Kootenay National Park is on the west side of the Continental Divide, just west of Banff. Kootenay has the fewest facilities of the four major Rocky Mountain national parks, and day-hiking options are limited. The drive through the park on Hwy. 93 does offer spectacular scenery.
Much of the area around Vermillion Pass, the eastern entrance to the park, was burned in a massive forest fire in 1968; from the parking area at the pass, the interpretive 15-minute Fireweed Trail leads into the still-devastated forest, describing the process of revegetation.
Seven kilometers (4 1/3 miles) into the park is another dramatic stop. Marble Canyon is a narrow 61m-deep (200-ft.) chasm cut through a formation of limestone. A short trail winds over and through the canyon, bridging the canyon in several places. Just 5 minutes down the road are the Paint Pots. Here, cold spring water surfaces in an iron-rich deposit of red and yellow clay, forming intense colored pools.
The highway leaves the Vermillion River valley and climbs up to a viewpoint above the Hector Gorge, into which the river flows before meeting the Kootenay River. From here, look out for mountain goats, which can often be seen on the rocky cliffs of Mount Wardle to the north.
The highway passes through one of these narrow limestone canyons after it mounts Sinclair Pass and descends toward Radium Hot Springs. Called Sinclair Canyon, the chasm is about 10km (6 1/4 miles) long, and in places is scarcely wide enough to accommodate the roadbed.
Radium Hot Springs Pool (tel. 250/347-9485), a long-established hot springs spa and resort, sits at the mouth of Sinclair Canyon. It's open from mid-May to mid-October daily from 9am to 11pm, and mid-October to mid-May weekdays from noon to 9pm (weekends until 10pm). Day passes are C$6.30 for adults, C$5.40 for seniors and children, and C$19 per family. Also here is the Radium Hot Springs Massage Clinic (tel. 250/347-9714) and other spa services.
There's not much to keep you in the town of Radium Hot Springs unless you need an inexpensive motel room. Though if you're a golfer, the town does boast two new championship 18-hole courses, the Springs Course, along the Columbia just west of town with summer season greens fees of C$79 to C$110, and the Resort Course, south of Radium, with summer fees of C$47 to C$59. Both are operated by Radium Golf Resort (tel. 250/347-9311; www.radiumresort.com), which offers restaurants, clubhouses, pro shops, and luxury accommodations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.