Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond) - updated 2022

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.

Our second home in the gorgeous Columbia Valley

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 15+ years and I'm starting to feel like it is our second home.

This story is updated annually. 




Camping in the Columbia Valley


We love camping when we're in the Columbia Valley. Below are our fav. spots to camp.

Camping in 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 story:

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

Yurt camping at Radius Retreat, Radium Hot Springs

Camping in 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 from what the public pays.

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 River. There's a great sandy beach area beside the river (early or later in the season when the water level is low) and you'll get access to the Fairmont Hot Springs at a discounted rate. 

The Spruce Grove Campground also has several power + water sites along the river for those camping with trailers or RVs, and they have full hook up sites as well so there's something at this great campground for everybody! - it's honestly become one of our favourite campgrounds in BC.


Camping at the Spruce Grove Campground 

Camping in Kimberley

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, they have glamping tents, and they also allow tenting on all sites. The sites are large, private, and have trees surrounding them for privacy from your neighbors. (Honestly, you won't find a better campground.)

Add a swimming pool and a mini golf course, and you've got an amazing place to spend a week! AND, it's always quiet here. (We've never struggled with loud partying, groups, or excessive noise.)


Camping at 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.

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. 

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 discovered this hike 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 discovered it 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 is beautiful when the larch trees are golden in late September

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 hike is the Geary Lookout Trail for a short easy jaunt from the RV Campground. The trail is shown on a map that can be downloaded from the link above.

Note the Waterfall Trail is closed due to trail erosion from flooding and no longer appears on the map above. 

Geary Lookout Trail, Fairmont Hot Springs 

Kimberley and area hikes

For hikes around Kimberley, check out the story below where I've written about our favourite trails in detail.

Read: Family Adventure Bucket List for Kimberley, BC 

Wycliffe Buttes Trail near Kimberley, BC

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 


There are no shortage of amazing bike trails in the Columbia Valley

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)


Hot Springs in the Columbia Valley 


Below are where to find the natural and commercial hot pools across the valley:

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 story below:

Read: Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. 


The Indigenous Baths, 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.

Lussier Hot Springs are great when they aren't busy!

Lussier Hot Springs

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.


Warm swimming pool at Fairmont Hot Springs 
Relaxing in the hot pool at Fairmont Hot Springs

And if you're in the Radium Hot Springs area, you have to check out the Radium Hot Springs Pools. Along with hot soaking pool, there's also more of a "real" swimming pool here with a diving board and a slide so the whole family will be happy.

A quiet day at the Radium Hot Springs pools

Swimming pool at Radium Hot Springs 

Beaches and Water Fun 


Best beach - My vote for best beach would go to Kinsmen Public Beach in Invermere where you'll find a splash park, playground, and 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 picnic site on a lake - For a great picnic spot, you'll find 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.

Swimming at Lake Lillian, Invermere

There is also a floating dock at Lake Lillian 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.) 

Painted turtles at Lake Lillian 

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.

Rope Swing at Lazy Lake

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.)

And Lazy Lake is not a great picnic area if you aren't planning on paddling around. The beach area beside the day use parking lot is rocky and very small! Large groups gathering here block access to the water for all other users (and this includes setting up your picnic or sunbathing session on the fishing dock!)

Lazy Lake is a beautiful place to spend the day

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 


Paddling opportunities and exploring the Columbia River 


We love paddling the Columbia River 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.

Day tripping down the Columbia River from Invermere

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


The Columbia River is great for novice paddlers

Want to try an overnight trip on the Columbia River?


Overnight paddling doesn't get more awesome than this!

Dining and Eating out in the Valley 


Below are some of my recommendations: 

Best Ice-cream - Hopkins Harvest in Windermere (some of the best ice-cream I've ever had!!) 

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

And further to the south, the Bear's Paw Bar and Grill at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort has amazing pizza!

Finally, in the Kimberley area, it has to be the Pedal and Tap forever for mucked up fries.

Mucked up fries and a giant sandwich at the Pedal and Tap

Best Coffee shop in Radium Hot Springs - The Big Horn Cafe in Radium Hot Springs gets my vote here. We stop here endless times when we're in the valley because their baking is exceptionally delicious as is everything on the menu. And if you want a quick breakfast (or lunch,) their breakfast burritos are the absolute BEST.

Best Coffee shop in Invermere - We like the Blue Dog Cafe downtown Invermere. They have great sandwiches and coffee.

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. It definitely has the best coffee in Fairmont.

Homemade donuts and awesome coffee at the Bighorn CafĂ© in Radium 

Family Fun in the Columbia Valley 


Below is a random assortment of fun activities you'll enjoy with your family.

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

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

The main playground in Radium is a fabulous park

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 

Zipline Tours in the Columbia Valley:

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 

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. 




6 comments:

  1. Wow.. Great blog! Next month, I am planning SF Muir Woods Tour with my family.I would love to try all these adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have grown to love radium and surrounding area of the last couple of years! RedStreak Campground offers great Otentiks which is a good break from tent camping for us and we did many of the hikes you have mentioned but look forward to trying new ones you have listed!! And my one vally suggestion for food is From Scratch A Mountain Kitchen by Fairmont. You HAVE to go!!! And it's kid friendly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check out that mountain kitchen.
      Thanks.

      Delete
  3. Thank you so much for all of this information. We love to visit Radium and the valley, and it helps to have somewhere to start. Expcially helpful info about trail (bike and hike) durations, difficultly and accessibility. Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete

ShareThis