A guide to hot springs in the Canadian Rockies
You've probably heard of the Banff Hot Springs, but what about Miette and Radium? These are worth a visit!
One of the highlights of visiting the Canadian Rockies is going to the hot springs. There are three official locations managed by Parks Canada – Miette Hot Springs near Jasper, AB; the famous hot springs in Banff, AB; and Radium Hot Springs in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia. All are different in their own way, yet spectacular.
I visited these three hot springs this summer while camping in the mountains with my family. Although the hot springs were not at the top of my to-see list while planning the trip, they quickly became the biggest highlight for my family. The combination of cool weather and small energetic children in need of entertainment made the hot springs a perfect place to hang out. Regardless of whether you have kids or not, the hot springs are fun to visit and very relaxing.
Miette Hot Springs
Located approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Jasper, these hot springs require a partial day trip of their own. The drive is spectacular, winding past mountains, lakes, and meadows, and then through a series of steep switchbacks into the heart of the valley where the hot springs lie. It’s incredible to think how rural and distant it must have been to reach in the early 1900s, when a rough pack trail, accessible only on foot or by horse, was opened. The current facility was built in 1986.
Miette is the hottest hot spring in the Canadian Rockies, although the temperature is now regulated to make it more comfortable for visitors. Water flows from the mountain at a speed of 1540 liters (407 gallons) per minute. The starting temperature is 54°C (129°F), but is cooled to 40°C (104°F) in the two hot pools. There are also two cold pools for contrasting plunges.
Parks Canada reports that the top five minerals found in the water at Miette are sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, and sodium.
I think the scenery surrounding the Miette hot springs is the most spectacular out of all three, which made it my favorite.
Radium Hot Springs
Radium Hot Springs is located at the base of Kootenay National Park in an attractive little town of the same name in southeastern British Columbia. There is one hot spring pool built right into the mountainside, with impressive rock walls surrounding it on two sides.
It wasn’t always this big. Apparently Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, made the first recorded visit to the hot springs (previously used by First Nations people) and bathed in a gravel pit just big enough for one person. In 1890, it was purchased for $160 by a visiting Englishman, but eventually taken over by Kootenay National Park in 1922.
The temperature in the hot pool stays between 37°C and 40°C (98°F and 104°F), although there is a large family-friendly shallow end where the water cools off faster.
The facility also has a regular swimming pool with a water slide and diving board, which is great for kids. There is an onsite spa, as well as a cafeteria currently undergoing renovations.
If you happen to be staying at Redstreak Campground, the main campsite in the town of Radium, I highly recommend the forest trail that connects the campground to the hot springs. It’s a beautiful winding trail (2.3 km/1.4 mi each way) that clings to the mountainside and offers incredible views, and it delivers you right to the back door of the hot springs.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
The discovery of Banff’s hot springs is what turned the town into a major tourist destination and triggered the creation of Banff National Park. Ever since, people have been coming to Banff for over 100 years to “take the water.” The hot springs are located partway up Sulphur Mountain, several kilometres outside the town, close to the famous Banff Springs Hotel.
There is a single large pool, with a shallow area that’s good for kids. The pool tends to get crowded, since it’s one of Banff’s major attractions, but it’s still worth a visit. The view overlooking Mount Rundle is fabulous.
Just like Radium, the water at Banff is kept between 37°C and 40°C (98°F and 104°F), and 100 percent of the water flows directly from the mountain source. The pool is located at 1,585 metres (5,200 feet) of elevation, and apparently the water level can fluctuate in springtime, due to this unique location.
Admissions to all the hot springs are not standardized, but cost approximately $7 per adult or $20 per family. Find more details here.