True, natural hot springs are hard to come by. However, they do exist, if only you know where to look or who to ask. That's how I have been able to soak in a few quite natural hot springs in Canada.
For years I have been visiting the hot springs of Canada’s Rocky Mountains: the Banff Upper and Lower hot springs, the Jasper Miette hot springs in Alberta, and the Radium and Fairmont hot springs in British Columbia specifically. I know exactly why they are so popular. They are relaxing, toasty warm, therapeutic, and they have the best view of any pool I’ve ever been to.
|Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia, Canada|
However, these hot springs are more like giant hot pools, and I also find them to be overly commercialized. They are literally large, heated swimming pools with ladders, railings, benches, cement pads, lifeguards, and sometimes even diving boards. The pools, due to their extreme popularity, are also usually crowded, and it can be hard to find a place to sit and relax, at least during the busy seasons. (For those of you who don’t know about Canada’s only two seasons, we have summer and winter. Mostly winter. Spring and fall really just pop in to say hello. Summer is always busy in the mountains, and in winter, you can find large crowds during the fall break in November and during the holidays over Christmas and New Years.)
Many people I know have had the pleasure of hiking through the Rocky Mountains until they found a real, natural hot spring. They would brag about soaking in the heated waters, surrounded by towering pines, without company or a care in the world. It sounded heavenly. I wanted to do that.
Ironically, however, the main thing that ruins a true, natural hot spring is when too many people know about it, and so a lot of people tend to keep their locations a secret. I try to wrangle information about how to find such a hot spring from others, and at the most they’ll say something mysterious like, “It’s just outside of Nakusp, on a mountain side.” Thanks buddy. That truly helps. But to be honest, they know I write a travel blog and they don’t want me posting the GPS coordinates of their secret get-away. I get that. But I promise, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, I won’t post the location of your precious hot spring. I just want to sit in it.
|My dream - to soak in a natural hot spring (here at Fairmont, B.C.)|
Finally, a local in Radium, British Columbia, told me about a fairly popular hot spring in nearby Fairmont. She didn’t think it would be an issue to write about it, since it was quite well-known and usually pretty busy. This hot spring was just a short (really short, as it turned out) hike from the commercialized Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. My husband and I decided to find it and swim in it. Since we found out about it at the end of our family vacation last summer, we had to wait until this summer to go on our excursion.
A month before we left for B.C., a giant mudslide hit Fairmont, nearly wiping out the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and damaging the area around the natural hot spring. What would happen to the hot spring? Would we be able to find it?
We left our car in the parking lot of the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and hiked uphill. From the parking lot itself, you can see an old building structure - the remains of the original early-1900s hot spring hut where pioneers of the area came to soak and relax. Atop the hill, a giant crack in the ground revealed the source of the hot spring, with hot water bubbling out, releasing a *lovely* sulfuric fume and inviting all sorts of green algae to come co-exist with it. I didn’t care, though - the water was steaming hot, and some nice person had dug a little pond and placed a bench above it, so you could dangle your feet in the water and enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the Rockies.
|Dipping my foot in the Fairmont hot spring source - super caliente!|
However, there was no swimming pond or waterfall, which is what we’d been told to look for by the locals. We hiked downhill, past the resort, and into the RV area. Evidence of the mudslide was there for all to see, with the creek and path to the natural springs roped off.
What I’d like to say I did was shrug my shoulders sadly, turn around, and obey the rule of “don’t go past the roped-off area”. I realize the area was closed for my own safety and probably for the purpose of reclaiming the damaged land. However, I had waited so, so long to see a natural hot spring, and the marked off area was basically all fixed up at this point, and I am a stubborn little thing - so I crept under the rope and began to pick my way down the hill towards the springs. The path was relatively clear, the area safe, and the springs oh-so-tempting. I had to do it.
It was worth it, I must say. When we rounded a corner, there was the waterfall with the springs glistening below. The sunlight streamed down onto the water like a Hollywood movie. The pools cascaded one into the other, like a series of infinity pools carved by nature, with a vibrant blue color that made me long to jump in. It was a piece of paradise with a mountain vista. We excitedly crossed the stream, shed our clothes (hey, we had bathing suits on underneath - its not THAT kind of hot pool!), and slid happily into the water.
I was a bit surprised by the temperature of the water, which was lukewarm at best, but after I thought about it, it made sense. We had visited the source of the spring way up top on the hill, and the water had run down that hill, open to the mountain air, for quite some time. It had sailed through the air via the beautiful waterfall before pooling in the spring that I was sitting in. Really, it was a miracle that it was still lukewarm. And compared to other bodies of water in the mountains, which are typically created from glacial run-off, warm was a fantastic change from ice-cold.
|Such a gorgeous place!|
I cannot begin to describe just how amazing this hot spring was. The ‘infinity’ pool style reminded me of Turkey’s Pamukkale, only with a much different view. You could see across the valley, the expanse of the Panorama mountain range peeking through the trees. The roar of the waterfall took away any type of human noise that might have drifted up from the town of Fairmont far below. Because of the cautionary ropes, we were alone save for two other adventurous hikers. (Not that I recommend the rule-breaking, but hey....) The water was extraordinarily clear, and the grotto where the pool was situated prevented any sort of wind or breeze from blowing in and giving you a chill.
We stayed for awhile, enjoying the view and the waters, but decided to leave as the sun was showing signs of setting. I didn’t want to be hiking in the mountains at dusk, cold and wet, in an area that was supposed to be off-limits. Besides, the sediment from the springs made the rocks in the pool really slimy, so there was nowhere to sit and lounge. It was time to go. However, I was content, calm, full of inner peace, and extremely happy that I was able to check this item off my bucket list in such an amazing fashion.