This segment is a two hour / 200 km and relatively flat and sedate drive through the BC Rockies, and is a TEMPORARY DETOUR for a 1 hour drive between Golden, Lake Louise and Castle Junction. The detour is cyclist friendly and mostly flat, and forms two legs of the popular “Golden Triangle” cycle tour. The midpoint takes you through and past Radium and Radium Hot Springs, ad through Sinclair Canyon.
There is a major upgrade of the Trans Canada Highway between Field and Golden that will not only straighten out some very tight turns that necessitate a 40 km speed limit on a 5 kilometre section, but the upgrade will also twin the highway, so there are two lanes in each direction. The work is complicated by the fact that (1) the CP Railroad was built over a century ago and had first dibs (2) the south-facing slope the highway built on high above the Kicking Horse Valley is steep and geologically unstable, with lots of rockslides and wintertime avalanches (3) this is an important trucking and tourism corridor between Banff, Calgary, and eastern Canada on one side, and BC’s major mountain towns popular with winter and summer tourists.
The work being done will surely involve a lot of blasting, and then clearing, and then lots of work to stabilize the slopes, making short / intermittent road closures unworkable for a predictable construction schedule.
As a result, the construction affecting the Trans-Canada #1 will be conducted in Spring and Fall, and put on hold during winter ski and summer travel seasons. From the east, drivers (at this time we believe) will be able to drive form Lake Louise west to Field and as far as the Park Bridge over the Kicking Horse River. Those travelling further west (or from the west will need to use the detour connecting Golden and Radium via existing highway 95, and drive from Radium to Castle Junction (25 km SE of Lake Louise) via highway 93.
The highway #93 between Banff and Castle Junction and Radium was the first highway built over the Rocky Mountains as a make-work project during the Great Depression of the 1930s. to give Calgary motorcar owners an opportunity to visit the rugged BC interior. The road wss roughed-out as early as 1923 (accoring to the Alberta Motor Association), and finidhed during the Depression. There is a high pass at the Continental Divide, but the valley descending to the west is wide and has gentle slopes down to the Columbia River at Radium. Radium (or Radium Hot Springs) is the gateway to several tourist towns in the beautiful Columbia Valley, including Fairmont, Windermere, and Invermere, several ski resorts, and heli-ski or cat-ski operations. The highway 95 between Radium and Golden is a very flat highway on the east bank of the Columbia River in a valley that is many kilometres wide.
Detour Access Eastbound, watch for the traffic lights beside the “Welcome to Golden” sign, following a long straightway. Detour Access westbound: Watch for Highway 93 exit a few kilometres after the Sunshine Village (ski resort) turnoff.
After passing across the Golden Service corridor (do gas up here!), make the right hand (southbound) turn off from the Trans Canada Highway at the last traffic light before the uphills stretch to the east. You will take a looping flyover turn to climb over the railway tracks and descend into Golden‘s charming “north downtown” area. Then you cross the Kicking Horse River and enter Goldens “south downtown”.
South of Golden, you hit open highway heading up (south) along the Columbia River. The next hundred kilometres is two-lane highway, relatively level, with views of the Rockies to the east and the Selkirk Range to the west. There are several settlements along the road, not really rising to villages or towns until you hit Radium.
Radium is a major connection point (we’ll drive east) but there are several ski hills in the area: Panorama and Fairmont (nearby) and Kimberley and Fernie (further south), and a number of heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations to the west, taking advantage of the high elevations and deep powder in the Selkirks that has this area be known as “powder highway”. This area is a summer and winter playground for Albertans who like the combinations of hills, lakes, gold courses, and a range of great accommodations. To the south are the towns of Invermere, Windermere, and Fairmont, and further south are the towns of Canal Flats, Fort Steele, the Bavarian-themed town of Kimberley and the railroad & market centre of Cranbrook (the two share the area’s best airport serviced by major airlines).
Heading east from Radium, you climb a steep hill and enter the Kootenay National Park, you go through a tunnel at Sinclair Canyon, and pass the Radium Hot Springs and then hit the raw wilderness portion of the National Park. You pass over the Kootenay River (at Kootenay Crossing) and the Vermillion River (at Vermillion Crossing) and climb up a scenic lookout, before heading north. The highway drops again into the valley, before climbing again over Kootenay Pass over the Rocky Mountains. The descent to the Trans-Canada is stunning as you feel like you are dropping down to Castle Mountain, which rises majestically above the Bow River Valley, about 25 km south of Lake Louise.
Kootenay National Park has been ravaged by forest fires over the years, and you will see burnt-out trunks along the highway and way up the slopes. Since this is a National Park, everything is left in its full natural state. Awaiting the pine (and other species’) cones to eject their seeds, seedlings to sprout among abundant wildflowers now enjoying direct sunlight, and the forests to regrow.
When you approach Trans-Canada, you can proceed either: