Fairmont Hot Springs, Photo Destination BC Kari Medig
By Patricia Cashin
The Hot Springs and Heritage Circle Tour lets you soak your way through the scenic Kootenay Rockies. Home to national parks, snow-capped mountains, and a quirky counter-culture, the Kootenay Rockies region is dotted with natural hot springs world-renowned for their healing qualities. These springs and pools are a great vantage point for soaking in breathtaking natural surroundings.
This trip also suggests points of interest and attractions that you might want to visit while on your travels.
Starting in Cranbrook, wander through a nine-car rolling hotel and experience the height of elegance in railway travel at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. Nearby, the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre, located in the St. Eugene’s Mission, offers an authentic First Nations experience featuring a rustic teepee village, arts and crafts, and museum-quality exhibits.
Heading north on Hwy 93/95 you will come to a fork in the road, one takes you to historic Fort Steele and the other to Kimberley. Fort Steele Heritage Town helps you “Experience Yesterday Today” with demonstrations, period interpreters, heritage gardens, live shows, and more. Kimberley is known both as “The City of Festivals” and the “Bavarian City of the Rockies” and is home to Canada’s largest freestanding cuckoo clock.
Whichever road you take, rejoin Highway 93/95 as it moves north towards Windermere.
The first hot springs are Lussier Hot Springs at Whiteswan Provincial Park. BC Parks maintains a five-minute walking path down to the pools. The pools are framed in natural rock with gravel bottoms, and each is a step down in temperature (from 110°F/43°C down to 94°F/34°C), with the third pool just steps from the Lussier River.
Farther North along the highway you arrive at Fairmont Hot Springs where the water is always hot, and the mountain scenery is majestic. Soothe your muscles with a soak after an afternoon on the road or a round on one of the valley’s exceptional golf courses.
Just past the towns of Windermere and Invermere is Radium Hot Springs, home to Canada’s largest mineral pool. You may come across some of local Bighorn sheep that are frequently seen in the village, on neighbouring low elevation benchlands, and the valley bottom.
Golden is a town at the junction of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers and offers up never-ending stories. Take the name Kicking Horse: an explorer was crossing the river when he was hoofed in the chest by a delinquent horse. His friends took him for dead, but as they began to bury him, he sat bolt upright. They called the river the Kicking Horse.
By now you might be ready for another soak! Stop at Albert Canyon and at the Canyon Hot Springs. A nearby Giant Cedars walk, ghost town, and outdoor recreation activities will help round out your stay.
The ‘Home of the World’s Largest Sculpted Grizzly Bears’ is at Revelstoke. Visit the Revelstoke Dam and Railway Museum and learn the story of the men and women who put the city on the map.
From here, head South on Highway 23, crossing Upper Arrow Lake on the free Galena Bay Ferry towards Halcyon Hot Springs. Halcyon is surrounded by steep alpine peaks, crystal blue lakes, rivers and streams, and an abundance of wildlife. There are extensive walking and hiking trails, horseback rides, fishing, swimming and more.
Continuing South discover Nakusp, a pretty little town home to a Hot Springs Resort with naturally-heated pools.
Highways 3A and 3B both lead to the mining communities of Rossland and Trail. And nestled in a volcanic crater, the steep hills around Rossland are home to Red Mountain Ski Resort and have helped it become known as the ‘mountain bike capital of BC’.
Travel east from Trail to Salmo and then on to Nelson. With more artists and craftspeople per capita than any other city in Canada, Nelson is often described as a ‘funky’ mountain community. Take a heritage walking tour and explore some of the 355 fine heritage homes, hotels, and shops.
Continue East towards Balfour. For your next hot spring experience take a side trip 15 km North up Highway 31 to world-renowned Ainsworth Hot Springs. The resort’s springs feature a unique horseshoe-shaped cave where the darkness, the mineral deposits, and the humidity combine for an experience that is exciting, and relaxing, all at once.
Back at Balfour, take the Kootenay Lake Ferry – the longest free ferry ride in the world – and follow Highway 3A south to Creston which is located in one of the widest and flattest valleys in the region and on the migration route for thousands of birds. While there visit the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.
Finally, head back to Cranbrook along Highway 3 (95) completing the hot springs and heritage circle tour of the Kootenay Rockies.
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Read more for the complete Hot Springs & Heritage Circle Tour.
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Published: June 16, 2021