Columbia Valley Travel Guide
On the west side of the Canadian Rockies, in the southeastern corner British Columbia, is the Columbia Valley (the southern portion of the valley is often called the East Kootenays). Geographically, the region encompasses the Purcell Mountains and the upper reaches of the Columbia River, with the Canadian Rockies rising abruptly from the Columbia Valley to the Continental Divide and the British Columbia—Alberta border to the west.
The main route through the region is Highway 93/95, which passes through a wide valley filled with farms, golf courses, and small towns. The low elevation makes for relatively mild winters and an early start to the summer season. And with the Purcell Mountains on one side and the Rockies on the other, the valley certainly doesn’t lack for scenery. The crossroads of the region is the service center of Cranbrook, from where Highway 3 heads west to Fernie and the neighboring province of Alberta.
Planning Your Time
If your schedule isn’t rushed, I recommend spending a couple of days in the Columbia Valley, golfing at Radium Hot Springs, fishing at Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, or, in winter, skiing and boarding at Panorama Mountain Village. The atmosphere in the valley is more relaxed than in the national parks and prices are cheaper, but more importantly for families, you’ll find plenty of things to do.
Panorama Mountain Village: This self-contained resort offers something for everyone—golfing, hiking, and biking in summer and world-class skiing and boarding in winter.
Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park: This one is for keen anglers—one of the best fishing spots in all of the Canadian Rockies.
Wasa Lake Provincial Park: Warm water for swimming, sandy beaches, and a beautiful campground, make this a very popular summer destination.
Fort Steele Heritage Town: The history of the gold-rush era comes to life through costumed interpreters and musical theater. You can even try your hand at panning for gold. It’s south of Wasa Lake on Highway 93.
SIGHTS AND RECREATION