Juniper Trail or 'Loop' is right on the edge of Kootenay National Park. The trail takes you down to Sinclair Canyon and Sinclair Canyon Falls. The hike is located between Radium and the hot springs of Radium. Radium itself is a small village with a population of roughly 800 people. The name comes from the hot springs which was named after a radioactive element, radon, which was found in the hot springs.
The mineral hot springs were well known to the Native peoples for its healing powers prior to any European settlement. When an analysis of the water was done at the turn of the 20th century, the analysis showed that the water contained small traces of radon which is a decay product of radium. Although radon is a normal step in the decaying process leading to lead, the traces and exposure of the element in the hot springs is too small to have any consequential effect; approximately 0.13mrem for 30 minutes of bathing in the water.
Although there is not a vast amount of information available for the specific history of Juniper Trail and Sinclair Canyon, the canyon is said to be named after James Sinclair (1805-1856) sometime in the 1800's. James became an explorer for the Hudson's Bay Co. in what is now Manitoba either at Norway House or Lower Fort Garry. He made many expeditions throughout the Canadian Rockies areas through which it is assumed he named Sinclair Canyon and Sinclair Pass in this Kootenay area. It is said that James Sinclair led families to Oregon from the Red River area. In an account written by James MacGregor in his book “A History of Alberta”, he mentioned James Sinclair making a trip with 29 families through the Rockies in 1842. There is also a Sinclair Creek that was discovered in northern Montana that is assumed to be named after James Sinclair.
The valley found beyond the south of Radium was once covered by the ancient Glacial Lake Windermere. 11,000 years ago, the ancient lake was filled with water from retreating glaciers and it filled the entire valley. The lake slowly drained away and the landforms you see today such as the hoodoos and deposits of clay, sand and gravel were created with the streams and rivers cutting through these lake deposits.
In 1914, the first rail line was constructed through this valley. Sternwheelers were the primary source of transportation prior to this when moving goods and people. The railway in the valley is said to still be used to transport coal from Golden, British Columbia to the Crowsnest Pass area.
There are no difficulties along the route. Due to its location, you can do this hike pretty early and late in the season when most other places are still snow covered. You can either start on the eastern end near the hot springs or at the pull over by the park entrance. This trip report is going west to east, from the park entrance towards the hot springs. If you are doing it in reverse, simply read the log from the bottom up.
Juniper Trail to Sinclair Canyon Trip Log
From the road there is a small parking area that is on the northwest side of the road. You will find a sign on a couple 4x4 posts that has "Juniper 3 km" written on it.
A series of large switch backs take you down to the canyon floor where you come across Sinclair Creek.
Once you make it to the bottom you have the option to head left for a couple hundred meters to see Sinclair Falls. You can't really see the waterfall since it is hidden in the canyon but at only 200m it is worth a gander.
If you head to the left the trail ends close to the base of the waterfall. After you have admired the running water you can head back towards the sign.
Once you are back at the sign you will want to make a left and cross over Sinclair Creek on the bridge.
The trail now starts going up through a forest of Rocky Mountain junipers and Douglas firs. It is all done on switchbacks so it is not very steep at all. As you head up to come to a small lookout where the trail turns sharply to the left. Here you can see where the 93 passes below through the canyon.
As you proceed higher up and along the trail you come across a nice vantage point that also has a decent bench to sit on and take a break.
The trail then starts heading downwards through a relatively spaced apart forest. If you are hiking on a hot day it is a nice relief to be in some shade. As you head further down the mountain side the forest thickens and all the deadfall offers some real interesting scenery.
When you reach the end of the trail you will reach the road. If you are starting at this point you will come across a sign that says Juniper Trail is this way and 3.2km long.
You have a few options on the return. If time is not a issue you can head back the way you came or cross over the road and head back on the Red Streak Trail. The quickest way to get back would be to take the road back which is all downhill and a relatively straight line back to the vehicle.
GPS Plotted Route
As you can tell the trail basically parallels highway 93 as it heads east/west. The buildings on the right edge are the Radium Hot Springs. The trail ends (or starts) just short of that. In between the two flags is Sinclair Falls. The right flag is the point on the trail when you are at the bottom and the right flag is when you can 'see' it from the top. Neither view offers much more than seeing the splash of the waterfall as it is nearly hidden between the rock.
In our opinion it's better to start on the west side and finish in the east because if you start in the east you end up having to walk back uphill to where ever you parked. Whereas going west to east it is all downhill back unless you choose to take one of the neighboring hiking trails back to the start point.
What were your experiences hiking Juniper Trail to Sinclair Canyon?
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