Things to Do in the Columbia Valley
Whatever time of year you visit the Columbia Valley, or any other part of East Kootenay, there are so many exciting things to do that you may have a hard time deciding which to choose!
Temperatures are usually pretty moderate in the valley, with plenty of snow in the higher elevations in winter and lots of blue sky and warm weather in summer.
You may be an avid golfer and are looking forward to trying out some of the world-renowned championship courses in the valley. Maybe you plan to spend some serious family time in the water, explore some of the hundreds of hiking trails, or do some wildlife viewing. There are many more things to do, too.
No matter which season you choose for your vacation, there are always plenty of things to do so everyone takes home lots of happy memories.
Summer fun in East Kootenay
Summer fun in East Kootenay actually begins deep, deep in winter’s grip, when cabin fever gets a person dreaming about all the amazing outdoor adventures waiting just as soon as the first crocus pokes its head out of the ground. And for residents and visitors to our legendary recreational paradise that means every kind of outdoor activity imaginable.
This area is rich with fascinating history too, each community having its own unique story to tell. For our summer visitors, this is the season to take in the museums, art galleries, heritage sites, outdoor concerts, cultural festivals and more that will make your visit memorable. Be sure to check them out while you’re here. Weekly farmers’ markets are hugely popular too, with freshly grown, home-baked and hand-fashioned treasures to take home. The breathtaking mountain scenery all around offers the photographer and wildlife viewer plenty of unforgettable moments too.
Golfing. For thousands of avid golfers the Columbia Valley region of East Kootenay is a mecca every summer. On the warm side of the Rockies, as it is fondly called, winter snows and cold usually give way to spring a full month earlier and summer stays behind a month longer than in many other places. With almost twenty golf courses between Cranbrook and Golden to choose from, there’s bound to be one — or several — that soon come to the top of your list of favorites.
Camping. With Kootenay National Park, dozens of provincial parks and numerous RV campgrounds in the area, summer fun for you may mean that you can set your tent in a forest, sleep under the stars beside a clear mountain stream or park your RV in a full-service park. Whichever you choose, you’ll be breathing the pure, clear mountain air, listening to the birds singing their songs overhead and maybe catching a glimpse of some deer or a moose coming to drink just a few feet away from your campsite.
Hiking and mountian biking. Hundreds of kilometres of groomed hiking and biking trails within and around each East Kootenay community and throughout the surrounding backcountry, provide hikers and mountain bikers with plenty of summer fun, along with lots of challenges. There are always surprises along the trails — just around a bend you might come upon an unexpected and breathtaking vista of a distant snowy glacier or perhaps a small alpine lake nestled in a valley below.
Lake sports. Thousand of recreationists flock to their favorite East Kootenay lakes each summer to enjoy every water sport imaginable. Some folks rent a boat and do some water skiing, wakeboarding or tubing — or speed over the water on a Sea-Doo. Of course, for families especially, a huge part of summer fun in East Kootenay is swimming in the lakes, playing on the beaches and picnicking beside the water.
Rafting. Mountain streams and rivers often fall from thousands of feet, perhaps from a remote glacier beyond the horizon, gathering speed as they rush toward their destination and offering challenges to many an adventurous spirit to take on the rapids and experience the thrill of a lifetime in a raft. If you want to introduce inexperienced rafters such as younger family members to the sport, why not take a peaceful glide down a quiet river to watch the sunset, perhaps catching sight of some wildlife on the water’s shores?
Canoeing and kayaking. Whether you are tackling a rushing river or enjoying the peace and tranquility of a quiet inlet, if you love paddling then you’ll be right at home here in the water. After all, we’re known for our lakes, rivers and streams! One of the most popular places to take your canoe or kayak is deep into the celebrated Columbia Wetlands, which are home to hundreds of animal and bird species. Bring your camera to record your visit to this incredible wildlife habitat.
Fishing. The abundance of waterways in the region, from mountain streams and rivers to sparkling lakes and the headwaters of the 2,000 km (1243 mi) long Columbia River, are a dream come true for many anglers who reel in such species as rainbow trout, northern pike, Kokanee, cutthroat, whitefish and other game fish. Get your up-to-date fishing license, organize your tackle box after the winter, grab your favorite fishing hat and get ready to cast your line into the alpine waters of East Kootenay.
Rock climbing. Needless to say, with huge mountain ranges on every side, East Kootenay boasts countless cliffs and peaks which climbers can scale to view unbelievable sights that very few will ever see. Bugaboo Provincial Park, in the Purcell Mountains between Golden and Radium Hot Springs, is a climber’s dream. Boulder Creek east of Cranbrook is another. Local climbing clubs can offer suggestions.
Ziplining. One of the most recent additions to the outdoor adventure scene in East Kootenay area is ziplining. Although it might look incredibly scary to the viewer on the ground, ziplining is an extremely safe way for everyone in the family to have the ultimate hands-on joyride of the summer. Imagine zigzagging high above the trees over valleys and rivers, seeing the beauty of the land below from a unique viewpoint. You can even take photos for your memory book along the way.
Hang gliding and paragliding. Flying cross-country for sometimes up to 100 kilometers and catching one of the famous thermals over the mountains and valleys of East Kootenay is the ultimate summer fun for people from all over the world who travel to this area, which is considered a world-class gliding destination. Mount 7 in Golden, Mount Swansea in Invermere and the flying site at Panorama Mountain Resort are the three spots to check out.
ATVing. Travel the backcountry roads this summer in an ATV to see the East Kootenay that few people get to see. Follow an old logging trail to an abandoned mine, zigzag up the side of a mountain through old-growth forests, stop for a rest beside a remote waterfall or a tiny alpine lake, and view wildlife along the way. There are few better ways to appreciate the hidden beauty of the wilderness than behind the wheel of an ATV.
Guest ranches. Combine several exciting summertime activities at an East Kootenay guest ranch. Make a reservation, stay in a cosy cabin surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, hit the trails on horseback, wrangle with real cowboys, do some rafting, swimming and maybe even fishing. You’ll be talking about your guest-ranch vacation for years to come.
Winter Recreation and Sports
The East Kootenay region is renowned for its exceptional winter recreational opportunities. Having some of the deepest powder and the most winter sunshine of any place in Canada, this is a favorite vacation destination for lovers of every outdoor winter activity.
Skiing and snowboarding. From the family-friendly ski hill in Fairmont Hot Springs to some awesomely serious runs at the resorts in Fernie, Kimberley, Panorama and Golden — East Kootenay attracts skiers and boarders of every skill level, including the world-class professionals who train here. For those who yearn to venture further, into the pristine deep powder higher up, there’s heli skiing at Golden or Panorama and cat skiing deep in the backcountry around Golden or Fernie.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There are hundreds of kilometres of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in our national, provincial and municipal parks, at the four major resorts, on Invermere’s Lake Windermere Whiteway and also in fabulous backcountry areas. Nordic centres at Golden, Radium, Panorama, Kimberley and Fernie regularly host races and family ski events.
Snowmobiling. An increasingly popular form of backcountry adventure, snowmobiling takes riders into the peaceful mountains and forests of East Kootenay. From Fernie to Golden, there are endless kilometres of forestry roads and groomed trails to explore or you can make tracks into virgin territory. There are several snowmobile tour companies which offer equipment rentals, lessons and tours.
On the ice. Invermere’s 34-km Lake Windermere Whiteway, officially the ’longest skating path in the world,’ (Guiness Book of Records) is a favorite place for cross-country skiing, skating, skate skiing, pond hockey, ice fishing and other fun on the ice. Since hockey is also a popular sport in the region, most communities have indoor rinks and many boast their own major or minor hockey teams.
Fat Biking. This rapidly growing sport lets all you summer cyclists enjoy the winter months too. Choose your favorite trails through the East Kootenay backcountry or enjoy the sport at the ski resorts in Fernie, Kimberley, Panorama and Golden where you can rent a fat bike, get a lesson or two, then take a guided tour on the resorts’ trails.
Tobogganing, sledding and tubing. Just about every community has a favorite neighborhood hill where kids, large and small, spend hours each winter on their toboggans, sleds and tubes. Some of the resorts also set aside areas for these activities.