Marble Canyon, Kootenay National Park


Just a few kilometers before you reach the Continental Divide, and the northern end of Kootenay National Park, there’s another short and (relatively) easy trail that’s worth stopping for.  The Marble Canyon Trail leads you to the edge of a steep-walled, deep slot canyon, with bridges that allow you to cross back and forth several times.

If you’re visiting in winter, a pair of snowshoes would be a good idea.  If you’re lucky, other visitors will have trampled down the snow enough to create a firm path, so you don’t sink knee-deep with every step.  If the path has been compacted enough, you should have no problem walking the trail in a pair of hiking boots.

The trail is always near Tokumm Creek.  Later on, the creek will be about 40 meters (131 feet) below your feet, but for now, it’s right at the edge of the trail.

Since it’s so close to the Continental Divide, it’s no surprise that this is a very snowy place.  In fact, it was snowing quite vigorously during my visit.  And at the first bridge, the snow was piled so high that it reached the top of the handrails.

The trail climbs uphill, but it’s only steep in a few places, so it’s not a tough climb.

Yeah, that’s the top of the fence that runs alongside the trail.  You definitely don’t want to sink down into this snow.

Along the way, there are several more bridges that cross the canyon and Tokumm Creek.  From the bridges…

… you get an excellent look, straight down.

It’s hard not to notice all the tree skeletons in this area.  The forest burned in 2003, during a month-long wildfire.  Almost 12% of Kootenay Park burned that year.

I would imagine that the forest has rebounded somewhat, but it’s hard to tell in wintertime.

From time to time, you’ll spot some small trees that have staked a claim on the scorched landscape.  This one was perched on a small ledge, below the rim of the canyon.

The burned trees look even spookier under cloudy skies.

I’ve read that the Marble Canyon Trail is .8 kilometers, one way (making it 1.6 km, or one mile, round-trip). I didn’t hike all the way to the end, but if you do, you’ll get to see a nice waterfall, where Tokumm Creek tumbles into the canyon.

As I made my way back down the trail, and just before reaching the car, wouldn’t you know that the snow stopped.  The break in the weather allowed the nearby mountains to make a brief appearance.

Continental Divide: Kootenay/Banff Park Border

The border between British Columbia and Alberta (which is also the dividing line between Kootenay and Banff National Parks), is only about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the Marble Canyon trailhead.  At the turnout, you’ll get a good view (or not-so-good, depending on the clouds), of Mt. Whymper — named for Edward Whymper, the first man to climb it, in 1901.

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