Need a winter recharge? These B.C. Interior hot springs are close enough for a weekend drive | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Need a winter recharge? These B.C. Interior hot springs are close enough for a weekend drive

The Ainsworth Hot Springs has open pools and 46 metres of tunnels to explore.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Ainsworth Hot Springs
December 26, 2019 - 5:00 PM

There’s nothing like gazing at the frozen wilderness while soaking in a soothing open-air hot spring in the winter.

But for Interior residents, it takes some planning, travel and booking of rooms – unless you’re brave enough to hike into the Angel Springs along the south slopes of Kelowna.

The Hiking Addiction web site says it’s accessible year round via a four kilometre hike off the Little White Forest Service Road in East Kelowna.

It contains plaques describing flora and fauna and is surrounded by 10-metre high tufa deposits.

Unfortunately, the 100ºC geothermal underground heating is cooled by surface water and is best visited in the summer.

So, what to do?

The only sensible thing is to visit some of the best hot springs open during the winter months.

AINSWORTH HOT SPRINGS

Sitting on Kootenay Lake is Ainsworth Hot Springs, unique in that you can enjoy a warm soak while exploring a limestone cave.

The 46-metre horseshoe-shaped tunnel is a great place to go and escape reality, but if caves aren’t your thing, there's also open-air pools. The drive from Kamloops will take around five and a half hours on the most direct route, and the drive from Kelowna is just under five hours, depending on weather conditions.

The tunnel was carved into the hillside by miners trying to expand the flow of water. It has hot water dripping from the ceiling and running in from one end.

It’s not only on the traditional homelands of the Ktunaxa people but it’s also owned by the Lower Kootenay Band.

"Since time immemorial, the Ktunaxa people have utilized this site as a place for healing,” states the hot springs website. "After battle, warriors would soak in the spirit waters (nupika wu’u) to ease the wounds sustained in the fight to defend this beautiful territory. Those living with other ailments, such as arthritis, would utilize the hot pool to find some relief to their pain.”

In 1882 George Ainsworth, from Portland, Oregon, planned for a townsite near the hot springs but it wasn’t until the decline of mining in the 1920s that focus shifted to the springs themselves.

The hotel was built in 1987 and has undergone a couple of renovations. The entrance to the hot springs is through the hotel but you don’t have to be a guest to soak there.

There are few accommodations or eating options available outside of the hotel now that the neighbouring Mermaid Motel has closed.

The water enters the system at a temperature of 47ºC before it is cooled to an average of 42ºC for the tunnel. The main lounging pool is 35ºC.

The outdoor pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs offers spectacular views of Kootenay Lake.
The outdoor pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs offers spectacular views of Kootenay Lake.
Image Credit: Submitted/HelloBC

NAKUSP HOT SPRINGS

If you want to check out two hot springs on one trip, drive from Ainsworth to the nearby Nakusp. From Ainsworth, head north up Highway 23 about 2.4 km then turn right onto Hot Springs Road for about 12 km to the springs.

The hot springs come with a history of disputes since the first efforts to own it floundered in 1894. Residents of Nakusp felt the waters should be open and free for all to use, while others tried staking mining claims over the land.

In 1928, concrete pools were built by hauling materials about 15 km in by horse or human power from Nakusp. It wasn’t until 1974 that the existing complex was built under municipal control.

The resort includes a campground and chalets with kitchens along with two pools fed with mineral waters piped past the original concrete pools.

The hot pool is kept at 41ºC in the winter and 38ºC in the summer. The warm pool is kept at 38ºC in the winter and 36ºC in the summer.

HALCYON HOT SPRINGS

About 32 km north of the town of Nakusp lies the Halcyon Hot Springs. While this is an old hot spring, a 1998 redevelopment makes this spot seem rather new.

Robert Sanderson, a steamship operator on the Arrow Lakes, bought 400 acres of Crown land in 1890 and built a hotel, which grew from a party place to a relaxing retreat until it burned down in 1955.

It now has a 40ºC hot pool, 37ºC warm pool, a seasonal swimming pool at 30ºC and a cold plunge pool at 14ºC maximum.

It has cabins, cottages and chalets along with the Kingfisher Restaurant. Tenting and RV camping ended last year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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CRAZY CREEK

In the Revelstoke area, you can find Crazy Creek Resort, which hosts the newest hot and cold pools in the province, according to its website. The water is piped in and heated geo-thermally and is loaded with natural minerals.

Crazy Creek Resort also features a suspension bridge, boardwalk and a mountain top patio, as well as camping and accommodation. Crazy Creek Resort is nearly a two-hour drive from both Kamloops and Kelowna.

HARRISON HOT SPRINGS

When travelling with a group of people, you want to find a spot where everyone gets what they want, be it a lavish retreat or a more natural, rugged experience. Harrison Hot Springs is one of those places.

This is an easy spot to please the whole family, as the Harrison Hot Springs Resort sits in the downtown core near cafes, pubs and shopping. There’s also a public pool filled with the mineral enriched goodness, and those who prefer the more natural, rugged hot spring experience can hike to one of the two natural hot springs on Harrison Lake.

Harrison Hot Springs is located near Hope, and the most direct route from Kelowna will have you soaking in about three hours. From Kamloops, you can get to the hot springs in about two and a half hours.

The water is pumped in from two nearby sources and cooled to about 38ºC.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HARRISON HOBO HOT SPRINGS

For those who want to visit natural hot springs, check out Harrison Hobo Hot Springs alongside Harrison Lake.

The spot was given the name by locals, but the two hot springs there are actually called Potash and Sulphur, which have temperatures of 40ºC, and 65ºC, respectively. A rock wall was built around heat sources, creating the perfect natural hot tub. It is recommended to bring a bucket to scoop in cold lake water, as it gets quite hot. The source is nearby to the town, and you can find the pools beside the historic hot spring source building.

FURTHER AFIELD 

Two of the best known B.C. hot springs – Fairmont and Radium – are within half an hour of each other in the Columbia River valley north of Cranbrook. It will take between five and six hours to reach either of those destinations from Kamloops and Kelowna, depending on road conditions.

For more information on other hot springs in B.C., you can look at this 2015 Canadian Traveller article that features 25 hot springs.

— This story was originally published on Dec. 14, 2019.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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