The Juniper Loop trail is an easy-ish trail that will take you on a loop around the Sinclair Canyon at the edge of Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies. We love the views from the North side of the trail when you can peek down to the Columbia Valley and possibly see wild bighorn sheep.
You can start and end the trail at Raduim hot springs, so when the pandemic is over – you’d be able to finish this hike with a nice soak in the hot springs. The hot springs were closed in 2020 – so I have an excuse to go back!
Juniper Loop trail map
Juniper loop trail – the basics
Distance: 6.4 km
Elevation gain: 325 m
Time: 2.5-3 hours
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
Swimming things if Radium Hot Springs are open
You can park at Raduim Hot springs. This was closed in 2020, but normally there is a pool as well as the natural hot springs if you would like a dip after your walk.
There’s a loo at the trailhead.
Dogs: Yes (on a leash)
How hard is it? Moderately easy. There is a bit of elevation gain, but it’s not hard at all.
Juniper Loop – Getting started
We started at Radium Hot Springs at the edge of Kootenay National Park. If you prefer, it would also work well if you start from Redstreak Campground. We decided to do the walk clockwise – but I think it would be fun in either direction. To reach the trail, we had to walk through a wildlife tunnel. I loved that they have photos on the wall of all the critters who use this tunnel to cross the road!
The start of the trail is right behind the swimming pool at Radium Hot Springs.
There are a few switchbacks at the start of the trail to get you up the steep side of this hill. However, once you have gained about 100m in elevation, the trail levels off a little, so it is a pretty relaxing walk through pretty forest with chalky steep sides to the trail.
Although the trail is named after Juniper berries, we didn’t see any juniper berries. However we did see sooo many other kinds of berries- at least four different types that I couldn’t name. The berries that made me the most happy were all the wild raspberries. They were perfectly ripe in August and tasted incredible!
Edges of the cliff
The sides of the trail are pretty interesting. You can see how the trail has been cut from super chalky soil that is held together by the tree roots with a generous topping of fluffy moss. There are also a few spots where you can see views of Kootenay National Park through the trees.
Redstreak Campground is located on a sunny plateau just above the village of Radium Hot Springs. You can take a mini detour to visit the edge of this campground along the trail. We stayed here for a couple of nights and really loved it. Each campsite is spacious, private and they have posh loos and showers (although the showers were closed in 2020 due to covid-19.)
Redstreak Campground Viewpoint
The reason I mention camping, is on the edge of Redstreak Campground there are some fantastic views down to the highway and the Columbia Valley.
Once you have peeked at the views, take the steps down to Sinclair Canyon. There is once spot halfway down there you can peer vertically down to the highway.
You get some great views over to the other side of Sinclair Canyon – you’ll be hiking up there really soon! Although the soil looks unstable, watch out for bighorn sheep – we saw quite a few balancing in impossible looking spots!
Once you’ve made it down, cross the road very carefully for views of the Sinclair Canyon and the highway that winds through it. Even if you can’t stop to hike here, you’ll get to drive through this impressive Canyon to enter Kootenay National Park.
The canyon actually goes quite a bit deeper than you can see from the highway. You need to descend all the way down to Sinclair Creek before you can explore the other side of the Juniper Trail. Once you’ve made it to the lowest point, take a tiny extra detour to see a waterfall. There are trees in the way, so you can’t take good photos, but it is still cool to see it.
The Juniper Trail
Now you can hike back to where you started along the Juniper Trail. There is a bit more of a climb on this side of the highway (about 180m elevation gain) but the well built switch-backs make it easy.
The views from this side of the trail are really lovely! This is looking west, towards the Columbia Valley.
You can look down to the highway again… The only bad thing about this hike is that is is so close to the highway. The road through Kootenay National Park isn’t crazily busy, but the sound of vehicles will be a constant companion for this walk.
After I took the two photos above, we kept walking along the trail to another viewpoint. When we looked back, there were two bighorn sheep on the rocks where we had just been standing! I didn’t want to disturb them, so I took this photo from far away…but I was a bit sad that they didn’t come to say hello while we were over there!
We found this bench with a fantastic view; So we stopped here for an apple, and spent some time watching the bighorn sheep.
Loop back to the start
Once you’ve taken in the views, you just need to hike down the Juniper loop trail back to Radium Hot Springs. There aren’t very many loop trails in the Canadian Rockies so it was really nice to find such an easy one that we could do early in the morning, before driving off to our next adventure.
This was a pretty, fun walk that would be great to do with families or in the shoulder season when the high alpine trails are too covered in snow and too dangerous to go hiking. It is a shame that you never quite escape the sounds of the highway. But I personally think it is worth the trade-off for being able to see the Sinclair Canyon up close.