But a short distance 'as the crow flies' from northern Montana, Idaho and Washington in the US, Cranbrook is the main city center for the lovely mountain-ranged Kootenay region. Nestled up next to the Rockies, a trip through is all about photogenic peaks, wildflower strewn meadows and gushing rivers.
Nelson, a popular alternate base for area exploration, is west. Surrounded by provincial parks, ski resorts and close to Ainsworth Hot Springs, Nelson is an outdoors enthusiast's favorite. When white stuff blankets the region with a winter coat, there are groomed runs to go around. For untouched powder, try a helicopter drop onto some remote mountain top. Local operators can hook you up with requisite flying machine and pilot.
Even if you're not around for winter snows and some serious slope time, the ranges around are popular with hikers, mountain bikers, photographers and campers. Get an icy reception at Glacier National Park if you're cutting over from Revelstoke, a town north of Nelson, to Banff National Park. Should this side-trip leave you with wet clothes and cold feet, warm up at one of the hot springs that burble in this area. Whether you're bound north via Cranbrook or via Nelson, find opportunity to stop and rent a swim suit for your relaxing soak.
Cranbrook is due east of Nelson but the drive is 145 miles along a more circuitous route. Cranbrook is 173 miles from Banff, and Nelson a longer 319 miles.