May 2016 – During our stay in the Canadian Rockies we had a wild mix of weather. We were lucky and got some sunny days in the low 80’s but then Mother Nature changed her mind and delivered several weeks of grey, rainy days in the 40’s to the 60’s. That’s mountain weather for you!
The cold and rain didn’t stop the flood of tourists, though, and people were still out taking selfies at Lake Louise in the pouring rain with a pair of umbrellas to keep their phone dry!!
Driving out on the Icefields Parkway the low hanging clouds made for a special kind of beauty.
Occasionally the mist rolled in and covered the peaks.
It was very beautiful, but it was really chilly too!!
After a while, cruising around shivering and looking up at mountains shrouded in mist kinda got to us. Especially when we looked at the forecast for the week ahead. Brrr!
Luckily, the Canadian Rockies have some fantastic hot springs that are an absolutely wonderful place to go on a cold, dreary day.
Radium Hot Springs, in Kootenay National Park, looks like a swimming pool from a distance. But unlike most swimming pools, the water is a toasty 104 degrees Fahrenheit!
It was really weird to step into a swimming pool and have it feel like a hot tub.
The water for Radium Hot Springs bubbles up from underground and passes through the pool. So the pool is a few degrees warmer at one end than the other. There is enough hot water coming up from the ground to heat the building in the winter!
The hot springs were first discovered by Sir George Simpson, the governor of the Hudson Bay Company, in 1841. He dug a one-person sized pool in the gravel. An Englishman bought the springs from a homesteader for $160 in 1890 and built the first bathhouse and public pool.
Radium Hot Springs got its name because in 1914 McGill University scientists found the water was radioactive. However, the amount is so slight that a half-hour dip exposes you to less than you get from wearing an old glow-in-the-dark analog watch dial.
As we relaxed in the pool we got a great view of the natural surroundings…
…and of our feet…
We had fun playing with our waterproof camera under water.
It’s hard to believe looking at these pics that the air temp was 48 degrees. It even started to sprinkle while we were in the pool, but who cared. It was like playing in a huge hot tub.
Radium Hot Springs has a cool pool too, but they didn’t have many takers that day, only the folks that had signed up for swimming lessons!!
The entrance fee for Radium Hot Springs is just a few dollars per person, and it is worth every penny. There are changing rooms and lockers to store your stuff and towels for rent, and there are showers with soap as well. There’s even a fancy spa if you feel like getting a massage!
The hot springs are at the southern entrance of Kootenay National Park, and the very scenic drive through the park starts right outside their door.
About 80 miles northeast of Radium Hot Springs there is another fantastic giant hot tub: Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Like Radium Hot Springs, the Banff Upper Hot Springs pool is outside in a lovely, scenic setting, and there are lockers so you can shed your rain coat and long pants and dash into the warm and inviting swimming pool. And again, the water temperature is about 104 degrees and it really doesn’t matter how cold the air is when you find yourself swishing in this fantastic warm water.
The Banff hot springs were first discovered in 1883, and even though the breathtaking mountains of Banff National Park were worthy of creating a National Park, it was actually the hot springs that led to the creation of Banff National Park.
The hot springs pools have been rebuilt and renovated at various times, and the bathhouse has undergone changes (the very first one burnt down just 15 years after its construction, in 1901).
But it is the weird sensation of sitting in a normal looking swimming pool that is filled with such darned hot water that really surprised me. Even though we got so warm we had to sit on the side of the pool to cool off, we could tell what the air temps really felt like by looking at the lifeguard in her chair.
The two lifeguards actually took turns sitting in the exposed chair out in the open, because it was so cold there. While one froze their toes in the outdoor chair, the other warmed up and kept an eye on all of us swimmers from inside a glass room!!
If your RV travels take you to the beautiful National Parks in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and you find yourself staring at a week of yucky weather, stop by one of the hot springs. Even on a cold, dark day, it feels like summer!
There is another hot spring a little further north in Jasper National Park called Miette Hot Springs. We didn’t get there this time but will definitely be bringing our bathing suits for that hot spring the next time we visit!
More info and links below…
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More info about the Canadian Rockies hot springs http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/voyage-travel/sources-springs/index.aspx:
- Radium Hot Springs (Kootenay National Park) – Parks Canada website
- Banff Upper Hot Springs (Banff National Park) – Parks Canada website
- Miette Hot Springs (Jasper National Park) – Parks Canada website
- Where are Radium Hot Springs and Banff Upper Hot Springs? – Google Maps
Other blog posts from our RV travels in Canada:
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP
- Waterton Lakes National Park – Rocky Mountain High!
- Kananaskis Country – Canadian Rockies Beauty Off the Beaten Path
- Canmore, Alberta – An Outdoor Lover’s Town in the Rocky Mountains
- Jasper National Park – Columbia Icefields & Athabasca Falls
- Banff, Alberta – A Grand Resort Town in the Canadian Rockies
- Yoho National Park – Emerald Lake & Natural Bridge – Aqua Magic!
- Moraine Lake – Crown Jewel of Banff National Park
- Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!
- Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW!
- Lake Louise – RV Travels to the Heart of the Rockies in Banff
- Kootenay National Park Canada – Bears, Mountains & Rivers!
- Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep!
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