Ainsworth Hot Springs by Marcin Chady via Flickr
By Cheryl Rhodes
Many of us know about the popular hot springs around British Columbia that are part of a resort or destination experience such as Harrison Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs, and Ainsworth Hot Springs. The main benefit is they’re easy to access, but the downside is they cost a few bucks per soak, or are only available to hotel guests.
Sprinkled all over the province are undeveloped hot springs, out in the wilderness in their natural state. The good news is many of them don’t have user fees! That’s because they’re off the beaten track and getting to these hot springs is an adventure in itself. Hike in, ride a horse, or rent a boat – the journey is half the fun! Head out into British Columbia’s wilderness to find some of these hot spots and enjoy a dip in an old growth forest or relax with a river or ocean view.
First on the list is Pitt River Hot Springs which falsely sounds like it might be easy access for people who live in the Lower Mainland of Metro Vancouver. Drive along the Lougheed Highway to Pitt Meadows and turn north on Harris Road. About 4 kilometres down turn right on McNeil Road and follow the signs to Grant Narrows Regional Park and Pitt Lake, about 20 minutes drive to the parking lot. Now for the hard part. You need to own a boat, or have a friend who owns a boat, or rent one. And it has to be big enough to transport bicycles, which again you either need to own or rent. Take a 45-minute boat ride to the North End Dock and then it’s a 22 km bike ride along a mostly flat logging road. Watch for a sign at the trailhead, and then it’s a short hike including a steep rope descent to the hot springs. With the Pitt River cutting through a canyon, these springs are a scenic, relaxing spot.
Dewar Hot Springs in the Kootenay Rockies requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle and then a 9km hike. Drive south from Kimberley on Highway 95A and turn west on St. Mary Service Road (before reaching the town of Marysville) and continue another 47 km. Turn right at Dewar Creek Road and drive another 27 km to the end. It’s a strenuous 9 km hike to the hot springs. Don’t disturb the natural state of the hot springs because it’s used by wildlife as a mineral salt lick. If you don’t have a 4×4 and aren’t a hiker, you can pay a local tour operator to get you to the hot springs. Check out Got Adventure where an all day horseback ride costs $200. Remember – the journey to the hot springs is half the fun!
Hot Springs Cove is about 35 km northwest from Tofino on Vancouver Island and can be reached using one of the local whale watching tour operators. Get two adventures for the price of one! Look for whales and then soak in Hot Springs Cove. Here’s a short video of actor Neil Patrick Harris visiting the hot springs in April 2016. He was a huge ambassador for the town of Tofino, filming much of his visit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmiJnIq-Wqs
Also worth noting is Hot Spring Island that was in the news after an earthquake in 2012 sucked out the water, but some of the 26 pools have started to refill. Usually accessed by boat from Moresby Island in the Haida Gwaii. Currently closed to the public.
Do you need any more reasons to experience hot springs in the British Columbia wilderness? The scenery, the journey, and the hope that hot springs might provide some sort of healing. Many enthusiasts believe hot springs can help relieve aches, increase blood flow, and possibly alleviate skin conditions and arthritic pain. Happy soaking!
Published: December 8, 2016
Cheryl Rhodes writes from Surrey, British Columbia where she lives with two dogs and three horses. She’s the author of 5 novels and a cookbook, and enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, geocaching, reading, and writing mysteries. Visit her at www.cherylrhodes.com