The largest community in British Columbia’s East Kootenay mountains, Cranbrook is most appealing as a base for exploring the surrounding peaks, lakes, rivers, and hot springs. Close to town, learn about the region’s gold rush days at Fort Steele Heritage Town, a living history museum with nearby camping areas. Or explore a darker chapter at St. Eugene Mission, a residential school where, from 1912 to 1978, Indigenous children were separated from their families and culture. In the early 2000s, three First Nations converted the former school into St. Eugene Resort, which has educational exhibits, a hotel, and a full-service campground. Campers can also choose from several lakefront provincial parks around Cranbook, including Jim Smith Lake, Moyie Lake, Norbury Lake, Premier Lake, and Wasa Lake.
Rafting, hiking, and skiing draw active travellers to this community, a 25-minute drive northwest of Cranbrook. Kimberley’s main street, The Platzl, highlights the town’s German heritage, and it’s also home to fun eateries and pubs.
An hour’s drive east on Highway 3, Fernie is a magnet for outdoor adventurers. Beyond its compact downtown, where Victorian-era buildings now house restaurants and cafés, Fernie has plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Fernie Mountain Resort, for skiing and snowboarding, is right outside town. Camp at the local in-town RV resort, or pitch your tent (or park your camper) under the trees in nearby Mount Fernie Provincial Park.
Highway 93/95, which runs north from Cranbrook toward Kootenay National Park, is known as British Columbia’s “Hot Springs Highway” for the area’s numerous mineral springs. Some, like Fairmont Hot Springs (which has two campgrounds), are large and commercial, while others, such as remote Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park (where campers can choose from five different camping areas), are more natural.
Bordering both Banff and Yoho National Parks, Kootenay National Park encompasses grasslands, canyons, and mountains, with more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) of hiking trails, three front-country campgrounds, and six backcountry camping areas. Radium Hot Springs, the town at the park’s southern entrance with a mineral pool of the same name, is 145 kilometres (90 miles) north of Cranbrook.
In the Cranbrook area, and throughout British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, the best months for camping are July through mid-October. These summer and fall days are generally sunny and warm, with little rain. In October, snow can begin to fall, particularly at higher elevations, and the Kootenays are cold and snowy—great for skiing and other winter sports—from November through March. Spring weather is often unsettled, and you should prepare for rain, especially during the month of June.