Plan your ultimate trip to the West Kootenays this summer!

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Free Ferry crossing Arrow Lake from Nakusp towards Revelstoke

A Road less travelled – a route you’ll want to return to in the interior of British Columbia.

Situated just north of the U.S. border between the State of Washington and Canada is one of Canada’s hidden gems – the Arrow – Slocan Region. This gem is in the West Kootenays and the route follows along Highway 6 and is 78 miles (124km) and perfect for an RV adventure.

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In the southeastern corner of British Columbia, in the West Kootenays, is a highway that’s said to be “A Road Less Travelled”.

That’s a good thing because it hasn’t been inundated with endless tourists yet and it means less traffic and fewer people. Don’t get me wrong because there are plenty of tourists who have discovered the area – they just haven’t told you because they want to keep it to themselves.

But if you’re in the mood for slowing down, relaxing and enjoying one of the most beautiful recreational and historic areas in Canada you’ll be in the right place. I’m a bit prejudiced because my family lives in the area but each time I return to the West Kootenays, I fall in love with it all over again.

Slocan Lake
Slocan Lake

Slow down and enjoy the West Kootenays

Slowing down is important on the highway with one lane running in each direction from South Slocan Junction, thru Winlaw, the Village of Slocan, Silverton, New Denver, and ending in Nakusp, known for its popular hot springs. You’ll appreciate the breathtaking views, local wildlife, heritage architecture, and bustling communities once impacted by the discovery of silver in the 1800s’s. So, take your time.

There aren’t any big-box stores here but there’s interesting local coffee shops, cafes, gas stations, and small grocery stores with all the basics. You’ll want to try some of the homemade baked goods and food available in the local eateries.

For trip planning I recommend RVLife Trip Wizard as the best tool that’s accurate and easy to use. 

RV LIFE Trip Wizard

Start Your RV Road Trip at South Slocan Junction

Known formerly as the junction for the railway, South Slocan is our starting point leading you off Hwy 3A and onto Hwy 6. With a population of approximately 100 residents, you’ll be surprised at the amount of history generated from this little community. Stop at the store and meet some of the interesting locals who call this area home.

Winlaw - one of West Kootenays hidden gems

With a population of approximately 400 residents, you might think Winlaw isn’t worth stopping for. That would be a big mistake because this small ‘eclectic’ community has unique little restaurants and a waterfront nature park on the Slocan River with trails, a boardwalk, a picnic and beach area with fire pits, picnic tables and an outhouse building for your convenience.

Village of Slocan

Once named Slocan City it’s now a quiet village at the south end of Slocan Lake, known for having an abundance of salmon in the past.

Don’t be deceived – the Village of Slocan has a very colorful past. In 1900 there were 12 hotels filled with saloons and miners in search of silver, but by 1920 there were only three still in operation. 

Today the village offers outstanding recreational opportunities and a self-guided walking tour providing you with a glimpse into how this community was developed.

The views from the nearby bluffs are outstanding and camera ready.

Did you bring your boat? There’s a boat launch, sandy beach, and a nice picnic area.

Slocan Lake, West Kootenays

West Kootenays - Silverton and New Denver

Driving north from Slocan is a paved road that’s a bit winding but worth driving. You won’t have any trouble even if you’re in a large motorhome. Large trucks drive this route daily. Both side by side communities of Silverton and New Denver are former boomtowns when silver was discovered in the area.

Situated on the shores of Slocan Lake, and popular with motorized boat owners, both offer year-round recreational opportunities that include golfing, hiking, mountain biking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Water sports are extremely popular during warmer months through out the West Kootenays, including paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking.

Silverton Inn
Historic Silverton Inn
Silverton - West Kootenays
Silverton, BC

Highlights of Silverton and New Denver

  • Silvery Slocan Museum in New Denver
  • Silverton Gallery’s outdoor silver mining exhibit
  • Silverton’s preserved blacksmith shop – Fingland Cabin
  • New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre – Where you can learn about the history of the Japanese Canadians held in this area during World War II.

Side Trip from New Denver

A side trip absolutely must include the ‘Silver City’ of Sandon. Yes, it’s now a ghost town but at one time it was the center of the silver rush and some of the old buildings are still standing. Highlights that need to be on your list are:

  • 1897 Powerhouse (still in operation),
  • Sandon Historical Society Museum,
  • City Hall built in 1900,
  • Enjoy a quick bite to eat at the Prospector’s Pick Café

If you’re a fan of old mining towns then Cody, less than a mile from Sandon has many old mine site ruins still standing just waiting for you to explore.

Sandon, West Kootenays
Historic Sandon

Unique West Kootenay's Village of Nakusp

Filled with art and culture, Nakusp is situated on the banks of Upper Arrow Lake. Look around you as you walk along the beautiful Waterfront Walkway and the Wrap Around Nakusp Trail. Surrounded by the magnificent Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges this beautiful village has views that will impress you.

In the very early days, Nakusp didn’t have any roads or even a railway. Paddle wheelers were used to connect the community with Castlegar to the south and Revelstoke to the North.

Bring your bathing suit, no matter the weather because Nakusp’s two hot springs are the places to be! Nakusp is the largest community on this tour, and you can take care of most of your shopping needs while you’re here. 

Highlights of Nakusp

  • Nakusp Museum
  • Nakusp Historical Society
  • Hot springs

Continuing from Nakusp

Traveling north from Nakusp is a free ferry (Arrow Lake Ferry) taking you towards Revelstoke while the route east of Nakusp leads you to another free ferry at Fauquier (Needles Ferry) and the Okanagan.

Even if you’re headed towards Alaska or other parts of Canada this road trip is highly recommended and will become a highlight of your journey.

Rail Trail Highlights

Slocan Rail Trail

The historic rail lines are now trails worth exploring by bike or even walking and hiking through the local communities. There are many trailheads offering access along the way.

Slocan Rail Trail

Winding through the Slocan River Valley for 32 miles, it’s a non-motorized trail filled with plenty of scenery and very well maintained. Starting at South Slocan it will take you right to the Village of Slocan with many exit and entry points.

Trails between New Denver and Sandon

A little narrower and steeper than the other rail trails in the area they include the Galena Trail, Old Sandon Road Trail, the K&S Trail, and Three Forks, the junction where the three rail trails meet giving you an opportunity for exploring either on foot or bike.

Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail

With multiple trailheads you’ll have many options for planning your route along this historic trail.

Campgrounds in the West Kootenays

Each community has their own community campgrounds as well as Provincial Parks nearby. 

For more information check out where you’ll find a more detailed description of each one. 

Resources for Your West Kootenay's Adventure

Boondockerss Welcome:  A safe place to overnight that’s free with positive results. 

Harvest Hosts:  Stay at a farm, winery, garden centre for a wonderful experience.

Not sure about Harvest Hosts or Boondocks Welcome? Read how a Boondocks Host takes the fear out of free camping.

Note:  There may be affiliate links within this article. This article was previously published in Escapees March/April publication.  If you do join Escapees please tell them I sent you their way.  My Escapees membership is #38554.  Thanks.

Looking for more destination within BC that I feel are worth visiting? Check out this British Columbia’s Kilby Historic Site.

Here’s the information on the Best Things to see and Do at Tumbler Ridge, BC

Slocan Lake
Slocan lake, picnic and beach area

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. william kaliher

    Great article and information– I was unaware of this area—wow!

    1. CarolAnn

      Thanks Bill – it’s absolutely beautiful. You would enjoy it on your motorcycle for sure!

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