Hiking Kootenay National Park

Continuing with the Canadian hiking vacation recaps! Kootenay National Park is another lesser known national park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains that is worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. It’s a short and very beautiful 30-ish minute drive from Banff National Park, so after our morning of hiking Johnson Canyon and Ink Pots, we decided to spend the afternoon hiking Kootenay National Park! If you’re just joining me and want to see our full trip itinerary, you can see it here: Western Canada Hiking Trip Itinerary. Previous recaps: a weekend in Vancouver + hiking Lake Louise in Banff National Park + Hiking Johnson Canyon and Ink Pots.

driving in kootenay national park

Driving through the parks was gorgeous – we saw so much wildlife! Hello, Mr. Bear, just chillin’ on the side of the road.


driving from banff to kootenay

Our friend Moritz did some research on Kootenay and suggested we check out a hike called Marble Canyon, with an add-on called Paint Pots. Sounded good to us!

marble canyon hike

The Marble Canyon trail is a beautiful and relatively easy hike along Tokumm Creek. The weather cleared up nicely for us and it turned into a beautiful afternoon!

marble canyon hike kootenay

marble canyon hike kootenay

I couldn’t get enough of the water + trees + mountains combo. So stunning, especially when the sun was shinning!

marble canyon kootenay national park

Areas of the trail take you through burned trees with new trees growing bright green below them.

marble canyon canada

marble canyon hike canada

marble canyon kootenay hike

marble canyon hike canada

The photo below was one of my favorite views – absolutely stunning!

best hikes kootenay national park


When you reach the end of Marble Canyon, you have the option to carry on another 3 km to an area called Paint Pots, where you’ll find big orange ochre (a natural earth pigment) beds. Aboriginal people used to use the ochre as face paint for ceremonies. Cool!

ochre beds kootenay

paint pots kootenay


paint pots kootenay

After exploring the paint pots, we headed back. I believe we went a slightly different route – a sort of loop that brought us back to part of the marble canyon.

paint pots hike kootenay

marble canyon hike kootenay

marble canyon hike canada

marble canyon hike kootenay

marble canyon views kootenay

For our last adventure of the afternoon in Kootenay National Park, we drove farther from Banff to a hike called Dog Lake, which is near (about 30km) the town of Radium Hot Springs – about 2 hours from Banff.

dog lake hike kootenay

This was one of my favorite hikes of the trip – it was so beautiful and peaceful – we had the whole place to ourselves!

dog lake hike kootenay canada

The trail to Dog Lake is roughly 6 km round trip and crosses the Kootenay River twice. The first time is on this gorgeous suspension bridge, which I loved.

dog lake hike suspension bridge

dog lake suspension bridge

dog lake suspension bridge

Dog Lake itself was lovely – so, so peaceful. We all sat quietly by the lake for awhile just listening to the wilderness around us. We even heard some dogs (wolves?!) howling across the way – I guess the lake lived up to its name!

dog lake kootenay

We took an offshoot trail that looped us back to the main trail – are you sensing a theme here with us trying to get off the beaten path? :)

dog lake hike kootenay

kootenay river canada

The photo below is one of my favorite from the trip. :)


Between hiking Johnson Canyon and Ink Pots in the morning and Marble Canyon, Paint Pots, and Dog Lake in the afternoon, we were wiped but happy by the end of the day. Definitely my kind of vacation – fresh air and adventures galore!

Matt and I visited the hot springs in Radium hot springs (they were basically a hot swimming pool – nothing to write home about but felt amazing on our tired legs), grabbed dinner at a fun German restaurant in the town of Radium hot springs, then made the drive back to Banff later that evening. Being there in early June meant it didn’t get dark out until about 10:30 – amazing! And made the long evening drive easier, too. We even saw this bear on the side of the road on our way!

bear on side of the road in banff

A couple more recaps to come (one more this week and one next) – stay tuned!

Have you ever seen a bear in the wild?


  1. 1

    Beautiful photos! Makes me want to go on a Canadian adventure! I’m guessing what you heard at Dog Lake was probably coyotes, but who knows– maybe they were wolves?! I mean, no one could say with certainty that they weren’t, so you might as well go with it! ;)

  2. 3

    Did all of the cars pull over / stop in the middle of the road to take pics of the bears? I was there several years ago and all the locals called it a “Bear Jam!”

  3. 5

    My dad just educated me on what to do if I encounter a bear that seems like it wants to eat me. If it’s a black bear, you get as big as you can and make as much noise as possible. If it’s a grizzly bear, you lay on the ground and stay as still as possible. #LifeTip (but we live in Texas and I’m not sure when I’d encounter a bear, but ya never know!). And then there are some cases when a grizzly can actually be black (i think)…so then I think you’re just screwed.

    Oh. And the Paint Pots looked so cool!

    • 6

      Lol to the black grizzly comment! So true – a lot of the grizzlies we saw were actually black – they looked like black bears! Apparently the way to tell is grizzlies have a little ridge/bump on their back right at their neck. Either way, I think I’d find it hard to play dead and not run… ack!

  4. 7

    I love the pictures! That was definitely an amazing day! I would love to go back right NOW!!! :-)

  5. 9

    Oh my gosh, it looks like this whole trip was SO picturesque! How beautiful. I’ve never seen a bear in the wild, and though your vantage point looks like it was a safe one, I’m hoping to avoid them (and mountain lions, oh my!) on my future hikes/trail runs :)

  6. 11
    Michelle says

    Anne what type of shoe do you wear for your hikes? Do you have one to recommend? I have a hard time with stability on intermediate trails.

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