Kootenay follows the Great Divide, west of Banff, bought up for a railway scheme but eventually sold to the government. It's a long winding valley with fine mountains and lots of local as well as backcountry trails.
It's largely ignored compared to Banff and Louise probably because it doesn't have big hotels and tourist infrastructure. But what it does have is fantastic mountain scenery and some quirky sights like the old paint pots, iron laden clays used for dyes, and marble canyon where the river rushes through tight gorges.
The hike up to Stanley glacier is magical, and you'll have plenty of pikas (rock rabbits) whistling you on the way. Kootenay Park Lodge has 10 historic but simple log cabins and good home cooking at affordable rates. Waking up to the sun rising on the mountains here is worth any journey.
Kootenay national park, 2 hours west from Banff, follow the quieter scenic Highway 1a before turning west towards Radium Hot Springs and you're soon in the Park. Lodge details at www.kootenayparklodge.com/
There is an interpretive trail at the site of the Cave and Basin hot springs where tourists can visit the source of the hot springs, and there are viewing platforms from which one can see the flora and fauna indigenous to the area, including a rare form of tiny snail.
There is also a building which houses the original Cave and Basin hot springs bathing pool (encased in a cave in the rock) which was discovered in Banff over one hundred years ago. Tourists must pay a small admission fee at the entrance.
Banff National Park
When Banff National Park was created in 1883, the hot springs were the main attraction. Tired railway workers soothed their limbs in the hot mineral water and a spa was soon built to cater to tourists.
It's a national historic site where you can visit the caves.
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