Mountain Biking in a Museum? Only in Nelson!

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Mountain Biking in a Museum? Only in Nelson!

By John Bowden

How do you know when a town has a genuine mountain biking passion? It could be the dozens of trails that weave their way through the mountains, attracting locals and visitors from around the world. Maybe it’s the frequent sight of full suspension bikes cruising up and down city streets, that sit idle on a patio after a ride, or that hang from vehicles as road trippers roll in to town. But when the local museum puts on an exhibition to the sport, that’s the clincher.

A Mountain Biking Retrospective is the newest gallery feature at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History. On display until November 4, 2018 the exhibition is a deep dive into Nelson’s celebrated mountain bike culture. Trail maps, paintings, photos, interviews with local legends, and even some early bikes chart the sport’s local evolution.

When Touchstones Executive Director Astrid Heyerdahl landed the job two years ago, one of the first questions she asked was how many mountain biking shows the museum had put on. The answer? None. An avid mountain biker herself (it was a major part of the reason for her move to Nelson), Heyerdahl reached out to put the show together.

“We needed to speak to the community in a relevant way, and explore history topics that are exciting to the people in the community. Mountain biking is so significant and relevant to Nelson,” notes Heyerdahl.

Local mountain biking pioneer Mark Holt agrees. “It’s good to have some recognition of the recent history that’s helped to shape Nelson. The exhibition is an opportunity to bring everyone together, even those who don’t know the extent of the sport.”

Holt should know just how popular the sport is. Having helped to build trails over the past two decades, organize events, and as a co-owner of The Sacred Ride bike shop, he’s seen the sport evolve from its steep and deep roots.

“Now there’s more to choose from, with trails expanding for intermediate riders and families. For a small town, we also have an impressive selection of high end product at multiple bike shops.”

Heyerdahl also sees this change reflected in the exhibit and on the trails. “The mountain bike community has been thrilled to see their history and stories on the walls. The sport shifts and morphs as people have families, change jobs, and evolve, so it makes sense that trails are becoming more accessible. Morning Mountain is a perfect example.” The new Fairly High trail (part of the coast to coast Great Trail) opens up this popular area to more riders.

What does the future of mountain biking in the Kootenays hold? “Mountain biking was never really pushed until recently, it was just mostly word of mouth,” says Holt. Now, with a more varied trail network, family friendly rides, electric bicycles opening up the sport to new riders, and a growing awareness of the local scene, the secret is starting to get out; Nelson is a must visit destination for mountain bikers.

Make sure to check out this unique exhibit along with the curated selection of bike-themed artisan goods in the Touchstones giftshop. And if you are looking for a map of the biking trails the Nelson Mountain Bike Guides are available at Gerick Cycle and Ski, Valhalla Pure, and Sacred Ride. All funds go to support trail building through Nelson Cycling Club



The Hiker's Guide to the West Kootenays

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The Hiker's Guide to the West Kootenays

By John Bowden | Cover Photo Abby Wilson (@kooteneer)

From mild to wild, the hiking options in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake area are almost limitless. Trying to figure out just where to go is often the biggest hurdle. 

You can find an overview of more than 30 trails on our hiking page, with links to West Kootenay Hiking for detailed reviews.

With so many great trails to choose from, it’s worth extending your stay in the Kootenay Lake region. Nelson, Kaslo and the communities around the lake make for ideal bases from which to explore your desired trail(s). Late summer and early fall is also prime hiking time, with cooler temperatures ideal for more comfortable ascents and leafy trees beginning to put on a colourful autumn show. If you're wondering about access, you can find lots of information on the West Kootenay Hiking resource page.

Family friendly hikes, including the Kaslo River Trail, Retallack Old Growth Cedars, and the Great Northern Rail Trail in Nelson offer short and gentle walks that are easily accessible from paved roads. The recently upgraded road to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park makes it easier than ever to explore the Old Growth Cedars or scenic Gibson Lake.

Keen for a more ambitious day hike? Try Toad Mountain near Nelson, with awesome 360 summit views, the legendary Kokanee Lake Trail (with longer options too), or Lyle Lakes/Mount Brennan near Kaslo. These five star hikes will get your legs pumping and working up an appetite for one of the area’s highly rated restaurants.

For those seeking more solitude in the backcountry, and not afraid of some bumpy forestry roads, head to Monica Meadows, Macbeth Icefield and Jumbo Pass at the north end of Kootenay Lake. Jaw-dropping views are the reward for these iconic and challenging hikes.

Local outdoor shops have everything you need to make the most of your time in the alpine, including trail maps, backpacks, hiking boots, and the latest camping essentials. 

West Kootenay Hiking

Nelsonite Abby Wilson has put together a top-notch hiking website featuring West Kootenay trail reviews, photos, stats, maps and loads of helpful advice. West Kootenay Hiking is her creation and is quickly becoming a go-to guide for locals and visitors.

Abby’s site is sleek, easy to navigate and chock full of great resources. That’s no small feat considering she’s been volunteering her time to get it up and running. But she’s not alone in her content research. Abby is encouraging fellow hikers to submit trail updates and make the site more robust. User generated content promises to keep the site up to date with the latest trail reports and need to know info. In appreciation of Abby's efforts to build a local hiking resource, Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism is proudly making a donation to a non-profit of her choice, Nelson Search and Rescue.

One of the first things you’ll notice on the site is the photography. The images are captivating and a testament to Abby’s artistic flair. Her hikes and photos are the inspiration behind her colourful paintings that evoke the whimsical and spiritual works of legendary Canadian artist Lawren Harris. You can find her collection (with some items for sale) at

Explore the region, and beyond. #findingawesome

Sights, Smells and Sounds: Hiking Pulpit Rock

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Sights, Smells and Sounds: Hiking Pulpit Rock

By Emma Chart   |   Cover Photo by @gseorgie on Instagram

If you want to enjoy your experience in this quaint region, and feel like a boss while doing it, then hiking is your activity! Plus, the many physical challenges will dissolve away when you experience the thrilling views and can claim your accomplishments.

So, which peak should you conquer? And when? We have pretty clear seasons here: spring is spring (April-June) summer (July-August), fall (September - November), and winter (December - March). And when they arrive they’re here in all their glory: cold/hot/snowy/steamy/lush goodness. With the amount of activities to do in all the seasons you’ll never be at a loss for something to do, and hiking can be part of that experience.

An classic hike near Nelson is Pulpit Rock: a lovely little trek that’ll be sure to fulfill all your aspirational badass hiking dreams. Pulpit Rock is the locals “walk in the park” that is best approached early mornings (much cooler) or afternoons. As you approach the trailhead, get ready to be immediately met by that quintessential forest smell. That is, all the trees you can imagine, mixed up in a smoothie with dew and breezes and hints of spicy sap and fresh soil and leaves and wild flowers and all the other things you imagine would be in your own personal forest fantasy. 

Here is a first-hand account of what you are bound to experience hiking up this gorgeous little path. 

As you step onto the trail and begin taking your first steps, there is an immediate sense of leaving behind the bustle of town. The hum of cars begins to fade and the sounds and hubbub of ‘city’ life slowly disappear. The feeling of this living and breathing thing, nature, freeing you from the worries and anxieties of daily life, pervades the air. The smell of cedar, pine, and douglas fir envelopes you as gentle breezes fill your lungs with the freshness of the undergrowth. Looking up, patches of blue sky mingle with clouds, floating lazily above your head as the sun gleams, cutting through the foliage and casting pillars of light on the forest floor, shimmering on leaves, making kaleidoscopic shapes where the light meets the shadows.

The trail slopes with some steeper terrain as well as some rolling easy bits. Grab some ski poles from the communal pile at the start of the trail if you want an extra push. Stepping over rocks and climbing the wooden steps (built in some places to maneuver some of the steeper sections), there will be moments where you are shrouded by the trees and moments when you see a peek of your journey, looking across Kootenay Lake, Nelson slowly shrinks below you, the water sparkling with the suns rays.

When you reach the peak, Pulpit, you’ll find a sloping rock face with benches and little nooks to hydrate and have a snack, a glorious view of Nelson spread out below you.

Pulpit Rock has been around for close to a century, although the name only dates back to around 1923. Hikers have been frequenting the trail since then, even before it was refurbished into a new gentler route by the Chamber of Commerce in the 1980’s. Now, the trail is maintained by the Friends of Pulpit Rock Society and the RDCK.

Happy hiking!

A Dog-Friendly Destination

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A Dog-Friendly Destination

Cover photo: @thebugg_and_boggs via Instagram

Looking for things to do with your furry friends? We’ve got accommodations as well as activities across the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region. As always, make sure to follow all posted signs regarding dog protocol, have leashes and pick up after your pooches.

Dog-Friendly Accommodations

There's nothing better than sharing your living space with your pet. These accommodations allow dogs, but ask for details and fees when booking.

  1. Acorn Guest House: This is a gorgeous little getaway in Balfour, perfect for privacy and relaxing out of the limelight. It also has a huge yard for any pets you may have!
  2. The Kaslo Motel: Situated right in downtown Kaslo, the Kaslo Motel allows pets. Ask about their rates for pet-friendly rooms.
  3. The Adventure Hotel: This funky hotel in downtown Nelson absolutely adores pets. Every one of their rooms is available with pets for an additional rate.
  4. Alpine Inn and Suites: The little suites at the Alpine Inn are too sweet, and they allow pets too! Call and ask about rates for pups.
  5. Savoy Hotel: This gorgeous new hotel allows dogs too! Located at the end of Baker Street, this place is a great stay.
  6. Hume Hotel & Spa: If heritage charm is your cup of tea this is the place for you! Right in the heart of downtown Nelson, this hotel is sure to serve all your Old Time-y needs, while doing it with class and elegance.
  7. Kokanee Glacier Resort: Located off Highway 3A, on the gorgeous drive along the Kootenay lake shore, this charming resort allows pets, has a volleyball net, kids playground and rents kayaks!
  8. Mountain Hound Inn: This cute little Inn situated right smack on Baker Street, allows dogs and ANY pets. They even allow chinchillas…!
  9. Prestige Lakeside Resort: This gorgeous lake view resort allows dogs, and is right next to the entrance of the nelson Dog Walk!
  10. Best Western Plus Baker Street Inn: A short walk from the Nelson Visitors Centre, this hotel allows pets and is extremely close to the downtown core of Nelson’s business area.

Dog-Friendly Activities

If you love our area, there's a good chance your dog will too! This area has one of the most beautiful waterfront dog parks we've ever seen and when you visit local businesses you'll notice many businesses offering bowls of water and even treats for your furry friend!

  1. Take a hike
    1. Sproule Creek Trail: Frequent this trail in any season with your dog! It is, and can be used, for mountain biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and hiking.
    2. Pulpit Rock: A favourite among locals, try hiking this short, steep trek if you’re looking to sweat with your canine friend.
  2. Nelson Dog Walk: Want something more leisurely? Come to the Dog Walk, located between the Prestige Lakeshore Resort, and the west entrance of the Airport. Complete with dog beach and marshes, your pup is sure to have a good time, whether you’re throwing sticks, or meeting the other pups along the trail.
  3. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park: Take your dog for a stroll on the leash through this gorgeous, green, provincial park, or even camp with them! Plus, there’s a dog beach located just around the corner beside the boat launch at the north-east end of the park.
  4. Walk or Bike Nelson's Rail Trail: Are you an avid biker? Why not bring your pooch along! Take the Rail to Trails path from mountain station, and enjoy speeding through the luscious, green, forest.
  5. Buchanan Lookout Trail Kaslo: With a little bit of driving you and your pooch can get to this trail and take-in the beautiful views. However, the road up should not be driven by low-hanging vehicles, campers, or motorhomes.
  6. Kaslo River Trail: A spectacular leisure trail for the entire family. Relax with your pup and explore the forest and shoreline.
  7. Mountain Biking: If your pup is up for it pick a local trail and head out. Check out our mountain biking page for more info.
  8. Get The Gram: Find some of the most gorgeous backdrops the area has to offer with your pooch! Go on a scavenger hunt to find each fantastic location.
  9. Paws For A Cause Dog Walk: Take part in this annual dog walk to end animal cruelty from Lakeside Park to the Prestige Lakeside Resort, in early September. This is one of the only times Lakeside Park allows dogs! Plus you’ll be supporting a good cause.
  10. Cross-country Ski: if you plan to visit with your pooch in the winter take in some cross-country skiing at the Kaslo Nordic Club. Try these snowy trails if your pup loves the snow!

There are different travel itineraries to help you maximize your time in the region. And we even have a list of events, that can often be dog-friendly too. 

Kaslo Experiences: Between A Lake And A High Place

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Kaslo Experiences: Between A Lake And A High Place

Story and photos by Gina Begin, Originally posted on

“I need this every day.”

That’s what I whispered to my neighbour as we sat listening to the notes of a harp float into the forest night. I, along with a handful of others, were taking part in one of the ‘experiences’ hosted by the aptly named Kaslo company, Between a Lake and a High Place.

Let me back up a bit. In case you haven’t noticed, travelling like a local is on the rise. Worlds apart from playing the tourist, travelling asks you to explore places less-travelled and — while doing so — dive into the culture, interact with the locals, and take a hands-on approach to the experience rather than being waited on hand-and-foot.

And that’s what Between a Lake and a High Place asks, too.

Our day began just after noon at Kaslo’s SS Moyie, a national historic landmark and point of pride for the village. It made good sense to meet here, too; we were about to embark on one of the two experiences of the day, and we were starting with a historic re-enactment of Kaslo’s earliest days.

Little did I know, I was going to play a part in that.

After introductions were finished, Dana Blouin — co-founder of Between a Lake and a High Place along with her husband François gave us just a hint of what was store. We loaded into various vehicles and played follow-the-leader toward our stage for the day: the network of forest and wandering paths that make up the Kaslo River Trail system.

This is a recent favourite of mine. The trail system has a choose-your-own-adventure feel to it with different paths leading to different discoveries. This setting mirrored the two entirely different experiences it would play host to this day: the history-charged 'David Kane's Workgang' and the meditative nightcap we’d explore that evening during 'Acoustic Walk, Last Light'.

We unloaded our respective vehicles at the trailhead as Dana unloaded a container. Inside her box was a collection of old-timey caps and suspenders. She invited us to pick one to wear as she passed out bunches of Old Man’s beard — an unruly looking lichen — stuck with double-sided tape. Adhered to our upper lips and paired with our borrowed accessories, we’d transformed ourselves into a crew of late 19th-century workers, newly arrived to clear the land that would become Kaslo.

Our 'training' began just up the trail in camp. A short play drew us in to the history we were about to take part in, and then we were off — foraging for foods, learning about wild medicinals, discovering which plants we could use for twine and which we could use to help sustain fire.

Group fire starter!
Group fire starter!

We were deemed worthy of our workgang status after our education and newly found skills were put to the test: we scattered off to collect and identify the plants that would serve us best, we hustled to build fires the fastest, and we practised our aim in the target range. The reward of our work was a sampling of homemade preserves, thick slices of local sourdough bread, and equally thick slices of beef jerky. We washed our snacks down with raspberry leaf tea and hiked back to reality, ending our part in history’s story.

After a few hours in Kaslo spent talking with the team at Angry Hen Brewery, Kaslo’s new, and only, brewery; we headed to dinner at one of my personal favourite restaurants, Taqueria el Corazon.  Here they serves up handmade tortillas that are the pillowiest you’ve ever sunk your teeth into and we watched the sun beginning to lower its angle, casting golden hues over Kootenay Lake.

We were stuffed with fresh, rich food, happy on conversation, and ready to relax into the promise held in our next experience, Acoustic Walk, Last Light. I’d read the description online beforehand; even the idea it illustrated left me feeling slightly dreamy:

“The evening light that softly filters through the forest is gradually replaced by twilight and near silence. It is now quiet time in the forest…or is it? Let your senses guide you through this experience from start to end; close your eyes, breathe, listen, feel, be silent…..and you will be rewarded with a heightened awareness of the coolness in the air, humidity you can taste, and with natural and musical acoustic sounds near and far.”

Meeting at a second trailhead just outside of town, Dana handed out foam pads, headlamps, and bandanas. Our only instruction was to use the time allotted in the experience to listen, and allow others to do the same.

We moved out from under the open sky and into the canopy of the trees. The light played hide-and-go-seek through the branches, illuminating spots of thick moss carpet and tips of fresh evergreen growth.

Under those trees, in that quiet, we moved through a fairy-land.

Dana and François both worked in the natural sciences before moving to Kaslo to start a new life with Between a Lake and a High Place. As our guides through this forest, their knowledge, spoken in soft words, deepened the appreciation for what our visual senses were taking in. We were shown mushrooms and orchids, told how the network of the forest microbes sustained each other, and were given the identities of songbirds with ethereal voices.

Getting comfortable in the forest.

We came to a relatively flat area and Dana invited us to find a spot to get comfortable. We unfurled our foam pads and laid on our backs in silence. Other than seeing others’ posts on Instagram, I had forgotten what staring up at treetops looked like. I’d forgotten the softness of the spongy ground in forests like these.

I’d forgotten what it was like to be still.

Dana led us through a type of meditation, almost akin to the savasana period at the end of a yoga practise. Staring up at the tree tops, coming together into the centre of my vision, and listening to only Dana’s voice and the forest sounds she asked us to be aware of, my mental state turned to liquid. I heard the birds, I heard her voice, and I heard my heart beating. But other than that, all was still.

I closed my eyes to the canopy and concentrated on just the sounds. I could have stayed there forever.

We travelled on, though, cupping our hands around our ears to amplify sounds the way animals’ ears do. We descended from higher ground, listening to the transition of sounds move from the soft snaps of needles to the song of the thrushes competing with the rush of the Kaslo river. Coyotes joined in a haunting chorus while the sun sunk further still. We struggled to identify their call as the trees bounced their howls from trunk to trunk.

And then, in the midst of those haunting calls, in the midst of that fairyland, a new sight — tiny lights — and a new sound — the striking of harp strings.

The blue of early evening was fading fast, but mason jars, filled with lightning bug-esque strands of lights, guided us to a perch above the main trail. Here, in a concert hall made of trees, stood a woman and her harp.

I placed my foam pad beneath me and let a fallen log support my back. A warm cup of raspberry leaf tea was provided, along with licorice tea, gluten-free turtle brownies, and vegan berry desserts — the latter two both prepared by the woman in front of us.

Forest bathing at twilight with musical notes.

Her name was Dawna McLennan, and not only was she playing a harp in the middle of a twilight forest, not only had she prepared her from-scratch sweets for us, but her voice was also joining the coyotes with both song and poetry.

As soon as she started into her spoken word, I froze. I was in the middle of trying to quietly capture the tiny lights against the darkened harp and forest background when some of the very best poetry I’ve ever heard spoken aloud stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of how I felt when I first read Pablo Neruda, just hanging onto every word. Her hands, her voice — it all moved together to capture the words in an expression of depth and sincerity.

I moved back to my foam pad after she finished the poem and sat by one of the participants in the experience. Dawna had moved to a song, and coupled with the playing of the harp, her voice took its place with the ethereal voice of the thrushes. Even the coyotes were quiet.

It was then that I whispered, “I need this every day.”

My neighbour nodded her silent agreement, and we listened to the acoustics of the trees accompany Dawna until the light faded entirely into the night.

Words and photos by Gina Bégin.

Finding Pow in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region

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Finding Pow in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region

Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism print at for Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine. By John Bowden

Amidst a sea of choices, what makes a place unique and worth visiting? As tourism continues to grow rapidly, and is now the world’s largest industry, it seems that just about every city, town, or hamlet is vying for a slice of the action. And no surprise; the industry is worth over 7 trillion dollars per year.

From snazzy photos to catchy taglines, destinations are trying to entice you to visit with a promise of a memorable experience. So what sets a place like Nelson and Kootenay Lake apart from the crowd?

The local tourism organization has moved away from a “Far Out, For Real” campaign to a livelier, and slightly cheekier approach based on “Finding Awesome”. The previous message embraced the area’s remoteness while also celebrating its authenticity. The new campaign is an effort to cut to the chase.


"Let's stop talking around it and just call it what it is, this place is f#@*ing awesome, end of story!"

Nelson & Kootenay Lake Tourism 


Dianna Ducs, Executive Director of Nelson & Kootenay Lake Tourism, recalls what led to the creation of the new approach. "When we [the board] tried to drill down on what makes this place unique, there was hard data collected over the years, and all sorts of descriptors, but none of them really nailed it. Finally, someone just said, let's stop talking around it and just call it what it is, this place is f#@*ing awesome, end of story!"

Perhaps a little too risqué using the “f” word, but from it evolved the “Finding Awesome” campaign. The promotion just kicked off in October, with an emphasis on potential visitors living within a day’s drive. It will focus on some of the people, places, and experiences that makes the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region (Ainsworth Hot Springs, Balfour, Kaslo, Meadow Creek and Lardeau) truly awesome.


“If you’re a snow sports enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience it on your own. The Nelson and Kootenay Lake region is more than a snow sports destination; it’s a beautiful part of the world.”

Tom Slazinski, snowboarder


One of the upcoming billboards features an image of snowboarder Tom Slazinski floating atop legendary powder up at Selkirk Snowcat Skiing, near Meadow Creek. I asked Tom for his thoughts on what makes the area worth visiting in the winter.

“The place is blessed with amazing natural beauty, the terrain for skiing and boarding is great, and the people are awesome. Everyone is super down to earth and cool.”

“There’s high alpine, tree skiing, and just so much terrain in one spot. The climate leads to blower pow everywhere and so much snow, coverage and base. I’m hooked. I’ve been coming there for almost 15 years on an annual basis.”

I also asked Tom what he would say to someone thinking about visiting. “If you’re a snow sports enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience it on your own. The Nelson and Kootenay Lake region is more than a snow sports destination; it’s a beautiful part of the world.”

Tom has definitely found his happy place in the Kootenays. And although there are no shortage of great places to visit, I guarantee that you’ll Find your Awesome here too.

#findingawesome  |

Kootenay Calling

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Kootenay Calling

By John Bowden

Allow myself to introduce…myself.

  • Mountain dweller since 2011.
  • Local food and drink enthusiast.
  • Avid cyclist and cultural explorer.
  • Part-time writer and storyteller.
  • And passionate about sharing memorable travel experiences with others.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away (yes, Toronto), I was heavily involved in the craft beer industry. Yet I couldn’t shake dreams of snowy summits, glacier lakes, and a life of outdoor adventure. The mountains were calling, and I must go.

So it was that I arrived in Banff on a snowy January day with a vehicle full of all my worldly possessions and a smattering of gear. I landed a gig in the tourism industry and embarked on all sorts of adventures over the following five years, and slowly adjusted to drinking beer for a hobby instead of a job. Old habits die hard I suppose.

Like many others, I hiked, biked, skied, paddled, climbed, and did just about anything that would take me outside. Gradually, I found myself venturing further west to British Columbia. Perhaps the advertising campaign of “super, natural, BC” was creeping into my subconscious.

Whatever it was, I now find myself in Nelson, arguably Canada’s most charming heritage city. Tucked away in the Interior of BC, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, the remote outpost of civilization is a bustling yet small metropolis. The temperate climate also means I can grow more than a beard for the first time in years. It’s like a backyard food-growing nirvana. But like most mountain communities, tourism is a strong and growing economic industry, and for good reason.

Nelson and the surrounding area boast no shortage of recreational, cultural and relaxing opportunities. From hiking nearby Pulpit Rock to wandering along historic streets in Kaslo or Nelson, to soaking in the Ainsworth Hot Springs to stepping back in time in the SS Moyie sternwheeler in Kaslo, there’s a lot to see and do. A quick look through the Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism site, or Google search on any of these popular activities will reveal a laundry list of articles and info.

So, what can I offer you that’s worth a read as you pass a few minutes waiting in line, zoning out at work, or doing your business (you know who you are)? As a fellow traveller who has stayed at rustic lodges, camped on the roadside, and everywhere in between, I’ll try to give you the inside scoop on this little slice of paradise as I explore it for myself.

Join me as I share the stories of some of the hidden gems of Nelson and Kootenay Lake, and the personable locals who make this place a truly unique destination in Canada. Like what I’m sharing? Awesome. Think I’ve missed something worth pointing out? Even better – let me know! Stoked to see it for yourself? Hell yeah - come visit! This place is f _ _ _ing awesome!

Cover photo and inset image taken by Ryan Flett: Nelson sunset from Gyro Park

5 Best Things to do Near Nelson, BC

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5 Best Things to do Near Nelson, BC

Photos and Story by: Leigh McAdam of

Although Nelson, British Columbia is a destination in its own right, the area around Nelson – especially up and down Kootenay Lake is also a great place to visit. In theory you can use Nelson as a base and do day trips but if you’ve got the time, stay in some of the historical small towns like Kaslo and explore at a slower pace.

This is my take on 5 of the best things to do near Nelson.

Soak in the Ainsworth Hot Springs

Who would think that a soak in the hot springs in the height of summer would be a great thing to do? Recently I’d checked out Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park – a hopping spot on a warm summer evening. I found the same thing at Ainsworth Hot Springs – lots of happy people of all ages taking in the view of the Purcell Mountains. Located about 50 kms northeast of Nelson right on Kootenay Lake, the hot springs are extremely popular and seemingly the sort of place that families return to year after year judging from the people I spoke with. And yes, even in summer they’re a lovely place for a soak.

The Ainsworth Hot Springs have an added feature I haven’t seen anywhere else. You can swim (I use this term very loosely) through caves found immediately adjacent to the main pool. You’ll feel like you’re in a sauna – because you practically are with the average temperature at 42°C. The humidity is higher, the water hotter and the mineral deposits interesting to see. Keep your time in the caves to a maximum of 10 – 15 minutes and drink lots of water.

Most of your time will be spent in the main pool. Luxuriate in water that naturally changes six times a day. You can have the pool practically to yourself from 8 AM – 10 AM if you’re a hotel guest at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort. 

If you need a quick bite to eat walk to the yellow school bus just past the edge of the parking lot. You’ll find delicious breakfast and lunch food at Betty-O’s.

The cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs.

Don’t miss a swim through the caves at the Ainsworth Hot Springs – Photo Credit: David Gluns

Ainsworth Hot Springs Pool

The main pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs

Betty O's at Ainsworth Hot Springs

Betty O’s for breakfast, lunch and ice cream

Ride the ferry between Balfour Bay and Kootenay Bay

It wasn’t until I was well into the planning of my Nelson trip that I found out there was even a ferry across Kootenay Lake. It’s the world’s longest FREE ferry and it runs year-round between Kootenay Bay on the east side and Balfour on the west side. When you’re driving from Calgary it’s a beautiful drive up the east shore of Kootenay Lake and then it’s a treat to take a 35 minute break from driving. Once you reach Balfour, it’s only a 30 minute drive on Highway 3A to reach Nelson.

Take the ferry just to see what Kootenay Lake looks like from the water. Once you’re on the Kootenay Bay side drive 5 kms and check out the hamlet of Crawford Bayhome to a variety of artisans including Fireworks Copper and Glass, Barefoot Handweaving and North Woven Broom. All artisans are open every day between May and Labour Day.

The view from the Kootenay Lake ferry.

Ferry across Kootenay Lake

The view from the Kootenay Lake ferry.

Enjoying the view of Kootenay Lake

Stand up paddleboarding or kayaking on Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake is a water-lovers dream destination. There are loads of sandy beaches up and down the 144 kilometre lake and lots of places that are great for kayaking or stand up paddleboarding (SUP). John and I were booked for a morning of SUP – and this was to be our second time ever on the boards. My original thought was why not go kayaking instead – and really what’s all the fuss about SUP?

After a few hours exploring the lake and actually covering a reasonable distance I can now see the allure of the sport. You don’t have to stand the entire time. You can kneel, sit and easily jump in the water for a swim. I’m not about to rush out and buy a board but I will say it was a whole lot of fun to see the lake from an upright position – and on a hot day it’s way easier to cool off.

You can rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards on the beach from Kokanee Creek Paddle Sports. You’ll find them at the day use area of Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

Kokanee Creek beach with the bright sun

Kayaking anyone? Photo credit: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

Paddle boarding on Kootenay Lake

SUP on Kootenay Lake

Paddle boarding on Kootenay Lake

You can also sit on your paddle board

Check out Kaslo

Kaslo is an exceptionally scenic historic mining town situated on a peaceful cove 70 kilometres north of Nelson. Founded in 1893, it has endured a tumultuous history of floods, fires, riches and lost fortunes. Today it is the home of the popular Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival and Logger sports (tree climbing, log rolling, axe throwing and more) one of the most popular events that is part of Kaslo’s May Days over the May long weekend.

In the summer relax on one of its long stretches of beach. Go for a swim. Walk and shop in the well-kept stores along the heritage main street. Grab a bite to eat at the Kaslo Hotel or one of the other small eateries in town. Visit the dry-docked SS Moyie – the world’s oldest intact sternwheller. If you’re looking for adventure explore the network of trails that are on either side of the Kaslo River. Head 20 miles north and hike in the Meadow Creek Wilderness. Or try the Whitewater Canyon Trail that gets you up into the alpine landscape. For an easier alternative walk the Galena Trail and pull yourself over a creek in a cable car. The number of nearby hiking trails could keep you busy for days. For water lovers, rent a kayak in town and poke along the shore, keeping a watchful eye out for the large number of interesting birds.

The main st of Kaslo BC

The main street in Kaslo

Views of Kootenay Lake and mountains from Kaslo

Along the waterfront you get views like this in Kaslo.

Explore the Nelson area on a (mountain) bike

Nelson is a mountain biking mecca and there are trails for all abilities. If you go to Gerick Cycle and Ski in downtown Nelson, they can set you up with a bike and offer all sorts of advice on where to go. John and I spent a few hours – albeit on an electric bike – and took off from the shop up the exceedingly steep hills until we reached the Trans-Canada Trail. From there it was an easy ride on rail-grade all the way to Cottonwood Lake. It was an excellent outing that took just two hours. Even on a regular mountain bike, it would take 2.5 hours tops, but with a lot more huffing and puffing at the start of the ride.

At the top of the town – where we started on the Trans-Canada Trail there are at least a dozen very popular mountain biking loops, all on private land. There’s a map so you can choose the level of difficulty and the length of the trail you want to ride. Be prepared for wildlife as this is bear country.

For other suggestions you can pick up a copy of the Nelson Mountain Bike Guide.

A beautiful section of the Trans-Canada Trail above Nelson

A beautiful section of the Trans-Canada Trail above Nelson

Several bridges to cross en route to Cottonwood Lake

Several bridges to cross en route to Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake was our turnaround point.

There’s more than enough to keep you busy for days if not weeks in the Nelson area depending on where your interests lie.

Read the full story and more at

Kaslo Adventure Centre

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Kaslo Adventure Centre

Adventure CentreKaslo, our gem on the banks of Kootenay Lake, offers more adventure than is good for you. The problem is how to find that adventure when part of the allure of Kaslo is its access to the backcountry?

Leave it to an organisational powerhouse like Daphne Hunter to solve this one. She’s in the process of opening the Kaslo Adventure Centre, located in a storefront in downtown Kaslo and ready to book your ideal Kaslo adventure.

Kaslo Kayaking has grown from the day Daphne and her husband Dean took over operations six years ago to the point where now the fleet includes kayaks, SUP boards, windsurf boards, and canoes. With a 5-star Trip Advisor rating, it’s hard (but they manage!) to keep up with demand.

Daphne wants to take that success and multiply is across the other adventure tourism companies in the area. The idea sounds synergistic. As she puts it, in one scenario, say someone phones to enquire about kayaking, but they’d also enjoy some fishing? Well, she could arrange a combo package where kayaks and a day of fishing are combined to create more than the sum of their parts. Picnic included.

Or perhaps someone inquires about enjoying a day in the sun? What about renting a boat, cruising along the lake for the day, going for a swim, and ending by watching the sunset? Fabulous.

The Adventure Centre provides a downtown, central location and storefront for local adventure businesses, but the businesses themselves to the actual booking. The Adventure Centre receives the guest, tailors an adventure package to suit, then hands off the actual booking to the individual suppliers.

There is trust involved. As Daphne is well aware, she’d be the face of these businesses. Her extensive background in marketing and the service industry have given her expert knowledge in the importance of trust.

To that end, with all her involvement in the Kaslo community including having been president of the Kaslo Chamber of Commerce, and involved in community events like May Days, Light Up Kaslo, and Pirate Day on the SS Moyie. It’s hard sometimes to know where Kaslo stops and Daphne begins.

And it’s from that space that the Kaslo Adventure Centre’s infectious energy springs. As she puts it, “Kaslo is one of the last remaining places in the world where you can see magic happen. People fall in love again in Kaslo. Couples come in just from Castlegar to spend the weekend here and reconnect with themselves.”

And, to that end, she wants to give them reasons to stay longer. Visitors will come with the idea that they’d like to experience the natural beauty of Kaslo, see the Adventure Centre, and once they see all that is offered, they’ll wish they had planned to stay even longer...and then they’ll come back again, and again.

At the end of the day, The Kaslo Adventure Centre offers more reasons to love Kaslo. There were great restaurants, great places to stay — and great adventures.

Call 250-353-1925 or email or visit 

Best of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism 2015

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Best of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism 2015

It's time to say good-bye to 2015, but not before we take some time to look back and reflect on all that happened and take a look at some of our most popular stories and activities.

We Love Our Kootenay Lake

Rafting down part of the Lardeau river and then paddling the length of Kootenay Lake from Lardeau to Nelson was the highlight of 2015. One story that kicked off the event dove into the heart of the lake and what makes it so special to all of us who live here and visit, and who consider Nelson Kootenay Lake remarkable.

With 201 shares on Facebook and the most pageviews for 2015, our story "Kootenay Lake: the heart of our region" was the most popular for 2015. Taking a look at all the many ways we enjoy our lake and introducing the paddle that took place from late June 25  to July 1st, this story captured the many reasons why so many of us are drawn to Kootenay Lake.

Cody Caves — A Personal Caving Adventure

The chance to explore Cody Caves with a trained guide is another highlight of our area. And this story about caving in 2015 is our second most popular story for good reason — full of personal experience but also tons of facts about the caves and cavings, it's a great introduction to what you can expect if you choose to explore the caves next time you visit us.

Take a look at this engaging story and start to think about making the trip yourself!

2015 — A Year of Aurora Borealis 

You can never predict whether the famed "Northern Lights" or aurora borealis will be visible from Nelson. But in 2015, the gods looked favourably on our town and we had several chances to see this beautiful natural wonder. One photographer captured the lights over Nelson, and his images were our third most popular story for 2015. 

Take a look at this gorgeous view of the northern lights. And thank you, Kei Takayama, for sharing your picture with us!

Summer Things to Do in 2015

There is no shortage of things to do in the summer in our area, and this list of the top 14 things you might want to check out is a great introduction to the breadth and depth of what we offer. No wonder it's our fourth most popular story for 2015 — read it over and start to think about what you might want to explore over the summer of 2016 with us! From a stroll along Baker Street to tackling the white water rapids on the Slocan or Lardeau Rivers, there is truly something for everyone.

Switching Over to Winter: Best Ski Town

We won the award that crowned Nelson "The Best Ski Town in North America" a couple years ago, adding to the list of accolades we've garnered over the years. We're the Number One Small Arts Town in Canada as well as being the Best Ski Town, so there's really a wide range of ways our little town stands out. In 2015 major newspapers noticed us, too: from the New York Times to the Globe and Mail, we were featured as a cool travel destination again and again.

Check out the story about why we are the Best Ski Town in North America!

We Love Our Local Organic Beer

Finally, a tour with Nelson Brewing Company's Brewmaster Mike Kelly was also a popular story. Our town is lucky to be home to the second fully certified brewery in British Columbia. The heritage building is also a great place to enjoy a tour and sample the beer.

Read the story to learn more about our local beer and the people who make it.

The Most Popular Things to Do in Nelson Kootenay Lake

In 2015, the most popular things to do, at least according to where people were looking on our website, really shows our diversity:

From Ainsworth Hot Springs to motorcycling to biking and snow sports, the range is fantastic and shows just how much there is to do in our area. Visitors to our website read about Ainsworth Hot Springs the most, followed by checking out campgrounds with hiking spots a close third. Rounding it out, people read about all the events that took place in 2015 and then looked for a place to stay. 

We hope you were one of those people reading about our area in 2015, and that you found what you were looking for! 

The top activities for 2015 were:

Thank you for being part of Nelson Kootenay Lake in 2015 and we look forward to seeing you in 2016!


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