British Columbia Circle Tours - Slocan Heritage Circle Tour, Kootenays, BC

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British Columbia Circle Tours & Driving Tours

3 to 5 days

Begin your tour in Castlegar (616 km/385 miles on Highway 3 from Vancouver, BC), home of the Doukhobor Historical Village that commemorates the Russian immigrants who settled in this part of British Columbia's Kootenays Region at the turn of the century. Heading north on Highway 3a to Highway 6 (at Crescent Valley), you pass Valhalla Provincial Park, which offers picnic facilities, hiking trails and freshwater fishing.

At the tip of Valhalla Park is New Denver (79 km/49 miles from Crescent Valley), and the well known Silvery Slocan Museum. The Nikkei Internment Centre, also in New Denver, tells the history of the Japanese Canadians who were interned in this area during World War II.

Your drive turns east along Highway 31a, an old stagecoach route that takes you past the ghost towns of the Kootenay's famed gold rush days. Visit Sandon, one of several abandoned gold mining towns that led to this stretch of road being named "the Valley of the Ghosts".

Aerial view of the Kootenay Lake region.
Photo Courtesy of Pennywise Paper/Kaslo

Kaslo (47km/29 miles from New Denver), located on Kootenay Lake, is home of the SS Moyie, a turn of the century paddlewheeler. Paddlewheelers played a tremendous importance in the development of many of the Kootenay Lake communities just after the turn of the century when towns like Kaslo thrived from the effects of the gold rush.

Kokanee Glacier Park sits southwest of Kaslo on Highway 31, your connector to Nelson. At Balfour approximately 36 km/23 miles from Kaslo), take a ferry ride to some of the small communities that dot the south end of Kootenay Lake. Camp in Lockhart Creek Provincial Park (8 km from ferry terminal) before returning to Balfour, and your journey to Nelson.

Nelson (34 km/21 miles from Balfour) maintains the second largest number of heritage homes in the province. Take a self-guided tour of its intriguing landmarks which have preserved much of the culture and ambiance of the 1800's. Ski at Whitewater, a family ski area, or try your hand at some golf at the Granite Pointe Golf Course.

From Nelson, Highway 3a west takes you back to Castlegar (43 km/27 miles).


The city of Nakusp.
Photo Courtesy of Nakusp & District
Chamber of Commerce

The North Loop Circle Tour takes you through some of the Kootenay's more stunning countryside. Most of the 282 km/176 mile road is paved, however the northeastern stretch between Galena Bay and Meadow Creek should not be attempted in icy conditions.

Leaving New Denver, you travel north on Highway 23. Nakusp (47 km/29 miles), home of the Nakusp Hot Springs, sits at the mouth of Lower Arrow Lake.

At Galena Bay, (49 km/31 miles) a ferry transports you across the lake to Shelter Lake and Arrow Lakes Provincial Park, a great camping spot at the tip of the North Loop.

The beauty of Purcell Mountains.
Photo Courtesy of Jan Lee

Returning to Highway 23, your tour takes you along the edge the lake to Beaton (approximately 16 km/10 miles), the beginning of Highway 31. The road narrows and is now gravel. The Purcell Mountains sit just southeast of this area, and provide a gateway to some of the more spectacular scenery and pristine wilderness in the Kootenays. Your drive winds along the Lardeau River to Howser (approximately 90 km/56), where paved road begins again, and Kaslo (approximately another 50 km/31 miles), where the Silvery Slocan British Columbia Heritage Tour resumes.

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British Columbia Circle Tours - Slocan Heritage Circle Tour, Kootenays, BC