Take a picturesque circle motorcycle tour through the Kootenays

Motorcyclists from around the world love touring the Kootenays

by Susan Lohrer |

Quaint street sign in Nakusp

Quaint street sign in Nakusp — Photo taken by Natasha Wehrman

Discover the Kootenays on a breathtakingly picturesque circle motorcycle tour through the heart of the Selkirks, a 390-kilometre loop that starts and ends in Nelson, B.C., with stops in New Denver, Nakusp and Kaslo.

Nelson is known for its artistic vibe, so you’ll want to spend at least a few hours exploring the boutiques and enjoying the bohemian groove. It also has some stunning historic architecture for you to admire as well as an extensive lakeside park.

To begin your journey, travel 100 kilometres west along the gentle curves of Highway 6 through Winlaw and Slocan to New Denver, being sure to stop for photographs along the way. If you get off and stretch your legs at any of the viewpoints just south of New Denver, be sure to walk right up to the fence and look down to see just how many hundred dizzying metres you are above Slocan Lake. In New Denver, you can take in a poignant piece of Canadian history as you visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre and the Heiwa Teien (Peace) Garden.

Arriving in Kaslo from Nelson

Arriving in Kaslo from Nelson — Photo taken by Natasha Wehrman

Heading north on Highway 23 from New Denver to Nakusp, it’s a gorgeous ride on fairly new pavement. Tom Angebrandt, who rides in Alberta and B.C., spent time exploring the town and noticed the abundance of quaint places to shop. The area also offers an abundance of activities including hiking, watersports and a farmers market, and even a half-marathon known as Sufferfest. As far as the riding goes in the area, Angebrandt was impressed. “This is a real destination highway. I met a guy from New Zealand who has ridden all over the world, and he was in awe of the challenge of our riding in the Kootenays.” Angebrandt added that in much of Alberta, there’s simply no riding like the riding in the Kootenays. “For a motorcyclist, we live for the turn. And with all the lakes and the snow on the mountains in B.C., it’s really pretty,” he said.

Halcyon Hot Springs is a 35-kilometre jaunt north of Nakusp and the perfect spot to stop and ease your muscles in the warm water after a few hours riding. You can also stay overnight at the resort.

The pools and the view at Halcyon Hot Springs

The pools and the view at Halcyon Hot Springs — Photo taken by Natasha Wehrman

If you’re averse to riding on gravel or just want a shorter tour, you’ll want to make the hot springs or Nakusp the turning-around point and take an alternate (but just as thrilling) return route. Go back to New Denver and take the famously twisty 46 kilometres of Highway 31A east to the historic lakeside village of Kaslo, where you can visit the SS Moyie, the world‘s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler. From Kaslo, finish off your tour by riding south for 69 kilometres along the west shore of Kootenay Lake, perhaps stopping along the way for an hour or so (or overnight) to take a dip in the mineral waters of Ainsworth Hot Springs, until you reach Nelson again. This alternate route makes for a 308-kilometre trip.

If an 18-kilometre stretch of gravel doesn’t bother you, continue north from Halcyon Hot Springs on Highway 31 through the towns of Galena Bay and Trout Lake. The winding road, where you’ll find that stretch of two-lane, packed gravel, takes you to Meadow Creek, where the pavement begins again, and on to Kaslo, Ainsworth, and then back to Nelson.

SS Moyie in Kaslo

SS Moyie in Kaslo — Photo taken by Natasha Wehrman

Whichever route you take, it’s a ride to remember.

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