The West Kootenays, or “Koots” as the region is known locally, is a magical place with turquoise blue waters, gorgeous mountain peaks, parks teeming with wildlife, and urban areas that are known for their laid-back vibe and grassroots ingenuity. Experience it all when you drive along Highway 3A to Nelson, BC. Go across the orange bridge up to the west arm of Kootenay Lake to Kokanee Creek and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Parks to experience one of the best BC tourist attractions at our BC zipline. Make sure to include a side-trip to Ainsworth Hot Springs and the historical town of Kaslo!
Read our Ultimate Road Trip Guide for things to do and places to stop along the way.
Guide Quick Links
- Places Mentioned in this Guide
- History of the West Kootenays
- Nelson's Top To-Do List
- Things to Do with Kids In and Near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
- BC Attractions In and Near Kaslo
- Zip, Raft, and Spelunk for One Big Nelson Adventure
Places Mentioned in this Guide
History of the West Kootenays
More than 10,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Sinixt (Lakes) and Ktunaxa (Kootenay) indigenous people hunted and fished along the shores of the glacial waters of Kootenay Lake in the area that is now known as the West Kootenays.
It wasn’t until the late 19th century that European explorers arrived in the region to mine the area of rich silver-lead deposits discovered at Toad Mountain. The population increased with the building of several railways, as well as sternwheelers travelling up Kootenay Lake.
Nelson’s Top To-Do List
There’s no shortage of things to do in Nelson, BC. A food lovers’ paradise, Nelson has the views, and brews, to make your visit one to remember.
Pack a picnic and visit one of Kootenay Lake’s white sand beaches. Take in a historic tram ride along the lakefront. Shop for local produce and artisan goods at the farmers’ market. Grab dinner and drinks at one of the city’s many restaurants and microbreweries.
Include some of the below BC attractions and Nelson events on your to-do list!
1. Visit Nelson’s Historic Sites
Incorporated in 1897, Nelson became the unofficial capital of the region and grew with the establishment of the hydropower plant and the electric streetcar system, both of which operate to this day. Many of Nelson’s late-Victorian era buildings, homes, and heritage sites serve as cultural institutions and businesses.
They include the:
2. Enjoy some Roots and Beats
For a small city, Nelson has a renowned food and music scene. The city boasts several top-notch restaurants, markets, artisan food shops, and bakeries as well as nightclubs that feature live music. Take in all the flavours by visiting some of these favourite food and live entertainment hot spots:
3. Savour Brews, Beans, and Bevvies
Nelson has a burgeoning beer, coffee, and beverage scene, as can be seen with all the microbreweries, distilleries, cafés, and other beverage establishments in the city.
Inhale the hops, spirits, vines, and beans at:
4. Hit the Whitewater
One of the best adventure sports and outdoor activities for all ages, Nelson Whitewater Rafting Co. offers rafting tours as well as paddleboard and kayak rentals to hit the rapids at the nearby Slocan River. Choose from a scenic float tour or the Facchina Rapids tour, which is part float, part whitewater on Class II and Class III rapids.
5. Party on Baker Street and at Take Part in other Family Fun Events
Summer is the time when the locals kick off their sandals and dance in the streets, quite literally. Join them by attending some of these popular 2019 Nelson, BC events.
MarketFest, July 26 and Aug. 23 from 6-10:30 p.m
Meet the locals, indulge in delicious food, listen to live music, watch dance performances, and enjoy fun activities for the kids along the 200-300 blocks of Baker Street, downtown Nelson. Look for the Kokanee Mountain Zipline booth at both events.
Nelson Fat Tire Festival, July 12-14
This annual mountain bike festival, held in memory of local cyclist Cam Alexander, brings pedal people from around BC. Events include a bike parade, poker ride, downhill, and kids races, and much more.
Nelson ArtWalk and Queen City Cruise
Celebrate Nelson’s artists and creators as they paint the town at the long-running ArtWalk festival, which features two opening night activities at venues and businesses around Nelson, June 28 and July 27. Held the closing weekend of the Artwalk is the Hall Street Plaza Family Dance on Sept. 6 in conjunction with the Nelson Road Kings' Queen City Cruise antique car show. Catch the cruisers down on the main drag Sept. 6 and 7.
Things to Do with Kids In and Near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
Continue on your road trip just east of Nelson to one of the most popular places to go camping in BC. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has many family activities within its borders and also nearby. Make sure to bring a bathing suit and warmer clothes for our Kokanee Zipline in the mountains.
Here are some suggestions of things to do!
1. Zip along at Kokanee Mountain Zipline
One of the best places to go in BC, our adventure zipline is perfect for a family outing and is located only three kilometres from Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.
Gasp at the views of Kokanee Glacier, the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, Kokanee Creek Canyon, and the beautiful blue waters and white sand bars of Kootenay Lake while cruising along our six ziplines.
2. Go for a hike at Kokanee Glacier
One of the oldest provincial parks in BC, Kokanee Glacier has 32,035 hectares of pristine wilderness and offers some of the best hikes near Nelson, BC. Traipse through alpine meadows, past crystal lakes, and through thick forest to one or more of the three glaciers (Kokanee, Caribou, and Woodbury) found in the park.
3. Learn about the Redfish at Kokanee Creek
Located alongside the spawning grounds for the famous kokanee salmon, the Kokanee Creek Nature Centre has several programs and fun activities for kids. Here, they can learn all about the nature that surrounds them in Kokanee Provincial Park.
The nature centre is also the site of the annual Redfish Festival, happening Aug. 25 in 2019, where you learn more about the salmon with guided channel tours, music, food, vendors, and family fun.
Kokanee Mountain Zipline is located just an 8-10 minute drive from Kokanee Creek Provincial Park!
BC Attractions In and Near Kaslo
A former sawmill site, the Kootenay lakefront town of Kaslo was known for the silver mining industry and served as a transportation hub for the sternwheelers, which brought pioneers, miners, farmers, and others up and across Kootenay Lake. It also served as the site of a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.
Today, this community offers historic buildings, quiet beaches, and one of the best music festivals in BC. Here are some things to take in.
1. Get on the Boat
Hop aboard the SS Moyie to learn more about the history of Kootenay Lake’s once grand sternwheelers. The boat is now permanently docked off Front Street and serves a museum.
2. Soak in Ainsworth Hot Springs
A must thing-to-do in the Kootenays, Ainsworth Hot Springs is a historical natural mineral hot spring first discovered by the Ktunaxa people for its healing properties. Now a resort offering a restaurant and accommodation, you can spend the night or get a day pass to soak in the hot pool and cave while taking in the views of Kootenay Lake and surrounding mountains.
3. Go spelunking
Located in the mountains above Ainsworth Hot Springs, head underground to a world sculpted by glacier-fed waters. Cody Cave Tours offers regular season tours from May to October, with a variety of tour packages for one of the best BC adventures around.
4. Dance all Weekend Long at the Kaslo Jazz Etc Summer Music Festival
Kaslo triples in size on the BC Day long weekend for this annual music festival. Held on the shores of Kootenay Lake in Kaslo Bay Park Aug. 2-4, this year the floating stage will feature performances by international and BC artists, including Ani di Franco, Dan Brubeck Trio, Elliott Brood, Five Alarm Funk, Harry Manx, Nahko and Medicine for the People, and many others.
Zip, Raft, and Spelunk for One Big Nelson Adventure
Embark on three BC adventures with our newest promotion, the Nelson Adventure Alliance, which includes Cody Cave Tours, Kokanee Mountain Zipline, and Nelson Whitewater Rafting Co. Experience and collect a stamp from all three activities in 2019, and be entered for the chance to win a complimentary pass on your favourite of the three activities OR a chance to win one of the following two grand prizes:
Nelson Getaway: a one-night stay at the Adventure Hotel, dinner for two at the West Coast Grill, and a gift certificate for Backroads Brewing Company.
Ainsworth Getaway: a one-night stay at Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort, dinner for two at the Ktunaxa Grill, and two soaks at Ainsworth Hot Springs.
Looking for the perfect gift for your BC adventurer? Give the gift of flight with a gift certificate to our Nelson zipline. Call us at 1-844-764-4484 or purchase your gift certificate for the 2019 spring/summer season online.