Chill out in hot springs, explore thermal caves

Here are a few highlight of things to see and do around Nelson and Kootenay Lake.

Just 45 minutes from Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs bubble and steam where the heated mineral-rich waters cascading down from Cody Caves are forced out of a lakeshore fault. Here you can soak in the spectacular mountain scenery 365 days a year. Apart from the lakeside pools, what makes Ainsworth unique is the chance to wade or swim through a large horseshoe-shaped cave adorned with centuries-old Stalactites and porcelain-smooth eroded rock.

Women in warm water in winter at Ainsworth Hot Springs
Ferry crossing Kootenay Lake

Cross Kootenay Lake on the world's longest free ferry ride

Board the Osprey 2000 or MV Balfour on foot or with your vehicle for a free ride across the sparkling waters of Kootenay Lake. The year-round 40 minute crossing shuttles you from the fringes of the Selkirk Mountains to the foot of the Purcells, where you can golf, hike, or explore the extensive artisan community at Crawford Bay.

Take a hike into the subalpine

World-class wilderness rewards those who want to spend a few hours losing themselves in the pristine high altitude landscapes surrounding the city. The nearest and most popular hike, Pulpit Rock, is right across from the City, and is a relatively simple half-hour climb to a panoramic viewpoint across to the City and its mountainous backdrop.

Only about an hour from the hotel, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is a stunning wilderness with hemlock, cedar and spruce groves at lower altitudes, thinning to boulder strewn moonscapes dotted with sapphire lakes, wild stream and flower-filled meadows in the higher and less-visited areas. Brown bear, pika, marmot and even wolverine can be seen if you are careful, along with Clark’s Nutcracker, Townsend’s Solitaire, Canada Jay and American Pipit.

There are many other trails within easy reach of Nelson. Some, such as the Burlington North rails-to-trails path, suitable for walkers of all ages and abilities.

Hikers at Gwillim Lakes in Valhalla Provincial Park.
Northern lights over Slocan River, Slocan Valley

Drive the Silvery Slocan Loop (Part 1)

First stop: the Brilliant Dam, just west of Nelson, where the Kootenay River rages as it is forced through the narrow, rocky gorge. Then into the Slocan Valley, now a peaceful, gently winding scattering of homesteads and farms, but once the centre of the silver-rush in the 1890s. Nowadays it is popular as a rafting location in the spring melt, which becomes a gentle float in the blazing hot summers. A museum reflecting the trials and tribulations of silver and lead mining is your next stop at Silverton.

The awe-inspiring Valhallas rise to the west as you skirt the dramatic Arrow Lakes on the way to New Denver, home of the Nikkei Internment Centre, the memorial to the Japanese and Japanese-Canadians interned during WW2.

The Silvery Slocan Loop (Part 2)

From New Denver east, you are in high-concentration Grizzly bear country on Hwy 31A, a bikers’ top-rated ride. From this road you can detour to the spooky ghost town of Sandon, or take the short walk to Idaho Peak, a spectacular 360 degree viewpoint, famous for its summer wildflower displays.

Next stop: Kaslo, a mellow, laid-back mountain town, where you can board the world’s oldest fully-preserved sternwheeler, the S.S. Moyie, and explore craft stores and the annual JazzFest in August, if you can get a ticket. Now heading back to Nelson, you will pass Ainsworth Hot Springs and Kokanee Creek Provincial Park with its gently sloping sandy beaches and ultra-close salmon spawning channels (very active in early fall); and Balfour, the boarding point for the world’s longest free ferry ride as described earlier.

Less than thirty minutes from Nelson you will find the Kokanee zipline, rated the #1 activity in the area by TripAdvisor. The six lines will take you a couple of hours; you’ll be both exhilarated and exhausted without breaking a sweat.

Kokanee Salmon in the spawning channels at Kokanee Creek Provincial park
Powder skier at Whitewater resort, near Nelson BC

Get active

With a stellar reputation for reliable and accessible back-country champagne powder, Whitewater is our stunning alpine resort just twenty minutes drive south. The beautifully gladed terrain is not for the faint of heart, but if your pulse needs to recover, a selection from the renowed (think best-selling ‘Whitewater Cooks’ glossy cook books) gourmet café in the super-friendly lodge will perk you up for more.

More heli and cat-ski operators use this part of the world as their base than anywhere else on the planet as the conditions are just right for day-long, untracked and unrivalled off-piste adventure.

In summer, apart from hiking, mountain biking is increasingly popular, with a diverse network of trails from undulating cross-country to brutally shocking down-hills, much of it accessible on two wheels directly from Nelson. All this, and we haven’t even started on the fishing, kayaking, cycling, boating, bouldering, paddle-boarding, birding, sailing….

Nelson – you can’t do it in a day…