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.

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR 2020 AND RECEIVES ANNUAL EDITS AND ADDITIONS




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. If you are tenting, you can camp at the Spruce Grove Campground nearby (also managed by the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.) The RV Resort does not allow tents.

Read: Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. 


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

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 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

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)



Fairmont Hot Springs and area Hikes

1. Findlay Falls (Fairmont Hot Springs) - 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 the Waterfall Trail is closed due to flooding from spring. 

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)

 

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 2020, 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.

Note for 2020 Lussier Hot Springs are closed due to Covid-19.

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 for 2020 The hot springs pools are open to guests of the resort only due to Covid-19.

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 2020 The hot springs in Radium have been closed all year due to maintenance issues along with Covid-19 challenges. However they are opening again on September 18th! 

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, and then prepare for some excitement on the zipline where you fly out across the lake, jumping in when you reach the middle. Cliff jumping is also popular here.

Note for 2020 the zipline is broken. Cliff jumping is still a popular activity though.

Zipline at Twin Lakes ("Bottomless Lake") near Invermere 

Cliff jumping at 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 (far 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 



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.)

Red Kokanee Salmon swimming up stream at Brisco Falls

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.

Other Suggestions from Local Families

Sinclair Canyon, Radium Hot Springs

"We love Kicking Horse Cafe and Fuze in Invermere as well the toy store has an awesome games section and super knowledgeable staff to help you find the perfect game. They also had family game night too on Thursdays." - Sharon

"We love to eat at the Greek place in Fairmont." - Heila

"Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park has a quiet and beautiful lake at the top. We enjoyed a picnic, threw stones and watched the fishing boats." - Candace 

"Gerry's Gelati is our favourite for ice cream in Invermere." - Jill

"The little Mexican restaurant, Leo Burrito, in Radium is good." - Jill
 

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.

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  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.

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

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  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!

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