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Autumn is the perfect season to #exploreBC.
Summer may be over, but you still have time to explore some of Canada’s greatest hiking trails before the snow starts falling. In fact, fall may be the best time to explore one of the most rugged areas of the province: the Kootenay Rockies. The Kootenay Rockies region is a wonderland of soaring peaks, glacial lakes, cascading rivers, and alpine meadows. In summer, it’s buzzing with visitors from around the world coming to hike, camp, and simply gaze in awe at all the region has to offer. Now that the peak of the tourism season is behind us, you’ll likely have those glorious alpine vistas all to yourself.Here are a few trail suggestions for a perfect fall adventure. Even this early, it’s common for snow to fall at elevation on many of these hikes, so hikers should be prepared to encounter snow on the trail.
(Photo: Ryan Creary)
Round-Trip 10-30 minutes
Location 40 minutes east of Revelstoke.
One of the gems of the national park system, the Upper Summit Trail is the gateway to the high alpine country of Mount Revelstoke. Drive along the spectacular Meadows in the Sky Parkway, which features seven viewpoints each more gorgeous than the last, until you reach a meadow near the top of Mount Revelstoke itself. Park the car at Balsam Lake and walk the 1-kilometre Upper Summit Trail to Heather Lake, or hop on the Mount Revelstoke Park Shuttle. From there, you can access the park’s network of relatively easy trails and see views of the Columbia and Monashee ranges. Park closes late September.
Perfect for: Those wanting an easy stroll through glorious mountain scenery.
(Photo: Kari Medig)
Round-Trip 3-6 hours
Location 1.5 hours west of Spillimacheen
Tucked away amongst the jagged peaks of the Purcell Mountains, the Conrad Kain Hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and BC Parks and provides a home away from home in one of the most rugged areas in Canada. Named after one of the region’s pioneering mountaineers, the hut sleeps up to 35 people (reservation required) and offers lighting, heat and hot water. Camping is also available nearby at Boulder Camp and the Applebee Dome. Expect to encounter serious climbers hoping to tackle the park’s massive granite peaks — the 5-kilometre trail is strenuous, with dropoffs and exposure along certain sections. The hut closes at the end of September, so get there while you can.
Perfect for: Those hoping to explore a truly wild landscape (but sleep in a cabin!).
Round-Trip 4 hours
Location 30 minutes west of Fernie
Just a few minutes from town, Island Lake Lodge offers an incredible network of trails that are open to anyone (not just guests of the lodge). Ranging from kid-friendly to massive full-day hikes, there is a trail here for everyone. You can even go for a hike, return to the lodge for lunch, and then head out on a trail again. Consider the Spineback Trail if you want a challenge, but don’t have a full day. Though only 3.5 kilometres, the trail gains 530 metres in elevation as it climbs through lush meadows and forest to reach the lookout tucked between the Three Bears’ peaks. Island Lake Lodge is open until October 2 (and re-opens in December for cat skiing).
Perfect for: Those who want a challenging hike, but easy access to a lively mountain town.
(Photo: Kari Medig)
Round-Trip 3-4 days (with shorter routes around 4 hours)
Location 1.5 hours east of Golden
Now that you’ve stretched your legs, you’re ready for the legendary Rockwall Trail. A single 900m-tall limestone wall looms over a section of this awe-inducing trail, which is what gave it its name. With three different access points, routes range from four hours to several days. If you have the time, there are five campgrounds along the route. Overnight travelers need a Wilderness Pass (and a fully charged camera so they can show people that this place really exists). The truly ambitious can connect to trails in Yoho National Park and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Park closes in mid-October.
Perfect for: Those looking for long hikes (or multi-day adventures) in the mountains.There’s still some time before winter arrives, so if you’re in need of an active fall holiday, the Kootenay Rockies are ready and waiting for you. Keep in mind that if snow has already covered the alpine by the time you set out, you can always put these hikes on your bucket list for the spring.
Originally published September 23, 2016