The BC Ale Trail is a great place to sample some delicious ales and lagers, yes, but since you’re also surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery Canada has to offer, odds are you’re going to want to leave those tasting rooms and bar benches once in awhile to soak in all that natural scenery, too. Well, lucky for you that the section of the Trail that runs through the Kootenay Rockies West Ale Trail has tons of outdoor options for all ability levels. And because most of the breweries have a healthy dose of that laid-back Canadian Rockies vibe, your dusty boots and sunscreen-covered faces will be more than welcome in the region’s fantastic pubs and tasting rooms.
If you’re making Nelson your home base, you will not be short on outdoorsy options to burn some of those calories. For a quick, steep hike with exemplary views, the Pulpit Rock trail is a worthy destination that’s popular with visitors and locals alike. Just across Kootenay Lake from Nelson, this route climbs about 1060 feet in about 1.1 miles to a rocky viewpoint that looks right across the lake at downtown Nelson. If you’ve got more time (and energy), you can keep climbing up even higher to a flagpole for a more panoramic view, too.
For a longer, more remote hike, just keep heading north from Nelson to the nearby Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. A rough dirt road (high clearance required) takes you to the shores of Gibson Lake. From there, it’s a steady climb up the narrow glacial valley between Kokanee Peak and Mount John Carter through exemplary high alpine scenery, passing waterfalls and summer wildflowers to the rocky, calm shores of Kokanee Lake.Take time to relax by the lakeside, and bring your fishing pole if you want to try to catch some cutthroat trout.
When you’re done — and if you’re visiting during the right times — also be sure to stop by the nearby Kokanee Creek Provincial Park to see the spawning salmon, too.
Just outside of Castlegar, where the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers meet, the trail to the Brilliant Overlook is a fantastic place to earn your evening’s dinner and soak in great views of the river valleys. It’s just over 2 miles and 1400 feet of gain along a trail that includes steep, rocky cliffs (and cables to help you along), peaceful, shaded pine forests, and no shortage of views in nearly every direction.
For an easier trek (and a chance to hike on part of the Trans-Canada Trail), the nearby Waldie Island Trail gently meanders along the banks of the Columbia River toward a protected island reserve for nesting Blue Herons. The trail is lined with interpretive signs that bring the region’s rich history to life … but be sure to check before you trek out here — sometimes parts of the trail are submerged by the river waters!
If you’re headed up north to the incredibly picturesque town of Kaslo, you can leave your hiking boots behind and climb into one of the kayaks at Kaslo Kayaking. Paddle your way across Kootenay Lake on your own or with one of their expert guides, who will point out intricate pictographs along the shoreline cliffs and take you to a hidden waterfall on the other side of the lake.
And if you’re in Rossland, we hope you brought your mountain bike to enjoy their sprawling network of world-class trails … but even if you’re into slower, wheel-less forms of outdoor locomotion, those same trails can get you to some incredible high-altitude viewpoints while still keeping you in striking distance of the food and beer in the town center.