Lake Views in the Kootenays

Lake Views in the Kootenays

Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App StoreThe gear is packed the night before, the oils and fluids in the 4Runner are checked and at a healthy level, the only thing left to do is battle the never-ending road construction and traffic on the way out of the city. The plan is to explore and gather information in the south eastern Kootenay region for beautiful lake side camping and never before seen trails.


Lake Views in the Kootenays

We make our way through southern Alberta, a familiar sight, but as we near closer to the British Columbia boarder, roads become unfamiliar and new opportunities arise. 

Excitement is building. 

As we pass through Fernie, a small ski town, we make an obligatory stop at their local brewery to pick up some tasty beverages for later in the evening (hopefully around a camp fire). At this point, the route I had planned while still in the office at home tells me it’s time to leave the highway and hit the dirt. We pull over and make quick work of the tire pressures, bringing them down to a soft 18 psi, perfect for those long gravel mountain roads. Before long we’re winding our way through the mountain passes, unsure of what’s around the next corner.

There’s something special about being in a place you’ve never been to before but always wanted to explore. It’s refreshing and exhilarating. Late afternoon has arrived and our eyes are set on camp. 

The gravel road begins to deteriorate and the ride becomes slow and uneven. We look on the screen of the GPS which informs us that we are approaching a large body of water. After a few wrong turns and dead ends, we are hoping that this camp spot won’t disappoint. A steep rocky downhill decent is the last obstacle before approaching the water. I stop, select 4Low and let the 3.4L engine do most of the braking down the steep bank towards the water. The trail is lightly overgrown and seems to only see a few travelers a year. The bottom of the hill looms closer and closer as we crawl our way to the bottom. Then, out of nowhere appears a massive lake. The slippery shale rock turns to soft sand, which is odd for the interior of British Columbia, but were not about to complain. Instead, we further lower the tire pressures to 10 psi and drive the rest of the way across the wide beach to the water’s edge. Beautiful! 

After having some fun in the soft sand, we turn back towards the bottom of the hill which we just descended. The sun is below the horizon now and we only have a few moments of light left to set up camp. There at the bottom right before the shale turns to sand is a small flat grassy spot to pitch the tent and call home for the night. The fire is hot and the beers cold. What could tomorrow have in store?

The next morning, we awoke in a very warm tent, looks like the sun has been beating on us for a while now, so much for the 7 am wake up. Coffee and breakfast went down quick so we decided to break camp and hit the dirt leaving Lake Koocanusa to find our next location. 

Lake Koocanusa is actually a flowing body of water that starts north in the Castle mountain area as the Kootenay river. It flows south all the way down through British Columbia, Montana and Idaho. There are more than 300 kilometers of accessible shoreline for camping and exploring.

Today’s plan is to wander from Lake Koocanusa in search of other smaller lakes in the surrounding area. We set the coordinates to Suzanne Lake less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from our last destination.

The climb back up the large hill proves to be more difficult than the descent but the 4Runner scampers up the loose shale with little drama. Suzanne Lake is only a few minutes drive down an old logging road. Quite a few people passed us towing small fishing row boats on the way, we get the feeling that this is a more of a popular family lake. Our theories turn out to be correct. Suzanne Lake is rich with amenities including picnic tables, cut out camp spots, a boat launch and a dock, not our preferred method of camping but beautiful none the less. 

We decide not to stay the night at Suzanne Lake but rather stay for lunch then continue onwards. There is one other lake in the area that has been on our list to see, Wapiti Lake. It’s a quick 15 minutes down more beautiful British Columbia backroads. Wapiti proves to be the smallest of the three lakes, but has some of the best mountain views and the least number of people! The water is crystal clear and a few lily pads grace the edges of the lake. I think we’ll call this home for the night!    

Editor’s Note:We’re so excited to see adventures in a soon-to-be classic 4Runner, deep in the heart of British Columbia. Keep your eye on Toyota Cruisers & Trucks for more stories from Johannes.

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