Kootenay National Park, The South End

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From Radium Hot Springs, Highway 93 makes its entrance into Kootenay National Park in grand fashion.  Just after the entrance gate, the highway squeezes through Sinclair Canyon.

 There’s a turnout, where you can stop for photos, just after passing through the narrow slot.

After Sinclair Canyon, the road continues its climb into hills, as it curves around the feet of some steep cliffs.

Just a few kilometers into the park, you’ll pass the hot springs for which Radium Hot Springs is named.  There are a couple of giant pools here, which appeared quite steamy on this cold morning.

The springs offer a hot pool and a cool pool.  The hot water stays between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius, or 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit.  The cooler pool is still quite warm (given the freezing temperature of the air) — it stays around 27 degrees Celsius, or 84 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hours vary for the hot and cool pools, and during winter versus summer.  Admission is $6.30 for adults, $5.40 for children, and you can also rent swimsuits and towels.  Check with Parks Canada for current prices.

If you want to spend the night within walking distance of the pools, there’s a lodge on the hillside, just across the street.

Heading deeper into Kootenay National Park, the weather was putting on quite a show.  Fog still hung low over the mountains ahead of me…

… but patches of blue sky were beginning to appear, as the clouds burnt off.

Trees at the side of the road were freshly frosted with a dusting of snow — which probably didn’t survive until the end of the day.

With hints of sunshine emerging, I stopped at Olive Lake.  This small lake is located at the edge of the highway (you can sort-of see the road on the far side of the lake).  Of course, it was mostly frozen, except for the area near the lake’s outlet.  From the parking area, a short trail led me to this spot.  I’d imagine during the summer, the trail continues further, but in March, it was lost in the snow.

Along the way to the lake, I could tell that a beautiful day was on the way.  Shafts of light managed to break through the clouds, and the trees, casting shadows on the snow…

… and melting some of the powder from the tree branches.

At least a couple of inches had fallen overnight, giving this spot a pristine, untouched look.

Back at the road, the trees were freshly frosted, creating a fantastic winter landscape.

The highway kept climbing for just a bit further…

… until it reached a big curve…

… and a grand viewpoint.  This is where Highway 93 re-enters the Kootenay Valley.  Why “re-enters”?  Remember, south of Canal Flats, Highway 93/95 followed the Kootenay River.  At Canal Flats, the Kootenay turned into this valley, while the highway followed the Columbia.

After a gloomy Day 4, I wasn’t just happy to see the mountains, I was thrilled to see some sunlight again.

After that viewpoint, Highway 93 drops down to river-level, and runs through the bottom of the valley alongside the Kootenay River.  Most of the time, the river is nearby, but out-of-sight, though you occasionally come across a nice view from the side of the road.

About halfway through the park, just south of Vermilion Crossing, I pulled off at this footbridge across the Kootenay River.  During the winter, this is the trailhead for a cross country/snowshoe trail.  On the far side of the bridge…

… the trail passes through a fire-scarred forest of tree skeletons.  This area was scorched by the Mount Shanks Fire of 2001, a wildfire that was sparked by lightning, and allowed to burn.  It eventually charred 38 square kilometers of forest.  Even though it made the landscape somewhat ugly, it served an important purpose in the natural cycle that keeps forests healthy.

This area is known as “Lightning Alley”, due to the frequent thunderstorms that ignite wildfires in the area.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive through Kootenay National Park, from south to north:

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