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Getting there & around

The closest airport with commercial service to Nelson is in Castlegar (www.castlegar.ca/devserv_air.htm). Queen City Shuttle (250-352-9829; www.koote nayshuttle.com; one-way adult/child $22/11) provides a link (one hour).

Greyhound Canada (800-661-8747; www.greyhound.ca; Chahko-Mika Mall, 1112A Lakeside Dr) has service to Calgary ($94, 11 to 13 hours, two daily) and Vancouver ($105, 12 to 13 hours, one daily) via Kelowna ($55, 5½ hours, two daily).

The main stop for Nelson Transit System Buses (250-352-8201; www.busonline.ca; fare $1.75) is on the corner of Ward and Baker Sts. Buses 2 and 10 serve Chahko-Mika Mall and Lakeside Park.

Nelson To Revelstoke

Heading north from Nelson, there are two options – both scenic – for reaching Revelstoke. Hwy 6 heads west for 16km before turning north at South Slocan. The road eventually runs alongside pretty Slocan Lake for about 30km before reaching New Denver. You’ll see some dramatic rock faces, cool vistas of snow-clad peaks rising from the lake and little else with this option, which is 97km in total between Nelson and New Denver.

Heading north and east from Nelson on Hwy 3A is probably the most interesting route. After 34km there is the dock for the Kootenay Lake Ferry at Balfour. This ride is worth it even if you’re not going anywhere, because of the long lake vistas of blue mountains rising sharply from the water.

The road becomes Hwy 31 and follows the lake 34km north to Kaslo, passing cute little towns along the way.

Kaslo itself is a ‘cute little town’ that’s a good stop. The Visitor Centre (250-353-2525; www.klhs.bc.ca; 324 Front St; 9am-5pm mid-May–mid-Oct) can help with info on the myriad ways to kayak and canoe the sparkling blue waters right outside. Next door, the 1898 SS Moyie(adult/child $5/2; 9am-5pm mid-May–mid-Oct) has been restored. There’s a range of accommodations in and around town, plus some good cafés.

Wild mountain streams are just some of the natural highlights on Hwy 31A, which goes up and over some rugged hills. At the end of this twisting 47km road, you reach New Denver, which seems about five years away from ghost town status. But that’s not bad as this historic little gem slumbers away peacefully right on the clear waters of Slocan Lake. The Silvery Slocan Museum (250-358-2201; www.newdenver.ca; 202 6th Ave; 9am-5pm Jun-Sep) is also home to the very helpful visitor center. Housed in the 1897 Bank of Montreal, it features well-done displays from the booming mining days, a tiny vault and an untouched tin ceiling.

Both New Denver and the equally sleepy old mining town of Silverton just south have excellent cafés. They are also good for arranging access to Valhalla Provincial Park (www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks), a 49, 600-hectare area that’s one of BC’s most attractive and underappreciated parks. Like the famous photo of Diana sitting alone in front of the Taj Mahal, the park sits in grand isolation on the west side of Slocan Lake: you’ll need a boat to access the many trails and remote campsites.

Making the loop from Nelson via Hwys 6 and 31 via New Denver is an excellent day trip. Otherwise, if you’re headed to Revelstoke, continue north 47km on Hwy 6 from New Denver to Nakusp through somewhat bland rolling countryside.

Right on Upper Arrow Lake, both Nakusp and the chain of lakes were forever changed by BC’s orgy of dam-building in the 1950s and 1960s. The water level here was raised and the town had to be moved, which is why it has a sort of 1960s-era look now. Upper Arrow Lake’s ecological balance has never been the same. Still, it’s a rather pretty area and the Nakusp Visitor Centre (250-265-4234, 800-909-8819; www.nakusphotsprings.com; 92 W 6th Ave; 9am-5pm Jun-Sep) has good hiking information for the area as well as accommodations lists ranging from a hostel to B&Bs and motels.

North of Nakusp the Nakusp Hot Springs (250-265-4528; www.nakusphotsprings.com; 12km northeast of Nakusp off Hwy 23; adult/child $11/free; 9:30am-10pm) are some of several in the area. Newly reopened after installation of a water filtration system, the facility here is so clean it seems artificial. There are cramped sites for camping ($15) and simple chalets (from $60).

From Nakusp you could head west on Hwy 6 to Vernon in the Okanagan Valley – a 245km drive that includes the Needles Ferry. Or head north 55km on Hwy 23 to the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry and the final 48km to Revelstoke. For more, see boxed text, p765.