Paint Pots – Kootenay National Park

Author: Dan Brewer

The Paint Pots are one of the top attractions in Kootenay National Park, located not far from the western border of Banff National Park. Visitors to the Paint Pots will enjoy a beautiful short & easy hike along a gorgeous ochre creek to a series of brightly coloured natural pools called the paint pots.

The Brewer kids, from the Travel Banff Canada team, stand next to the very colorful Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park in BC, Canada.

Paint Pots Hike Stats

Distance: 2.1 km return
Elevation Gain: 56 m
Paint Pots Hiking Map

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Paint Pots Hike Highlights

The walk from the Paint Pots parking lot begins though a lush dense forest with a vibrant moss carpet. The old man lichen dangling from the evergreen trees gives the forest an old spooky feeling.

Within a few minutes you’ll reach Takoww Creek, where a beautiful, gently curved bridge crosses over the milky green water. While you are on the bridge, pause to soak in the excellent Rocky Mountain vistas down the river valley.

an 8-year old boy crosses the Tokumm Creek while hiking to the Paint Pots with his family.

After crossing Takoww Creek, the Paint Pots trail leaves the creek and enters as beautiful evergreen forest. Enjoy it while you can as the forest soon gives way to a large open meadow.

This meadow can get quite swampy (even in summer) and the hiking trail through can be muddy and damp. It’s swampy as the small stream from the paint pots flows through this meadow. Look at the soil – all of a sudden it’s a deep, rusty orange color. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT wear your best white shoes in this easy hike!

Two kids stand on a wooden plank to keep their hiking shoes dry while on an easy hike to the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park.

In days past, companies would commercially mine the ochre for paint production. You’ll see rusted old remnants of their equipment along the Paint Pots Trail.

At the far side of the meadow, the Paint Pots Trail meets up with the creek that created the swampy meadow you just walked through. Look at the soil under the water – it’s the most beautiful, rich ochre color you’ve ever seen. On a sunny day the ochre just pops and the crystal clear water just sparkles. It’s a magical place in the Canadian Rockies.

Water sparkles in the sunlight over ochre colored soil along the Paint Pots hiking trail in Kootenay National Park.

Thankfully, the Paint Pots hiking trail continues to follow the ochre stream. It’s so beautiful looking at the small, cascading waterfalls, that it’s hard to watch your step.

At the top of the ochre stream you’ll reach the Paint Pots, which are a series of deep pools of water. The deep blueish-green water, next to the deep orange ochre creek and the dense green forest around is an amazing sight. Look for little frogs on the fallen logs in the Paint Pots as well as colourful dragonflies zooming around the reeds.

The colorful water of the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park, Canada.

Paint Pots to Marble Canyon Connector Trail

The Paint Pots and Marble Canyon are two of the top attractions within Kootenay National Park. In fact, they are only a 4 minute drive apart. You could drive, but why not enjoy the beautiful short, easy hike between the Paint Pots and Marble Canyon instead?

The 3 km long connector trail between the Paint Pots and Marble Canyon follows the path of the incredibly beautiful Tokumm Creek between these top Kootenay National Park attractions.

The Brewer kids from the Travel Banff Canada blog, walk alongside the Tokumm Creek in-between Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots.

Read More

Wondering why you should also visit Marble Canyon? Find out in our full post about Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park!

In addition to the amazing creek views, you’ll get to walk through a section of old burned forest. I always enjoy walking through a regenerating forest. The new growth is so dense and healthy – it’s wonderful to see life returning!

the two kids from the family walk from Marble Canyon to the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park.

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If you love canyon hikes, don’t miss out on the Johnston Canyon hike and the Sundance Canyon hike. They are two of the most beautiful hikes in Banff National Park!

Paint Pots Hike Stats

How Long is the Paint Pots Hike?

The round-trip distance of the Paint Pots hiking trail is 2.1 km.

How Hard is the Hike to the Paint Pots?

Due to the short length and low elevation gain, we rate the Paint Pots hike as “easy”.

Aside from needing to balance on the occasional log to avoid getting your feet wet and/or stained a deep orange color, there are virtually no challenges along the Paint Pots hiking trail. Aside from the puddles, the Paint Pots trail is very easy.

An 8-year old boy balances on a log to avoid getting his shows muddy on the Paint Pot trail in BC, Canada.

How Long Does the Paint Pots Hiking Trail Take?

If you were to walk the complete trail without stopping for pictures or to to enjoy the views, it should take most people around 30 minutes. Of course, with such amazing scenery along the trail, you’ll want to spend more time enjoying the experience.

Paint Pots Trail Map

The hike to the Paint Pots is well marked with signage and is easy to follow. If you’d like to learn more about this trail, or would like to extend your hike on some of the connecting hiking trails, you can use the Paint Pots Trail Map on the AllTrails app.

I use AllTrails to track every single activity I enjoy around the Canadian Rockies and around the world, but unless you have this need, you won’t need it. The trail is so well marked and popular enough that you’ll have plenty of people to follow.

Two kids play in an ochre colored puddle at the end of the Paint Pots hiking trail in Kootenay National Park.

Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!

I love looking at topographic hiking maps when planning my hiking outings in Banff and area. If you are like me, I highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps.

We own the entire set of these excellent Canadian Rockies hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.

The Paint Pots trail map is found in the “Banff & Mount Assiniboine Map” map.

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Paint Pots Trail Logistics

On-leash dogs are allowed on the Paint Pots hiking trail, but mountain bikes are not. There are toilets in the parking lot, but none on the hiking trail.

You won’t get cell service for the entirety of your hike, so don’t count on it for your safety.

Guide Along App

Recommended App

This GPS activated Canadian Rockies Audio Driving Tour is the perfect companion to your Banff vacation. It’s both entertaining and educational and will greatly enhance any drive in Banff National Park.

Get GuideAlong

What to Bring to the Paint Pots

This is a very short and simple walking trail in Kootenay National Park, so you won’t need a long list of hiking gear. The weather can change quickly in the Canadian Rockies, so be sure to dress in layers, so you can easily add or remove clothing as needed.

Due to the chance of getting your feet wet, please do not wear white trainers. I’d recommend water-resistant hiking shoes if possible.

water runs through ochre colored dirt along the Paint Pots trail in Kootenay National Park.

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You won’t need much of this for the Paint Pots Trail, but if you intend to do some real hiking in the Rockies, be sure to check out our list of hiking essentials for Banff National Park.

A very unique walk through a striking natural phenomenon, a visit to the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park is sure to be a highlight of your visit!

Attractions Near Paint Pots

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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.