As soon as the weather forecast promised a few days of sunshine and warmth, I asked my friend Raghu, if he wanted to go on a little road trip to make use of the extra hours that I had accumulated. Raghu is living in Calgary and is still looking for a job, so he didn’t mind going in the middle of the week. He picked me up in Banff and together we continued towards Radium Hot Springs, a town west of “Kootenay National Park”, where the climate is warmer and drier than in Banff.
After a quick stop at the “Paint Pots”, where it was more exciting to navigate around the ocre mud holes than to watch the three slightly blueish colored spring pools, we continued our journey along the “Banff-Windermere Parkway”. The road leads right through the “Kootenay Valley”, which is mostly bare at the moment, despite being covered in evergreen trees. However, bark beetles and forest fires have diminished large areas of the pristine forest, which is only slowly recovering.
We reached Radium Hot Springs by the late afternoon and set up our tent on one of the campsites overlooking the valley. As there was still some time left until sunset, we decided to go on another little hike to the “Sinclair Creek Waterfall”. A spontaneous extension of our hike led us to the actual hot springs, only accessible through a modern swimming pool. But instead of a concrete pool, we wanted to have a more natural experience, which was waiting for us the next day.
The next day kept its promise and we had perfect weather throughout the day. We started off with what we thought would be a short hike. At the tourist information, we had been recommended to visit “Mount Swansea” overlooking the “Columbia River Valley”. However, instead of driving almost all the way to the top, we decided to park the car at the bottom to hike up along the southern ridge.
The climb was steep up through the forest, but it was nice and quiet. We didn’t encounter any bear, but a very interesting large bird that was suddenly sitting almost right on the trail. And if that wasn’t enough, we were constantly rewarded with amazing views of the valley and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Only the way down was a bit too steep in our opinion. By the end we had accomplished a solid four hours hike and were quite hungry for some lunch.
After an extensive lunch break and another short hike at the “Hodoos” next to Fairmont Hot Springs, we continued our road trip along the “Columbia River” and the “Columbia Lake” until we reached the turnoff for the “Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park”. As we were driving, the valley got narrower and the road led us higher and past the sign for the “Top of the World Provincial Park”. That sounded pretty good, but unfortunately we couldn’t go there, because there is still too much snow. However, we’ll definitely keep it in mind for some other time.
At “Alces Lake”, which is already in the provincial park, we found a nice little campground with a superb view over the lake. We occupied a site, set up our tent and started making dinner. By the time we were finished it was getting dark – the perfect time for a bath in the “Lussier Hot Springs”, free and all natural hot springs, just a few kilometers from our campground. Afterwards we were all warmed up and it was time to go to bed, as it had been a long day.
The next morning we had a look at “Whiteswan Lake”, before heading back to the “Columbia River Valley”. Here, we wanted to do some more hiking, but the weather had changed and it was all cloudy and rainy. Therefore, we changed our plans and drove back to the “Johnston Canyon”, which had better weather and is much closer to Banff than where we had been before. This was important, as I still had to work the evening shift that day.
The canyon was very crowded up to the upper falls, even if it was not a weekend. However, was still worth going and seeing the narrow gorge with the suspended trail at the walls of the canyon. With a bit of time left, we decided to continue our hike to the “Ink Pots”, several spring ponds, which were much more interesting and colorful than the “Paint Pots” on our first day. Eventually we got back to the car and back to Banff with only half an hour behind schedule.