Juniper Loop trail at Sinclair Canyon

Juniper Loop trail at Sinclair Canyon

Juniper Loop trail in Kootenay National ParkThe 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
Bear spray
Swimming things if Radium Hot Springs are open
Facilities:
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.

Berries galore

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

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.

Sinclair Canyon

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.

Sinclair Creek

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 detail 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.

Bighorn Sheep

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.

Juniper Loop near Redstreak Campground - Kootenay National Park Juniper Loop trail in Kootenay National Park Juniper Loop at Sinclair Canyon - Kootenay National Park

36 thoughts on “Juniper Loop trail at Sinclair Canyon

    1. I loved seeing those sheep-dudes! I was a bit sad they arrived after we’d been in that exact spot – but I guess this way we didn’t disturb them at all. 🙂

    1. I guess we cheated a little – we did lots of the smaller hikes on the same day. Now I just need to go back and explore more of the big, epic hikes!!

  1. Wow! That hike looks absolutely incredible. There’s nothing better than getting all of your steps in for the day AND catching a spectacular view in the process.

    1. Hehehe yeah – this would be a good way to get steps in early. It’s funny you say that, as the book I found this hike in said the same thing!

      I have to admit, we did a second hike later in the day though.

  2. What an incredible hike! The scenery looks breath-taking! It’s a shame that the road is so close-by, I like to feel like I’m well away from civilization on a hike! But that being said, the views certainly make up for it. I could spend all day sat on that bench taking in the views! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Yeah, having that road does put a bit of a dampener on the wilderness experience. At least the sheep were there to make it seem wild again.

  3. This looks like a great trail to clear your head! What amazing views. The creek looks gorgeous and how fun would it be to see longhorn sheep too?? Can’t wait to visit!

  4. Juniper Canyon looks so beautiful! Those views are just incredible. Also, great reminder to always bring bear spray!! That is something I def need to purchase for my future hikes.

    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t have guessed you really need it here (as it’s so near the road and quite a busy hike) But you never know in the Rockies!!

  5. This looks like a fantastic hike especially with an option to dip in the hot springs when it opens again. A perfect outdoor adventure. I hope to visit Kootenay National Park soon. Beautiful photos.

    1. I was wondering that too. It’s below the treeline, so shouldn’t be too bad for avalanche danger. I bet it would look amazing covered in snow/ice if you had microspikes.

  6. Well Josy, I think you have ruined me with all of your other hikes cause Juniper Loop trail seems kind of blah to me. At first I was totally sold due to the Hot Springs cause I love a good soak after backpacking especially when we were on the JMT. But since it is closed, that stinks. The views of Sinclair Canyon and the viewpoint from Redstreak seem just kind of okay. I guess when I think of the Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, I guess I expect deeper canyons with more crags and views. I will say the big horn sheep is a great find.

    1. Ha! I can totally see that! We were sooo spoiled that week. Marc and I were saying the same thing about this trail (and the Hoodoos trail the previous day) After a whole week of epic views they were less impressive.

      The good thing about this one is it would be open in the shoulder season when the more epic hikes are not available. I guess we’d love it a whole lot more if we were deprived of other options.

  7. I have done several hikes where you could hear traffic for most of the walk and I can understand that this is not what you were hoping for. At least for me, after a few minutes my brain blocked out the traffic noise and allowed me to enjoy the beauty of the scenery. I guess, ignorance sometimes is bliss.

    1. You are right Rudy. We didn’t really notice it until we stared down into the canyon and saw the cars. It’s pretty cool the way brains can do that isn’t it!?

  8. What an interesting hike! I honestly love when hikes are a loop instead of a back and forth. There’s something about doing a full circle, but maybe that’s just me! It’s really cool that there is the chance of seeing bighorn sheep here, and also interesting that you got to use a wildlife tunnel! I’m surprised to see that you have to cross the road at the end though. Do you get a crosswalk with button or do you just have to keep an eye out for cars?

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