour to visit the tarn before hiking down.

The full ridge loop with a detour to the tarn is 10.5 km in total with 677 metres of height gain (according to All Trails.)

Hiking across the Pedley Ridge towards the first summit

3. Jumbo Pass - And this is yet another hike where you'll need a high clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead. You'll drive past Panorama Mountain Resort before getting onto rough logging roads. The hike is 8 km return with 700 metres of height gain. It's a steep trail with few views for the first hour (at least.) Bring lots of candy or motivational snacks for this part. Once you reach the alpine though, you'll be crossing beautiful meadows as you make your way to a hut that can be booked for backcountry stays. 

Either end your journey at the hut where there's a small tarn. Otherwise, for the best views, climb up the ridge behind the hut for another 100 metres of height gain. Go as far as you want. We stopped at the first summit (which extended our hike by an extra 2 km.)

Jumbo Pass (photo taken from the ridge above the hut)

4. Wilmer Wetlands - We just discovered this hike (2020) while searching for two geocaches off Westside Road outside the small community of Wilmer. There is a small parking area along the side of the road and you'll see a large trailhead. Follow the path along the edge of an escarpment where you can look down on the Columbia River wetlands. 

Hike as far as you want and return the same way. There are alternate return options as well if you want to do a 4 - 5 km loop.

Note you'll want to watch small children carefully because a tumble off the cliffs would not end well.

The Wilmer Wetlands is a spectacular destination in the Columbia Valley

5. Ray Brydon Park - This off leash dog park is located in Invermere beside the Toby Creek Bridge. We recently discovered it (2020) looking for geocaches. It's a great area to take pets and children for a walk close to town (and there's a wide gravel path for kids who want to ride their bikes.)

Best of all, if you follow the wide gravel trail beside the creek, you'll come to a giant pile of rocks to climb on. The kids will be happy for hours here. (And there's a geocache hidden in the rocks.)

The rock pile at Ray Brydon Park will be a hit with all kids! 

6. Mount Bruce - This is another hike that requires a high clearance vehicle because you'll be driving a long ways up the Bruce Creek Forestry Service Road to get here from the Village of Wilmer. 

There's only 660 metres of height gain on this one but that's because you'll drive up another 700 metres of height from Wilmer! The hike is only 6.4 km round trip and we found it to be a very pleasant hike although others have said they found it to be steep.

The hike ends with a gorgeous ridge walk and there are larch trees in the fall.

Driving directions: Drive past Wilmer towards Lake Enid. Continue past the lake on the Bruce Creek FSR (forest service road), which then turns into the Ryan Creek FSR. It ends at the unmarked trailhead.

The link above will guide you from the trailhead to the summit.

You can also see Mount Bruce on Google Maps. Just type in Wilmer or Lake Enid for directions and you'll get a driving route. 

Mount Bruce, Invermere 

7. Pinto Mountain - This is a new favourite spring hike in the valley for us and it also requires a high clearance vehicle to drive up the Pinto Mountain Access Road. You'll start by driving past the lower trailhead for the Mount Swansea Recreation Area and then turn left onto the Pinto Mountain Road.

You can follow the map at the link above on All Trails. 

The hike itself is 8.7 km round trip with 960 metres of height gain. It is quite steep in spots and then the final summit ascent is scrambly. There's also a narrow ridge walk at the very end. The views are amazing so choose a sunny day.

Looking over the Columbia Valley from the Pinto Mountain Trail

Fairmont Hot Springs and area Hikes

1. Findlay Falls  - This cute little hike takes you to a lovely set of waterfalls and is only 2 km round trip with minimal elevation gain/loss.  It is located near the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort so plan a trip to the pool while you are in the area.

More photos can be seen in my story:  Want Spring?  Go West to the Columbia Valley.

Findlay Falls near Fairmont Hot Springs

2   The Hoodoos Trail - We love this early season hike to the top of a cliff lined with giant hoodoo rock formations.  It's an easy 2.9 km hike to the end of the trail and much of it is chariot-friendly as you'll start off on a double track road.

Hiking the Hoodoos Trail near Fairmont Hot Springs

3. Trails around the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort - There are many easy hiking trails that can be accessed from the resort if you're camping or staying here. Otherwise, park in the day use lot and hike to the trailhead for your chosen hike.

Our favourite hikes are the Geary Lookout Trail for a short easy jaunt from the RV Campground, or the Waterfall Trail, located below the campground (where you'll find natural hot pools underneath a waterfall.) Both trails are shown on a map that can be downloaded from the link above.

Note for 2020 and 2021 the Waterfall Trail is closed due to flooding. You can access the waterfall from the Geary Lookout Trail.

Geary Lookout Trail, Fairmont Hot Springs 

Best Bike Rides in the Valley

This is the easiest section to write because I've already written a comprehensive guide to biking in the valley. AND, I update it every year with new trails or areas to ride.

Read the guide here: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley 

Riding on the Spirit Trail outside Fairmont Hot Springs 

Bike Parks, Skate Parks, and Pump Tracks

For more fun on bikes, check out the Radium Hot Springs Pump and Jump bike park in Sinclair Creek or the Mount Nelson Skatepark in Invermere with its own pump track. 

Biking on the Radium Hot Springs Pump and Jump in Sinclair Creek
Mount Nelson Skatepark in Invermere (great with bikes too)

And if you're in Kimberley to the south, make sure you check out their awesome skate park and mountain bike skills park. It's a phenomenal jump park with progression levels for all abilities. 

Family Fun in the Valley

Below is my random list of "the best of everything in the valley" from ice-cream to coffee, restaurants, beaches, and other activities to keep the kids busy.

Best Beach - Kinsmen Public Beach in Invermere (splash park, playground, jumping rafts with slides.)  It's primarily a rocky beach but the town brings in a big pile of sand for the kids to play in.

The slides at Kinsmen Beach are a lot of fun!

Best Ice-cream - Hopkins Harvest in Windermere (some of the best ice-cream I've ever had!!) - try the lemon flavour (and next time we have to try the pizza!)

Other recommended ice-cream shops:

Screamers - Radium Hot Springs

Chill Out - Invermere

Fairmont Pizza and Ice-Cream - Fairmont Hot Springs

Best family-friendly dining  - The Horsethief Pub and Eatery in Radium Hot Springs is great with kids! The place is family-friendly and the food is always good. Kids will enjoy the hamburgers with the "choose your burger style" option (including options for beef, chicken, or veggie, and several options for a side including classic french fries of course.)

We also like The Station Pub in Invermere. The food is good and it's located right beside Kinsman Beach.

Also the Bear's Paw Bar and Grill at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort has amazing pizza!

Our favourite place to have lunch - The Blue Dog Cafe in Invermere (love this place!)

Best Coffee shop in Radium Hot Springs - Big Horn Cafe in Radium Hot Springs (We stop here endless times when we're in the valley. And if you want a quick breakfast, their cinnamon buns and breakfast burritos are delicious!)

Best Coffee shop in the Fairmont Hot Springs Area - The Valley Coffee Company is located just off the highway beside the Pizza and Ice-Cream Parlour. 

Best picnic spot - Lake Lillian outside of Invermere on the way up to Panorama Mountain Resort.  There are few picnic tables with fire pits and the lake is small enough for paddling without the noise of motor boats found on the larger Lake Windermere. There are also mountain bike trails across the road.

There is also a floating dock for jumping off in the summer months.

And, I've recently discovered that the lake is home to a healthy population of painted turtles! They're fun to search for while you paddle around the lake. (Look for logs along the shoreline.) 

Swimming at Lake Lillian, Invermere

Painted turtles at Lake Lillian 

Best Playgrounds- We like the Radium Hot Springs Main Park Playground (located two blocks west of Main St. on St. Joseph St.)

And, if you're in Invermere, check out the new playground in the Pine Ridge Resort Community. There's even a zipline! The Pine Ridge Family Park is located off Pine Ridge Drive.

You'll also find great playgrounds in Invermere at both Kinsman Beach and James Chabot Beach.

Pine Ridge Playground, Invermere

Best Mini-golf - We love the mini-golf course at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. It's affordable and you can enjoy two courses for one great price. There's an easy 9-hole course (which you'll see beside the road as you drive up to the resort) and an 18-hole course located down in the trees hidden from the road.

Mini golf at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

Best "off the beaten path" place to spend the day - Along with Lake Lillian above, we also like Lake Enid near Invermere for a short 3 km hike and picnic.

Lake Enid in October

Best Natural Hot Springs - There are a couple natural hot spring pools located near the Fairmont Hot Springs commercial pools. To read more about the various soaking pools here, read my newest story below:

Read: Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. 

Note for 2021, the waterfall pools (photo below) are inaccessible due to trail erosion from spring floods The Aboriginal Baths are still worth a visit though.

Natural hot spring pools at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

We also like Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park.  Unfortunately, so does everybody else so don't expect to get them to yourself. There are several pools of varying temperatures from glacial cold to scalding hot.  Kids will love climbing on the rocks between the pools.  It is a short 2 minute hike down to the pools and there are two out house bathrooms for changing in.

The Aboriginal Baths, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Best Commercial Hot Springs - We love Fairmont Hot Springs. We come here year round but especially enjoy this pool in the summer because of the warm swimming pool This way, I get to soak in the hot pool while my boys swim and play in the other pool. Win win for all.

Regardless of the season, the swimming pool is always open though and so my boys can still swim around while I'm soaking.

Note as of 2021 The hot springs pools are open to guests of the resort, RV Park, and Spruce Grove Campground only due to Covid-19. Also, the diving boards have been removed from the cold pool.

Warm swimming pool at Fairmont Hot Springs 

Read more: Five Reasons you need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family 

And if you're in the Radium Hot Springs area, you have to check out the Radium Hot Springs Pools. There's also a swimming pool here with a diving board and a slide so the whole family will be happy.

Note for 2021 capacity is limited for the Radium pools due to COVID. Plan to wait in line when the pools are busy. They are open first come first serve, no reservations required for 200 people.

A quiet day at the Radium Hot Springs pools

Swimming pool at Radium Hot Springs 

Best way to explore the Columbia Valley Wetlands - We love paddling the Columbia Valley from Invermere to Radium Hot Springs. It's a gentle float and perfect for the whole family. And if you need to rent boats or arrange for a shuttle service, contact Columbia River Paddle in Invermere. They offer guided or self-guided tours of the Columbia River wetlands, shuttle services, and a variety of boat rentals.

For more information on day trips along the Columbia River, read this story below:

Paddling the Columbia River from Invermere to Radium Hot Springs 

Want to try an overnight trip on the Columbia River?

Read: Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids

Easy paddling on the Columbia River between Invermere and Radium Hot Springs

Best Adventure in the Valley - This is a 2-way tie between the two zipline adventure tours.

In the Radium Hot Springs area you'll want to try the Valley Zipline Adventures! We spent a couple of hours trying out the 7 ziplines at this park and had a blast! You can read the full review here:

Read: Valley Zipline Adventures Tour, Radium Hot Springs 

Ziplining in the Columbia Valley 

In the Fairmont Hot Springs area, I recommend trying the Mineral Mountain Zipline Tour at Fairmont Hot Springs. This was the "real deal" for ziplines with the longest crossing taking close to a minute to complete.

You can read more about our tour here:

Read: Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. 

Mineral Mountain Zipline Tour at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

Best "Extreme" Family Adventure -  If water adventure is more your "thing," consider visiting Twin Lakes or "Bottomless Lake" near Invermere. Park on the side of the road, hike a short 5 minutes in, Cliff jumping is very popular here.

Cliff jumping at Bottomless Lake

Bottomless Lake

And further south of Fairmont Hot Springs, a visit to Lazy Lake will get your heart pumping! This incredible lake has cliff jumping, an amazing rope swing, and is a great place to paddle around with no loud motor boats. There is also a healthy painted turtle population.

Note you'll need paddleboards, kayaks, or a canoe to move around the lake between the rope swing (opposite side of the lake from the day use area) and the cliff jumping (which is near the day use parking lot.)

Rope Swing at Lazy Lake

There's also a small campground here (see the link above for more information) or you can camp at nearby Wasa Lake which takes reservations.

Cliff jumping at Lazy Lake 

Lazy Lake is a beautiful place to spend the day

Best Place to Explore in Autumn - Brisco Falls. We visited these gorgeous waterfalls over Thanksgiving one year. We got to see Kokanee Salmon spawning, enjoyed a very lush hike (I felt like I was in an old growth forest or something) and then had a huge reward when we reached the falls (in under a kilometre of walking.)

And I've heard that the best time to see the salmon spawning is actually a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving so go late September.

Red Kokanee Salmon swimming up stream at Brisco Falls

Additional Resources

Visiting this winter?

Read: Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere - and beyond!)

Disclaimer:  This story was not sponsored by any of the companies or businesses mentioned.  All opinions are entirely my own.