Kootenay National Park is a natural masterpiece full of hikes, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and even hot springs! This national park has a TON of fun activities, which made it difficult to narrow down our top 4 things to do in Kootenay National Park.
That is exactly what we did! We had a blast exploring in and around Kootenay, hiking wherever we could! And of course relaxing in Radium Hot Springs between hikes…
Kootenay National Park is one of the most underrated national parks we’ve been to. In fact, whenever we tell someone about Kootenay, a typical answer is ‘where is that?’ or ‘what is Kootenay?’. We need to change that! Kootenay is INCREDIBLE! Or maybe we don’t need to change it… The less people that know about it, the more open and stunning it will be for you!
In this blog post, we are going to do a countdown of the 4 best things to do in Kootenay National Park. But we are not going to stop there… We are also going to let you in on a secret free campsite that we found right outside the park! F-R-E-E!
Next, you’ll need an itinerary for how to maximize your adventure while minimizing time in the car driving. We put that together for you in addition to all of the gear recommendations we have for your experience in Kootenay National Park!
Have you ever heard of Kootenay National Park? No? Well, Kootenay is where YOU are going to get pictures like THIS:
Are you excited? We are too! Without further ado, let’s dive into our countdown of things to do in Kootenay!
#4 Best Thing in Kootenay National Park – Dog Lake
Hiking the Dog Lake Trail comes in at number 4. This is a hike that everyone should do on their trip to Kootenay National Park. Why? A few reasons!
First off, the name of the hike is Dog Lake. Dogs are allowed, even encouraged, on this trail! Who doesn’t love seeing a bunch of cute cuddly pooches while on a beautiful nature trail?! We met a TON of cute puppies on our hike, it seemed that every human on the trail had a furry four-legged friend along with them.
Secondly, the trail itself. While hiking the Dog Lake Trail, there is a bridge that crosses the Kootenay River and offers an absolutely stunning view. This is a view that everyone should see, as it encapsulates everything Kootenay National Park is all about!
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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The trail itself is not extremely challenging, just over a mile and a half each way. There is a bit of elevation gain, just over 1000 feet, however it was not extremely challenging, especially when you take breaks and drink water.
The third reason everyone should hike the Dog Lake Trail is because the lake at the end is incredibly beautiful! There is a mountain backdrop that sets the stage for the beautiful blue-green lake in front of you.
On top of that, the tall pines accent the colors and tie the whole masterpiece together! As an added bonus, we saw a few bald eagles soaring the skies!
Dog Lake Hike Details
- Distance: 5.1 km (3.2 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 333 m (1100 ft)
- Trailhead: Dog Lake Trailhead
#3 Best Thing in Kootenay National Park – Stanley Glacier
With the bronze medal on our countdown of best things to do in Kootenay is the Stanley Glacier hike. This is the most difficult hike on the docket, but it has some STUPENDOUS views along the way AND at the top.
Let’s start from the end and work our way forwards. The conclusion of this trail is Stanley Glacier itself. Stanley Glacier is an active glacier that is carving its way through the Canadian Rockies creating the valley you hike through on your way to an incredible viewpoint!
The official trail ends at an overlook of Stanley Glacier where you can see the giant field of ice in all its glory. If you wish to, there are unofficial trails that continue right on up to, and even ON TOP OF, the glacier itself!
We did take these trails and we recommend them, as the view from up close and personal on the glacier was super cool. These unofficial trails were definitely more challenging than the official trail, however they were in no way impossible. If you are hungry for adventure, give them a try! You can always turn back whenever you want to.
Hiking on the glacier itself was a very unique experience! And on top of that the view looking back at the valley will leave your jaw on the floor.
The official trail to Stanley Glacier also provides an incredible view of a waterfall and rushing river. We recommend packing a picnic to enjoy as you take a break along the trail!
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
The trail itself is just under three and a half miles each way. In addition, there is an elevation gain of about 2000 feet, making this a somewhat difficult trail. However, if you make sure to pack along enough water and take enough breaks you will be fine!
Stanley Glacier Hike Details
- Distance: 10.9 km (6.8 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 606 m (2000 ft)
- Trailhead: Stanley Glacier Trailhead
#2 Best Thing in Kootenay National Park – Radium Hot Springs
Radium Hot Springs is number 2 on the best things to do in Kootenay! In fact, this hot springs was our favorite of any we went to in all of Canada! Why? Let us tell you!
Radium Hot Springs has an incredible view right from the water! You can look around you and see the steep cliffs and tall pines of the Canadian Rockies that surround and define Kootenay.
On top of the view, Radium Hot Springs has some awesome amenities that no other hot springs we’ve been to has! They not only have an enormous hot pool, but they have a huge cold pool as well. And the cold pool has a diving board and slide!
When we got too hot after 20 minutes in the hot pool, we could go cannonball into the cold pool or take a turn on the slide! This cooled us off, and we were able to head back to the hot pool for more relaxation.
Finally, anyone who has lived the van life or loves camping knows that a shower is needed after a day or two of hiking! Radium Hot Springs has showers available, so you can clean yourself off after a day of hiking. This is especially beneficial if you plan on camping or living the van life…
Radium Hot Springs is not free, however given all that you can do there the price is not extremely high. The price per person is about $7, less if you are in a group, and they also offer rentals for towels and other items as needed. Check out their website for more information!
Radium Hot Springs Details
- Hot Water Temperature: 39 degrees C (102 degrees F)
- Cold Pool Temperature: 29 degrees C (84 degrees F)
- First Recorded Visit to the Hot Springs was in 1841!
#1 Best Thing in Kootenay National Park – Paint Pots
We made it to our top thing to do in Kootenay National Park! And this one is a doozy because it is so dang unique! In all of our trips to National Parks across the world we haven’t seen a site quite like the Paint Pots.
Who doesn’t love camping?? Getting out into the great outdoors, enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty, it is the best! We love waking up with a cup of coffee after camping by the lake under the stars. Here is all the camping gear we use and love!
Why is this site called the Paint Pots? Well, because the minerals found here were used to create paints! The colors reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and blues at the paint pots were actually extracted and used in painting until 1920! That is when Kootenay National Park was established and the site became protected.
The Paint Pots are 3 separate small bodies of water, each incredibly unique shades and colors. The colors come from the mix of minerals and bacteria present in each pot.
This site is our favorite because of how inexplicable it seems to be. In a 360 degree panorama you have the enormous Canadian Rockies and the alpine forest. The bright blue Kootenay River is flowing through the park. And then there are a few reddish-yellowish-greenish pools in the middle of the park?? HOW!?
We know you’ll love the Paint Pots. We loved it enough to make it our favorite thing to do in Kootenay!
The Paint Pots Trail is an extremely easy hike, the easiest one in all of Kootenay. About a half-mile each way and pretty much no elevation gain, this hike is for anyone and everyone! And as a bonus, you get to cross the stunning Kootenay River along the trail.
However, you may want to wear some shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. If it has rained recently, the trail can be a bit muddy. On top of that, the Paint Pots themselves are wet, and if you want to get up close and personal then your boots might get wet!
And remember, the materials at the Paint Pots were used in PAINTING! They WILL get colors on whatever they get on. For us, we loved it, the colors on our shoes and socks were a story we could tell in the future!
Paint Pots Hike Details
- Distance: 1.9 km (1.1 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 50 m (160 ft)
- Trailhead: Paint Pots Trailhead
Camping in Kootenay National Park
We were able to find free campsites just outside of Kootenay National Park, and as a result cut costs for our trip. Cutting costs means we can save money for future trips, so we are all about it!
And the best part about the free campsites outside of Kootenay National Park is that they are awesome! WE had a BEAUTIFUL view, and were a short drive from the park entrance! Here was our favorite site:
We love to read, especially on a trip! We get our books on a Kindle so we can bring multiple books anywhere. Reading is a great way to relax and unwind while also getting caught up in a great story. We love everything from novels to self-help, business books to memoirs. Here are our favorites!
We use iOverlander to find our free campsites in every area we travel to. It is an awesome crowd-sourced tool for finding free sites all around the world!
Kootenay National Park Itinerary
We aren’t only going to tell you the best sites to see in Kootenay. We are also going to give you the perfect daily itinerary to see them! We explored all 4 of these sites and had fun around Radium Hot Springs in only 2 days. However, if you would like to stretch your time out longer, that is up to you!
- Dog Lake Trail
- Radium Hot Springs
- Explore town of Radium Hot Springs
- Camp in free campsite outside Radium Hot Springs
- Wake up with coffee of course, either brewed yourself or in Radium Hot Springs
- Drive through Kootenay, stopping at any viewpoints you’d like to
- Hike to the Paint Pots
- Hike Stanley Glacier
- Continue on to Banff National Park
One great benefit of doing your itinerary in this order is that it sets you up for a visit into Banff National Park! Stanley Glacier is right near the border of Kootenay and Banff, so if you would like to explore Banff this is the way to do it. Click here to check out our blog on the Best Hikes in Banff National Park!
Dogs in Kootenay National Park
RED ALERT: Dogs are allowed in Kootenay National Park!
One AMAZING thing that Canadian National Parks have over USA National Parks is that they allow dogs on the trails! Of course, your dog needs to be leashed and is not allowed everywhere inside the park, but still. You can bring your furry four-legged friends along on your adventure!
In this section we put together our top gear recommendations to make sure you have a wonderful adventure in Kootenay National Park! From hiking gear to your photography equipment, and even camping gear if you will be camping in the backwoods or living the van life!
Full disclosure: these are affiliate links. When you click a link and purchase any items, we get a small fee directly from Amazon which allows us to keep providing hiking and travel content to you for free! Thank you for your support!
Here is all the hiking gear we absolutely HAVE to have on every hike we do. Protecting your feet is key to having an awesome time on any hiking trail! If your feet hurt, you will not have a good time, guaranteed.
We always pack along rain jackets and our bear spray just in case. And the backpack below actually has a BUILT-IN COOLER! Perfect for picnics, and it fits the water bladder we use!
Women’s Hiking Boots
Men’s Hiking Boots
We love to capture our travels and adventures on camera and video! This is all the gear we use to capture all we can, and get multiple perspectives. Drone shots are awesome at campsites, and we use the GoPro for underwater pictures, like we did in Radium Hot Springs!
What is Harvest Hosts?
Harvest Hosts is a network of free camping locations all over the USA! Wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and even golf courses. You can camp free at all of them! And even better, if you click this link you’ll get 15% off!
For everything else, we use our Canon Rebel. As you can see, compared to most cameras these do not break the bank! Adventure on a budget is our specialty.
GoPro Hero 7 Black
GoPro Floating Handle
DJI Spark Drone
Canon Rebel Camera with Accessories
We absolutely LOVE camping. And we love cooking our own meals while camping! Here is the gear that we would not be able to live without in the back-country.
The chair (we have 2) and hammock make every campsite more of a home, and increase the size of your site! The water filter and iodine tablets are necessary if you are going to want to drink water from a river or lake. It is best to have these just in case!
Check out this video we put together of our time in Kootenay! And we would sincerely appreciate it if you subscribed to our YouTube Channel!
There you have it! The 4 best things to do in Kootenay National Park! We have done everything from beautiful lakes to hiking on glaciers, and even relaxed in Radium Hot Springs! This will be quite an adventure for you, enjoy!
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