If you’re looking for a must-visit national park to cross off your list this summer, you can’t go wrong with Kootenay National Park.¬†While it’s a bit more of a trek from Vancouver at an approximate 9-hour drive, the area’s rich ecological history and jaw-dropping mountains and lakes make the journey well worth it.

Note that the current wildfire status of the park is considered “elevated” as the surrounding area is prone to wildfires this time of year. Be sure to check the status before your visit, or plan ahead for early fall!

Ancient fossils

A highlight of the park is the famed Stanley Glacier hike,¬†which is home to¬†the Burgess Shale fossils – AKA some of the oldest and most complex fossils in the world dating back over five hundred million years! That’s even older than the dinosaurs…

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these fossils are remnants of a complete ecosystem that existed for a brief time after the first explosion of multicellular life on Earth.

Hiking & camping

For avid hikers, the park has eight day hikes through glaciers and waterfalls, as well as multi-day backpacking opportunities.

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kootenay national park
Numa Falls via Shutterstock

Campers can sleep under the stars at hundreds of campsites located at four stunning front-country campgrounds: Redstreak, Marble Canyon, McLeod Meadows, and Crook’s Meadows.

And if you’d rather venture into the untamed backcountry of the park, check out the Floe Lake Backcountry Campground, which is accessible via the popular Rockwall Trail

Note that the Crook’s Meadows campground is temporarily closed for maintenance.

Hot springs

Finally, we come to the park’s famous Radium Hot Springs – for when you want to unwind after a full day of adventuring. While the cold pool is currently closed, the hot pools are open on a first-come-first-served basis, operating from 11:30 am to 9 pm on weekdays and from 10:30 am on weekends.

Admission can be purchased in person at the reception area.

Safety info

Before your visit, be sure to read up on current trail conditions for the ones you’re interested in, and check online for current wildfire status.

So there you have it, BC! A journey to some of the most historic fossil sites in the world is a road trip away.

Kootenay National Park 

Where: Kootenay, BC near the Alberta border

Information on Kootenay National Park is from Parks Canada and is accurate as of publication date.