Surrounded by pristine parkland on the shores of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is a camper's paradise.
Perched on the edge of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, Nelson is the gateway to some of Canada’s best backcountry. No matter which outdoor passion you pursue, chances are you can do it here—there are lush forests for hiking, mountain trails for cycling, crystal-clear lakes and rivers for watersports, and glacier-topped mountains for skiing. Boasting more than 350 preserved heritage buildings, this thriving 10,000-person town is also known for its arts and culture scene. Plus, Nelson is a foodie’s dream with more restaurants per capita than Manhattan, including three craft breweries.
With only 50 residents, this is one tiny town. But Ainsworth overflows with visitors thanks to its year-round hot pools. Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort features a large lounging pool, a stream-fed plunge pool, and a natural 46-meter horseshoe cave where 42°C mineral water streams down its walls. For those wanting to do a deeper (cave) dive, a bit further north is Cody Caves Provincial Park, where you can tour incredible limestone caves.
Castlegar sits equidistant from two of the world’s best ski resorts, Whitewater Resort and Red Mountain, which get an average annual snowfall of 12 meters. But it’s not just winter sports that thrive out here—summer sports have their time in the sun, too. A 3-acre bike park sits in the heart of the town, as does access to the Trans-Canada Trail system via the C&W Rail Trail, an abandoned railway bed.
In Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, get up close and personal with not one but two glaciers, Kokanee and Woodbury. With the park’s elevation sitting mostly above 1,800 meters, hikers, campers, climbers, and skiers can use 85 kilometers of well-marked trails to access emerald-coloured lakes, wildflower-filled meadows, and snow-capped mountains year-round. Since access to the park is via old mining and forestry roads, and weather patterns can change quickly, always check conditions before heading up.
Thanks to its humid continental climate, Nelson gets four distinct seasons: cold and snowy winters, milder wet springs, hot, dry summers, and cool, wet autumns. Going in May, June or September means you’ll avoid the sometimes-overwhelming heat of the high-summer months but still enjoy warm days on the trail or out on the water. For the best snow-based recreation, head there in March and April for warmer days that still provide lots of accumulated snow.