Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
No matter how many times you see them, the Canadian Rockies never cease to amaze. Approaching the eastern-most part of BC from the relative flatness of Calgary, Alberta, it’s a surprise anyone manages to move faster than a slow crawl – dramatic, jagged peaks rise up all around you, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a bear or mountain goat.
One of the definite highlights of this area is Yoho National Park. Hugging the BC-Alberta border about 400 km (250 miles) north of the US border, Yoho is so full of things to see and do, you could visit ten times and have a totally different experience each time. Parks Canada calls it “a place of awe and wonder”, and I think their description is pretty on point. We barely scratched the surface with our tour of the park highlights, but I managed to snap a few photos when I wasn’t busy staring at things, jaw dropped:
Takakkaw Falls is as stunning as it looks – especially in the morning, when we visited, as the sun that’s just starting to peek over the mountains illuminates perfectly the mist coming off the water. It’s also the third-highest falls in Canada, and easily accessible via a beautiful, tree-lined drive off of Highway 1 (featuring some pretty crazy switchbacks and views). There are also some day and overnight hikes that start from the parking lot – I know one of them takes you up over the peaks to Emerald Lake, which would be a wonderful way to spend a day.
Looking at photos of Emerald Lake is awesome enough in itself, but actually seeing it in person, on a clear day? Unbelievable. (seriously, that reflection!) Standing near Emerald Lake Lodge and looking across at the rugged peaks and thick forest, it almost seems totally untouched, like you’re the first person to stumble upon it. Thanks to the lodge, you can actually stay here – but make sure you book far in advance. There’s an easy walking loop around the lake, and you can rent canoes as well (see the splash of red in the photo below?).
The Natural Bridge is exactly that: a bridge formed by nature. What’s really interesting though is that it’s formed out of rock. The power of the Kicking Horse River actually carved out a path through several massive boulders, creating a bridge of sorts. Pretty cool, nature! The Natural Bridge is easily accessible from the road that takes you up to Emerald Lake, just look for the signs.
We really did only scratch this surface of this fantastic park – I would love to go back again and get a bit more off the beaten path and into the woods. Two other main highlights that we didn’t get to see this time are the Leanchoil hoodoos (what’s a hoodoo you ask? Read this) and the Burgess Shale fields, one of the world’s most significant fossil fields (and home to 500 million year old fossils!). Yoho is also a hiker’s paradise, with inter-connecting trails of all levels of difficulty and lengths criss-crossing over its peaks. The views are said to be phenomenal.
In terms of places to stay while exploring the park, we bunked in nearby Golden, which was a fantastic jumping-off point to explore Yoho and the surrounding area. You can also camp in the park. For more information on Yoho National Park, visit the Parks Canada website, or follow Yoho NP on Twitter or Facebook.
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