I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
The Simpson River Trail on Highway 93 in BC
Kootenay National Park is adjacent to Banff National Park. It is often accessed via Highway 93, a southward turning highway if you are traveling between Banff and Lake Louise. This national park is mainly associated with the town of Radium Hot Springs.
As a national park, Kootenay is not as well marketed as both Banff and Jasper. However, it is no less scenic and the crowds can be a little less. From my point of view, that's a major plus.
In the late days of September 2021, I was in the Radium area looking for some trails to hike. Early in the day, I did a trail with elevation in town. Later, I was more than content to find a nice trail that was easy to do. I found the Simpson River Trail while driving on the right-hand side of the northbound lane of Highway 93 between Radium and Banff National Park and decided to venture on it.
Trail Specifications for the Simpson River Trail
This trail definitely has a hard version. AllTrails.com lists it in the "hard" category and describes it as 22.4 kilometers in length. The elevation gain over that distance is not immense at 677 meters but there will surely be difficult stretches.
There is also an easy version that can be done in about an hour and that's all I did when I went. From the parking lot, you cross a bridge that goes over the Kootenay River. It's this river that the Simpson River tributes.
Geographically, the Simpson River certainly isn't a long river as it originates and terminates in basically the same area. The Kootenay River, on the other hand, is a lengthy river that ultimately tributes the Columbia River near Castlegar, British Columbia. The waters in this river system empty into the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon coast.
The nature walk that you can take from the parking lot goes through a very flat area. When I visited in 2021, there were a lot of informational placards. These placards often mentioned that forest fires affected this region. In fact, you could see the charred remains of logs and standing trees. This is definitely a kid-friendly trail for the first 30 minutes because it's not too difficult and there is a lot to read.
After about 30 minutes on this trail, you come to a small ridge. It only takes about a minute to climb and then you get to a nice viewpoint of the region. Mountains are in the distance and the Simpson River flows near you.
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The photo I took at the start is from this ridge. It truly is a wide-open area with beautiful scenery.
AllTrails' landing page for the Simpson River Trail.
Trail Specification Not at the Trailhead?
One thing that I did not like about this trail was that the trailhead information was sparse. This is the kind of trail that you use if you are planning ahead from home. It's not the kind that you just show up and take...which is my style on most days. I found myself wondering how long I would stay on the trail with the evening setting in on an early fall day.
The following video shows the trail conditions that I experienced during my walk. My AllTrails GPS didn't work in this area so I really was blind. I learned later that the trail was on AllTrails but the area has no cellular reception so my maps didn't update for my microregion.
Simpson River Trail Highlight of the Short Version
The highlight of the short walk on the Simpson River Trail was the small cliff that you can hike up to and an elevated area. In the following video, I take a lot of time appreciating this region. You will see how easy the trail is since the elevation noted in the video is really all there is to ascend. For the easy and short version of this trail, you only go upward about 23 meters and the return time is only about one hour or less.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Shane Lambert
Liz Westwood from UK on September 29, 2021:
This is a very well-illustrated and well-documented article. I was pleased to hear that there is a shorter walk to do in the area. You have captured the great scenery.