Five really good reasons to spend some time in New Denver, the trailhead community where Valhalla Pure Outfitters first started in 1990. This blog post is written by Petra Hekkenberg, staff of the New Denver store. Originally she’s from the Netherlands, but she has lived in New Denver for two years now for one big reason: It’s an outdoor paradise!
1. Hike Idaho Peak, Kootenay’s pride
New Denver lays right on Slocan Lake in the middle of two stunning peaks: standing on Main Street looking West you’ll see the iconic New Denver Glacier. When you look up to the East you’ll see Idaho Peak’s old fire lookout. Idaho Peak is the most popular summit of the Kootenays. This easily accessible fire lookout is where you want to be if you have a couple of hours and a pair of decent shoes or boots (we have seen flip flops up there too). 360 Views on top reveals New Denver’s true backyard. We have heard many people, even locals, gasp and go ‘Ooooh wauw I had no idea….’ The view overlooks the Goat Range, Selkirk Mountains, Purcell Range, the Kokanee Glacier, the Monashees, the Dragon Range, the Valhalla Provincial Park and of course the New Denver Glacier. Then, looking down between your feet, you see Slocan Lake in its full glory with the two old mining towns New Denver and Silverton just a few kilometres apart from another. But the best part is yet to come – if you are visiting Idaho Peak around the end of July/ August, you will find yourself surrounded by billions of wild flowers. Even the Dutch tulip fields will have a hard time competing with this overwhelming colour pallet.
Unlike most mountains in this area, Idaho Peak is accessible by car. You drive a 12 km long logging road all the way up to the ridge. Then, from one of the two parking lots, it is an easy 1.5 km ridge walk to the fire lookout. The road up is generally in good shape but quite narrow. New Denver now has a shuttle service that takes you up and down three times a day. They give you enough time to hike to the peak and spend some time up there. idahopeakshuttle.ca
The Idaho Peak Road starts in Sandon, a little ghost town 14 kilometres east of New Denver. Where Sandon once was a booming mining town with thousands of people, there are only a handful of residents left. The museum, that illustrates this town’s extraordinary history, and the oldest active(!) power station of BC are worth a visit on your way up or down.
We have several hiking books and maps in the store if you are interested in other hiking opportunities and of course we are happy to give you local info. Don’t hesitate to stop and visit.
2. Paddle pristine Slocan Lake
Every now and then we get people in our shop that have no idea New Denver is on Slocan Lake. New Denver has several kilometers of beaches with walking trails. So make sure to walk down Main Street, because paradise awaits you there! Main Street ends right at the lake and the very last building on the corner is The Beach Shop. This is the local paddle sport rental shop, powered by Valhalla Pure Outfitters. Just a few steps down from the view lookout you will find yourself at the rocky beach with a stunning view of the New Denver Glacier. 80% Of Slocan Lake’s shoreline is untouched and every few kilometres there are natural beaches. Slocan Lake is an undammed glacier lake and is at least 450 metre deep in the middle! This means the temperature of the water will be pretty chilly offshore – be prepared if you decide to cross. West of the lake is the Valhalla Provincial Park, true wilderness that’s only accessible by boat. If you are an experienced paddler and decide to cross the lake -2 km of open, unpredictable water- you will find some treasures like an half sunken barge, waterfalls and sandy beaches (a luxury around here). If you stay on this side of the lake – paddle north, you float along rock faces, an old mine shaft and the community beach called Bigelow Bay. You’ll see more beaches, the town of Silverton and lots of wilderness when you go South. Especially in late summer, you have a chance of spotting bears on shore.
The Beach Shop rents stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. You can go out for just a few hours or multiple days. They also offer SUP lessons. Did you know that stand-up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world? Check out the Beach Shop before you go out on the water – have a look at their map of the Slocan Lake and get some info on potential hazards, up to date weather, and places to see. Call ahead to reserve. thebeachshop.vpo.ca
3. Soak in the hot springs
Travelling through this part of the Kootenays means you can probably use a rest day in between all the hiking, paddling, biking or driving. The great news for all nature lovers is that New Denver is surrounded by multiple hotsprings. Comfort, beauty, wilderness and no backpack or boots needed. Each of these three hotsprings have their unique qualities.
The Ainsworth hotsprings, on Kootenay Lake south of Kaslo, has an intimate cave feature. The hotsprings were first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples who experienced the waters as a welcome respite after a long day or hunting, fishing, and gathering roots and berries in what is now known as the Kootenay region. Today the property is owned by Yaqan Nukiy, the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston, BC, returning the Ktunaxa peoples to this land. The hot springs originates around the Cody Caves. The water flows down through fractures in the rock, increasing in temperature. The warm mineral water enters the 150-foot horseshoe caves and then goes to the main swimming pool. ainsworthhotsprings.com
The Nakusp Hotsprings are nestled in the Kuskanax Valley in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains. One of BC’s best kept secrets! The location of these hotsprings allows for a lot of play before or after your soak. Take an easy walk to the award winning foot bridge over the Kuskanax creek, or go for a proper hike on the Kimbol Lake trail and have a picnic at the lake. If you are more of a biker, one of the most popular rides is the 8.5 km Kuskanax Creek/Hot Springs Trail, which winds through stunning Cedar and Hemlock forests and arrives at the Kuskanax Creek Bridge just a short jaunt from the Hot Springs. nakusphotsprings.com
The Halcyon Hotsprings (see picture below) can be found off the highway between Nakusp and the Ferry to Revelstoke. General Frederick Burnham, who owned the “Halcyon Sanitarium” until 1955, believed these waters should be shared with the world. The hotsprings are positioned on the waterfront of Upper Arrow Lake, with views to the west of the Monashee Mountains. You can relax with a soak in the hot or warm pools; take a dunk in the cold plunge; or go for a swim in their seasonal mineral pool. The Halcyon Hotsprings are the only hotsprings in the area to have a spray park for the kids. halcyon-hotsprings.com
Do you prefer to visit natural hot springs? There are several around, just ask locals or drop by.
4. Bike through the historical mining area
New Denver has an extensive biking trail system, beginner to expert, for youngsters and for the super-fit. If you are planning to explore the area, we advise you get a hold of the local bike map when you’re in town, which is key to all trails. The map is made by Rob, ‘the’ bike man of New Denver. He has his bike shop on Main Street called Wilds Of Canada Cycle. Check his opening hours before you plan to visit him, because he might be out maintaining the trails. You can also get his map in our Valhalla Pure store, which is open every day of the week.
Without a doubt, the most famous route around New Denver is the Galena Trail. It runs from Rosebery to Three Forks— a 13-kilometre section of old CPR rail right-of-way. Hook your bike onto the small cable car and pull yourself across Carpenter Creek at the old Alamo mine site, where you can see the remains of the old concentrator. Uphill from the concentrator is a derelict old house.
While the Galena is the gateway trail to the Idaho Peak trail system, other options are available. At Three Forks, across the road from the entrance to the Galena tail, you will find the trailhead for the K&S trail. This historic trail features stunning views of the Seaton Creek and Carpenter Creek valleys. Best done as a hike from Three forks and as a bike from Sandon, the K&S is a great outing for the active family or beginner to intermediate bikers. More info can be found on the North Slocan Trails Society Facebook Page. A trail for the more seasoned bike rider can be found in Rosebery. The 8.7 k Butter Trail is our most popular shuttle trail although it is accessed by determined uphill riders as well. The upper section is mostly flow trail, while the lower section is more technically challenging. Trailforks has good intel on this and other trails in the New Denver area.
5. Visit refreshing waterfalls
Every day is a good day to visit waterfalls. Sunny and hot? Get some refreshment! Raining all day? Well, you’re already wet anyways… and no panoramic views are needed for these falls!
We have three well-known falls around town, but the Wilson Falls are the only ones that you don’t have to paddle to. You find the Wilson falls by turning into the Wilson Creek Rd E in Rosebery, a smaller town just a few kilometres North of New Denver. (Yes, there are smaller towns than New Denver) You need to take a right turn off of the Wilson Creek Rd for the last 500 metres before the official parking. If you’re hesitant to bring your car up this bumpy and steeper part, you could park your car below and walk up.
The trail to the falls is about 1.5 km through the forest, with some steeper parts up and down. You’ll know it when you get close to the falls, because the temperature drops and your surrounding transforms in a fully-in-moss-covered lush as-green-as-it-can-get forest. If you feel brave enough, there is a great rock formation you can climb up to next to the falls. Be careful, it is often slippery.
There are two other falls in the Valhalla Park across the lake from New Denver. We advise you to only paddle across if the weather allows and if you have sufficient paddle experience to cross the open water. The Beach Shop in town rents out kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. The Nemo falls are the local’s favourite to visit, about 7 km south of New Denver on the other side. The beach is sandy, there are several camping spots and the trail up to the falls is less than a kilometre through the beautiful wild Valhalla forest. The trail continues past the falls up into the mountains, but this part is not regularly maintained so it might involve a lot of climbing over deadfall and bushwhacking.
The other falls across the lake are the Wee Sandy Falls. These are about 2 km North of New Denver and right on the beach. Also here you’ll find places to camp and you could continue your adventure on the Wee Sandy Trail into the Valhalla’s. After a few kilometres on this trail you’ll have to cross the Wee Sandy Creek to continue, which will only be possible if the bridge is in place at the time you visit. Remember, the Valhalla’s are as wild as it gets and is home to black bears and grizzlies. Don’t leave your food out (there are food caches) and leave no trace.
In short: Panoramic views, wildflowers, a rich mining history, biking, a pristine lake for paddling and swimming, relaxing in the hot springs and stunning waterfalls. Oh, and did I mention there are hardly any mosquitoes here in Summer? It’s true.
Welcome to New Denver!