Destination Guide: Fall in the Kootenay Rockies
When you think of fall in the Rockies, your mind might immediately drift to the golden larches of Banff, Jasper, or Kananaskis. However, just a short drive across the border in British Columbia, you’ll find yourself in an autumn wonderland, with colourful leaves and larches abundant – minus the crowds. Welcome to the Kootenay Rockies, a fall playground with endless opportunities to soak up the season.
Four mountain ranges comprise the Kootenay Rockies region: the Rockies, Purcells, Selkirks, and Monashees. Within these ranges, you’ll find four national, and more than 75 provincial parks, featuring picturesque waterfalls, spectacular hiking trails, and beautiful lakes. The region lies on the traditional territory of four Indigenous Nations: Ktunaxa, Secwépemc (Shuswap), Sinixt (Lakes), and the Sylix (Okanagan). Though you might be visiting for the nature, quirky local towns will charm and welcome you. Read on for things to do during fall in the Kootenay Rockies!
Nestled in the heart of the Kootenay Rockies, the small town of Kimberley, BC brings big adventure. It’s BC’s Best Small Town, according to CBC voters. You might have visited its ski resort in the winter, however fall offers plentiful opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, within steps of the town centre.
The Kimberley Nature Park is British Columbia’s largest municipal park, and offers kilometres of mountain biking and hiking trails which come alive in the fall while the larch trees change colours. We’d recommend a hike up to Myrtle Lookout, or Southwest Passage. If road biking is more your speed, the Northstar Rails To Trails is a paved cycling path that goes from Kimberley to Cranbrook (28km). Fair warning: if you start in Kimberley, the pathway is almost entirely downhill – but you’ll be going uphill the whole way back! In order to see the fall colours at their most lush, plan your visit during the month of October.
This Bavarian inspired town is a hidden gem, with friendly locals and many options for food and drink. Enjoy a post-hike beer at one of two local breweries: Overtime or Grist and Mash. Fuel up for your next adventure at the famous Pedal and Tap – the Mucky Fries are not to be missed!
Fun fact: Kimberley is Canada’s highest city. No, really – sitting at 1,116 metres above sea level, you may feel a touch out of breath as you hike through the Kootenay Rockies!
A ski town full of stoke, Fernie remains lively through October and November as fall colours emerge. Feel the leaves crunch underfoot as you embark on one of many hikes. Consider hiking up Mount Fernie Ridge Trail to get your heart pounding, and see the Kootenay mountains turn red and gold. If you’re after a more relaxing walk, explore the Fernie Town Trail for 15km of connected trails on the outskirts of town. Fernie is also home to mountain bike trails, which come alive with colour in the autumn. New to the sport? No stress. Take a lesson to brush up on your skills and then get ready to shred. Don’t miss Fernie Brewing Company for a post-adventure pint to top off the day.
Fun fact: Fernie is the only city in British Columbia to be completely surrounded by the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Imagine autumn spent with crisp, clear views of the mountains covered in red as the berries on Mountain Ash trees are in full bloom. This is Golden, BC in the fall. Home to the famous Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the town of Golden is quiet during shoulder season, but not short on things to do. In fact, there are almost too many hiking spots in the area to count! To see one of the Kootenay Rockies famous waterfalls, don’t miss a trip to Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. To get to know birds, fish, and other wildlife, head to the Columbia Wetlands and go for a paddle or walk to take it all in. Make sure to factor in a stroll downtown to take in the autumn magic – and eat some delicious local foods.
Fun fact: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, a 20 minute drive from Golden, is known as the “Champagne Powder Capital of Canada” – so be sure to return in winter!
A quirky, artsy town situated on Kootenay Lake in the Selkirk Mountains, Nelson is your spot to both enjoy the fall foliage, and the culture. Plan to spend a few days here! Head hiking, paddling, mountain biking, golfing, or fishing to take in the fall magic. The Pulpit Rock hike is iconic to Nelson. A short, steep 1.8km takes you up out of town for fantastic views of Nelson and Kootenay Lake. Of course, you can simply spend a day strolling around town and pop into local shops, cafes and restaurants for peak cozy vibes.
Fun Fact: There are more restaurants per capita in Nelson, BC than in Toronto, Manhattan, or San Francisco! Not bad for the Kootenays.
Revelstoke or Revy is the place to be in the fall. Locals call it ‘rocktober’ as the climbing season is in full swing. According to The Crag, there are 220 climbing routes in this region! In addition, if you’re looking for waterfalls in the Kootenays, this is the place to be. Head to the Revelstoke waterfall trifecta of Sutherland Falls, Begbie Falls, and Split Rock Falls. The autumn season provides perfect weather for mountain biking and hiking, so take advantage of the extensive trail network near town. For a moderately challenging hike, check out Eva Lake and Miller Lake Trail for beautiful alpine views. Of course, fall is a great time for fishing as the cooler temperatures make the fish more active. Head out angling for a day and see what you can catch!
Fun fact: Revelstoke is located in an inland temperate rainforest – one of the rarest rainforests in the world!
Kootenay National Park
If you’re in the Kootenays in fall, you need to make sure Kootenay National Park is on your list. The town of Radium Hot Springs sits at the west entrance of the park, and the beautiful and scenic Highway 93 runs through the park and emerges on Highway 1 between Lake Louise and Banff. Often overlooked, as many people simply drive through on their way to Banff, you’ll find yourself free of Banff-like crowds, but immersed in natural beauty. As you drive into the park, you’ll lose cell phone reception pretty quickly, making it the perfect remote getaway.
Over the 1406 square kilometres of the park, you’ll find ice-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, and rivers just begging to be explored. There are many options to paddle, hike, bike, and see wildlife – it just depends on how much time you have!
To Do in Kootenay National Park:
Paddle on the Columbia, Kootenay, or Elk River for spectacular views and clear blue water. Hike the Stanley Glacier Trail, a challenging 11km hike best completed before the end of October, for picturesque alpine and glacier views. Marble Canyon is a low-effort, high-reward hike, where over 1.6km of hiking, you’ll see some of the most beautiful views in the Rockies. Don’t miss a trip to the Paint Pots, brightly coloured mineral pools, for a unique view.
Stay in Radium Hot Springs, where there are plenty of accommodation options in town, and camping options nearby. Don’t miss a visit to the popular hot springs to relax and unwind after an adventure!
Fun fact: There are iconic red Muskoka-style chairs scattered throughout the park, so you can relax and take in the views.