A week ago I visited the Ka Papa TrailI. I wanted to continue my exploration of our local Kootenay Old Growth forests before the smoke from the forest fires in Washington, Oregon, and the nearby Slocan Valley truly set in. I asked my friend and co-worker Laura, who knows lots about local plants and animals, to join me on a trip to the Ka Papa Cedars. We met at the Cottonwood carpool lot, outside of Nelson, and headed up Highway 6 towards the Kootenay Pass (HWY 3), between Salmo and Creston. 

At the top of the pass I reset my odometer – the pullout for the trail access is 8.1 kms east of the summit. Right at 8 kms we pass the avalanche gates, and shortly after there is the pullout on the right and a sign for the Ka Papa trail. This is a large pullout with ample parking and a pile of big granite boulders to one side. There is another pullout closer to the avalanche gates which leads to the Cha Creek FSR. This also connects to the trail up a short jaunt on a logging road. 

The trailhead is well marked with a large map kiosk showing the 1.7 kilometre loop. After a moderate descent through a towering hemlock stand we reach a sturdily built bridge crossing the clear waters of Cha Creek. The trail on the other side is wet from what appears to be a ground spring. We find ourselves among ancient cedars with bark twisting upwards to the sky. My hiking companion is a bird enthusiast and she notes the calls of a Pacific Wren – a bird which prefers old growth forests for its habitat. 


White-flowered Rhododendron

While in old growth forests it is common to want to look up into the high tree canopy or out into the depths of the forest’s massive trunks. It is just as interesting to look down to the forest floor. We found a cornucopia of shrubs, mushrooms, berries, vines, flowers and seeds. We found a Western Yew with a singular berry left hanging below its needled bough and discovered a white flowered rhododendron which I learned is a native species. 


Culturally Modified Cedar

This short loop is packed with interesting features. We passed a pair of contractors who were installing interpretive signs for the local trail society. They pointed out a beautiful old tree snag with a large hole that could harbour bats or owls, and a culturally modified ancient cedar that was used by a local Indigenous band. 

This trail is a perfect stop for travelers needing to stretch their legs and breathe some fresh forest air. It’s also a beautiful, easily accessible example of old growth trees and a habitat for plants and animals that need these types of forests to flourish. 

Take a hike, take photos! Share your photos with #kootenayoldgrowth to Instagram and Facebook to help spread the word about our beautiful old growth forests in the Kootenays. 


Kendra Norwood is EcoSociety’s Conservation Program Coordinator