This route circumnavigates Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park while traveling along the western shore of Kootenay Lake and the eastern shore of Slocan Lake. On this route you will journey through the glory days of mining history – a journey that also takes you through some exquisitely beautiful country.
Take the time to stop at the unique caves of Ainsworth Hot Springs. You get a bird’s eye view of Kootenay Lake while soaking in the outdoor pool. Just 6 km further brings you to the unusual Cody Caves where you can take a guided, one-hour underground tour appropriate for anyone from 6 to 95 years old although a 4×4 vehicle is recommended to get to the cave entrance.
“We did the Loop Super Side Trip from Nelson to Sandon, New Denver, etc. We enjoyed the area a great deal, and will like to venture further afield on our next trip.”
– H. Taylor, Burton, WA
Kaslo, voted one of Canada’s prettiest towns, is just up the road. This charming, noticeably art oriented community has a fun shopping district, great restaurants, museum and lovely park. Fishing charters are available out of Kaslo. Record holding Gerrard Rainbow Trout, Kokanee (land-locked salmon) and Dolly Varden (Bull Trout) can be found in Kootenay Lake. Take a tour on the restored SS Moyie, North America’s oldest restored stern-wheeler.
On the west side of the mountainous pass between Kaslo and New Denver watch for the well marked signs to the ghost town of Sandon. Substantially abandoned, this mining boomtown once boasting a population of 5,000 was squeezed into a valley so narrow, a boardwalk was constructed over the creek which flowed down the center of town. Today, visitors can visit the Sandon Museum, tour the still functioning powerhouse and explore the fascinating buildings that remain.
Idaho Lookout can be accessed via a steep gravel road that begins at the far end of town. In a vehicle with sufficient ground clearance, it’s possible to drive up to a parking lot at 7,000 feet. It is then just a short hike to the former fire lookout above Slocan Lake and quite possibly the best 360-degree viewpoint on the entire Loop route. On a clear day it is said that a person can see all the way to Idaho.
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 the Sandon turnoff. 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. 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.
On the east shore of Slocan Lake, at the town of New Denver is the Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre. Take a hour-long tour dedicated to the memory of Japanese Canadians interned there during World War II. In Silverton, the Silvery Slocan Museum offers a glimpse of the past. Across the lake is Valhalla Provincial Park. Access is limited to water taxi, a hiking trail at lake level or via rough gravel roads into the interior of the park at the village of Slocan. This is a place for serious backcountry adventurers.
South from Silverton watch for another access road turning east into Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Its trail head parking, but a day hike or overnight backpack is well worth the time to get you into one of British Columbia’s high country parks.
You’ll find the village of Winlaw lives up to its reputation of being the hip epicenter of the Slocan Valley’s diversely rural lifestyles.
Drive time: Allow 3 hours.