Relaxing and invigorating, hot springs are the natural way to spa and they can be found around the world, especially in areas that are known for their volcanic activity. They date back millennia and in some areas the hot springs have a long history of being part of Indigenous people's traditional cleansing ceremonies.
Also known as geothermal springs, hot springs are usually created when groundwater is intruded by magma in volcanic areas, this heats the water up and pushes it up to the surface. Sometimes the hot springs can have a strong 'eggy' smell due to the sulphur content in them but many have other minerals that don't smell and all are thought to be therapeutic. Hot springs vary in temperature but be careful if you are visiting a wilderness spring as temperatures can be incredibly high — look out for warning signs and test the water before you plunge in.
Canada is home to many hot springs across the country but most can be found on the west coast. Beautiful British Columbia is known for its natural beauty, especially the mountains, forests, and coastline. Situated on the Pacific Rim of Fire, the area is also home to hidden hot springs, from popular vacation resorts and Canada's largest hot springs to off-the-beaten track wilderness locations. Here are 10 hot springs to check out in BC.
Harrison Hot Springs
Only a 90-minute drive away from Vancouver and three hours from Seattle, Harrison Hot Springs is one of the most well-known hot springs resorts in British Columbia. Legend has it that sasquatches (yetis) can be found here in the forested mountains around the town of Harrison. One thing is certain — the sandy beaches of Harrison Lake and the surrounding Harrison Village are home to hot mineral water springs that have long been revered as a healing place by the native Coast Salish First Nations people.
Gold rush settlers ‘discovered’ the hot springs in 1858 when their boat capsized in the lake and they found a warm patch — in 1885 the area became a resort destination. Stay at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa or visit the public pool to experience the hot springs, Potash (40 C/120 F) and Sulpher (62 C/145 F).
Halcyon Hot Springs
Located on Upper Arrow Lake, surrounded by the majestic Monashee Mountains, Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa’s pools are mineral-rich pools that are various temperatures from hot to cool. Swim in the seasonal mineral pool, open in the warmer months, or take the kids to the spray pool. Choose from cottages, chalets or cabins to stay in during your visit and make a relaxing vacation out of it.
Ainsworth Hot Springs
First visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples, the Ainsworth Hot Springs (nupika wu’u) are situated in a cave and were a haven for relaxation after hunting, fishing and gathering. Since the 1930s, Ainsworth Hot Springs has been open to the public and today the property is owned by the Yaqan Nukiy, the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston, BC.
Albert Canyon Hot Springs
Mountain lovers can enjoy a vacation in Albert Canyon, situated between Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks. Hot mineral pools are the main attraction in the area, which is also home to incredible scenery in the national parks. Stay at a campsite, RV Park or in a rustic cabin near the springs and take some time to enjoy the area.
Sloquet Hot Springs
Around a three hour drive from Whistler, with sections driven on active logging roads, the Sloquet Hot Springs is an off-the-beaten track destination that is worth the trek to see the flowing Sloquet River and the natural phenomenon. The naturally formed hot springs are located in a beautiful valley in the territory of the Xa’xtsa First Nation who co-manage the site and still perform spiritual and cleansing ceremonies.
Lussier Hot Springs
Escape the crowds and get out into the wilderness at Lussier Hot Springs, which can be reached via the Whiteswan Forestry Road and a short hike down to the Lussier River. Because these springs are all-natural they can be affected by the climate and may sometimes be cooler. Park rangers patrol the area and no liquor, dogs, or garbage is allowed at the site. A changing room and toilet can be found at the parking lot.
Liard River Hot Springs
Canada’s second largest hot spring, Liard River Hot Springs, is situated in a boreal spruce forest surrounded by warm water swamps where you might see moose feeding and birds flying. Open year-round, the public Alpha Pool ranges from 42-52 C (108-125 F) and is reached via a boardwalk that meanders through the marshland, which was once called the ‘Tropical Valley’ due to the lush plant life. Facilities at the site include a compost toilet and changing room — the park is a popular stop with Alaska-bound travelers so book the campground early in the summer months.
Hot Springs Cove, Tofino
Take a 20-minute seaplane trip or a 90 minute boat ride from Tofino to reach the hot springs of Maquinna Provincial Park, 27 nautical miles northwest of Tofino. Look out for whales and bears along the way and then walk the 1.5 kilometer boardwalk through old-growth forest to reach the seven natural geothermal hot rock pools that gradually cool as they near the ocean. Take a guided tour that includes wildlife-watching then stop at the springs for a soak in the hot pools.
Fairmont Hot Springs, Rocky Mountains
Soak up panoramic views from Canada’s largest natural mineral hot spring pools at Fairmont Hot Springs, which are fed by up 1.2 million gallons of fresh water daily. The soaking pool is an average of 39 C (102 F), whereas the large swimming pool and dive pool are cooler at 32 C (89 F) and 30 C (86 F). Since the early 1900s the resort has attracted visitors looking for a relaxing soak in the springs and now it’s a popular place for vacationers to take in the views of the Rocky Mountains.
Radium Hot Springs
There’s no stinky sulphur at the village of Radium Hot Springs in the Kootenay National Park. The odourless mineral water pools are kept between 37 C and 40 C (98 F and 104 F) and are surrounded by natural rock walls. Day spa services are available at Pleiades Spa and Wellness.