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Rockies & Ranchlands Circle Route

Idaho Peak, Selkirk Mountains

(Dave Heath photo)

Kootenay Rockies

Regional Geography

In the peaceful mountain splendour of the Kootenay Rockies, you'll feel a sense of awe.

To the east you'll find the rugged mountains of the Rockies and to the west, the ancient, glacier-clad Purcell Mountains. This is a landscape of stunning ecological diversity, from shady grove cedars in the Selkirk Mountains to cactus growing on the southern slopes of Kootenay National Park.

There are alpine meadows, old-growth forests and valleys carpeted with colourful summer wildflowers – of which many species are not found anywhere else in BC.

The region's creeks, wild rivers, cascading waterfalls, large inland lakes and walled canyons beckon outdoor enthusiasts. Wildlife such as deer, elk, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep, mountain goats as well as grizzly and black bears thrive in the Kootenay Mountains. Marshlands, meadows and the world-renowned Columbia River Wetlands are welcome habitat for hundreds of bird species and mammals.

In the heart of Yoho National Park, the Burgess Shale Fossils site reveals what life was like on Earth 505 million years ago. Discovered in 1909, the site is widely believed to contain the world's finest Cambrian-aged fossils of soft-bodied marine organisms.

The climate in the Kootenay Rockies can vary considerably depending on elevation, wind flows, proximity to lakes and the rain shadow effect on high mountains. Spring flowers bloom in the valleys in April and you can expect warm days and cool nights through May and June. However, high-elevation mountain terrain may remain inaccessible until July.

Approximately 170,000 people live in the Kootenay Rockies. The lifestyle is laid back with an emphasis on outdoor living. You'll soon leave the fast pace behind in this idyllic southeastern corner of BC.