Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sinclair Canyon: Gateway to Beauty


For eight years now, my husband's immediate family and my own little clan have been vacationing in British Columbia for a week each summer. This little getaway enables us to enjoy precious family time surrounded by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, with its deep valleys, towering peaks, and glistening rivers.

Each year we choose to haunt the same area: the Kootenay region near Radium and Invermere. I have written in the past about some of the great places to visit around this stretch, such as Lussier Hot Springs or going white water rafting.

There are also some beautiful hiking areas nearby, both official and unofficial, and last year we took our two little ones to one of my favourite hiking places. My husband would like me to stress that this particular spot is not a HIKE in the official sense, although I call it one because you have to walk a little ways to enjoy the beauty. In my opinion, if you are walking, and there's nature, it is a hike. But that's neither here nor there.

There are a lot of beautiful and easy 'hiking' locations between Radium and Invermere, B.C.

I'm talking about the Sinclair Canyon Pass near the entrance to Radium. Many people may have driven through the canyon, as it towers above each side of Highway 93 South, which is one of the main roads to access Radium. Most people I know marvel at the tall canyon walls as they pass through, but not many have stopped to stroll around the canyon and enjoy the views. Granted, it is a busy road, narrow and twisty and not the most ideal for taking the fam-jam out on a jaunt, but I am telling you now that it IS worth it.

If you are driving towards Radium on Highway 93 South, you will pass the entrance to the Radium Hot Springs. Not three minutes away from the springs is a small parking lot, dusty and narrow, that provides a space for visitors to get off the highway just outside the Sinclair Canyon walls. That's where my family and I left our car as we began our short HIKE around the canyon. (Yes, I said it. We hiked.)

The towering walls of Sinclair Canyon just outside of Radium

Sinclair Canyon isn't the deepest canyon I've ever seen, but what makes this canyon spectacular is how it opens up into an amazing view of the valley below. It is very narrow, just wide enough for a strip of highway to roll through, allowing traffic entering the town limits of Radium to witness the valley emerging as they exit the canyon's shadow.

What drivers view as they pass through Sinclair Canyon towards Radium

A small strip of sidewalk lines the highway, guiding visitors along the canyon walls. Halfway through the canyon, there is a shallow cave to explore.

The tiny 'cave' in Sinclair Canyon

Just past the cave, Sinclair Creek turns into Sinclair Canyon Falls, a short waterfall that leads down into the valley. If you hike further down the valley, you will find the entrance to Juniper Trail and can hike (for real hike) along Sinclair Creek into the valley's base.

Sinclair Falls, which are tiny, just outside Sinclair Canyon

We didn't walk that far (although Joey and I have hiked part of Juniper Trail in the past, long before we had our children). This time around, we had the double stroller with us and taking that sucker down Juniper Trail's valley stairs did NOT seem fun. Or smart. So we loitered around Sinclair Canyon, the falls, and the lookout.

A view of the Radium valley from the Sinclair Canyon lookout point

I love the lookout point. It branches away from the highway-hugging sidewalk, and takes visitors to a precipice overlooking the canyon and part of the town of Radium. You can look back towards the way you came to see Sinclair Canyon and Sinclair Canyon Falls with a view of the Rocky Mountains peeping through the crack. There is a giant boulder in the centre of the lookout area to climb for some really spectacular photos.

Enjoying the lookout point at Sinclair Canyon before descending down Juniper Trail

That is about it, however, for things to see and do at Sinclair Canyon. There are hikes dotting Highway 93 up and down the road in both directions, and they are usually empty so you have the trails and the trees to yourself. In the past, Joey and I have hiked back towards the hot springs and enjoyed splashing around in Sinclair Creek. I recommend taking advantage of the ease of the trails, and the peacefulness you are sure to encounter there.

Sinclair Creek as it makes its way to Sinclair Canyon

This summer we hope to do more hiking, especially around Olive Lake and Marble Canyon. Stay tuned!

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