Lying across the Continental Divide from Banff in BC, KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK is the least known Rockies’ park, and the easiest to miss out – many people prefer to follow the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho. Yet the park’s scenery is still impressive and if you’re not determined to head west you could drive a neat 378km loop from Banff through Kootenay on Hwy-93 to Radium Hot Springs (the western gateway to the park), head north on Hwy-95 to Golden, then return on the Trans-Canada through Yoho to Lake Louise and Banff. With an early start you could drive this in a day and still have time for a few short walks and a dip in Radium’s hot springs.
Kootenay lends itself to admiration from a car, bus or bike, mainly because it’s little more than a 16km-wide ribbon of land running either side of Hwy-93 for around 100km. All its numerous and easy short walks start immediately off the highway. Options for day-hikes are more limited, though the best longer walks are as good as anything in the Rockies and can be extended into outstanding multi-day backcountry hiking options.
If you want no more than a stroll from a car or bike follow the Marble Canyon and Paint Pots trails; for something a bit longer go for the Stanley Glacier walk; the best day-hike is the Kindersley Pass Trail, though it’s a close-run thing with the Floe Lake Trail to Floe Lake and its possible continuation northwest over the Numa Pass and down Numa Creek back to the highway. If you have time, do both the latter two hikes – they’re two of the finest walks in the Rockies. If you have more time, the Rockwall Trail (Floe Lake–Numa Pass–Rockwell Pass–Helmet Falls) is widely considered among the Rockies’ top three or four backcountry hiking routes. Whichever hike you choose, check first with the visitor centre for the latest trail conditions and to pick up the Kootenay National Park Backcountry Guide (downloadable at w pc.gc.ca).