Summer Roadtrip Day 6: Kootenay National Park

Last day in Lake Louise and we decided to try their in-room breakfast since we had much space to spare in the suite. Having tried in-room breakfast before at several hotels, I found them preferable to buffet breakfasts at the hotel’s restaurant. For the breakfast, we ordered Mile High Pancakes, a plate of usual Breakfast set comprising of Sausages, Eggs and Hash Browns, Waffles with Berries Compote and Alberta Steak and Eggs. Yes, indeed the Albertans love their beef so much so that steaks are actually served on the menu. The sets comes with toasts, fruit salads, juices and coffee/tea which meant that even these 4 sets was more than enough for us. Breakfast was pretty good and delicious, and the cranberry juice served for breakfast was nice! This was a good breakfast and while having it in-room, we could also enjoy the view of Lake Louise!

Our order of In-room Breakfast at Lake Louise
Our order of In-room Breakfast at Lake Louise

As our next 2 nights of lodging will be at Banff, which is a 1-hour drive away from Lake Louise we didn’t proceed to visit Banff immediately, choosing instead to explore Kootenay National Park which is the 2nd park to be located in BC rather than Alberta. First stop just after crossing the Vermillion Pass into Kootenay National Park is the Continental Divide, which marks the dividing line between the water flowing into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A nice scenery of the mountains can be seen from the viewpoint at the Continental Divide.

Mountain in the Vermillion Pass
Mountain in the Vermillion Pass

After passing the Continental Divide, the scenery of the area turns drastically showing barren trees as the Tokumm Creek Fire in 2003 destroyed much of the vegetation around here. According to Parks Canada, the fire was controlled to allow regeneration within the National Park, allowing the growth of new habitats as dead dried up trees provide places where insects thrive, increasing the food source for much of the wildlife around the 4 Rocky Mountain National Parks. Thus the scenery in the Marble Canyon area was starkly different from the greenery of Jasper, Yoho and Banff.

Scenery around the Marble Canyon in Kootenay
Scenery around the Marble Canyon in Kootenay
Result of the Fire in Kootenay near the North Entrance of the Park
Result of the Fire in Kootenay near the North Entrance of the Park

As Kootenay wasn’t filled with much other interesting stuff, what we did was to travel throughout the park until the southern end of the park where we reach Sinclair Canyon, a dramatic entrance archway to the southern end of the park. From there, it was out towards the city of Radium in British Columbia. The town of Radium is famous for its hot springs pool and its herd of Bighorn Sheep. It was also in this town where we had our late lunch at. Even though it was a relatively medium sized town, we had Subway for lunch, as it was fast, convenient and safe to say, an easy choice. The meal was wrapped up with Haagen Dazs bar and ice creams!

Close up on the Bighorn Ram (Male of the Sheep)
Close up on the Bighorn Ram (Male of the Sheep)
Ewes (Female Bighorn Sheep) grazing near Radium Hot Springs
Ewes (Female Bighorn Sheep) grazing near Radium Hot Springs

To make the return trip to Banff, we had to drive back up north crossing Kootenay National Park once again. On the way back, we stopped by the Kootenay Valley Viewpoint, which provides a small information plank about the change in the state of the Kootenay Valley over the last century. The view from there makes it worth stopping by.

Sinclair Pass as viewed from Kootenay Valley Viewpoint
Sinclair Pass as viewed from Kootenay Valley Viewpoint

After Sinclair Pass near McLeod Meadows, there was a waypoint with a bridge leading to an island in the middle of the Vermillion River. Wildlife is naturally abundant in the Kootenay National Parks and we got to see a wild goose in the vicinity of where we stopped. In addition, on our return trip we got to see a mother Black Bear and her 2 cubs grazing close by the highway!

Mother Black Bear and her Cub grazing along the Highway for Berries
Mother Black Bear and her Cub grazing along the Highway for Berries

While driving along the National Parks, keep a look out for cars stopping by the roadsides as these may signal the presence of some wildlife, particularly bears in the vicinity.

Waypoint near Sinclair Pass in Kootenay National Park
Waypoint near Sinclair Pass in Kootenay National Park

After passing by Sinclair Pass, it was time to move ahead and on the way towards Paint Pots, a sign leading to Numa Falls attracted us. While the Falls wasn’t a huge attraction, it was a nice easy walk towards it from the parking lot. And since the waterfalls of the Rockies have captivated us throughout the journey, we chose to stop for a visit. It wasn’t as grand and majestic as the other waterfalls we have seen so far, but the area had lots of round pools of water at the sides of the valley as a result of the force of the waterfall.

Numa Falls at Kootenay Valley
Numa Falls at Kootenay Valley

From Numa Falls, it was another short drive towards Paint Pots, an area within the Kootenay Valley where cold, iron-rich mineral springs rise up through small pools giving a deep orange-red tinge to the earth. In the past, First Nations people used to use these for painting and ceremonial purposes. The paint pots isn’t anything spectacular and there is a roughly 20 minute walk from the parking area to get there.

Iron-rich mineral springs bubble out of the ground, creating the Paint Pots
Iron-rich mineral springs bubble out of the ground, creating the Paint Pots

While the place isn’t of much interest, the area was nice for an afternoon stroll with the Vermillion River flowing around the area. We also had fun picking up pebbles by the riverside along the area and building an Inukshuk structure. For those who aren’t familiar with the inukshuk, it is actually a man made structure for markers and landmarks used built by the Inuits. In Canada, there have been many use of such structures and one was even used as the symbol for the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics to signify friendship and welcome.

Vermillion River Landscape near the Paint Pots with a Suspension Bridge in the distance
Vermillion River Landscape near the Paint Pots with a Suspension Bridge in the distance
Inukshuk Structure to signify a marker used by the Inuits
Inukshuk Structure to signify a marker used by the Inuits

The walk along the Vermillion River marks the end of our tour around Kootenay National Park as we headed to the largest townsite amongst the 4 National Parks – Banff. The town of Banff is much larger than Jasper and is also the base point for many visitors travelling to the Canadian Rockies. It is not difficult to see why. The townsite is one of the most charming and beautiful I have seen and it had a lot of amenities from shopping, supermarkets and museums for those keen to know more on the Canadian Rockies. The Banff Springs Hotel, another Faimont Property isn’t exactly located within the town centre but it’s perhaps one of the most famous landmark in Banff and is considered one of the places of tourist’s interest in the area. The front of the hotel looks like a Scottish Castle in the middle of the forested area. We were checked into 2 Executive Suites in the hotel which also meant an upgrade as I had a booking for Deluxe Rooms in the hotel. Overall another nice touch by the hotel. The only downside was that they did not have a connecting room, though both rooms were on the same floor, which was good enough, I guess. After check in, we went back to the Town Centre for some shopping and finding a place for dinner. As we enjoyed our Korean meal at Jasper, we went to search for Korean food, and found one – Seoul Country Korean Restaurant at Sundance Mall right in the centre of town. The Kimchi seafood and tofu soup here is good though the Gahl Bi doesn’t manage to be as good as the one in Jasper. Another satisfying meal in the Canadian Rockies, nonetheless! To end this post, I have added one of the nicest mountain range on the way towards Banff – Castle Mountains.

Grandeous Castle Mountains on the way to Banff
Grandeous Castle Mountains on the way to Banff
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