Sunday, March 01, 2020

Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

We spend a lot of time in Radium Hot Springs year round but winter is growing on us as one of our favourite seasons for exploring this quiet village. We walk around searching for the local sheep herd and we keep our eyes peeled for for the flock of wild turkeys that roams wild in the streets.

We explore the peaceful trail along Sinclair Creek or we head down into Sinclair Canyon for a hike before we head to the hot springs to warm up and relax.

Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

From Calgary (where we live)  it is a 3 hour drive to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the gateway to the Columbia Valley. The drive is very doable for a 2-day weekend and many local families head out after work on Friday. You can spend all day Saturday and most of Sunday exploring before you have to head home Sunday afternoon. (And sometimes if we leave late on Sunday, we'll just stop in Canmore for dinner on our way home.)

Take a walk around the Springs Golf Course in the village and you'll see lots of bighorn sheep

So far this winter we've spent three weekends in Radium Hot Springs and we still have trails we haven't explored or hikes we'd like to check out. My top ten list below is just the beginning of places you can (and should) visit next time you visit Radium Hot Springs with your family in the winter season.

Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

1. Visit the Radium Hot Springs Pools

We absolutely love visiting the Radium Hot Springs mineral pools where you can enjoy both a large hot soaking pool along with a separate heated swimming pool, open year round (complete with slide and diving board in the summer months.) 

The Radium Hot Springs hot soaking pool is magical in winter (credit: Tourism Radium Hot Springs)

2. Search for Bighorn Sheep on the Springs Golf Course

We stayed at the Bighorn Meadows Resort the last time we were in Radium and we enjoyed walking around the property searching for the herd of bighorn sheep that makes Radium their home.  The resort is located on the ninth fairway of the Springs Golf Course where you'll almost always find large numbers of sheep hanging out in the morning or late afternoon.

Bighorn sheep relaxing on the Springs Golf course late afternoon 

We also love the views over the Columbia River wetlands that you can enjoy as you walk around the golf course in the winter months when it's closed for the season. We particularly like the views from the back nine where you can look down on the river from the escarpment beside the 18th hole.

Note you can usually just walk around the golf course in winter, but if there's enough snow, you could also snowshoe or cross-country ski. (Obviously not when we were here.)

Looking down over the Columbia River from the Springs Golf Course

3. Walk around the Village Looking for Local Wildlife 

If you don't find enough wildlife on the golf course, I recommend walking around the quiet village streets where you're almost guaranteed to find at least a couple of deer munching on the plants in somebody's front yard.

Wild turkeys hanging out on the main street in Radium Hot Springs 

If you're lucky, you'll also find the flock of wild turkeys that roams the neighborhood near Legend's Field behind the main street in town. In the large park you'll also find the new library, a sledding hill, a brand new hockey rink, and a really nice playground.

You don't usually have to go far to find a herd of sheep in Radium (often right on the main highway through town)

And while you're out, I recommend stopping in at the Bighorn Cafe on the main street. Personal menu favourites include their breakfast burritos and their cinnamon buns. Most importantly, they serve good strong coffee.

Always my second home when I'm in Radium Hot Springs 

4. Take a Walk along Sinclair Creek 

The Sinclair Creek Trail is another good walk for those wanting to find the local wildlife. We often see deer when we're exploring along Sinclair Creek in the winter.

Easy hiking along Sinclair Creek where you'll often see at least a couple of deer 

The easiest way to access this trail is from the official parking lot off Forsters Landing Road where you turn into the Canfor Sawmill (a fun adventure in and of itself for the kids as you drive through the middle of the mill.)

Sinclair Creek is a fun place to explore year round in Radium Hot Springs 

The trail is relatively flat and offers very easy walking. There are a couple of pretty little bridges and the creek is fun to explore year round. From the parking lot you can either follow the official trail or you can head left and ramble off trail through the wetlands. We tried this for the first time on our last visit and it was very pretty.

Note that the trail is usually well packed down and you shouldn't need snowshoes or anything. You might need ice cleats though if it hasn't snowed recently.

The wetlands are very pretty to explore if you venture beyond the official trail along Sinclair Creek 

5. Hike Sinclair Canyon

This trail officially puts you into the category of "winter hiking" and I wouldn't recommend it with exceptionally young children. You'll also want ice cleats or microspikes (especially if dropping down from the highway.)

There are two main ways to access the canyon and the first one is by far the easiest (and best for small children.)

HIking along Sinclair Creek in the bottom of Sinclair Canyon 

Access one: Drive down into the Canyon RV Resort  (the road is open in winter) and park beside the entrance to the "Creekside in the Canyon" property. Hike through the streets of Creekside, until you reach the trailhead for the Sinclair Canyon trail which follows Sinclair Creek.

And in case you're confused, yes, this is the same creek I wrote about above, but there is no tunnel under highway 95 so you can not access the canyon from the Sinclair Creek parking lot in the sawmill.

If you access the Sinclair Canyon Trail from the RV Resort you'll enjoy a pleasant walk on a relatively flat trail through a beautiful forest. (Tell the kids they're searching for elves or fairies and they'll definitely believe you.) The hike is less than a kilometre one way until you reach the end of the trail at a large waterfall.

Sinclair Canyon is a magical place in any season 

Access two: Take highway 93 up the hill towards the hot springs and park along the side of the highway at a viewpoint where you'll see a sign for the trail heading down into the canyon. The parking lot is just past the west gate and is on your left hand side as you leave Radium.

From here, you can expect a very steep descent down into the canyon which I don't recommend with young children in winter. The trail is very slippery so you'll need ice cleats or spikes for sure.

Once you reach the bottom you can hike left towards the RV resort or go right to see the waterfall. If you cross the bridge you'll be on the Juniper Trail which climbs to the hot springs pools. Unless you want to follow the Juniper Trail, return the same way you came by climbing back up to the highway.

Photo opp on the bridge at the bottom of Sinclair Canyon 

Extension for a more challenging hike: From the bottom of the canyon, cross the bridge and start climbing up the Juniper trail which gains 260 metres of height. The trail is 3.2 km long, one way, including the descent down from the highway.

The trail switchbacks steeply to a couple of beautiful viewpoints over the canyon and the highway before it drops back down to the hot springs pools.

HIking along the Juniper Trail from Sinclair Canyon 

I recommend returning to your initial parking lot on the Redstreak Campground Trail (3.2 km in length) which starts behind the hot springs pools. 

Viewpoint at the top of the Juniper Trail 
HIking through Sinclair Canyon beside the highway 

Follow this link for more information and trail descriptions for the Sinclair Canyon and Juniper Trails on the Parks Canada website.

There is also a great trail map that you can download at the bottom of the Parks Canada page.

Download a larger copy on the Parks Canada website 

6. Go for a Hike around the Redstreak Campground Trails

Using the map above you can see several trails that start from the Redstreak Campground. You can't drive all the way up to the campground in winter but you can get as far as the Valley View lookout. Park there and continue on foot. (Fortunately, most of the height gained on the climb up to the campground is before this viewpoint, and is done with your car.)

Trail options from Redstreak:
  1. Valley View  Trail  - Follow the trail from where you park your car up to the campground entrance. You can also see it on Trail Forks as the Lookout Trail. 

  2. Redstreak Restoration Interpretive Trail - This trail starts beside the large campground wood pile and can also be found on Trail Forks as the Pacemaker Trail and the Pacemaker Return Trail. The Pacemaker Trail follows a scenic bench that looks over the village. We've often seen sheep on this trail.

  3. Redstreak Loop Trail - This trail starts in the E loop and climbs to a gorgeous viewpoint over the village. It's a steep trail and you may want ice cleats or spikes if it's icy.

  4. Redstreak Campground Trail - You can take this trail to the hot springs if they are open. It's a pretty forest trail that we've always enjoyed.

Valley View Lookout at the winter gate before the Redstreak Campground 

7. Take a Day Trip to Invermere to Skate the Whiteway 

If you've fully explored Radium Hot Springs or your feet are getting tired from walking all over the village, grab your skates, jump in your car and head to the Community of Invermere, located beside Lake Windermere, and only a short 15 minute drive away.

"In 2014 the Lake Windermere Whiteway was named the world’s longest skating trail by Guinness World Records. At over 30 km in length, this multi-use trail offers ice-skating as well as groomed skate and classic cross-country ski trails." - Toby Creek Nordic Club 

Ice skating on the Lake Windermere Whiteway 

Most families will park at Kinsman Beach in Invermere to access the Lake Windermere Whiteway and you can easily skate to the Community of Windermere approximately 6 km down the lake. When the skating trail on the west side of the lake is open, you can complete a 12 km loop between the two communities.

My family personally likes to access the Whiteway from the public beach in Windermere so that we can skate to Invermere for lunch. We bring our boots with us in a backpack so we can walk across the road from Kinsman Beach to reach the Station Pub, a great family-friendly restaurant.

Day use fees are requested, $5 per person, to use the Whiteway, and can be paid at either of the trail kiosks in Invermere or Windermere.

One of our favourite ways to spend a day in the Columbia Valley!

Also in the area:

If you drive up the road towards Panorama Mountain Resort, you'll also be able to access the Lake Lillian Whiteway, located just 10 minutes outside of Invermere. This small lake has a 3 km ski loop, set for classic or skate skiing.

This is one of the best places in the Columbia Valley for an easy family cross-country ski outing (and because you're on a lake, the trail is 100% flat and beginner-friendly.)

Learning to ski on the Lake Lillian Whiteway outside Invermere 

8. Take a Day Trip to Panorama Mountain Resort

We absolutely LOVE Panorama Mountain Resort and we visit the resort at least 2-3 times every winter to either go downhill skiing or to explore the nordic trails on our cross-country skis.

The resort is located a short 20 minutes from Invermere and is an easy day trip from Radium Hot Springs.

Mornings are magical on the slopes of Panorama!

You can read all about the resort in my previous stories:

Read: Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort

Read: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

Read: Panorama Mountain Resort - (much more than downhill skiing)

We love cross-country skiing up to the Hale Hut at Panorama Mountain Resort 

9. Take a Day Trip to Fairmont Hot Springs 

The resort is only 30 minutes south from Radium. We love the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort pools and kids will have fun in the large warm swimming pool. The hot soaking pool and the swimming pool are also side by side so you can watch your competent swimmers from the hot pool.

Note: Check the resort website to find out about their guest policy. At times the pools are open to resort guests only.

You can't go wrong with a relaxing day trip to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort 

If you enjoy downhill skiing, you'll also find a great family-friendly resort here that is very affordable. The hot pools are often included with lift passes as well (inquire with the resort on this one.)

Read more about our winter adventures at Fairmont Hot Springs here:

Read: 5 Reasons you Need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family 

Family-friendly ski resort at Fairmont Hot Springs (Credit : Fairmont Hot Springs Resort)

10. Take a Day Trip to Nipika Mountain Resort 

Nipika Mountain Resort  is an eco resort set amid a large trail network maintained for cross-country skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing in the winter months. In summer you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and trail running.

The resort is located 40 minutes east of Radium Hot Springs and it's a great place to visit on your drive back to Calgary because you'll take Highway 93 back into Kootenay National Park to access the resort.

Skiing over the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort

Nipika has 50 km of trails groomed and maintained for classic and skate skiing. You'll also find 30 km of trails groomed for fat biking along with other trails designated for winter hiking or snowshoeing.

We enjoy both cross-country skiing and fat biking here and you can rent any equipment that you need including fat bikes. They even have two youth fat bikes (one 20 inch bike and one 24 inch bike.)

The trails are always meticulously cared for and you won't find better grooming in the Columbia Valley.

Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort

Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs 

We just spent a weekend in Radium and loved our stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort, centrally located within walking distance to everything in the village.

Our recommendation for lodging in Radium Hot Springs

We had a luxurious two-bedroom townhouse that backed onto the Springs Golf Course and we could watch bighorn sheep right outside our kitchen window in the morning.

We loved having a walk up townhouse where we could park right outside our door and easily unload the car when we arrived. Our unit was also very close to the hot tubs so we could run out the door for a soak after we got home from skiing on Saturday.

This beauty was walking across the golf course right outside our townhouse

You'll see lots of sheep when you stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort 

Features of our townhouse included:

  • 3 bathrooms

  • 3 televisions and a DVD player with the main television in the living room. (You can rent movies from the office if you didn't bring your own.)

  • A fully equipped kitchen so that you can save money on eating out

  • 2 bedrooms, each with a queen sized bed

  • A pull out sofa in the living room (so in theory we could have fit 6 people in our unit)

  • We loved that the bedrooms were upstairs so our son could go to bed early while we stayed downstairs without bothering him

  • In-suite laundry (which would have been useful for a longer trip)

  • An electric fireplace

  • A BBQ on a deck overlooking the golf course

A look at the townhouse we stayed in at Bighorn Meadows Resort 

We loved being able to walk all around town from our townhouse looking for wildlife, accessing the trails, and exploring the quiet village. We walked all over the golf course looking for bighorn sheep, we walked downtown to the coffee shop, and we easily walked over to the playground and sledding hill - all without having to hop in our car.

Bighorn Meadows Resort, located on the Springs Golf Course in Radium Hot Springs

We honestly could have parked our car Friday night and spent the whole weekend in town without ever having to drive anywhere.

In the summer, there's also an outdoor swimming pool at the resort which would add even more incentive to stay at this resort.

The resort has two outdoor hot tubs (open year round) and an outdoor swimming pool (in the summer)

Disclaimer: Our stay at the Bighorn Meadows Resort was hosted by the resort. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

All photos used in this story are my own (unless otherwise credited.)

We have personally enjoyed all of the activities mentioned in this story and I have written from my own personal experience. 

Parting shot of bighorn sheep freely roaming the golf course outside the Bighorn Meadows Resort

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