Credit: Tourism BC/David Heath

Located halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, the mountain town of Nelson sits on gorgeous Kootenay Lake in the southeast corner of British Columbia.

Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is located just north of Nelson. Established in 1922, its 32,035 hectares contain some of the most majestic mountain country to be found in the Selkirk Range. Over 30 glacier-fed lakes including the jewel, Kokanee Lake, exist here. The park has no developed campgrounds, although there are designated sites for backcountry camping and shelters for overnight use. Spring is a magical time for adventure with the warming sun and long days.

Here are five tips to inspire your trip:

Hiking & Snowshoeing

Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park has 85 km of well-marked trails, suitable for hikers of all levels. Wildlife thrives in this part of the world. If you're lucky you can expect to see eagles, elk, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, caribou and bears. Depending upon the temperatures,  trail conditions and elevation, consider bringing snowshoes. Don't be tempted to venture onto the glaciers unless you are experienced and equipped with route finding skills and crampons, ropes and an ice axe.

Rock Climbing

Climbing opportunities in the region of Nelson are plentiful, with over 400 routes, good quality granite and gneiss and a range of pitches for lovers of both traditional as well as bolted sport-climbs. The climate is milder and drier than in other areas of British Columbia, so the climbing season starts mid-spring. If alpine rock climbing is your passion, head to Valhalla Provincial Park, approximately a 1.5-hour drive from Nelson. Access the classic South Ridge of Gimli Peak as well as many other good climbs here. You might find that you have the place to yourself. Recommended local areas include Pulpit Peak, CIC and Squatters Bluff.

The West Kootenay Rock Guide Book provides a comprehensive list of climbs in the region.

Mountaineering & Alpine Scrambling

The Kokanee Glacier makes for excellent glacier trekking. For those who enjoy scrambling, the Pyramids, Keyhole and the Outlook along the John Carter Traverse are only a sampling of what's available. There are also some good scrambles and general mountaineering options on the quieter, east side of the park. Base yourself out of Silver Spray and Woodbury huts to access them. The huts offer very basic services but are not open in the winter. Contact the Alpine Club of Canada for more info. Be prepared to camp.

Mountain Biking

Nelson, with the breathtaking backdrop of the Selkirk Mountains, is a mountain biking haven. Trails offer up everything from gentle railway grades to steep technical tracks. Looking for some hardcore free riding with stunts, ladders and drops?  Nelson has that too.

Most trails are accessible by bike right from town or you can start your climb at Mountain Station. Visit a local bike shop for good info on trails, lessons, shuttles and more. For beginners and intermediate riders numerous options exist within a 15 minute drive from Nelson.


Paddling in the spring is entrancing. Quiet in the spring, the pristine waters of Kootenay Lake heralds crisp mornings, clean water, sheer rock cliffs and lush forests. Camp on one of the secluded beaches under the cool clear skies or just go for a leisurely three-hour paddle.

Crave kayaking of the whitewater type? You won't be short of options. Rivers such as Slocan River (Class II to III) or Salmo River (class III to IV) should give you all you can handle during  spring runoff.
Post by Pam Johnson/Ms Zoomer