Radium Hot Springs
At the west edge of Kootenay National Park, the town of Radium Hot Springs is a swift change from the natural idyll. Motels, cafés, and gas stations line Hwy-93 block after block, and apart from satisfying your fuel-and-food needs, there’s not a lot here. The one good place to eat is Springs Elevation Restaurant, west of town on the golf course at family-friendly Springs Course (250/347-6200 or 800/667-6444, C$110 and up). Standard motels here include the Alpen Motel (250/347-9823, C$79-139).
The actual hot springs from which the town takes its name are just east, inside the park boundary. Unfortunately, the water is heavily chlorinated, and there are no “natural” springs left.
Fort Steele Heritage Town
South of Radium Hot Springs, Hwy-93 runs along the western foot of the Rocky Mountains, but the natural beauty of the national parks doesn’t return until you cross the border and visit Glacier National Park, a good 226 miles (362 kilometers) away. That said, it’s a wide-open drive, passing a few towns, some golf resorts, and two big lumber mills, following the banks of the Kootenay River all the way.
The one real attraction along this stretch of road is the resurrected frontier community of Fort Steele, roughly midway between Radium and the border crossing. Containing more than 60 preserved and reconstructed buildings, Fort Steele Heritage Town (250/417-6000, daily, C$7-18) recreates the boomtown that stood here from 1890 until 1898, servicing the silver, gold, and lead mines of the East Kootenays. Along with the buildings, which house interpretive exhibits as well as an ice cream store, a bakery and restaurant, and a general store selling top hats and other period essentials, you can enjoy theater performances or ride on a steam train—though there are extra charges for these activities.