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Learn about the Kootenay Rocky Mountains by reading Wilderness Retreats in the Kootenay Rocky Mountains- British Columbia, Canada by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

Wilderness Retreats in the Kootenay Rocky Mountains- British Columbia, Canada

by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer

Hikers from the Purcell Mountain Lodge enjoy one of the many hikes available.
Hikers from the Purcell Mountain Lodge enjoy one of the many hikes available.
All photos courtesy of Sandy Zimmerman

Our travels have taken us to wilderness retreats away from the norm, away from things we have done before, and away from the crowds.

When we were invited to the remote Purcell Mountain Lodge in the Canadian Kootenay Rocky Mountains, I did not know what to expect. I really mean remote because there are no roads penetrating the wilderness and the only way to reach the lodge is by helicopter! We arrived at the helicopter hangar and stepped on the large floor scale to join five other passengers for a group weigh in. The flight only lasts ten minutes, but what a flight! The pilot flew over glaciers, mountains, rivers, and breathtaking scenery. The helicopter climbed up to one of the tall mountain peaks and suddenly it disappeared and we looked straight down. Finally we reached the lodge, nestled 7,200 feet above Bald Mountain, on the remote border of Canada’s Glacier National Park. I expected to “rough it” but the beautiful lodge offered everything anyone could want for a vacation in the mountains. Purcell’s motto: Unforgettable, Simple, Luxury. The focus is on the 3,000-acre wilderness area around the lodge.

This is a totally different experience. It's so isolated. Guides take guests to Bald Mountain, one of the largest alpine meadows in southeastern British Columbia, great for people who were not avid hikers and want to get out and see the scenery and nature. It is very low impact and easy, with a minimum elevation gain. Above average hikers can take a high Alpine climb right up to the peak. We see some wild animals - usually more tracks than live animals.

Guests choose winter cross/back-country skiing, downhill skiing, alpine touring, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or tobogganing. In the summer, everyone swims in the mountain lakes. Meals are served buffet- style. Guests eat box lunches together on their hikes or skiing trips. When they return, guests usually have a sauna and some snacks, then appetizers at 5:30 pm, followed by dinner.

The price is All-Inclusive - including the helicopter, guide, food, and accommodations. There are only 10 rooms in the lodge, honeymooners or couples who just want to be away from everybody can stay in the Chateau Suite, in a separate building.

Our Indian guide demonstrated some ancient techniques during the Aboriginal Wilderness Tour.
Our Indian guide demonstrated some ancient techniques during the Aboriginal Wilderness Tour.

Aboriginal Wilderness Tours

The Aboriginals proudly share thousands of years of their culture and traditions with us. It is an extraordinary experience! The Kootenay Wilderness Tours are not your usual wilderness tour. The native Elder guide Sequoyah True Blood focuses on native culture and ceremonies as well as wilderness adventures.

First we walked across 3 wooden logs, which were put together to form a natural bridge over the creek. Nature always looks great when it is unspoiled! Sequoyah led us through the wilderness to a clearing with three tepees. These tepees are based on the traditions of the Blackfoot, Nakoda, and Kootenay tribes of their region.

Inside Sequoyah’s tepee, we sat in a circle around the fire pit. Cedar bows acted as his carpet, an eagle feather alter and colorful blankets hung from the walls. He lit a fire in the pit and closed the flap to the tepee so the smoke would rise up to the opening above. Sequoyah joked, “This is the original solar home.”

He began by explaining the ceremony of smoking the peace pipe. When the bowl and stem are joined, the pipe is ready. Sequoyah lights the pipe and passes it to each person in the tepee. We all had the opportunity to ask questions and participate. Every part of this ancient ceremony has a meaning and is performed according to tradition. Sequoyah shook a rattle as he chanted and sang in his native tongue.

Later he demonstrated the Eagle Bone Feather Whistle’s song. We learned about some powerful natural medicines for cleaning out the lungs, helping asthma, and other medical conditions. He has an abalone shell for burning these natural remedies.

Natural hot springs pool at Radium Hot Springs.
Natural hot springs pool at Radium Hot Springs.

Hot Springs

Radium Hot Springs has the hottest water and the largest hot springs facility in the Canadian Rocky Mountains! Inside the Kootenay National Park, you can soak in the hot springs pool, gaze up at the rock cliffs, and watch for Bighorn sheep. Choose from the hot (104° F) or cold plunge pools. The hot springs occur naturally loaded with dissolved minerals. The Pleiades Massage & Spa is steps from the hot springs.

The Radium Hot Springs Lodge is perched on top of the mountain, minutes from the Radium Hot Springs pools and spa. Take the Lodge’s direct elevator access, walk, or drive to the recreation area. As the only hotel in the park by the hot pools, you are near everything. Lounge on the viewing deck to watch the bighorn sheep graze.

We have 36 golf courses, white water rafting, guided hiking, jet boat skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, heli-skiing, cross-country skiing, and more. Their Cliff Hanger Dining Room has magnificent views of the mountains for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Kootenay Mountains Details

Getting There

Air Canada has daily non-stop and connecting flights to Calgary and Vancouver. 888-247-2262,

Once in Calgary or Vancouver, you'll want to refer to the resorts mentioned below for specific directions or to make arrangements for transportation to them, i.e. for Purcell Mountain Lodge, you'll need to be helicoptered in.

Things to Do

  • Kootenay Wilderness Tours- Chose from a wide assortment of things to do/tours including: cultural teachings, lodge/hiking trips, backpacking trips, weekend getaways, and rafting expeditions. 877-659-7665.
  • Canadian Rockies Hot Springs Park,

Places To Stay

Notice: This information is current as of August 2007. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.