Looking for a unique spring break road trip from the Seattle area? Hot springs enthusiasts know that the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” has more than a hundred hot springs. While most are remote and require long hikes, a section of the West Kootenays to the Canadian Rockies holds five of the most easily accessible ones.

Road trip fans can hop in the car in the morning in Seattle and, by evening, be soaking in the first of five hot springs on this itinerary. Spring is the perfect season for this ultimate hot springs road trip where you can relax in a different hot spring every night after enjoying the views and stops on the road. It’s about nine hours on the road from the Seattle area to Ainsworth Hot Springs, but thereafter, the trip gets broken up into more digestible chunks.

Ainsworth Hot Springs is a two-hour drive to a pair of neighboring springs in the small village of Nakusp. Four hours away is the warm side of the Canadian Rockies, with two more hot water healing experiences. 

Don’t fancy a long drive? You can also fly into Calgary, Alberta, and drive three hours to the last two hot springs on this itinerary and make a loop from there, or fly from Seattle via Vancouver, B.C. to the regional airport in Nelson, B.C., and from there, it’s 45 minutes to Ainsworth Hot Springs.

So if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path spring break idea, possess a spirit of adventure and like exploring new places in search of relaxation, this hot springs trip might just be for you.

Ainsworth Hot Springs

Ainsworth Hot Springs is about a nine-hour drive from Seattle, set into the side of a mountain facing Kootenay Lake. It’s located in the traditional lands of the Ktunaxa (pronounced ‘K-too-nah-ha’) people. Hundreds of years ago, warriors would soak in the spirit waters (nupika wu’u) to ease their battle wounds. Now owned by the Lower Kootenay Band, the hot springs have been returned to the Ktunaxa people and they are sharing it with the community. 

The warm pools are perfect for enjoying views of both the glacial-fed lake and the Purcell Mountains. Up the steps, you hear the waterfall plunging into the cold pool. A special feature of Ainsworth Hot Springs is the hot pool that leads into a magnificent 160-foot cave with subtle lights to guide you. The drips from the stalactites and the hot waterfall from the source inside gives you a natural shower and sauna experience like nowhere else.

3609 Balfour-Kaslo-Galena Bay Highway Ainsworth Hot Springs, B.C.; Admission: CA$12-$18; Temperature: Hot pool (108 F), Main pool (96 F), Cold plunge (stream-fed, variable); ainsworthhotsprings.com; Where to stay: Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort (CA$219-$339) | Woodbury Resort and Marina (CA$80-$165) | Ainsworth Motel, Ainsworth (CA$120-$160).

Nakusp Hot Springs 

Continuing on your journey, you’ll follow the shores of Kootenay Lake to the little town of Kaslo, known as the “Switzerland of Canada.” You can see why when you catch a glimpse of the towering mountains around it. The heritage buildings downtown and the historic SS Moyie, the world’s oldest passenger stern-wheeler, on the shore will bring you back in time. From there, Highway 31A takes you west through beautiful mountain passes and temperate forests that are home to grizzlies and salmon. 

At New Denver, Highway 6 takes you north along several lakes before you arrive in the village of Nakusp. On the shores of Upper Arrow Lake, the Nakusp beach is extra long, with lower water levels in the spring. You’ll also have the water’s edge and mountain views to yourself this time of the year. This quiet but beautiful village is near two of the hot springs on this list. You can make it a base for your visits or stay in the hot springs chalets.

Fifteen minutes away from the village core, the Nakusp Hot Springs is at the end of a quiet paved road in the Kuskanax Valley, surrounded by the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains. With snowy forest views below, you can float in one of the clearest mineral pools anywhere. The water is fresh, brought in from the springs in the forest, with the hot pool completely refreshing every 30 minutes and the warm pool every two hours. Community owned and operated, you’ll find the springs are a local favorite and less busy than others. Beside the springs are cozy cedar chalets to make the hot spring visits convenient. If booked, vacation rentals like Arrow Lake Escapes and Kootenay Lake House are nearby options.

8500 Hot Springs Road, PO Box 280, Nakusp, B.C.; Admission: CA$12-$18; Temperature: Hot pool (105 F)/ Warm pool (100 F); nakusphotsprings.com; Where to stay: Nakusp Hot Springs Chalets (CA$93-$285); Arrow Slocan Tourism accommodations, prices vary.

Halcyon Hot Springs

Just over 15 minutes from Nakusp or 10 minutes from the turnoff to Nakusp Hot Springs on Highway 23, you’ll stumble upon the beautiful Ione Falls on the right-hand side of the highway. From there, it’s 10 minutes to the entrance of the luxurious Halcyon Hot Springs.

Halcyon Hot Springs takes its name from a Greek myth that tells the story of the halcyon bird (European kingfisher), believed to have the power to calm the oceans during its nesting season to protect its eggs. “Halcyon days” was a reference to these times of peace and calm. With the deep blue of Upper Arrow Lake dropping before you and the soaring Monashee Mountains behind them, the views here are enough to bring you peace. Between the hot pool, the cold plunge, and jetted stream in the warm pool for floating in lazy circles, you can pick how you want to experience your calm. The waters of Halcyon have high levels of lithia, known for its antidepressant properties, including the capacity to regenerate pathways in the brain, making these waters particularly suited for well-being.

5655 Highway 23 North, Nakusp, B.C.; Admission: CA$15; Temperature: Hot pool (104 F)/Warm Pool (99 F)/Cold Plunge (58 F); halcyon-hotsprings.com; Where to stay: Halcyon Hot Springs Resort (CA$244 plus) | Hot Springs Escape Cottage (CA$325) or Nakusp vacation rentals.

Radium Hot Springs 

It’s more than four hours from Halcyon Hot Springs to our next soaking destination. After Halcyon Hot Springs, Highway 23 takes you north to one of the highlights of this road trip, a free ferry trip across the blue-green waters of Upper Arrow Lake from Galena Bay to Shelter Bay. There, Highway 23 continues, and you connect to Highway 1 East. At Golden, move your clocks an hour forward because you’ve entered Mountain Time, then head south on Highway 95 as it goes through the “Valley of a Thousand Peaks” between the Purcell and Rocky Mountain ranges.

Spring means there’s lots of wildlife around. As you roll into the village of Radium Hot Springs, keep an eye out for the bighorn sheep that often drop in for visits. Radium is known for its German-Austrian cuisine, so while you’re here, you might want to try out some schnitzel and spaetzle. 

With its location inside Kootenay National Park, a visit to the Radium Hot Springs pools opens up beautiful hikes and overlooks nearby. The Sinclair Canyon Viewpoint lets you peek into the depths of the canyon, hear the river and the rumble of the falls while you admire its red walls. Farther into the park is the Numa Falls viewpoint along with countless hiking trails to visit before the springs.

You’ll discover the hot springs nestled in a canyon, with high rock walls around you. As you float in the warm water, you’ll feel the power of nature in the tapestry of sky and the mountain cliffs above you.

5420 Highway 90, Radium Hot Springs, B.C.; Admission: CA$15.25$17.50 plus National Park Pass; Temperature: (98-104 F), cool pool closed for renovation; hotsprings.ca/radium; Where to stay: Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort (CA$179) | Motel Tyrol (CA$121 plus) | The Gateway (CA$118.90).

Fairmont Hot Springs

Sometimes the best way to celebrate the change of the seasons is to experience moving from winter to spring in one day. At the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, you can head up into the mountains to ski for the day and spend the afternoon soaking in the hot springs. Every lift ticket ($65 CAD) includes access to the hot springs. Hikes into the mountains bring you winter views of the hoodoos, a distinct landmark of the Columbia Valley. After the snowy mountain heights, the warmth of the valley is welcome.

Only 25 minutes south of Radium, the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort pools are Canada’s largest natural mineral hot springs. With plenty of space to soak, you can melt into the liquid warmth and take your time memorizing each detail of the mountain expanse around you. Each deer that comes for a grazing visit connects you with the wilderness around you. 

5225 Fairmont Resort Road, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C.; Admission: CA$16; Temperature: Hot pool (102 F)/ Cool pool (89 F); fairmonthotsprings.com; Where to stay: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort (CA$154 plus) | Mountain View Resort (CA$129 plus) or Radium/Invermere area.

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