The abandoned Paradise Silver Mine is a must-see ATV trail for mountain enthusiasts. The mine site sits high in the mountains across the Toby Creek Valley from the Panorama Ski Resort near Mountt. Bruce.
According to Scott Barsby, owner of Toby Creek Adventures Ltd., there are a couple of ATV trails that lead to Paradise Mine. Barsby points out that one of the routes travels through private land and the other through Crown land.
To take the most direct route to Paradise Mine riders, stage at Barsby's parking lot. It's located about 22 kilometres west from the Highway 93/95 and Invermere junction on Toby Creek Road. Accessing this route costs $20 per ATV. The money goes toward the cost of trail maintenance.
On the Toby Creek-trail, riders zigzag up the mountain almost 5,000 vertical feet travelling over 16 kilometers through spectacular mountain scenery and old-growth forest, even passing a sub-alpine waterfall.
Riders will see plenty of wildlife, including white and mule deer, moose, bears, elk during migration and sometimes mountain goats. Barsby's advice: “Take bear spray” and be prepared because riders travel through high mountain backcountry.
Also, bring the camera. Barsby said there are lots of viewpoints [with] photo ops of the Rocky Mountains and the Purcell's. You might even get your picture taken with a bear or a moose.
The old Paradise Mine site is abandoned. “There's not a whole lot left up there, (just) the mine shaft and remnants of old building foundations,” Barsby said.
The Crown land route is a great ride, said Barsby, and there is no access fee. The staging area is at Lake Wilmer on Horsethief Road. If you follow Horsethief, it will eventually turn into the Bruce Creek Forest Service Road that runs out past Lake Enid and around the northwest side of Mount Bruce.
On this backside route, be sure to give yourself plenty of time. From this direction it takes a minimum of three hours to make the trip to Paradise Mine. Be sure to pack adequate supplies and emergency equipment.
No matter which trail you take to the top, Paradise Mine is a popular destination for ATV riders throughout the Kootenays.
In the Radium area, hard core off road riders should look at the Swansea Mountain Road. The mountain is 1730 meters (m) above sea level. The elevation gain over the 5 km road to the parking lot is almost 800 m. You will need a high clearance bike to take the steep trail along a narrow road full of switchbacks. To reach the summit, you need to hike the last ½ km trail. The 15 to 20 minute hike to the summit is well worth it. You'll see views of the Columbia Valley as far north as Golden and all the way south to Wasa, BC.
For those who like the road a little flatter and prefer sticking to the pavement, try the Westside Road South of Invermere, it runs down the West side of Windermere Lake and re-connects with Highway 93/95 at Dutch Creek. Here you can stop to look at the picturesque Hoodoos. If you're more adventuresome, try the Hoodoo Trail, its an easy 3km walk that will take you to the top of the Hoodoos. The trail head is about 1.5 km north of the junction back up Westside Road.
After an exhilarating day riding, be sure to stop at the historic Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park. This historic site was born long before anyone ever stepped foot in the area. The Radium Hot Springs were created by a fault line in the earth’s crust. Surface water makes its way into the fault, is heated by the rocks on the crust, is pressurized and returns hot to the earths surface. Aboriginal people appreciated the hot springs before the Europeans came to the area. Take time from your exploring the area to enjoy the soothing tranquility of steaming mineral water.