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The Best Hotel in Rossland BC to Sleep, Eat & Play

The Best Hotel in Rossland BC to Sleep, Eat & Play

A visit to Rossland BC has been on my radar for years. While I didn’t appreciate what a cute mountain town Rossland is until my summer visit, I did know that the town is a dream destination – albeit an out of the way one – for skiers.

In fact it was at RED Mountain Resort where Nancy Greene, Canada’s female athlete of the 20th century, cut her teeth skiing. The ski hill is well-known for its massive dumps of snow in winter and hiking and mountain biking trails in summer. 

It took less than two days for me to fall in love with Rossland. My fabulous slope-side stay at the new Josie Hotel certainly helped but the town too stole my heart. Rossland (population 3,537) seems to attract passionate, outdoorsy people who live the life they dream of.

The former gold mining town is now an arty one – with galleries, boutique shops, excellent restaurants, coffee roasters and even a mini Whole foods like supermarket – so you don’t lack for anything but quick access to large centres!

The pretty main street in downtown Rossland BC

The pretty main street in downtown Rossland BC

How do you get to Rossland BC?

Rossland is not the easiest place to get to, especially in a winter snowstorm. And this place gets on average 750 cm of snow, so that can be a problem.

The town is located in British Columbia’s West Kootenay region in the Monashee Mountains at an elevation of 1023 metres. It’s almost an 8 hour drive from Vancouver and a 7 hour drive from Calgary. The nearest town is Trail though Nelson is only an hour away. Driving access is via Highway 3. 

In summer a road-trip that includes Rossland is a great option. But in winter I’d recommend flying into either the Spokane Airport in Washington, a two hour drive away or Castlegar, 35 minutes away. The downside to Castlegar is the frequency of flight cancellations because of poor weather.

The highway to Rossland

It’s a beautiful drive to Rossland in summer

The Josie Hotel

As part of a nine day tour of the Kootenay region (other stops included Island Lake Lodge, Valhalla Provincial Park, Revelstoke, Nakusp, Halfway Hot Springs and Glacier National Park) John and I had two days to spend in Rossland with the Josie Hotel as our base. And what a base it was!

Wowsers is how I felt when we walked into the beautifully appointed hotel lobby. High ceilings with giant chandeliers, cozy leather couches, games, books and even a chair lift greeted us. Throw pillows and area rugs in warm tones softened the contemporary theme, inviting you to linger. 

The boutique hotel opened at the end of November in 2018. Its location, literally steps from the chairlift and hiking trails, is a game changer for Rossland. It’s the most luxurious hotel in town (and only a six minute drive to the town proper) with a great onsite restaurant to boot.

Welcoming lobby of the Josie Hotel

Welcoming lobby of the Josie Hotel

The ski theme greets you in the lobby of the Josie Hotel

The ski theme greets you in the lobby of the Josie Hotel

The rooms at the Josie Hotel in Rossland BC

What a treat to walk into an extra-large suite with a view out to the mountains. I loved the aesthetic of our room from the moment I laid eyes on it. (Who is that interior designer?) The dining room area with its round table and chairs, fridge and coffee maker was perfect for working.

The living room which featured couches, bright red Barcelona chairs and beautiful area rugs invited reading and lounging while the outdoor balcony was ideal for sipping wine and watching the world go by. 

The living room in our suite at the Josie Hotel

The living room in our suite at the Josie Hotel

The view to the ski hill from the Josie Hotel

The view to the ski hill from our suite

Our bedroom was lovely. It boasted a very comfortable mattress, lots of room to spread out and plenty of places to hang clothes, all with a view from our bed. The over-sized bathroom ensured there was never a fight over space. We both marveled at the size of the shower and the fact that some of the tiles never even got wet. While we had no time for the soaker tub on this trip, it would be stop number one after a day of skiing.

Note this is a pet-friendly hotel. Wish we’d had our mutt with us but her hiking days were over.

Well-appointed modern bedrooms at the Josie

Well-appointed modern bedrooms at the Josie

A giant bathroom in our room at the Josie

Our shower is bigger than our powder room at home

What can you do in Rossland BC?

Go for a hike 

John and I enjoyed a late afternoon wildflower-filled hike to the top of one of the ski hills. What a treat it was to lace up a pair of runners and minutes later be on a trail. What we hadn’t bargained for was the workout we’d get – good training for our hike to Gwillm Lakes in Valhalla Provincial Park. We’d been given directions but really how hard can it be to walk up a ski hill?

Very hard as it turns out. It was a scramble in places as we pulled ourselves up and over massive roots, and tried to gain purchase on vegetation-free slopes. Throw in those nasty ball-bearing sized rocks that can turn an ankle in a heartbeat and there were times I wondered what we were doing.

But the far-reaching views from the summit and walking through waist-high wildflowers, some back lit along with mountains and blue skies, made every difficult step worthwhile. I understand that the ski area is also a hit with trail runners.

Very pretty hiking on the trails around Rossland BC

Very pretty hiking on the trails around Rossland

View from the summit of one of the ski hills in Rossland BC

View from the summit of one of the ski hills

Wildflowers are waist high on the ski slopes in Rossland BC

Wildflowers are waist high on the ski slopes

Raft the Lower Slocan River

One afternoon was spent lazily rafting a pretty section of the Lower Slocan River with Endless Adventure out of Crescent Valley. Over a couple of hours beginning from Crescent Valley Beach we rafted through Class II and III waves. It’s the ideal rafting trip for families as nothing is overly scary – except for the optional swim through the rapids.

John and I thought the swim sounded like fun so we along with the majority of the guests walked up the river some distance from where we left the rafts. Then with the help of the guide we waded into the river, three at a time, and on cue swam for all we were worth to end up in the middle of the river. The current grabbed us and threw us into the big waves of the rapids in short order. It was all I could do to keep my mouth closed so I wouldn’t choke on the water. I’d describe it as a “rush” and the highlight of the afternoon for me!

Rafting the Lower Slocan River

Rafting the Lower Slocan River

Great fun floating the rapids on the Lower Slocan river

Heaps of fun floating the rapids on the Lower Slocan river

Scary face before rafting rapids

John making it look scarier than it is

Explore Rossland BC

Take a walk down the main street at some point on your visit to Rossland. You’ll probably come away surprised by the quality and variety of stores and businesses, the artwork and the nod to its skiing history. 

Stop in at Seven Summits Coffee Company if you need some fair-trade locally roasted beans. And if you’ve got a hankering for chocolate, check out the Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company for their hand-crafted chocolates, ice cream and pastries.

Handsome buildings on the main street in Rossland BC

Handsome buildings on the main street in Rossland

Art made up of old bicycle tire rims

I love any art with bicycle bits

Mountain biking in Rossland

John and I ran out of time to give mountain biking a go. But this town is famous for the grueling 35 kilometre long Seven Summits Trail. It’s even recognized by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) as an epic trail. Interestingly, a few weeks after this trip, when we were hiking in Switzerland, we met locals who had traveled all the way to to Rossland specifically to bike the Seven Summits. Guess we missed something really good.

Eating at the Josie Hotel

We were lucky to eat twice at the Velvet Restaurant in the hotel – breakfast on one day, dinner on another. Take your appetite (well-earned after all the adventures) as you’re for a treat.

Chef Marc-Andre Choquette, a Vancouver transplant who once worked as a sous chef at Lumiere with Rob Feenie, heads up the restaurant. The menu is a French-influenced seasonal menu. John enjoyed a tender duck breast one night while I swooned over homemade tagliatelle. Breakfast is as a beautiful as it is tasty. Check out my bowl of hot steel cut oats in one of the photos below.

And if you’re hungry before dinner, I highly recommend that you order a bottle of wine and a charcuterie board for your room. Heaven.

The Velvet Restaurant & Lounge at the Josie Hotel

The Velvet Restaurant & Lounge at the Josie Hotel

Delicious homemade pappardelle pasta

Delicious homemade pappardelle pasta

Breakfast at the Josie Hotel

Hot steel cut oatmeal with whipped bitter almond and blueberry compote

Charcuterie plate at the Josie Hotel

Charcuterie plate at the Josie Hotel

For more information or to book rooms at the Josie Hotel visit their website here.

John and I were guests of the Josie Hotel – but they have no influence on my opinion or the article itself. We both truly loved this place and would happily come back in winter.

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The best hotel in Rossland BC

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The Pickle Jar Lakes Hike in Kananaskis Country

The Pickle Jar Lakes Hike in Kananaskis Country

The Pickle Jar Lakes hike is a standout if you’re a fan of mountain lakes. And judging by the popularity of this Kananaskis hike, people love a lake as a destination.

Four lakes. Even better – though not all are equally beautiful.

Heading for the third of the Pickle Jar Lakes

Heading for the third of the Pickle Jar Lakes

Route description for the Pickle Jar Lakes hike 

From the parking lot walk north beside the highway for about 100 metres. Cross the road and pick up the obvious, though unsigned trail that curves northeast into woods of aspen and conifers. Start climbing.

Approximately 20 minutes into the hike you’ll get a good view of the trail heading up. For a while you can hear road traffic. Eventually it gets drowned out by the sound of the creek you can see in places below you.

The ascent is steady though very doable, even for kids if you take your time. In a few of the steep places there isn’t much underfoot for traction. Some people may find poles handy in this section.

The trail drops into the forest after cresting the first pass. Then it’s up again but the views show up. Mist Mountain appears off to the west-northwest. Reach the high point of the entire hike at a 2137 metre pass.

The Pickle Jar Lakes come into view

From the pass descend a short section on shale – with tantalizing views of the first lake. This part of the hike can be a challenge for some. It’s steep and hard to get a good grip. Again poles may help.

The first of the Pickle Jar Lakes is at the 4.2 kilometre mark. To continue to the second lake, walk along the south shore to an obvious inlet stream. Boulder hop and then hike up and over a small scree slope to reach the lake number two. If you’re thinking about a lunch stop, keep going to the third lake, the prettiest one of them all. It’s a short hike between each lake.

When you arrive at the third lake you can see trails going either way around it. We went right, crossed a scree slope, continued through a short section of  beautiful alpine wildflowers to gain a ridge overlooking the shallow fourth lake. It’s easy to hike down to the lake. From there pick up the trail to loop back to the start of the third lake.

Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Nice views once the trail breaks out of the woods

Nice views once the trail breaks out of the woods

Catching our breath and admiring the view

Catching our breath and admiring the view

A scree section on the way to the first of the Pickle Jar lakes

A scree section on the way to the first of the Pickle Jar Lakes

The hike is a popular one with families and fisherman

The hike is a popular one with families and fisherman

Walking towards the second lake

Walking towards the second lake

The second of the Pickle Jar Lakes is the least pretty

The second of the Pickle Jar Lakes is the least pretty

It’s a desolate scene on the way to the third lake

On a sunny day the water in the third lake is a gorgeous Caribbean blue and teal colour though the backdrop of banded cliffs and talus bowls is a tad desolate. Still this is the lake everyone is drawn to. The fishing is good, picnic spots out of the wind are plentiful and you may see or hear a marmot or pika.

It's a short climb to reach the third lake

It’s a short climb to reach the third and nicest of the Pickle Jar Lakes

The third Pickle Jar lake

The third Pickle Jar lake

Our lunch spot beside a big rock at the third Pickle Jar Lake

Our lunch spot beside a big rock at the third lake

Looking down the length of the third lake

Looking down the length of the third lake

Hiking up to the fourth of the Pickle Jar lakes through alpine flowers

Hiking up to the fourth lake through alpine flowers

The fourth lake is very shallow

The fourth lake is very shallow

A pika at the first lake

A pika at the first lake

Beautiful views on the descent

Beautiful views on the descent

Camping at Pickle Jar Lakes

Camping is happening at Pickle Jar Lakes – as I saw many groups going in and lots of campsites. However, it’s not actually permitted according to a woman I spoke with at the Barrier Lake Information Centre. I wouldn’t recommend it or I’d double check and ask for a second opinion. But the Alberta Parks website shows no camping too. 

Useful information

It’s approximately 9.0 kilometres round-trip if you visit all four of the Pickle Jar Lakes. The elevation gain is a very manageable 450 metres. Distance and vertical vary a bit depending on the routes you take. 

Allow three to five hours, depending on how much time you spend exploring and hanging out around the lakes.

You’ll see lots of people fly fishing as the lakes are stocked with Westslope Cutthroat trout. It’s catch and release only and you need a permit.

This is grizzly bear country so be sure to carry bear spray along with the 10 hiking essentials.

The hike is dog-friendly but keep them on a leash at all times. There are a couple of streams on the hike up to the lakes where dogs can drink some water.

Back into the woods for the last stretch of the hike

Back into the woods for the last stretch of the hike

Finding the trailhead for Pickle Jar Lakes

The shortest route to the trailhead if you’re coming from Calgary is via Highway 40. From Black Diamond take Highway 22 south to Longview. Turn west onto Highway 541. It becomes Highway 40 when you reach Kananaskis Country. From Longview it’s 61 kilometres to reach the large Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot on the west side of the highway.

From Highwood Pass it’s 20.6 kilometres south on Highway 40 to get to the Lantern Creek parking lot. 

Walk north beside the highway for a few hundred feet, cross the road and you’ll see the start of the trail to Pickle Jar Lakes.

The Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot

Park in the Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot off Highway 40

The trailhead is on the east side of Highway 40

Walk along Highway 40 and cross the road to get to the Pickle Jar Lakes trailhead

Further reading on hikes from nearby Highwood Pass

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The hike to Pickle Jar Lakes in Kananaskis

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6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

With lush rainforests and steep mountain backdrops greeting you in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, you might feel you’ve landed in Costa Rica but this destination is considerably closer and has much to offer the nature lover.

Verdant forests and quiet beaches in the Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit offers nature lovers verdant forests and quiet beaches

A 300-kilometre coastline sweeping north of Puerto Vallarta along Banderas Bay is the centerpiece of Riviera Nayarit. There are several luxury resorts so you don’t need to suffer but the slower pace offers more chance for discovery and chances to reconnect with nature including the following experiences.

Swim at Isla Del Coral 

Although most beaches in this part of Mexico aren’t crowded, if you’d like aqua-blue water and some island time, take a boat tour with Xplore Mexico to Isla Del Coral. This rocky outcrop is home to brown pelicans and black vultures; you can watch them soar over the beach while lizards streak across the rock cliffs and vendors sell cold drinks.

There’s a bit of surf on the crescent white-sand beach but most swimmers will find it easy to enter the water. You can also snorkel or paddleboard although you need to be an experienced boarder to deal with the wind and waves. Take an early morning tour as boatloads of water lovers arrive mid-day. You can rent a table and chairs in the shade to avoid too much sun between dips.

Bird Watch at San Blas

A three-hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta airport is the small village of San Blas known for colonial architecture and birds. This relatively undiscovered Riviera Nayarit destination offers a variety of habitats close to town so if birds are your thing, you can see a lot of them here in a short time. Each January there is a migratory bird festival where nature lovers gather to see the avian visitors.

Pelican in San Blas on the Riviera Nayarit

Birdwatchers will find many species in San Blas

Frolic on the Beach at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort is a very comfortable place to base your explorations and sits on a long beach for early morning walking or running. From June to November you can discover sea turtle tracks if you’re up early.

Each night turtles crawl up the beach to lay eggs before covering their nest with sand and slipping back into the ocean. You can tell which nests birds and other egg lovers have discovered by the broken shells laying on the sand.  

You can also parasail or boogie board, and the resort has several pools (one just for adults) for water lovers.

To keep up your fitness for nature explorations consider booking a wellness suite for your stay. You’ll find a stationary bike next to your bed (no excuses not to exercise here), a vitamin-C shower, in-suite personal training sessions, breakfast smoothies, aromatherapy, and a wellness concierge to help you organize it all.

Strolling the beach near Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort

Strolling the beach near Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort shows turtle activity in summer months

Walk Through a Magic Town 

It sounds like a song lyric but a magic town is a real thing in Mexico. The designation is given to small towns with unique history, culture or aesthetics. There are currently 111 magic towns in the country but it’s a difficult accreditation to get. Only 28 of 180 applicants were added to the list in 2015.

Sayulita is a magic town popular with surfers but also great for land lovers and walking. The bright crayon-coloured buildings and cobblestone streets mean your camera is never turned off and you’ll probably walk longer than you planned. Take time to sit in the town plaza under the trees and soak in the rhythms of this ocean-side community.

Colourful storefront in Sayulita

Sayulita is officially magic town and there’s much to keep you strolling the cobblestone streets

Sample the Day’s Catch

Dining in Sayulita offers plenty of seafood fresh from the ocean. You can wiggle your toes in the beach sand at Don Pedro‘s Restaurant and Bar. At Barracuda Sayulita you’ll find five-star presentation in a casual surfer setting. Thinking of the ocean, restaurant owners eschew plastics and serve drinks on re-usable cloth coasters.

In the south region of Riviera Nayarit at Hector’s Kitchen in Punta Mita the former Four Season’s chef uses local ingredients in his cuisine, changing the menu to reflect the seasons and offering unexpected flavours (hello, root beer root).

bartenders serve up drinks on cloth coasters at Barracuda Sayulita

At Barracuda Sayulita bartenders serve up drinks on cloth coasters. No plastic straws here.

Play at eco-lodge Maraica San Pancho

This eco-lodge in San Francisco (known by locals as San Pancho) offers day passes for a budget-friendly $25US that includes use of the pool and grounds, and a $15US meal credit in the restaurant. Solar panels generate electricity, the resort aims for zero waste, and staff do beach clean-ups regularly. Owner Fernanda Castro, explained her desire to help people connect with nature, “We remind visitors of where they come from. At some point, we won’t be able to go back to nature where we used to.”

Maraica San Pancho staff clean the beach near their resort and focus on sustainability

Maraica San Pancho staff clean the beach near their resort and focus on sustainability

It’s a good reminder that our time in nature is precious. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to nurture our connection to outdoor landscapes in Riviera Nayarit.

To learn more about how you can get closer to nature in Riviera Nayarit click here.

Riviera Nayarit hosted Carol Patterson but the opinions are her own.

More reading on holidays in Mexico

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6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

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A Trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park in Quebec

A Trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park in Quebec

For years the Mingan Archipelago National Park has been on my bucket list. I first heard about the park when I started researching places to include in my book on 100 adventures across Canada back in 2013. Kayaking through an archipelago of over 1000 islands that make up the park sounded like a magical adventure to me. Unfortunately the kayaking company I’d looked at shuttered its doors, and there was no replacement for years. So I nixed any plans to go. 

Kayaks on the dock at Ile aux Perroquets

Kayaks on the dock on Ile aux Perroquets

Summer 2019 Mingan dreams come true

Fast forward to July 2019. I along with two other travel writers/photographers visited the islands at the invitation of Parks Canada over a three day period. It was enough time to give me a taste of what they offered – and it was way more time than many of the 30,000 annual visitors spend. Still the visit has just whetted my appetite for more, in particular hiking, kayaking and birding.

Mingan Archipelago National Park video

Click on this video to get an idea of the treat you’re in for.

Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve

Established as a park in 1984, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve encompasses almost a 1,000 islands and islets scattered off the coast of eastern Quebec. It’s a unique destination with its abundance of large limestone monoliths that date back some 450 million years. Carved by nature, these fantastically shaped rocks are one of the big reasons to visit the park. Nowhere else in Canada will you see such an abundance of these rocky sentinels. 

The islands are equally famous for their seabird population. The common eider is the most abundant species in the park but the one that people come specifically to see is the Atlantic puffin. The birds arrive sometime in April and are gone by September. An overnight stay in the lightkeeper’s cottage on Île aux Perroquets will allow you to watch their comings and goings for hours.

View from the lighthouse of Ile aux Perroquets

View from the lighthouse of Ile aux Perroquets

The marine life is also excellent. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is the home of numerous whale species including the endangered blue whale. You can learn a lot more about the whales with a stop at the Mingan Island Creatacean Study in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.

We were lucky enough to see minke whales on several occasions – and though I have no photos I did catch a few seconds you can see on the video.

The site of the Mingan Island Cretaceous study

The site of the Mingan Island Cretaceous study

Where is the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve?

The park stretches along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Quebec – near the end of Highway 138. The closest big centre is Sept-Îles, a 2.5 hour drive away while Quebec City is a whopping 860 kilometres away. Two towns that provide boat access to the park include Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan and Havre-Saint-Pierre.

Admiring an erosion monolith in the Mingan Archipelago

Admiring an erosion monolith in the Mingan Archipelago on Petite Ile au Marteau

How do spend three days in the Mingan Archipelago National Park 

Our group was fortunate to visit five islands over the three days. On three of the islands we only had an hour or two but that was enough time to wander around, take pictures, poke our noses in tide pools and visit lighthouses. We spent a night on two islands – in an oTENTik on Quarry Island and in a wonderful lightkeeper’s cottage – with hot showers and delicious food on Île aux Perroquets.

Île Niapiskau

Visit Île Niapiskau to see numerous monliths including once called Bonne Femme. If you’ve got time there are two trails to hike, one a short 0.3 km loop on Poète Jomphe Trail and the other a 4.4 km hike on the Samuel Trail. There is also camping on this island.

We had less than an hour to wander around, thinking that we’d be coming back again. But plans changed so I’m glad we were able to see these fantastic monoliths.

A collection of monoliths on Ile Niapiskau

A collection of monoliths on Ile Niapiskau

Man admiring a monolith on Ile Niapiskau in Mingan Archipelago National Park

My friend James admiring the monolith

Monoliths on the beach on Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park

Monoliths on the beach on Ile Niapiskau

Île Nue de Mingan 

In English this island is called Naked Island. While it does look bare, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t brimming with life – especially seabirds. It’s also home to many lovely monoliths including the highest one in all of the islands – La Montagnaise standing a little over 10 metres high. If you visit at low tide there are fabulous tide pools to explore. 

Îlot next door to Île Nue de Mingan is filled with limestone caves – many of which we could see from the boat. The area is literally filled with seabirds – flying every which way, squawking, swimming and making their presence known. 

Monoliths on Naked Island in the Mingan

Monoliths on Île Nue de Mingan or Naked Island in the Mingan

Photographers will love all the different shapes the monoliths come in

Monoliths on Naked Island

Looking at the caves on Ilot

Looking at the caves on Ilot beside Ile Nue de Mingan

Petite Ile au Marteau

You can see Petite Île au Marteau from Havre-Saint-Pierre. It’s quick and easy to get to and one of the few islands that is accessible for disabled people. 

Catch your red chair moment. Walk the trails to the lighthouse. Step back in time as you enter the lightkeeper’s cottage. Explore the multitude of tidal pools. And look for numerous common eiders and herring gulls that nest on the island but don’t disturb them.

Pancake like rocks on Petite Ile au Marteau

Pancake like rocks on Petite Ile au Marteau

The lighthouse on Petite Ile au Marteau in Mingan Archipelago National Park

The lighthouse on Petite Ile au Marteau

Exploring tide pools on Petite Ile au Marteau

One of our group off exploring tide pools on Petite Ile au Marteau

Île Quarry

Try to spend a night on Quarry Island. It’s home to six oTENTik tents and eight campsites, lovely stretches of beach, beautiful forest and a fabulous network of hiking trails covering about 15 kilometres of the island. There’s enough to keep you busy for several days!!

Be sure to hike the shore trail as a loop via Les Falaises trail. That way you get a great combo of the boreal forest and spectacular monoliths. Don’t wimp out on the climb up to the viewpoint in the forest because on a clear day you may even see Anitcosti Island. 

Good signage for the hiking trails on Quarry Island

Good signage for the hiking trails on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on the coastal trail on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on the coastal trail on Quarry Island

Beautiful backdrop for a red chair moment on Quarry Island

Beautiful backdrop for a red chair moment on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on Quarry Island beside the ocean in Mingan Archipelago National Park

Couldn’t get enough of hiking beside the ocean on Quarry Island

Evening light on Quarry Island

Evening light on Quarry Island

Enjoying the sunset on Quarry Island in the Mingan Archipelago National Park

Enjoying the sunset on Quarry Island in the Mingan Archipelago

oTENTik on Quarry Island in the Mingan

My oTENTik on Quarry Island

Barbecuing on Quarry Island

Barbecuing on Quarry Island

Île aux Perroquets

If you want to spend hours watching puffins, then plan a visit to Île aux Perroquets. This island is one of the best for viewing them, especially in July when their numbers are highest.

Île aux Perroquets is a small island crammed with history from the years of people tending to the lighthouse. And it’s got wonderful rooms you can book in the Lightkeeper’s Cottage. Throw in drinks and appetizers in the former hen house, old fashioned rockers, the chance to climb to the top of the lighthouse, superb food and you have one heck of a place to spend a night or two. 

Read: A Lighthouse Stay in Quebec’s Mingan Archipelago 

Walking to the Lightkeepers Cottage on Ile aux Perroquets

Walking to the Lightkeepers Cottage on Ile aux Perroquets

One of the small cottages people can stay in on Ile aux Perroquets, Mingan Archipelago National Park

One of the small cottages people can stay in on Ile aux Perroquets

The best time to visit the Mingan

Plan to visit the Mingan in the summer between June and early September. It’s a short season with the boats only operating during the summer. August would be a great month from the perspective of fewer bugs. But July is better for puffins. 

Puffins and razorbills on Ile aux Perroquets, Mingan Archipelago National Park

Puffins and razorbills on Ile aux Perroquets

Getting around the Mingan Archipalago

You need a boat to get to the islands in the Mingan. While some people show up in the islands having paddled over in their own kayaks, the majority of people book a boat tour or a boat taxi. Out of Havre-Saint-Pierre you can book an excursion to various islands with Services Maritimes-Boréale. They also offer a taxi boat for campers and hikers.

If it’s a tailor-made excursion you’re after call Mr. Louis Richard – with Croisières du Capitaine Richard at 1-418-538-3375.

You can also leave for the western most islands out of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. There are two companies, both offering sea excursions with stopovers and taxi boats to the islands for hikers and campers. Check out Enterprises touristiques Loiselle or Excursions du Phare.

Note: If you’re doing your own kayaking trip you should be competent at reading charts, understand the currents and the risks of what you’re doing. As one Parks Canada person said to me “the weather is either outstanding or horrible. There is no in between.” Go very prepared.

Kayaks on a beach in the Mingan Archipealgo

Kayaks are a great way to explore the Mingan Archipelago if you have the skills

One of the boats used for getting around the Mingan Archipelago National Park

One of the boats used for getting around the Mingan Archipelago

Camping in Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve

It’s possible to stay overnight on a total of six islands. Île Quarry is the only one that offers the oTENTik experience and those should be booked through Parks Canada. If you really want to make your life easy book an oTENTik kit rental. That way you won’t need to bring much more than food and water.

You can also book 36 regular campsites online – though search “frontcountry” to get the options in the Mingan. The other islands that offer camping include Grand Île, Île à la Chasse, Île du Havre, Île Nue de Mingan, Île Quarry and Île Niapiskau. 

Kayaking companies working in the Mingan Archipelago

Should you prefer to see the Mingan via kayak there are now a couple of choices. For a local company check out Noryak Adventures based in Havre-Saint-Pierre. Montreal based Chinook Adventure and Quebec City based Quatres Nature are your other two options. 

***A giant thank you to Guy, Suzie, Parks Canada and Quebec Maritime for hosting my stay. I fell in love with this park, just like I thought I would.***

More reading on places to visit in Quebec 

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A trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park Preserve

 

 

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Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge serves as a great base for hiking adventures. It sits on 7,000 acres of private land just minutes from Fernie, British Columbia. The lodge is surrounded by towering trees in old growth forest – with the Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains serving up a spectacular backdrop. That translates to wonderful hiking opportunities both above tree line and in the forest. And you don’t have to be a guest at Island Lake Lodge to enjoy the trails.

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio, Island Lake Lodge

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio

Hiking or cat skiing at Island Lake Lodge?

Hiking however isn’t what Island Lake Lodge is best known for. It’s cat skiing in winter. But word is getting out about the variety of hiking trails, their beauty and how well signed and cared for they are. As a bonus, when you’re finished hiking here, a cold drink and something delicious to eat is available at Bear Lodge Bistro – before you even get back to the parking lot.

Beer with the words Take a Hike on the glass

Island Lake Lodge – Take a Hike and #hikemore

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

Over two days at Island Lake Lodge, John and I were able to hike four of the 15 trails that start at the lodge. We cheated a bit as one trail – Goldilocks – can’t be hiked without doing Spineback Trail – but the bottom line is that we covered a lot of ground in a short time frame. There are at least five more trails I would like to come back and hike. They include Heiko’s Trail, Tamarack Trail Summit, Big White Peak, Goat Pass and Lizard Lake.

If you’re either new to hiking or a nervous hiker – always fretting about what’s around the next corner, then I think you’ll really enjoy hiking from the lodge. You’d have to work on getting lost as the trails are particularly well-signed. And while you may run into wildlife including moose, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, wolves, cougar and lynx – consider it a privilege if you see something. I almost never do. 

Just because you’re starting at a lodge doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go prepared. Take the 10 hiking essentials and for heaven’s sake carry a can of bear spray – and know how to use it.

Read: Bear Safety Tips: What You Need to Know

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Hiking trails at Island Lake Lodge we did

Lake Trail

On the day that we arrived at the lodge it was almost 5 PM. We decided a before dinner hike was in order so we chose the 2 kilometre Lake Trail. It’s an easy loop hike through old growth forest with lots of towering western red cedar and Douglas fir. John particularly loved it for the birds that hung out by an open area with a stream. In short order he amassed 20 birds including the alder flycatcher.

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

You can knock the Lake Trail off quickly – in 30 to 45 minutes if you’re moving. But there are a couple of iconic photo spots where you might want to linger. Down by Island Lake, you can either rent a canoe or catch someone canoeing – perhaps in the early morning as the sun comes up.

Canoeing at Island Lake Lodge

You might see someone out canoeing if you hike the Lake Trail

Note: There are Island Lake Lodge photo spots numbered and documented on all the trails. They refer to the best views! Pick up a map ahead of time so you know where to go.  

Spineback Trail

The Spineback trail offers a good workout and some truly fantastic views. The trail climbs 430 metres from Island Lake through sub-alpine meadows that are dotted with wildflowers come late July. Hike to the end of Spineback Ridge for a great photo opportunity by a gnarly old tree. It’s called the Scott Schmidt tree, named for the first extreme skier.

To do the return 7 kilometre hike, allow three to four hours. If you want another superb view hike half a kilometre more to the bench above the ridge – between the 3 Bears Peaks. Retrace your steps or continue to do the Goldilocks Trail. (See below.)

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail - Island Lake Lodge

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge from the second bench above Spineback

Goldilocks Trail

The 2.5 kilometre Goldilocks trail is the newest trail you can access from Island Lake Lodge. Completed in 2018, it was named for the three women who built the trail. 

The trail begins where Spineback leaves off – at the top of the bench above the ridge. As it’s a loop trail – you can do it in either direction. We hiked it counter-clockwise and I personally think that’s the best way to go.

Climb 210 metres on a trail through scree, past rocks filled with fossils attesting to the time when these rocks were at the bottom of the sea. The trail curves around Baby Bear Mountain as you climb to Upper Nonstop saddle. Savour the views through here. On the backside look for lingering snow into late July. Continue by descending on switchbacks between Baby Bear and Mama Bear peaks. That’s followed by a brief climb up to another vantage point of the valley below. Then it’s one more steep descent, perhaps on snow, to reach a flatter section and the intersection with the Spineback trail. Allow 1.5 hours to do the loop.

Humans look ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Humans look like ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking west

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking east

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

If you only have a couple of hours but you want a trail that delivers a workout with a view, choose the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint. It will take you between 2 – 3 hours to cover the 4 kilometres with an elevation gain of 300 metres.

The beginning of the Tamarack Trail is shared with the Lazy Lizard trail. It starts off flat and easy as it travels through beautiful old-growth forest. Then it begins climbing – reaching a steep section near the viewpoint where a set of steep wooden steps have been added. We startled a grouse through here – and it in turn startled us, causing us to jump.

From the top of the stairs, it’s a short walk to the viewpoint. Park yourself on the bench and enjoy the views to the lodge below and the Spineback and Goldilocks Trail across the way.

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island Lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Look up to the tops of massive old growth trees

Don’t forget to look up

After hiking if you’re a guest at the lodge

Forget that closed in sauna feeling. You won’t find it at Island Lake Lodge. Instead, every sauna – and there’s one in every lodge, offers a fantastic view out the window. It’s a great way to relax and soothe those tired muscles. Just be sure to ask the front desk to fire one up for you ahead of time.

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

The rooms at Island Lake Lodge

We stayed in one of the newer lodges and enjoyed a large room with a superb mountain view. We didn’t end up spending much time in the room but I could easily picture myself enjoying a glass of wine on the deck just admiring the landscape. I loved our big bathroom with a slate shower and heated floors, along with a large soaker tub. And yes there is WiFi here.

Spacious bedroom in the Cedar Lodge at Island Lake Lodge

Our spacious bedroom with a mountain view in the Cedar Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Eating at the lodge

Meals are beautiful to look at, creative and delicious at Island Lake Lodge. The summer salad is one I could eat daily and the beet risotto with mascarpone (not pictured) was also a treat for the eyes and the stomach. Some of the main dishes include Arctic char, bison shortribs (a long time guest favourite), duck breast and free range chicken.

If you had a big hiking day and expended a lot of calories I would suggest choosing a large plate. Sometimes I like to pick two appetizers as my meal but here they are on the small size and I don’t think two would be filling enough for most people. Or pick two appetizers and a dessert!

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Delicious summer salad with flower petals

Delicious summer salad with flower petals that I would happily eat everyday

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt – one of my favourite breakfasts

Booking a holiday at Island Lake Lodge

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for a hiking holiday out of Island Lake Lodge. You can contact them directly if you’re interested in booking by visiting their website.

Further reading

Thank you to Island Lake Lodge for hosting my stay. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

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11 Things to do in Revelstoke in Summer

11 Things to do in Revelstoke in Summer

Looking for things to do in Revelstoke in summer? You won’t have a problem filling your day(s). But what you may find is that you haven’t allowed enough time to do everything you want to do. 

I personally would recommend these 11 things to do – based on a couple of trips to Revelstoke, nearby hot springs and national parks. There are also several adventurous activities I wish I’d done (see below) that will have to wait for the next visit.

Mountain backdrop with cool lighting in Revelstoke

Mountain backdrop with cool light in Revelstoke

Go hiking in Mount Revelstoke National Park

There’s lots of choice when it comes to hiking in nearby Mount Revelstoke National Park. Of the 20 plus hikes, one I’d suggest if you’ve got 4 – 6 hours, is the 14.2 kilometre return hike to Eva Lake. It’s only got 179 metres of elevation gain!

The trail takes you through a forest of subalpine fir, Englemann spruce and mountain hemlock with periodic views of the Columbia River – literally thousands of feet below. If you hike in August you’ll be treated to wildflower-filled meadows. Eva Lake itself is lovely and worth the walk around. It makes a great lunch spot – or backcountry camping destination.

Read: A Hike to Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park

The Eva Lake hike is one of the things to do in Revelstoke

Wildflowers galore at the start of the Eva Lake hike

Reflection in Eva Lake

Reflection in Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park

Take a hike in Glacier National Park

Continue past Mount Revelstoke National Park to reach Glacier National Park. Choose an easy hike like the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail – put in place as a legacy to Rick Hansen’s 1987 Man in Motion tour.

Or pick one of the many steep hiking trails like the Hermit Trail that takes you into the alpine. Two other superb hikes include the moderate Asulkan Valley Trail. It takes you to an overlook of the Asulkan Glacier. The more difficult Abbott Ridge Trail gets you up high in the alpine tundra via a narrow ridge.

Read: The Hermit Trail Hike in Glacier National Park

Enjoying the big in your face glacier views from the Hermit Trail, Glacier National Park

Enjoying the big in your face glacier views from the Hermit Trail

Go paddleboarding on the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir

If you didn’t arrive in Revelstoke with a paddleboard you can rent a blow-up one from Fine Line SUP. The boards take about 10 minutes to fill with air (a good warm-up to SUP) and then voilá, you’re ready to go.

We drove to an obvious launch spot a short distance north of the Revelstoke Dam. There’s lots of parking and water access is easy with the paddleboard. On a peaceful, calm weekend morning we had the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir to ourselves. Our goal was to paddle north to Silvertip Falls, located on the east (right) side of the reservoir. 

We arrived sooner that we figured and I’m sorry now that we didn’t have time to continue up to Martha Creek Provincial Park – a popular destination for paddleboarders. With conditions like you see in the photo below, you can cover a lot of ground in short order.

Paddleboarding on the Columbia River north of the dam

Paddleboarding on the Columbia River north of the dam

Paddleboarding to a set of waterfalls on the Columbia River

Paddleboarding to Silvertip Falls on the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir south of Martha Creek Provincial Park

The blow-up paddleboard packs up nicely into this carrying bag

The blow-up paddleboard packs up nicely into this carrying bag

Soak in the Nakusp Hot Springs 

As a side trip from Revelstoke head to one or more of the Nakusp hot springs for a soak. There are three I tried. You could visit all the hot springs in a day if that was your goal.

The Halcyon Hot Springs are the most developed of the three Nakusp hot springs. Not only are there hot, warm and cold pools on the upper deck, they’ve got a large swimming pool with a killer view over Upper Arrow Lake. You can stay and eat here too. These springs are the closest to the ferry.

For a visit to an undeveloped hot springs visit Halfway Hot Springs – south of Halcyon. While there is a change room and an outhouse, the rest of the hot springs is a series of pools of varying temperature from steaming hot to extremely cold. In winter, access would be an issue unless you’re traveling with a snowmobile or skis.

The Nakusp Hot Springs are closest to the village of Nakusp itself. Look for two side by side pools – one warm and one a bit hotter, along with full change facilities, showers and a snack bar with espresso drinks.

Read: 3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC that are Worth a Visit

Halcyon Hot Springs near Nakusp

Halcyon Hot Springs near Nakusp

The largest pool at Halfway Hot Springs

The largest pool is near the change room

Raft the Illecillewaet River 

Book a tour with Apex Rafting if you love the thrill of rafting Class I – Class III rapids. With Apex you journey for 26 kilometres down the Illecillewaet River through 20 rapids, broken by scenic sections where you can sit back and watch the mountain scenery slide by. 

The rafting tour starts in Revelstoke. After you get your gear and wiggle into wetsuits, it’s about a 30 minute drive to the launch site near Glacier National Park. We spent 2.5 hours actually on the river. By the time 5 PM rolled around, we both felt like we’d had a good upper body workout – though we never had to swim!

About to get wet rafting the Illecillewaet River

About to get wet rafting the Illecillewaet River – Photo credit: Apex Rafting

Rafting an easy section of the Illecillewaet River near Revelstoke

Rafting an easy section of the Illecillewaet River near Revelstoke

Catch the Revelstoke Summer Street Fest

For two months every summer the Revelstoke Summer Street Fest takes place. It’s billed as one of the longest running music festivals – with a lineup of diverse musicians playing for just shy of 60 days straight. Best of all, it’s free. Pull up a chair, lean on your bike, dance, sit on the ground – whatever works for you. But enjoy the music.

The street fest takes place downtown on a closed-to-cars street beginning at 6:30 PM. Bands play three sets and finish by 9 PM. Some names you might have heard over the last few years include Maritime Kitchen Party, Sister Speak, The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and The Derina Harvey Band.

Band playing at the Revelstoke summer street fest

Band playing at the Revelstoke summer street fest

Enjoy the Revelstoke food scene

Revelstoke is home to some excellent restaurants, especially considering the size of the town.

John and I enjoyed a truly exceptional meal – a piece of salmon with wild rice pilaf and an exquisite green chimichurri emulsion from the laidback Woolsey Creek Bistro. Their focus is BC – and it shows both in the food and in the wine list. As our B&B hosts said, this place is a real treat to visit.

On another evening we dined at 112 Restaurant & Lounge, just around the corner from the street fest. In the second food photo you’ll see the mouthwatering plate of scallops I enjoyed. The meal left me in a state of bliss. We also enjoyed exceptionally friendly service.

For breakfast, lunch or brunch check out the Main Street Cafe on Mackenzie Avenue. It’s something of an institution in Revelstoke so if it’s a sunny weekend be prepared to wait for a table. With luck you could sit outside. Their espresso drinks are excellent – as was the bagel with smoked salmon pictured below.

Should you be heading to the mountains for a hike or bike ride pick up a sandwich and baked good from Mountain Meals on 1st Street West. You can order ahead of time too and they’ll have your packed lunch waiting for you. I highly recommend their chicken and brie sandwich. 

Salmon meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro

Fabulous salmon meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro in Revelstoke

Melt in your mouth scallops

Melt in your mouth scallops at 112 Restaurant

Smoked salmon on a bagel from Main Street Cafe

Smoked salmon on a bagel from the Main Street Cafe

More things to do in Revelstoke if you have time

You could quite easily spend a full week in Revelstoke with all the things to do. Here’s what I’d add to a visit next time.

Climb a big hill on your bike

I’d take a road bike and grunt my way up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park. The road switchbacks over 10 times as it climbs 26 kilometres up the side of the mountain, gaining 1,600 m (5,249 ft). And then I’d have a heck of a great time roaring back down the road. What a workout and what a reward.

Try the Pipe Mountain Coaster

The Pipe Mountain Coaster is reportedly a game changer when it comes to tourism in Revelstoke. It’s now the number one attraction in town bringing in people from all over looking for an adrenaline rush. Sit in a small coaster that gets to speeds of 42 km/hour over its 1.4 kilometre length.

The Coaster operates from the third week of June until mid-October, though its weekends only later in the season. The ride includes a trip up the gondola. You must be 8 years or older and be 4’1″ or taller to ride alone. Save 10% if you pre-purchase your tickets online.

Go tandem paragliding

I have never tried paragliding but a recent trip to Switzerland opened my eyes to the sport. John and I watched dozens of people launch solo from the mountains there. While I have no interest in learning how to paraglide by myself, I would like the thrill of being a passenger. Check out Revelstoke Paragliding for more information.

Go shopping

I got no further than window shopping on this trip though I do have to say I was impressed with what I saw, especially when it came to outdoor stores. And that’s my favourite type of shopping. If you’ve forgotten anything for an outdoor adventure, you’ll have no trouble restocking your wardrobe or gear box. 

Revelstoke Accommodation

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

We stayed at the Holten Heritage House Bed & Breakfast. You can look forward to multi-course breakfasts with home-grown fruits and vegetables, lots of good conversation around the breakfast table and cozy rooms.

The Explorers Society Hotel just blocks from downtown Revelstoke is the first boutique hotel in town. The hotel’s location is in a renovated 1911 building. It also boasts a private rooftop lounge and reportedly an excellent restaurant.

If you want to be up on Revelstoke Mountain be sure to check out the Sutton Place Hotel Revelstoke Mountain Resort. It offers condominium style accommodation.

Another option if you’re not in a rush, is to spend a full night at the Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa. Why rush a relaxing soak in a hot spring?

The colourful Holten Heritage House B&B

The colourful Holten Heritage House B&B

Where is Revelstoke?

Revelstoke, or Revy as it’s called by locals is a town of approximately 14,000 people (according to Telus Insights), situated on the Colombia River in south central British Columbia. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the town.

From Calgary it’s approximately 400 kilometres west, or a 4.5 hour drive. Its 565 kilometres and a six hour drive from  Vancouver. Other nearby cities include Golden, BC (150 kilometres east), Vernon, BC in the Okanagan (150 kilometres southwest) and Salmon Arm (103 kilometres west). There is also the possibility of driving north 100 kilometres from Nakusp. If you do that you’ll need to take the free ferry to Shelter Bay from Galena Bay.

On the ferry to Shelter Bay

On the ferry to Shelter Bay

In winter it can sometimes be a challenge to get to Revelstoke as you must drive over Rogers Pass (a high mountain pass) if you’re coming from the east or the Coachella Highway if you’re driving from Vancouver. Fortunately in summer, save for the rare freak snow storm, the driving is excellent. And scenic – from all directions.

A big thank you to Tourism Revelstoke for hosting my recent stay. All thoughts – as always are my own. I think this is a mountain town worthy of your time!

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11 things to do in Revelstoke, BC in summer

 

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Visiting Machu Picchu: 5 things You Must Do

Visiting Machu Picchu: 5 things You Must Do

Visiting Machu Picchu is high on the list of travelers from around the world. Not only was it awarded UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1983 but Machu Picchu made the list of Wonders of the Modern World in 2007. What that means today is that visiting Machu Picchu is never going to be a solitary experience. In fact (too many) travelers see it as a rite of passage leading to visitor numbers exceeding 5,000 people per day. Every day is now a wildly busy day at Machu Picchu.

The backdrop at Machu Picchu everyone wants

The backdrop at Machu Picchu everyone wants – just after 6 AM

What are the 5 things you must do if you’re visiting Machu Picchu?

Overview of the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu

Overview of the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu

1. Go very early or very late in the day

As blogger Taylor from Travel Outlandish says “Remember that nothing good happens after 10 AM. For the love of God, if you decide to go to Machu Picchu, please wake up and catch the very first bus to the ruins. Once the day-trippers roll in and the site fills with trekkers, Machu Picchu is chaos.

Fortunately on our G Adventures trip we were up and at it early, though not as early as Taylor recommends. We joined the long line of tourists waiting to catch a bus by 5:30 AM. Even though it was crazy busy at the entrance gate, we were still some of the first people in.

Travelers at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu

Travelers at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu

2. Hike to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

After you’ve done a quick spin through the upper ruins, snagging those all-important selfie shots, go left at the Guardhouse and look for signs saying Inti Punku. Continue on the trail climbing through agricultural terraces all the way to the Sun Gate.

From the entrance to Machu Picchu you climb approximately 290 metres (951 feet), primarily on uneven stone steps – sometimes with big rises. Expect to be huffing and puffing, especially if you aren’t acclimatized. Machu Picchu sits at an altitude of 2430 m or 7,972 feet. It takes about an hour to hike it one way.

The Sun Gate is on a ridge southeast of Machu Picchu. If your timing is such that you show up on the summer solstice, you will catch the rising sun as it passes through the Sun Gate. We were three weeks too early for that. But what we did get was a great overview of Machu Picchu – and a workout.

As the hike to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) follows the original Inca Trail you’re likely to meet people who have been on the Inca Trail for several days finishing their trek to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate. Most are sporting wide smiles.

The pretty walk up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

The pretty walk up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

Hiking to the Sun Gate

Hiking to the Sun Gate

Stellar overview from the Sun Gate

Stellar overview from the Sun Gate

Steep terracing below the Sun Gate

Steep terracing below the Sun Gate

3. Hike to the Inka Bridge

We did the hike to the Inka Bridge right after we finished the hike to the Sun Gate. It’s not a place where you want to get backed up on as the trail is narrow to the viewpoint and the dropoffs precipitous. As its several hundred metres down to the bottom. Those scared of heights should avoid the trail. 

Reportedly the Inka Bridge was built as a secret western entrance to Machu Picchu by the Inka army. It’s in poor condition now but you can still get close to it at the far end of the Inka Bridge trail.

Allow about 20 minutes each way to walk it plus lots of time for photos and gawking. It’s in a truly spectacular setting.

An airy hike to the Inka Bridge

An airy hike to the Inka Bridge

Photographing the wonder of the Inka Bridge

Photographing the wonder of the Inka Bridge

The Inka Bridge itself would be an airy walk

The Inka Bridge itself would be an airy walk

4. Do a quick tour of the rest of the ruins and leave by 10 AM

After the Inka Bridge you’re going to want to enjoy a quick wander through the ruins of Machu Picchu. But I wouldn’t linger. The crowds build quickly after 10 AM and so does the frustration level just walking. And there’s a line-up that builds to catch the bus back to Aguas Calientes – and trust me you’ll be ready to leave by then.

Try for a state of awe as you walk through the ruins and imagine life here in the 15th century. Marvel at the incredible architecture with stone structures made without mortar; the steep terraces used for growing maize, corn and other crops. Admire the Inti Watana – a ritual stone associated with the astronomic clock, the Temple of the Condor and then call it a day.   

Who needs a lawnmower when you have a llama at Machu Picchu?

Who needs a lawnmower when you have a llama?

Impact of visiting 

Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list – whether on a trip like I did with G Adventures or going it alone? How do you feel about visiting overcrowded sites?  Much has been written on this problem and UNESCO sends out periodic warnings to Peru about loss of UNESCO status. Most recently The Guardian penned a piece – UNESCO demands answers from Peru over Machu Picchu Airport.

There’s no doubt that Machu Picchu is the best example to date of incredibly well-preserved Incan ruins. But I think we, the visitor are part of the problem. In hindsight I would personally (I don’t speak for our G Adventures Group) would have been happy to enjoy the sight of Machu Picchu from our vantage point on the Choquequirao trek. 

That way some of the mystery would endure. My memory would be one of solitude and not mass tourism. And the sacred location of Machu Picchu would remain in my memory as part of the bigger picture of the vanished Incan empire.

I worry too about the effect on the local population. As a one time flower store owner (early 1990’s) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I can tell you that I went numb every summer with the throngs of zombie like people walking through my store – seeing nothing, feeling nothing. It changes you in a bad way. While you need the visitors to help pay the rent, you resent them at the same time. I saw it in Iceland big time too. And that leads me to my fifth recommendation for visiting Machu Picchu.

5. Treat Machu Picchu and the local people with respect.

If you’re going to go, leave no trace. That means you shouldn’t climb on rocks, go places that are out of bounds or take a small piece of Machu Picchu with you. It also means treat the local people with warmth, a smile and respect. It is their home and it should be left as you would want your home left. And where you can, put money into their economy. I give high marks to G Adventures for their work in the Sacred Valley.

Budgeting for a trip to Machu Picchu

The one day trip to Machu Picchu was included in our Choquequirao trek price with G Adventures. That made life simple for us and cost wasn’t a consideration. Note that the maximum time allowed in Machu Picchu is supposed to be four hours.

Assuming you’re visiting Machu Picchu on your own budget for the following: 

  • Round-trip train tickets from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
  • Accommodation in Aguas Calientes
  • Round-trip bus fare from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu ($US 34 in 2019)
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu 
  • Add-on of a climb up Huayna Picchu

Some combos like the entrance fee and the climb up Huaya are very popular and should be booked weeks in advance. The bottom line is that a trip here starts at around $US 300.

Best alternative to Machu Picchu – the trek to Choquequirao

The 8 day Choquequirao trek is a superb alternative to Machu Picchu. The ruins of Choquequirao are only partially excavated but they are estimated to be many times larger than Machu Picchu.

It’s a tough, minimum two day hike (one way) at altitude to see the ruins at Choquequirao. I think it’s a trip that adventurous trekkers would enjoy. The payoff – quiet trails, beautiful scenery and a high probability that you’ll have the Choquequirao ruins to yourself.

Unfortunately there is serious talk of adding a cable car to the ruins so go now before that becomes a reality.

Great views of Machu Picchu behind me while on the Choquequirao trek

Great views of Machu Picchu behind me while on the Choquequirao trek

What are your thoughts on visiting Machu Picchu?

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Visiting Machu Picchu - 5 things I'd recommend doing

Thank you to G Adventures for hosting my trip!!

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3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC That Are Worth a Visit

3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC That Are Worth a Visit

Three Nakusp hot springs in BC can be visited over the course of a day if you don’t mind multiple soaks in soothing, mineral rich waters. And who doesn’t? Two of the hot springs (Nakusp and Halcyon) offer onsite accommodation and one (Halfway), the wild one, offers the option to camp.

Each one of the three Nakusp hot springs are very different but all are worth a visit. I was happy to do the research for this post because nothing beats a good soak in warm – and sometimes even cool water. If you’ve got a couple of days why not combine the hot springs along with some exploration in this pretty part of the Kootenay region.

Halfway Hot Springs - on of the Nakusp area hot springs in BC

There are multiple pools at different temperatures for soaking in at Halfway Hot Springs

The village of Nakusp

Nakusp is a village with just over 1,500 residents located beside Arrow Lake in the Kootenays. It’s not the easiest place to get to – but that’s part of the appeal. Nakusp is approximately 100 kilometres south of Revelstoke via Highway 23 and a free ferry on Arrow Lake. From Nelson it’s a 250 kilometre drive north via Highway 6.

Before heading out to visit any of the three hot springs pick up last minute supplies in Nakusp, especially if you’re planning to camp at Halfway Hot Springs. And before leaving town, try to fit in an easy walk on the lakeside Waterfront Walkway. Enjoy views to the mountains and of course of Arrow Lake too. Gardeners will appreciate the beautiful flower displays along the walkway.

Nakusp Hot Springs

I must confess that we showed up at Nakusp Hot Springs thinking they were the Halcyon Hot Springs. But that’s the sort of mistake I don’t mind making.

The Nakusp Hot Springs are the closest ones to Nakusp itself. Situated in the Kuskanax Valley in the Selkirk Mountains foothills, the Nakusp Hot Springs are called “one of BC’s best kept secrets.” I’d say all three of the Nakusp hot springs are actually BC’s best kept secret!!

The Nakusp hot springs, owned by the village, have two pools fed by mineral springs off in the forest. One pool is hot, the other warm. In summer the warm pool is kept at 97°F (36°C) and in winter 100°F (38°C). The hot pool is 103°F (39.5°C) in summer and a steamy 107°F (41.5°C) in winter.

I’m a big fan of cleanliness especially when it comes to public pools. These hot springs made the cut. Not only were the change rooms extremely well kept up and clean but the pools themselves were crystal clear.

Note that you can stay at the Nakusp Hot Springs. There is a campground, an RV site and cedar chalets. For more information visit their website.

What else can you do besides the hot springs?

Granted spending a solid hour soaking in hot springs is a great way to spend part of a day but in the Kuskanax Valley there’s even more to do. Hike on over 15 kilometres of trails just off the Hot Springs Road. The Kuskanax Summit Trail offers up big views while the Kimbol Lake Trail takes you to a mountain lake – with access off the parking lot at the Nakusp Hot Springs pool.

Go mountain biking. A popular ride, the Kuskanax Creek/Hot Springs Trail, winds through forests of cedar and hemlock for 8.5 kilometres. It comes out at the Kuskanax Creek Bridge not far from the Hot Springs. There are numerous other trails, many in the gnarly category.

In winter you can snowshoe on the local trails. And at all times of the year you can enjoy being in nature.

Nakusp Hot Springs are the closest to Nakusp

Nakusp Hot Springs are the closest to Nakusp

Nakusp Hot Springs

Nakusp Hot Springs – notice the mountainous setting

Halfway Hot Springs

If you’re looking for natural and mostly undeveloped hot springs then check out Halfway Hot Springs – located almost halfway between the Nakusp and Halycon Hot Springs. While there is a small changing facility and a few outhouses, that’s it for development. What you will find are trails that meander between pools and signs warning of poison ivy.

Beware of poison ivy at Halfway Hot Springs

Beware of poison ivy at Halfway Hot Springs

This was a cooler hot spring by the Halfway River

A cooler hot spring by the river

Halfway Hot Springs had a reputation in the past as a party place. I’ve heard tales of broken glass and much drunkenness. But in 2016 BC Parks stepped in to manage the place. Its been cleaned up with no sign of any glass or garbage. I suspect at times it’s still loud and filled with drunk people but that certainly wasn’t the case at all when we visited in July 2019. Everyone we met was very respectful.

The largest pool is near the change room

The largest pool is near the change room

The temperature of the pools varies wildly – from very COOL to steaming hot near the river. In fact one pool was so hot you could probably boil an egg in it. Check them all out for yourself to discover what temperature best suits you. 

We both loved this medium sized hot spring pool

We both loved this medium sized hot spring pool

Halfway Hot Springs enjoys a magical location

Halfway Hot Springs enjoys a magical location

As a camper it was particularly nice to simply meander over to the hot springs after dinner. But be warned. You must be able to negotiate a steep set of stairs in both directions – down and then back up. I lost count after 150 stairs. 

Signage direction you to Halfway Hot Springs

Signage direction you to Halfway Hot Springs

Steep trail down to Halfway Hot Springs

Steep trail down to Halfway Hot Springs

Camping at Halfway Hot Springs

When you arrive at the campground you can expect a personal greeting from Bob Moody – the resident caretaker – along with some info on camping practices and getting to the hot springs themselves. (Note that you must pack out all garbage!!)

There are two ways to camp at Halfway Hot Springs. Both cost $15 cash for the night.

Car-camping is the most popular option but with only 12 vehicle access spots you can count on the campsites filling by about 4 PM on a nice summer day. The vehicle access spots are quite close together so you can also expect both car noise from people driving around looking for a spot and perhaps some noise from your camping neighbour.

Camping on tent pads at the bottom of a steep hill is the second option though you’ll have to schlep all your gear. The only thing we ever heard was the Halfway River. And with a wooden tent platform, a picnic table and a massive log to lie on – along with privacy, I personally think it’s the way to go. The outhouse was also only a short walk away.

Note: If you’re planning to camp, refill any water bottles you have before driving down the steep hill. The spring is on the right hand side of the road as you drive towards the hot springs, about half a kilometre before the steep hill – so you might have to backtrack.

Nicely spaced campsites at Half Way Hot Springs

Nicely spaced campsites at Halfway Hot Springs

The Nakusp River is the backdrop of our campsite

The Halfway River is the backdrop of our campsite

Dandy big trees around the Halfway Hot Springs campground

Dandy big trees around the Halfway Hot Springs campground

Getting to Halfway Hot Springs

From the corner of Broadway and 6th Avenue SW in Nakusp drive north on 6th Avenue. In short order it becomes Canyon Road North. Stay on this road for about 24 km. You need to look for a BC Parks sign that says Halfway Hot Springs and points to a turn in 400 m before a bridge. Turn right onto the dirt road. If you’re coming from Revelstoke and you’ve taken the ferry on Upper Arrow Lake, drive south for approximately 22 kilometres. Turn left onto the dirt road – looking for BC Parks signage beforehand. 

Follow the dirt road for 11 km. If there’s a fork in the road be sure to stick to the main road. At 11.5 km you reach a junction. Turn left to go down a steep hill to get to the campground or right for the day use area. 

While the hot springs are “open” in winter, you may need to ski, snowshoe or snowmobile in to them. But on the right day, they’d be magical.

John enjoying a soak in Halfway Hot Springs

John enjoying a soak in Halfway Hot Springs

Halcyon Hot Springs

Halcyon Hot Springs is the most developed of the three Nakusp hot springs. It’s really a resort with onsite accommodation, a full service restaurant and a host of activities on the lake. Their location is dramatic – with Upper Arrow Lake and the Monashees serving as a backdrop.

On the upper deck are hot and warm pools. If you overheat head for the cold plunge pools. I didn’t appreciate how cold the plunge pool was until I stuck my toe in it. Several people had been blissfully hanging out in it – somehow. 

And if you’d prefer a swim check out the large swimming pool on the lower deck.

The swimming pool on the lower deck at Halcyon Hot Springs

The swimming pool on the lower deck at Halcyon Hot Springs

When you’ve had your fill of the hot springs and pools, head down to the lake. You can rent for either a half day or a full day canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Fosthall Falls across the lake is reportedly a worthy destination.

When you get hungry, enjoy a meal with a view on the deck at the Kingfisher Restaurant. They do their best to serve locally sourced food – with most of it coming from within 100 miles of the resort. The menus change seasonally and there is a dedicated kid’s menu.

Halcyon Hot Springs is one of the Nakusp hot springs

Halcyon Hot Springs near Nakusp

Other posts you might enjoy reading include:

***Thank you to Tourism Revelstoke with hosting my stay in the area. All thoughts and opinions as always are mine alone.***

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

3 Nakusp Area Hot Springs in BC to Visit

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The Gorgeous Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Canmore

The Gorgeous Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Canmore

If you’re after an outing that offers a heady mix of mountain views and lakes, then you’ll enjoy the moderate hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns. You won’t have any problem with route-finding if you follow the directions in this blog and check out the photos. No scrambling is involved – merely a wee bit of rock-hopping. And most of the 13.7 km return hike is at a gentle to moderate grade.

Rosie the Bernese Mountain dog cooling off in the snow

Rosie the Bernese Mountain dog cooling off in the snow

When should you do the hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns?

The tarns dry up over the course of the summer so aim to do this hike from about the third week of June through to mid-August. Come back again in mid-September if you want to catch the stands of larches sporting their fall colour. 

Route Description for the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

You’re in for a treat on the hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns in Kananaskis Country. The trail climbs just 720 metres over approximately 6.9 kilometres – enough that you can be assured of some excellent views. I’d suggest that you take a photo of this route description or bring a map with you so you know which way to go at each intersection. There is flagging tape in places but it doesn’t clarify the route.  Fortunately on the descent the route is easier to follow.

Getting started

Follow the trail from the parking lot at the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area to the Smith-Dorrien Road. Look for the trail heading up the hill on the other side of the highway. Take it. 

A look at the trail as it climbs up from the Smith Dorrien Road

A look at the trail as it climbs up from the Smith Dorrien Road

In short order you reach an intersection with the High Rockies Trail. Cross it. Or if you need to catch your breath enjoy the view from the bench at the intersection.

Cross the High Rockies Trail to stay on the route to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Cross the High Rockies Trail to stay on the route to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Continue through pretty forest to reach the next intersection approximately one kilometre from the parking lot. Go right to stay on the trail to the tarns. If you head left you’ll end on the much tougher trail to Read’s Ridge and Mount Sparrowhawk.

Intersection of the Sparrowhawk Tarns trail with Read's Ridge

At this intersection stay right. Notice the cairn.

The grade moderates from here until you clear the trees. You should see a stream on your right (as you ascend) in 5 – 10 minutes. It’s a good place to cool down and let your dog get a drink.

Pretty stream on the way to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Pretty stream on the way to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

When you clear the forest, about hour into the hike, look for the bright pink flagging tape marking the entrance/exit to the woods. Turn right here on a well-trodden trail and continue past a very large boulder. Be prepared for the sudden piercing call of marmots through the boulders. It shocked us the first time we heard it. 

Clearing the forest on the way up to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Clearing the forest on the way up to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Heading up through the boulder field on a mostly obvious trail

Heading up through the boulder field on a mostly obvious trail

The boulder section before you reach the first tarn

The boulder section before you reach the first tarn

The rest of the hike takes you up through the boulder field. If you stay on the trail you’ll never have to use your hands. But if you get off it, prepare for some boulder hopping. You may need to put your hand down to steady yourself on the odd boulder.

The boulder section ascends three ridges until you top out by the first tarn. Plan to spend a good part of the day exploring, checking out the other tarns, walking the ridges and simply enjoying the views.

Stupendous mountain vistas on the Sparrowhawk Tarn hike

Stupendous mountain vistas on the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Looking down on the first Sparrowhawk Tarn

Looking down on the first Sparrowhawk Tarn

The Spray Lakes are in the distance on the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

The Spray Lakes are in the distance on the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Getting back to the car

Retrace your steps to return to the trailhead. I’d recommend looking back several times on the ascent -picking out landmarks to make sure you have an easy time route-finding on the way down.

It took us under two hours to get to the first tarn and only about 90 minutes to get down to the parking lot. In total over a July long weekend we saw all of eight other hikers.

Enjoy the occasional view of Spray Lake on the descent

To return to your car, head back the way you came. It’s a pretty walk back, with lovely views down to the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Finding the Trailhead to the Sparrowhawk Tarns

Zero your odometer at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Drive 22.5 kilometres south on the dusty Smith-Dorrien (also called Highway 742) to the parking area at the signed Sparrowhawk Day Use Area. Spill over parking is on the road. 

Map of the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Map of the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

To check the Kananaskis trail report visit their website.

Other hikes you might enjoy in the mountains

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A Hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns in Kananaskis Country

 

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Giveaway: Banff Gondola & Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Giveaway: Banff Gondola & Lake Minnewanka Cruise

My last giveaway to celebrate my 10th blog birthday is made up of two parts. Plan to take a cruise on Lake Minnewanka with someone special and follow it up with a ride on the Banff Gondola to attend the Sunset Festival – all thanks to the Banff Jasper Collection.

The Sunset Festival at the Banff Gondola

On a summer evening between 7 PM and 10 PM spend some time hanging out the rooftop terrace at the top of the Banff Gondola. Grab a bite to eat and a drink, pull up a chair and listen to live music by local artists. Not into music? Go for a walk on the boardwalk with your special partner enjoying sunset and the views from the high point. Or catch a view of the sun from a solar telescope that doesn’t harm your eyes.

Read more about the Banff Gondola experience here.

The Banff gondola and restaurant are in the building on the skylineThe Banff gondola and restaurant are in the building on the skyline – Photo credit: Banff Gondola by Pursuit

Enjoy hiking the trails at the top of the Banff Gondola

Enjoy hiking the trails at the top of the Banff Gondola

A drink with a view at the top of the Banff Gondola

A drink with a view at the top of the Banff Gondola – Photo credit: Banff Gondola by Pursuit

The Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Have you ever toured Lake Minnewanka by boat? Its the largest lake in Banff National Park with an interesting history. Did you know that the lake has been dammed three times? The third time raised the water level 30 metres creating a sunken town that back in the day sat on its shores. While you won’t see that on the cruise you can explore if you are a scuba diver. 

On the one hour cruise what you will see is mountains in every direction and more of stunning Lake Minnewanka. Check out what the lake looks like from up high – seen in the photo below. It was taken last May when I hiked to Aylmer Lookout. From the boat you might see wildlife, particularly grizzly bears and deer, especially if you’re on one the early morning or late afternoon cruises. 

For more information visit the website of the Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection.

View of Lake Minnewanka from the Aylmer Lookout Trail

View of Lake Minnewanka from the Aylmer Lookout Trail

Lake Minnewanka is a fantastic spot for a cruise

Lake Minnewanka is a fantastic spot for a cruise – Photo credit: Lake Minnewanka Cruise by Pursuit

It's a very scenic cruise on Lake Minnewanka

It’s a very scenic cruise on Lake Minnewanka – Photo credit: Lake Minnewanka Cruise by Pursuit

Enjoying a drink on board the boat on Lake Minnewanka

Enjoying a drink on board the boat Photo credit: Lake Minnewanka Cruise by Pursuit

How to enter the giveaway.

There are two ways to enter. If you enter all two ways you’ll increase your odds of winning.

  • Leave a comment on this blog telling me if you’ve ever done either of these Pursuit adventures before.
  • And if you subscribe to my newsletter here – you will get a second entry.

The contest runs from Friday, June 28th until Friday, July 5th at 8 AM MST. The winner will be notified either by email or through Facebook and will have 24 hours to respond. Then another winner will be chosen. (You won’t be notified I have WiFi in the evening.)

***The winner is Yvonne Beringer. Thanks to all who entered.***

 

 

 

 

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