Paint Pots are easily accessible, spring-fed, colorful pools at Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada.
The wide, well-groomed, 1.0 KM (⅝ mile) trail, one way, is easily accessible from the large, well-signed parking area along the Banff - Windermere Parkway (Highway 93) about 20 KM (12½ miles) south from Castle Junction along the TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park or about 50 KM (31¼ miles) north from the Village of Radium Hot Springs near the south end of Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada.
Along the wide Paint Pots trail a less formal but preferable alternative dirt path departs through forest to the left with excellent supplementary mountain views across colorful wetlands prior to reconnecting with the main trail near the bridge crossing the formidable, emerald and milky Vermilion River laden with glacial silt.
Past the bridge over the Vermilion River, a sharp left turn at the trail junction, connecting this trail to Marble Canyon about 2.7 KM (⅝+ miles) north, continues south and west to the Paint Pots. Trail signage also indicates the Paint Pots are en route to the internationally renowned and world famous Rockwall multiple-day backcountry experience via Ochre Creek and Helmet Creek to the 30+ KM (18¾+ mile) long and formidable Rockwall. Tumbling Creek is an Ochre Creek trail junction, trip-shortening alternative. Reference Gem Trek Publishing Map # 10 for Kootenay National Park.
After tracking the bank of the Vermilion River for a short distance, the short jog right through forest leads abruptly to the meadow hosting colorful wetland Ochre beds. The trail is enhanced by interpretive signs along the first flat section of trail augmented by boardwalks to keep the feet dry. Avoiding contact with the colorful clay soil is important. The colorful clay is a dye which becomes difficult to remove from footwear and clothing.
The aboriginal people who inhabited the region traveled here to collect the vibrantly colorful soil for use as ceremonial body paint. The unique area was justifiably considered sacred ground worthy of respect.
Early Canadian immigrant settlers mined the clay for a short period in the early 1900's to be sent to Calgary for use as dye in the production of paint for burgeoning city development. Interpretive exhibits along the short, colorful trail provide evidence for some of the mining equipment used in the mining process. Interpretive signs and exhibits inform about this brief period of commercial activity.
Shortly past the mining exhibit, trail over level ground begins to gain very gentle elevation as views morph from fascinating to spectacular. Fields of vivid and variable colors are interrupted by forest features as the trail gently rises beside Ochre Creek to the Paint Pots which are fed by underground cold water springs. The scenery and vivid colors here are breathtaking and natural images create a photographic paradise.
Arrival at the Paint Pots, which are fed by underground cold water springs create a magical tapestry of surrounding scenery and vivid colors which are breathtaking. Natural images promote a spiritual environment within a photographic paradise.
The trail continues past the Paint Pots but spectacular features are temporarily suspended as the route continues along Ochre Creek to the junction with Tumbling Creek and beyond via Helmet Creek to Helmet Falls and the Rockwall. Trail structure in this area of the incredible Rocky Mountains is perpetually extended to provide a virtual lifetime of hiking opportunity.
The return hike via the same route is even better as the lofty perspective provides a new view over previously visited terrain with a dramatic mountain background. The camera stays busy.
Seats on some old benches along the trail are about 15 cm ( 6 inches) above the ground. It appears their concrete foundations have either sunk into the surrounding terrain or the ground level has gradually risen over time with silt being deposited on the surrounding meadow plans. Sitting down is much easier than standing up.
The view from the bridge over the Vermilion River provides amazing and soothing sound and sight from and around surrounding spectacular terrain.
The Paint Pots trail is short and scenic but there is good reason to slow the pace and extend the experience.