With road trips being the “Summer of 2020” way of travelling due to COVID-19, we decided to take off and make our way to a campground in the Canadian Rockies. Located in British Columbia, within minutes of the Alberta border, the northern area of Kootenay National Park is surrounded by mountains and lakes. We drove through Yoho National Park, which you can read about here, and then settled into our campsite at Marble Canyon for a few days to explore this stunning area.
We woke up to the sun shining through the tent and the fresh mountain air. After breakfast we drove down the road to the Continental Divide where the melting water from the mountain glaciers either heads west in rivers and streams to the Pacific Ocean, or east in waterways that will eventually meet the Atlantic Ocean.
We then drove to Castle Junction, which is just across the border into Alberta, and along the Bow Valley Parkway. Usually this road is open from Banff all the way to the Lake Louise turn-off, however this summer they have blocked the southern section off and have only opened it to walkers and cyclists. We still stopped at some fantastic viewpoints along the northern section of this road, with both Castle Mountain and Morant’s Curve great places to pull over and snap some photos.
I couldn’t believe our luck when a train happened to be going by just as we pulled into the parking lot at Morant’s Curve. This viewpoint was actually named for Nicholas Morant, a photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway whose favourite spot to photograph trains was at this vantage point in the Canadian Rockies. I can certainly see why he was drawn to this incredible location!
Later that afternoon we headed over to the Paint Pot Trail in Kootenay National Park.
This 1 km trail each way heads out from the parking lot, over the Vermilion River, and past some burnt out areas from a forest fire that devastated this area in 2003.
The Paint Pots are ochre pools created by mineral springs below the surface. They have been used in the past by First Nations to paint clothing, tipis, rocks and also their bodies. The area is still considered a sacred site by the indigenous people.
There were also pools of different colours caused by the amount of iron oxide in the soil. In the early 1900’s this area was mined and the clay was sent to Calgary and used as dye to colour paint.
This is a popular place to start many hikes, some that take hours and some that take days. If you do plan to go farther than this location make sure you are prepared and have the necessary hiking essentials with you.
The next day we made our way to Marble Canyon, which is a spectacular day hike in this part of Kootenay Park. You can read about that hike here.
We also ventured into Banff National Park to take a few pictures at Lake Louise…
…as well as Moraine Lake, one of the more popular lakes in the park. You can walk along the side of this lake, as well as hike up the Rock Pile to an incredible vantage point where you can view the length of the lake and the mountains framing it.
Fun fact…the view of Moraine Lake above, known as Valley of the Ten Peaks, was featured on the back of the 1969 and 1979 Canadian twenty dollar notes.
We would have liked to have stayed another day and explored more of the park, but a storm was moving in and the next few days called for rain, so we packed up the tent and headed back towards home. On our way we drove a few miles up the Icefields Parkway, but as you can see from this next picture the weather had definitely changed!
This northern area of Kootenay National park also offers guided hikes of Stanley Glacier, a hike that leads you not only towards the Stanley Glacier, but also to the Burgess Shale site where you can discover 500 million year old fossils! We unfortunately didn’t have time for this, so we will have to fit it in the next time we are here.
If you do plan to visit this area in the summer months, especially any of the locations mentioned above, as well as both Banff and the Icefields Parkway, be prepared for limited parking and crowds. We found it incredibly busy this year with so many people making road trips. Having said that, it was nice to see so many families enjoying the outdoors and the incredible scenery that this part of Canada has to offer!