Two geographical features dominate the Kootenays: mountains and water. Four parallel mountain ranges, running in a generally northwest direction, march successively across the southeastern British Columbia landscape. The most westerly are the Monashees, followed by the rugged Selkirks, defined on their western flanks by the Arrow reservoir system and Slocan Lake, and on the east by the spectacular waters of Kootenay Lake. These two mountain ranges and accompanying lake systems define this district and provide endless opportunities for horseback riding amidst breathtaking scenery and fresh mountain air. Farther east are the Purcells, then the Canadian Rockies, outlining the area defined as the BC Rockies.
The historic Dewdney Trail provides a good horseriding trail. Although much of the original 4-foot (1.2-m) pathway that Edgar Dewdney blazed in 1865 has been neglected, it’s still possible to ride portions of it that have been maintained between Christina Lake and Rossland. Dewdney was a young civilian surveyor who was originally hired by Colonial-Governor Douglas in 1860 to build a trail between Hope and the gold fields in the Okanagan Valley region. With the discovery of gold in Stud Horse Creek (later renamed Wild Horse Creek) Dewdney was asked to extend the trail east to Wildhorse in 1865. With help from the weather, he was able to complete the route through the Kootenays in five months. Dewdney’s legacy can be touched in several places and by several modes of exploration as you explore this region.
Horses are allowed on the Old Glory Trail north of Rossland. There is a hiking trail that leads to the lookout at the summit of Old Glory Mountain. The Old Glory Trail (6 miles/10 km) follows Unnecessary Ridge and also leads to the summit. The shorter Plewman Trail (5 miles/8 km) goes through the Plewman Basin. The two trails share a common trailhead on Hwy 3A east of Nancy Greene Provincial Park towards Rossland. The highway makes a big bend as it leads past Hannah Creek. Watch for the pullout and trailhead on the west side of the highway, about 100 yards (91 m) south of Hannah Creek. The trail divides a short distance from the trailhead, with Plewman Trail to the right and Old Glory to the left. This area was used in times past by the Colville Indians from Washington state, who made regular trips here to pick huckleberries. Local place names such as Squaw Basin, Indian Flats, and Papoose Basin reflect this history. The former Forest Service lookout on Old Glory Mountain, the remains of a meteorological station, some stables, and the Old Glory Trail are remnants of the area’s more recent history.
Horseback riding is also allowed in Kianuko Provincial Park, located 25 miles (40 km) north of Creston.
Serrated, glacier-cloaked granite peaks dominate the landscape, and huge lake-filled glacial valleys provide habitat for many kinds of wildlife and offer excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation. Although two of British Columbia’s major mountain wilderness parks are situated here (Valhalla Provincial Park and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park), horseback riding is not permitted in either park.
Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes region offers many horseback riding adventures. Backcountry roads and trails throughout the region can be accessed for exploring the wilderness and the alpine lakes and meadows. Wildlife sightings are common, and those who challenge the mountain summits will be rewarded with spectacular views. For those who prefer a guided adventure, tours range from a couple of hours, to multi-day pack trips exploring the backcountry.
Adventurers can take a couple of hours, or a few days, to explore the Mount Revelstoke National Park as the old-timers did. Guided horse trips are offered at some locations. Horseback riding is also permitted in Arrow Lakes Provincial Park and Monashee Provincial Park.
The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park can be explored along a 37-mile (60-km) stretch of trail that begins just south of the Kootenay Lake town of Argenta. From the Earl Grey Pass trailhead, the hiking and horseback route passes through some of the Purcell Mountains’ most awe-inspiring peaks, some of which reach heights of more than 12,000 feet (3600 m), on its way to Toby Creek, just west of Invermere. Horseback riding and multi-day pack trips are permitted on the east side of the park as defined by the height of land along the Purcell Mountains. Trails are unimproved, uncut and historical structures such as old bog bridges exist. Use extreme caution while crossing these structures and be prepared to cut out the trail. There are traditional horse camps along most trails. Riders should use established campsites or practice no impact horse camping.
Northwest of Argenta, there is a small alpine campsite at Meadow Mountain that offers great views as well as access to meadows, small lakes, and an extensive alpine ridge system for hiking, horseback riding, or snowmobiling.
Horseback riders can explore wide open alpine meadows, tranquil lakes, and pristine rivers in the secluded Selkirk Mountains. Every ride is an adventure.