Walk-About in our Artsy Heritage Towns

Kaslo City hall


Take a trip back in time on a walking tour through some of the most colourful heritage towns in British Columbia. The main streets of Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, Nakusp, New Denver, Slocan, Silverton, Kaslo, Crawford Bay, and Rossland feature striking storybook buildings and stunning mountain and lake backdrops unique to the Kootenays.

As the “Queen City” of the Kootenays, Nelson features more than 60 heritage buildings all within walking distance. Most date from the late 1800s and early 1900s and are a testament to Nelson’s booming silver mining era of the time. For a small town in the interior of BC, Nelson has some grand architecture.

The heart of Nelson’s downtown boasts the greatest concentration of noteworthy designs, including the Courthouse, K.W.C. Building, Burns Building, and multiple banks. Victorian era influences abound along with nods to Italian and French styles. Further uphill you’ll find the iconic red-brick Fire Hall and the clapboard grey Nelson Brewing Company across the street.

The rich variety of stone, brick and wood buildings is complemented by public art and murals. The annual Nelson International Mural Festival provides a growing legacy of large-scale outdoor artwork. Wander Nelson’s alleyways and side streets to discover all kinds of hidden gems, including the many bold murals. Rotating public art installations add more character to Nelson’s historic Baker Street and are easily found on foot.

As you make your way to the quaint village of Kaslo, a visit to JB Fletcher Store at Ainsworth Hot Springs will be an absolute delight. You’ll be smitten with memorabilia that take you back in time.

Serene Kaslo is in many ways a smaller version of Nelson but with grander views. Historic Front Street includes the remarkable SS Moyie Sternwheeler and colourful wood clad buildings. The Langham Cultural Centre, City Hall, and multiple churches are other standout structures all within a short walk of each other. Continue your walking tour of Kaslo beyond the downtown and along the Kaslo River Trail, bookended by twin crimson covered bridges.

The Silvery Slocan has a silver rush history worth touring. Taking the road from Kalso to New Denver will pass you by the bonafide ghost town of Sandon. Tour around the old townsite, visit the oldest running powerhouse in west Canada and stop in at the Sandon Historical Society Museum to see their collection.

A short drive from Sandon is New Denver and Silverton, also former silver boomtowns. Visitors to the Silvery Slocan Museum and Silverton Gallery can relive the silver mining rush. At the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre visitors learn the history of Japanese Canadians held in the Slocan Valley during World War II.

Take the Slocan History Walk and learn about the Village of Slocan’s colourful past. This walking tour takes explorers past the beginnings of Slocan’s community and the significant developments along the way. The Nakusp Museum & Historical Society’s collection of artifacts are worth the drive to Nakusp to view.

Taking the road less travelled through the West Kootenays will take you through the quiet towns of Ymir and Salmo. Like the larger communities in the region, you’ll find influences of bygone days in the rustic architecture that provides a strong sense of place.

Cross over Kootenay Lake, on the free ferry, and immerse yourself in the village of Crawford Bay, filled with artisans and quaint cafes. Home spun yarn, metalworks, pottery, jewellery, brooms and more will tantalize your artistic interests, and pocketbook.

Although the event is still in its infancy, Sculpturewalk received world-wide recognition and pieces for consideration are being submitted to the selection panel from as far away as Russia and Iran. It’s also having an impact on neighbouring communities as Nelson and Rossland are now leasing sculptures so as they can be displayed in their own downtown cores. But to see the majority of the works, you’ll want to take a walk through historic Castlegar

Castlegar’s annual Art Walk runs from late June to mid-September and is a partnership between local businesses and the arts community. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to take in the works by various artists by touring the businesses involved.

The Kootenay Gallery of Art, History and Science is the best public art gallery in Castlegar. It features a variety of exhibitions and public programming and is one of 28 original centres built during the 1970s to allow rural people to enjoy great works of art, sourced regionally, nationally and internationally as well as provide a professional venue for regional artists to show and sell their work. 

Roughly half the size of Nelson, the alpine city of Rossland features big views and a picturesque downtown that still reflects a frontier era enthusiasm and design. The Rossland Courthouse is a signature building worthy of its National Historic Site status, while the Fire Hall, Miners’ Union Hall and Bank of Montreal building are also iconic structures. The majority of noteworthy buildings are within a ten-minute walk from end to end.

Rossland’s passion for recreation and culture is also best discovered on a walk through town. Impressive statues, monuments and sculptures pay homage to the town’s alpine heritage, including the towering Olaus Jeldness, the father of skiing at nearby Red Mountain. The picturesque trees that line Main Street turn a vibrant red each fall while bright murals add colour year-round.

Discover the heritage towns of the West Kootenays for yourself at a slow pace. A leisurely walk through each downtown reveals the past and present colliding in a timeless and distinctive style.

To learn more about walking tours in the area visit the local tourism websites.


Enjoy the #WestkootRoute