January 29, 2016
By Cherie Thiessen
Photo at right: David Dossor (right) and then Kootenay Rockies Tourism representative Rachelle Colthorp, soak in one of the Lussier pools. Photo by Cherie Thiessen
Editor’s Note: British Columbia is home to the Hot Springs Circle Route, found west of Banff National Park and north of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. It boasts 13 natural hot springs along 530 miles of Canadian wildlands. Canadian travel writer Cherrie Thiessen shares how her tour of six of these hot springs landed her, voluntarily, in hot water.
The Kootenay Rockies hot springs are known for their therapeutic benefits. The mineral content of the waters are widely believed to increase metabolism, accelerate healing, soothe muscles, improve blood circulation and detoxify the body’s lymphatic system, not to mention what they do for the soul.
My partner, David, and I have been making tracks in our rented Pleasure Way RV to tour the Hot Springs Circle Route, a well-traveled road trip in the south-central region of British Columbia.
After picking up our RV at Canadream in Delta, B.C., south of Vancouver, we drive to Osoyoos (pronounced O-soo-yuss) and the Nk’Mip (pronounced Ka-meep) Campground. It takes two days to drive to Cranbrook and nearby Moyie Lake Provincial Park where we begin the Circle Route.
On the morning of the third day, with swimsuits donned, we quickly cover the 140 miles to Lussier Hot Springs along the banks of the Lussier River. This undeveloped hot springs in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park is the first to be savored.
We have paradise to ourselves with three hot pools snugged into the hill. The lowest, edging the banks of the river, is luring us to try its frigid waters, but it’s too cold. At 111°F, the top pool is just a tad too hot, so in true Goldilocks style, I step into the middle pool and proclaim it just right.
While eagles soar overhead, I’m in nirvana, wrapped in the springs’ soothing mineral waters. How can anything so pleasurable be so good for you?
We rise reluctantly from the waters. Knowing Fairmont Hot Springs is just a half-hour away provides just enough incentive to leave. We ogle the crumbling hoodoos rearing precariously up over the highway before rolling into the community of Fairmont Hot Springs and then into Fairmont’s highly rated RV park.
The views of the Purcell Mountains are awesome, the facilities great, the expansive pools a short walk away and we quickly tug on our still-damp suits and tumble blissfully into yet another indulgence.
The next morning we meet up with our kayaking guides from Rocky Mountain Adventures to paddle down the Columbia River above Windermere Lake. Splashing and bucking our way through rapids, spotting eagles, ospreys, and woodpeckers, we also experience crimped necks from staring too long at the towering Rockies.
And the cure for stiffness is…? A long soak at Radium Hot Springs, of course! The 23 miles to Radium Hot Springs slices through a dramatic cleft in the canyon walls, and if that doesn’t impress you, the mountain goats who seem to own the road will.
High in sulfate, calcium and bicarbonates, these springs are located in Kootenay National Park, as is our Redstreak Campground. Sprawled on a sunny plateau almost overlooking Radium, the large forest campground offers all amenities.
After a quiet night, we awake on the fifth day to the aroma of wood smoke from campfires and the promise of two more hot springs. Today we drive up Rogers Pass, a snug road where we feel hemmed in by the Rockies, and shortly after Revelstoke, enjoy a free ferry cruise across Upper Arrow Lakes.
We are greeted on the other side by the well-named Halcyon Hot Springs. Spotlessly clean, tranquil and beautifully located by the Monashee Range, Halcyon offers three pools on two levels. After another idyllic soak, we continue another 22 miles along a winding mountain road to Nakusp Hot Springs.
There, surrounded by old-growth forest, we luxuriate in 53,000 gallons of fresh filtered water that enters each pool daily, and we breathe in pure mountain air. The day winds down with a detour to Burton Historical Park on Arrow Lake where we spend another snug night in our rolling hotel.
Day six and 93 miles later we’re in Ainsworth on Kootenay Lake, about to have the final soak in the last of our hot springs six-pack tour. Intrigued by tales of the magical caves nearby we wade through the waters to explore here first. It is a steamy 111°F in this grotto and we soon start dissolving.
Time now to try the cooler pool before rinsing our suits and turning our thoughts to Osoyoos, where we started our journey. Tomorrow we’ll savor a final treat—dinner at the Spirit Ridge restaurant in Nk’mip—and raise two glasses of wine to celebrate a great road trip.
If You Go:
Hot Springs Circle Route: www.hellobc.com/driving-routes/9/hot-springs-circle-route.aspx
B.C. Ferries: www.bcferries.com
RV rentals in B.C.: www.campingrvbc.com
Regional info: www.kootenayrockies.com
Caution: If going into Lussier Hot Springs in a rental RV, be sure to check if the vehicle is permitted on dirt roads.
Cherie Thiessen is a Gulf Islands-based sailor, cyclist, book reviewer and traveler. She has traveled the world aboard kayaks, bikes, elephants, camels, horses, dogsleds and freighters.