Once a settlement for Russian immigrants, this mountain town at the confluence of two rivers features hiking trails, bike paths and gorgeous river valley views.
From its location in a river valley amid the Selkirk Mountains, Castlegar offers easy access to the low mountains near the border between British Columbia and the United States. Trailheads begin from the town and provincial parks lie a short drive away. Before heading out into the wilderness, explore the small town to learn about its long heritage as a settlement for the Doukhobors, a group of 19th-century Russian religious immigrants.
Castlegar lies next to the point at which the Columbia River intersects the Kootenay River. Take a 2-mile (3-kilometer) hike up to Brilliant Overlook to view the spectacular twin river valley from above. Along the way, look for moose and elk, common throughout the Castlegar countryside.
Rent a bike to see more of the surrounding countryside. Castlegar was incorporated as a railroad town in the mid-20th century. Today, many of the old railroad tracks serve as bike trails. Ride the Columbia and Western Railway Trail, which gradually rises to the valley’s western summit. Along the way, pass through tunnels, including the 2,950-foot (900-meter) curve of the Bulldog Tunnel.
While Castlegar wasn’t established as a town until 1966, it had served as the site of a Doukhobor settlement for many years beforehand. This history is on display at the Doukhobor Discovery Center, which features more than 1,000 artifacts from this Russian immigrant group, including tools and works of art. The Castlegar Museum has more recent artifacts from the town’s history, including a large newspaper archive.
Drive into the Castlegar countryside to find several nature parks, including Syringa Creek Provincial Park. This site, located a 25-minute drive west of town, lies along Arrow Lake, a massive mountain lake stretching all the way into Glacier National Park. Hike the Yellow Pine Nature Trail to reach a hillside overlooking the lake.
Fly from Vancouver or drive 8 hours east to reach Castlegar. The small town is a perfect steppingstone to national parks like Banff and Glacier.