Nelson and Kaslo: Gems Along Kootenay Lake, British Columbia

June 7, 2024

Kootenay Lake

Outdoor activities and excellent cuisine

Spring is a truly enchanting time to experience the Kootenay Lake area. The journey is a feast for the eyes, with snowcapped peaks and lush green mountainsides. As you approach from the west coast, the Monashees are the first mountain range to greet you, followed by the majestic Selkirks near Nelson and, finally, the snow-dusted peaks of the Purcells as you near Kaslo. These mountains, all part of the Columbia Mountains, are a testament to the grandeur of the larger Kootenay Rockies Region.

As spring arrives, the snow melts, filling Kootenay Lake and revealing the inviting hillsides. This transformation turns the Kootenay Lake area into a haven for outdoor activities such as kayaking, biking, and hiking. But before you embark on these adventures, fuel up with some of the delectable dining options available in the area.


Coming from the south, Nelson will be the first community located on Kootenay Lake. The lake is 62 miles (104 km) long and is one of the largest lakes in British Columbia.


One great place to launch the kayak or SUP is at Rotary Lakeside Park, located right under BOB (what the locals call the Big Orange Bridge). This part of the lake is the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, and paddling north to northeast goes toward the main part of Kootenay Lake. Troupe Beach is a popular destination if you plan to paddle for several miles. One mellow option is simply floating on the lake and soaking in the scenery. Make sure you check out Paddle BC. They are a great resource on where to paddle, where to rent, what guides to use, and much more.


Pulpit Rock

There are two central hikes that the locals say are a must. Option one is Pulpit Rock, which has stunning views of the city and the lake. It is just over 2 miles (3.6km) long with an 1115-foot elevation gain (338 meters) to the viewpoint. Nice workout! For an additional workout, the trail continues 1.4 miles (2.2 km) and another 1046 feet (317 meters) for an even more spectacular view of Nelson.

Lyon's Bluff is a newer trail that offers city and lake views similar to Pulpit Rock. Why not do both?

Bike Riding

Great Northern Rail Trail

The Great Northern Rail Trail is a multi-use trail that goes 30 miles (49 km) from Nelson south to Salmo. One promising route is starting from the Mountain Station parking lot in Nelson and going south to Cottonwood Lakes, which is only 5 miles (8 km). Indeed, it will be a good workout as it gains 800 feet (242 meters). On the return, there is a lovely, gentle coast going downhill. The surface is hard-packed gravel, and there are many side trails for ambitious mountain bikers. During the winter, it becomes a great place to ski cross-country. If you aim to extend your distance with an e-bike, Electric Larry Land is an option for electric bike rentals. Also, having an e-bike to take up the steep hill from downtown to the Mountain Station starting point would be handy.


Send Flowers Cocktail

There is no shortage of excellent dining options in Nelson, and the Pitchfork Eatery is one outstanding restaurant. The roasted jalapeno hummus with chickpeas and yam flatbread is so delicious it should be a required starter. The jalapeno adds a delightful kick! Another appetizer selection is a fresh, crispy baguette from the Kootenay Bakery served with a delicious spread of caramelized onions, roasted gem tomatoes, and confit garlic.

Their cocktail menu highlights the refreshing and lovely cocktail called Send Flowers, made with white wine (Riesling), hibiscus, and orange blossom water. To keep things simple, the Tinhorn Cab Franc is an excellent BC wine.

Baseball-cut strip sirloin

On the list of entrees is the baseball-cut striploin steak, which is a great cut of beef! The steak was served with a peppercorn pomme puree, which was outstanding. Another entrée worth checking out is the Torte au Lapin, braised rabbit in puff pastry, which is also delicious. Pitchfork owner Mathieu "Jimmy" Page's focus is farm-to-table, and he even owns a small farm. He can say his is a farmer-owned restaurant.

The Adventure Hotel is a great place to stay and has three restaurants: Louie's Steakhouse, Uptown Sportsbar, and Empire Café. The West Coast Bagel is a favorite at the Empire Café, which includes stacks of smoked salmon (lox), cream cheese, cucumbers, capers, and green onions. They serve Stumptown Coffee Roasters from Portland, Oregon, a highly rated coffee.

Another restaurant worth checking out is Marzano. It offers homemade pasta, pizza, and meatballs. The lightly spiced meatballs in a rich tomato sauce are an excellent starter.

After all the outdoor fun and local cuisine, the short trip to Kaslo is a must!

Kaslo is a small community less than an hour north of Nelson with views of the majestic Purcell Mountains and Kootenay Lake. Part of the fun is enjoying some of the hikes, dining, and kayaking.

On the Way to Kaslo

 Kokanee Creek Provincial Park

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is only a 10-minute drive from Nelson and provides a convenient place to launch a kayak or SUP in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Or drive another 10 minutes and launch at Balfour Public Boat Launch, located just west of the Balfour to Kootenay Bay ferry. One can paddle east towards the central part of the lake and enjoy the mountain views.

Once back in the car, continue another 15 minutes towards Kaslo. There is a must-stop at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort. After kayaking, it is undoubtedly therapeutic to soak in the warm mineral waters of the pool. Be sure to check out the caves.

However, the highlight was the dining experience at Ktunaxa Grill. The resort is owned by Yaqan Nukiy (Lower Kootenay Band), a member of the Ktunaxa nation. The Ktunaxa have lived near Kootenay Lake, Alberta, Montana, Idaho, and Washington for over 10,000 years.

 Michael and Elizabeth Fagin

The restaurant offers excellent views of the lake and the Purcell Mountains to enjoy, whether inside or on the patio. Executive Chef Cory Chapman has 30 years of restaurant experience, including 20 years as executive chef in the Pacific Northwest. He incorporates the Ktunaxa traditional foods to create outstanding and unique dishes.

Skillet Roast Salt Springs Mussels

The Skillet Roast Salt Spring Mussels, which folks come from afar to enjoy, is cooked with wild boar sausage, grapes, tomatoes, rosemary, and shallots. Another unique dish is the Grill Elk Satays, with a delicious Sage Chimichurri Marinade. Also, be sure to order the Bannock, a staple bread of the First Nations for hundreds of years. When Cory was in the 6th grade, he created a Bannock recipe that was published in the family cookbook.


After the meal and the hot springs, we stopped at Fletcher Falls, a less-than one mile (O.5 km) walk down a steep path.

 Fletcher Falls

Once there, the falls will cool you off with its spraying water. Walk a little further, and you will see Kootenay Lake with picnic tables where you can enjoy the view.

Once back in the car, the drive to the central part of Kaslo is five minutes.


The small community of Kaslo is nestled in the mountains along Kootenay Lake and the Kaslo River. A testament to the past is the SS Moyie, which was moved to Nelson and was made a National Historic Site of Canada in 1958. Beginning in 1898, the SS Moyie carried rail passengers from the railroad terminus at Kootenay Landing to the towns of Nelson and Procter. As the world's oldest known, intact ship of her type, it is worth a tour of the unique ship-turned-museum.


The best place to launch a kayak or SUP is the protected waters of the Kaslo Bay Boat Launch, which is adjacent to Kaslo Bay Park.


One great route is to head north out of the bay. The mountains and coastline views are simply stunning. Many beaches along the way would be great places to stop for a relaxing picnic. Kaslo Kayaking is available for rentals or guided tours from the spring through the early fall.


There is no shortage of hikes, but the Kaslo River Trail is a big-time winner. It is a 2 mile loop trail (3.2 km). A good place to park is at the Unity Bridge near the south end of the Kaslo River Trail. This mellow hike along the river is very peaceful. Make sure you download this app and check out some of the sculptures on the trail. The narrative on the app is very helpful. The river's rushing water can be a bit loud, so earphones or buds are recommended to listen to the app.


The Kaslo Hotel, located on the shore of Kootenay Lake, offers views of the lake and the Purcell Mountains. The restaurant downstairs is the Waypoint Restaurant and Bar. A couple of great sandwiches on the menu are the Reuben Sandwich and the Slow Roasted Beef Dip. The fresh, lean, and tender meats are from Eric's Meat Market & Deli, a family-owned business in Kaslo for over 80 years.

The Angry Hen Craft Brewery is another great stop for a brew and a bite to eat. The Roostertail is a refreshing pale ale, and for the lager lovers, Logger Lager is nicely done in German. The food was special on this day as Taqueria took over the kitchen. The Tuna Tostadas with ahi tuna cured in lime juice, chipotle aioli, and avocado were a tasty choice. The fish and chips would be an excellent selection on the Angry Hen's regular menu.

Shirley Warne is the brewmaster/owner of Angry Hen. She has been brewing here since 2017; before that, she learned the craft in Ontario. Most of her staff in Kaslo is female.

For breakfast, Bluebelle Bistro is the place to go. The breakfast sandwich features a fried egg, red onions, homemade chips, and avocado spread on brioche. Oh, and don't forget to enjoy the delicious homemade chips hiding in the sandwich.

Want award-winning poutine? Well, Chez Serge Takeout is the place. The fresh cheddar cheese makes this special. They will be moving soon, so make sure you check out their new location.

Kaslo has been described as the "Little Switzerland of B.C." For such a tiny town, it is full of charm and wonderful places to visit. Returning often is a must.

Editorial disclosure: food, beverages, and lodging were generously provided.




Image Sources: