Just say “spaah”. British Columbia’s terrain bubbles with earthly wonders in many natural hot springs. Tucked away on islands, riverbanks and mountainsides, these hot springs range from local secrets to destination resorts that boast stunning scenic backdrops. However you like to take to the waters, BC has a spring for you.
BC's biggest concentration of natural hot springs is in the Kootenay Rockies region and the easiest way to find them is to follow the signs for the Hot Springs Circle Route. This five to seven day, 852 kilometer (529 mile) route, one of nine suggested self-drive touring routes posted around the province, takes in seven hot springs and passes through some of BC's most stunning lake and mountain scenery.
Canyon Hot Springs, just off the Trans Canada Highway about halfway between Revelstoke and Glacier National Park, features a hot pool and a larger, warm swimming pool. Cabins, a campsite and an RV park encourage overnight stays.
Feel the stress melt away at Harrison Hot Springs, just 90 minutes east of Vancouver. Long revered as a place of healing by the Salish First Nations people, these lakeside pools with mountain views have been attracting bathers since the late 1800s. Soak at either the day-use public municipal pool or book into Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa. Both feature spacious indoor swimming in soothing settings; the resort offers a separate family water play area and two other outdoor pools as well.
Spend a serene day at Hot Springs Cove. These rustic geothermal springs, about 80 minutes by sea from Tofino in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, are accessible year-round by boat or floatplane. Several water taxis and tour operators offer trips to the park. After gliding past forested islands, spotting marine mammals and birdlife on the way, you stroll along a forested boardwalk to the springs. Here, a steaming waterfall cascades into a series of pools carved into the shoreline and cooled by ocean swells, making it an idyllic setting for a relaxing soak.
Unwind in the spectacular natural setting of Liard Hot Springs, an essential stop when travelling the Alaska Highway. Follow the boardwalk to an open-air pool and take in the unique flora while watching for moose and other wildlife. Water temperatures in the pool range from 42-52°C/107-125°F. For a special retreat, visit the hot springs during winter and relax in the steaming pool as snow covers the trees and marshland. The springs are in Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, about three hours north of Fort Nelson. Camping? Book early; the sites here fill fast.
Enjoy a rustic hot springs experience at Lussier Hot Springs, in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park about 90 minutes drive north of Cranbrook. Choose from three warm pools tiered along the riverbank; these shallow, open-air, free-form wonders were built by locals, complete with boulders for backrests.
The small town of Nakusp, on Upper Arrow Lake, boasts three hot springs. At Nakusp Hot Springs two hot springs-fed pools are set in an amphitheatre-like structure against a backdrop of mountains. At Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa, a series of hot, warm and cold pools overlook the lake; a restaurant, a spa and cabins are here too. For something more rustic, head for Halfway Hot Springs where wooden soaking buckets are fed by a hose from the spring.
One of the top soaking spots in BC is Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park. Two open-air mineral pools, including Canada's largest hot springs-fed pool, lie near the sheer walls of Sinclair Canyon, where Bighorn sheep are frequently seen. In winter, skiers and boarders can soothe sore muscles in the warmest pool (37-40°C/99-104°F).
Heading to Whistler? Ask a local for directions to Skookumchuck Hot Springs. Also known as St. Agnes’ Well, these pastoral springs, about two hours by back road north of Whistler, are a great spot to commune with nature. Bubbling from the banks of the Lillooet River, Skookumchuk’s multiple outdoor tubs, A-frame bath house and simple campsite create an ideal setting to contemplate the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
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