Calling all headbangers: its time for the run and the rut

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The Headbangers Trails run winds its way through some beautiful trails in the Sinclair Canyon.
Photos by Joanne Elves


RADIUM, B.C. – Let’s clarify something right away. The Headbangers in this article are not the professional WWE wrestlers, nor are they long-haired musicians tossing their locks to the music. We’re talking about the curly-horned male headbangers – the Bighorn Sheep that hang out around Radium Hot Springs and the celebrations surrounding their annual love games.

But if you want to come and rock on – but not wrestle with the rams, you’re invited to two fall events. The Crazy Soles Headbanger Trail Challenge – the run not the rut – or the Headbanger Festival – the rut not the run.

More confused now? Let me explain.

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Get wet and dusty during the Crazy Soles Headbanger Trail Challenge

The Crazy Soles Headbanger Trail Challenge is a trail race held Sept. 24, 2016. There are three divisions: a three-kilometre easy run for the family; a five-kilometre trail run; and the 10-kilometre run that is two laps of the same course.

This is the ninth annual running of the Headbanger Trail Challenge and according to Ron Verboom, it’s the best way to experience Radium Hot Springs. Along with Verboom, Roberta Hall from the town took me for what they called a fast lap.

“We started the race using trails in Kootenay National Park but it takes a lot of paperwork with the parks so we have moved it a few times onto different trails - but this might be the best route yet, “ says Verboom, who founded the race. “Now it’s a bit of a festival with the race starting at 11 a.m. at the Radium Ball Diamonds.”

We were running the trail going into Sinclair Canyon on the west side of Highway 93 at the main intersection in Radium. As if we planned it, we ran right past a small herd of Big Horn Sheep grazing along the path. The trail quickly became single track, with bushes crowding our elbow space. We ran along the creek, over a sturdy bridge.

Then it got a bit tough.

Verboom and Hall run these trails almost daily so they switched to low gear and made it to the canyon lip easily. I was impressed by Hall’s ability to avoid the berry-rich bear poop on the trail as she scampered up.

The trail follows the ridge where amazing views across the Columbia River Valley make you focus on something other than your burning lungs. Back down the slope, we head for Sinclair Creek. There’s no bridge, so I start to slow down while the others splashed through the ankle-deep water.

“This is a trail run. Not a walk in the park,” says Verboom over his shoulder.

No kidding!

Running during the headbanger trail run in Radium

By the time I got back to the waiting herd of sheep I was covered in dust. Another lap would make it 10 kilometres but I got a taste of the race. It’ll be a great challenge for any level of runner.

“After the race there will be burgers, massages, yoga and live music,” says Hall. Then the awards are given to the top runners in each category followed by a full day of activities.

Crazy Soles of Invermere is hosting the event. Learn more on their webpage or enter the race here.

Learn all about the Ram and the Rut at the Headbanger Festival

Forget about Valentines Day. November is the month of love in Radium. But if you are a Big Horn Sheep ram – you skip the chocolates, eat the flowers and bash heads with other curly-horned male in the valley.

big horn sheep in Radium

The village of Radium Hot Springs and Best Western Plus Prestige Inn host the Headbanger Festival - Nov. 6 – 7, 2016. This is where you’ll learn everything about Big Horn Sheep; how they live, how they compete for the rights to mate and what perils the species faces.

Saturday is full of activities and guest speakers. Kent Kebe, the manager of the Radium Hot Springs Visitor Centre, is an authority on the sheep and can answer just about every question you throw at him. (I tried to stump him but failed). Andrea Smillie of Wildsafe BC will also be around to discuss ways to reduce human/wildlife interactions.

The kids will have a ball during the afternoon Bighorn Sheep Kids Camp. They’ll learn about the animals and have a great time with the games and crafts. Randy the Ram – Radium’s mascot – will also be on hand. (PS: there are eight Pokemon Go spots in Radium.)

A highlight on Saturday for many wildlife enthusiasts will be the banquet and evening talk by Charlie Russell founder and director of the Pacific Rim Grizzly Bear Co-Existence Study.

Bring your walking shoes, camera and your imagination for Sunday. Take an interpretive walk along Sinclair Creek to learn about the habitat and the wildlife. Or, hike through the Parks Canada Restoration Area to see the efforts to create an ideal habitat. Then join the photography workshop with Jim Lawrence whose stunning photographs of playful cubs, rutting Cariboo or of a bear taking a photo are world famous. Who knows, maybe you’ll snap the best sheep rutting photo yet.

Headbangers - the run or the rut – happen the village of Radium Hot Springs.

While you are in town:

  • Soak in the hot springs that started it all

  • Walk through town to find the fence of many faces

  • Take to the mountain trails on knobby tires.

  • Rent a kayak and drift through the wetlands of the Columbia River

  • Stop for fresh pastry and great coffee at Meet on Higher Ground Coffee House

Running in Radium Hot Springs

Headbanger Festival Cost

Adults $50 (includes all workshops, dinner, keynote speaker Charlie Russel and hikes)

Children (12 & Under) $20 (Includes all workshops, dinner, keynote speaker, and hikes)

Dinner & keynote only, $30 Adults $20 Children

To book the workshops individually it’s $10 each

More information at the following websites:

If You Go

Interested in learning more about things to do in the Radium Hot Springs region? Learn more here.

Read our Festival Overview and get more info about the Headbanger Trail Challenge and Festival

Visiting Radium Hot Springs allows you to so much more than just trail running, find out what’s in store by visiting Radium Hot Spring’s website.

Ready to enjoy Radium? Share this page with your trail-loving pals.