Have you ever visited a ghost town? The biggest and easiest to get to is Sandon. Located a few miles east of New Denver on Highway 31A, there is a well marked turn-off to the ghost town of Sandon. Sandon is on the North Kootenay Lake – Silvery Slocan Super Side Trip of the International Selkirk Loop.
In years gone by, Sandon was called the Monte Carlo of North America. It was the capital of the Silvery Slocan. In the late 1800’s over 5,000 people made this boomtown their home. And just like in old movie boomtowns, there were hotels (29), saloons (28), houses of ill-repute (85!), breweries (3), a handful of churches (obviously not as popular as the saloons and brothels), sawmills, a school, a hospital, 2 newspapers, theatres and operas houses, a bowling alley and curling rink, and even a cigar factory. Providing electricity for all this development was the first hydroelectric utility in British Columbia.
Today, a handful of intrepid souls live in Sandon, but visitors from around the world come to see what remains. The Sandon Museum and Visitor’s Centre is one of the finest of its kind anywhere, with thousands of pictures and artifacts. A 1908 CPR steam train rests on a siding across from the old City Hall. Molly Brown’s Brothel still stands, beautifully restored, though not for its original purpose. Many other old buildings still stand, some in use as residences and others stolidly withstanding the ravages of time.
Once you have explored Sandon and had a snack or light meal, it is the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area. Behind the museum starts an incredible ride to the access to Idaho Peak. A 12 km (8 mile) wilderness drive, you’ll see old mine sites, crystal clear lakes and incredible flora before reaching the Idaho Peak parking lot. One of the most incredible views in the Western world awaits those who hike the 2 km to 2,224 metres (7,479 feet) Idaho Peak. Because of the stunning view and meadows overflowing with wildflowers in late summer, hardy wedding parties frequently use this area.
If you’ve got a bike, a lot of people enjoy the 13 km (8 mi) Galena Trail that starts near the junction of Hwy 31A and Sandon. With an easy 2% grade on an abandoned rail line, the trail will take you to the shore of Slocan Lake at Rosebery Provincial Park where you can camp or picnic. Children will appreciate the manually operated cable car that carries bikes and riders across Carpenter Creek at the start of the Slocan end of the ride.