Almost ideally distanced from hectic big cities and standard holiday hotspot hurries, Nelson Kootenay Lake is easy to get to by car, bus or air.
Travelling by car, RV or motorcyle offers fantastic scenery and numerous stops of historic, geographic and cultural interest along the way, via four safe, well-maintained highway approaches, and the world’s longest free ferry ride. The region is also serviced by three airports and two airlines. Greyhound offers regular service too.
From Vancouver and The Okanagan:
Nelson Kootenay Lake is 657 kilometres (410 miles) east of Vancouver British Columbia, or about seven-and-a-half hours driving time. There are two highway options: Highway 3 through the Kootenay Boundary region, or via Highways 1, 97 and 33 on the Coquihalla Connector and through the Okanagan. (The latter route, the more northerly of the two, will require an extra 90-minutes driving time from Vancouver.) The major Okanagan city of Kelowna, with an international airport, is 338 kilometres (211 miles) to NKL’s west, or about four hours driving time away.
From Calgary and The East Kootenay:
The Nelson Kootenay Lake region is 624 kilometres (390 miles) west of Calgary, Alberta, on Highway 3 (The Crowsnest Pass) through southwestern Alberta, the communities of Fernie and Cranbrook, and over the Salmo-Creston Pass – the highest year-round highway pass in Canada.
From The United States:
For travelers driving from the United States, Nelson Kootenay Lake is 148 miles (237 kilometres) from Spokane, Washington. About a three-hour drive that passes along State Route 31 through Metalline Falls and the Nelway Border Crossing. The crossing is open from 8 a.m. until midnight. The nearest 24-hour border crossing is at Patterson, B.C. north of Kettle Falls. *Note: United States citizens must show photographic identification (such as a driver's licence) and proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate or certificate of citizenship), or a passport, to enter Canada. Visit the US Bureau of Consular Affairs site for more information on travel requirements.
From The Trans Canada Highway through Rogers Pass:
Nelson Kootenay Lake is also accessible by motor vehicle from the north, via Revelstoke, which is 246 kilometres (153 miles) from Nelson, or about four hours travel time. Travelers driving along the Trans Canada Highway, the most direct connection between Vancouver to Calgary, can head due south from Revelstoke on Highway 23 to Shelter Bay. The Arrow Lake Ferry is a free, 25-minute sail to Galena Bay. From there, Highway 31, which is a mostly gravel secondary highway, travels through the rural township of Trout Lake, then east into the Lardeau Valley, Meadow Creek and Kaslo. The route is not recommended in the winter, without a four-wheel drive. The more convenient route from Galena Bay is directly south on Highway 23 through Nakusp, and then Highway 6 through the beautiful Slocan Valley and the communities of New Denver, Silverton and Winlaw. Kaslo is due east from New Denver on Highway 31A.
Due to significant elevation changes through mountainous terrain, driving conditions can change quickly in and around Nelson Kootenay Lake, year ‘round. At higher elevations, winter conditions can persist from mid-autumn to mid-spring. Winter tires, and chains should be carried during the winter months, and delays for avalanche control and snow removal should be expected. Click on www.drivebc.ca for up-to-date road information.
The Kootenay Lake Ferry
For travelers with an extra few hours to spend, the Kootenay Lake Ferry is a great holiday experience. The ferry docks in Kootenay Bay, accessed by Highway 3A, which winds along Kootenay Lake’s east shore from Creston, through the wonderful artisan community of Crawford Bay. The ferry-ride, on either the 80-vehicle/250-passanger MV Osprey 2000 or the 28-vehicle/150-passanger MV Balfour, takes 35 minutes. Both ferries dock in Balfour. The journey is free of charge. Throughout the year, there are at least 10-sailings, departing Kootenay Bay starting at 7:10 a.m. and ending at 10:20 p.m. The MV Balfour operates only during the summer. View the ferry schedule.
The West Kootenay Regional Airport, with three Air Canada dailies from Vancouver (YVR) and one to Calgary (YYC) Monday-through-Friday, and two to Vancouver plus one-per-day to Calgary Saturday and Sunday. The West Kootenay Regional Airport also accommodates air charters, business and personal aircraft. Shuttle service to Nelson provided by Queen City Limo. Visit Air Canada's website and the Kootenay Shuttle's website for more travel information.
Pacific Coastal Airlines operates a twice daily scheduled service between Vancouver International Airport (South Terminal) and the Trail Airport, which also accommodates air charters, business and personal aircraft.
The Nelson Municipal Airport has no regularly scheduled domestic flights. It accommodates air charters, business, personal aircraft and is the Nelson Kootenay Lake’s primary helicopter hub.
Nelson is Greyhound’s only major stop in the NKL region.
The bus line offers one trip to and from Vancouver per day, with two on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There is one trip to and from Calgary per day as well, with two on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.