The Wet and Wild Guide to Whistler Hot Springs
Mother nature blessed British Columbia. We are home to many secret and not-so-secret hot springs sprinkled in our mountains and deep in our forests. For some international travelers, hot springs in BC are one of this provinces main attractions. For other travelers, they are a nice surprise. Here in Whistler, we were lucky enough to be tucked into a nexus of hot springs only a short drive away from the Village.
Pack a picnic for the day (we hear Hunter Gather has some great picnic options) or gear up for an overnight hike, and soon you’ll be on your way to a deep forest soak. Choose a weekday to avoid the crowds, or come on a summer weekend to pack in a tub full of friendly neighbours. At Forged Axe Throwing, we highly recommend making the trip in the winter time to not only avoid the crowds but get the true backcountry Canadian experience. Just don’t forget to stock up on firewood in Whistler before you go!
While Whistler is lucky enough to enjoy the excellent services of a human-made hot spring (thanks Scandinave Spa!) sometimes soaking away your worries in an all natural pool is exactly what the doctor ordered.
What to Know Before You Go
- 4×4 Access: Many a Honda Civic has died along the way to a backcountry BC hot spring. Research the road conditions before you head out, because not all Forest Service Roads are in top shape, and your low profile tires might not make it out alive.
- Hike In Sites: If you are adventuring to a more distant tub, which requires a hike in, come prepared. Pack extra warm clothes, food, and sturdy shoes. Don’t try to hike in your flip-flops and bikini please, no matter how good those pictures turn out.
- Nude Tubbing: Unlike some other regions in the world, not all hot springs in Canada are nude-friendly zones. A good rule of thumb is to keep your trunks on at any hot spring resorts, and private sites (like T’sek), and use your discretion at others. If the hot springs are in the backcountry with nobody else around, feel free to let loose.
- Respect: Some of the hot spring sites around Whistler are sacred First Nations sites. Follow their rules, and show respect for their land.
- Camp with Respect: Camping is liberating, but always to camp with respect for others and Mother nature. Need details about camping? Learn more here.
Top Hot Sprints Around Whistler
T’sek Hot Springs (St. Agnes Wells / Skookumchuck Hot Springs)
Distance From Whistler: 2.5-hour drive from Whistler
Hike: No Hike Required
Cost: $10 per vehicle, and $10 per adult per night (day passes available)
One of our absolute favourite places to camp is the T’sek Hot Springs site. This is on First Nations land and run by the local community. The spring itself is too hot to touch, but the water is fed into a series of human-made tubs. It’s an eclectic collection of old hot tubs, fish tanks, and wooden tubs designed for your soaking pleasure.
Each tub has its own tap for hot and cold, which means that you can tweak the temperature of every tub to suit your preference. Typically it’s a very tranquil hot spring experience, although on summer weekends the party crowd can get a little rowdy. Keep this in mind if you are bringing along children. The road into the hot springs is usually a bit rough around the edges, especially in winter. While trucks and SUVs should have no problems, take it very slowly with any two-wheel-drive vehicles.
Meagre Creek *Closed to vehicle traffic*
Distance From Whistler: 2 hours driving time, plus variable (but long) hike in
Hike: Significant, from the 4×4 access only road it is roughly 14 km one way.
Long ago, Meagre Creek Hot Spring was a well-established drive-in hot spring around the Whistler area. But in 2010, a massive landslide took out all road access, and in all honesty, almost all of Pemberton after the slide dammed the river. Today, Meager Creek is technically closed, but it has now become a good backcountry overnight trip for the intrepid hiker. Be warned; this area is access at your own risk. According to the official statement on Sites and Trails BC:
“This site is CLOSED. No camping in this area- this area is prone to large landslides. Pools are full of algae and not safe to use. High risk of avalanches in the winter. Spring and fall may bring flooding and washouts. Do not attempt to enter this area, very unstable terrain, limited access for rescue.”
With that warning in place, people (smartly or not) often hike into the old site to enjoy the hot springs which have thankfully come back after the slide. If you choose to take this adventure, keep in mind it is a significant hike-in access. Come prepared, and know the risks.
The hot springs themselves are re-built natural pools, made from the surrounding rocks. Not very deep, but utterly refreshing after a long hike in. If you want to experience true serenity, the pools at Meagre creek are quiet and relaxing, buried in the middle of the mountains.
Sloquet Hot Springs
Distance From Whistler: 3.5-hour drive from Whistler
Hike: Short downhill hike (under 5 minutes) from the recreation site.
Cost: $5 for day use and $15 for an overnight camping site
If you continue driving past the T’sek hot springs, your journey takes you deeper down the Lillooet River. Eventually, the river empties into Harrison Lake, and you’ll find yourself at the more remote and for some more beautiful Sloquet Hot Springs.
The road in can be a bit rough, but the recreation site is usually well kept and secluded. The road continues down to Harrison Hot Springs (although it gets very rough), and on long weekends the Sloquet Hot Springs can also get a bit rough as well if you know what we are saying. Long weekends generally make for a backwoods party at hot springs, so steer clear if you want seclusion.
The springs are a short hike down to the river from the campsite, wear good shoes as the trek backup can be challenging in flip-flops. The springs lie right alongside a cold mountain river and have been beautifully built up by visitors. The pools are quite shallow but fed by a hot spring waterfall trickling down a moss-lined stone outcropping. It’s an absolutely fantastic atmosphere for romance.
Harrison Hot Springs
Distance From Whistler: 4-hour drive from Whistler
Hike: No Hike Required
Cost: $12.75 for an adult day pass
South of Whistler and East of Vancouver is the long-running Harrison Hot Spring Resort. Its a more refined hot spring experience in BC. Access is restricted to guests of the resort, but there are many different pools to choose from once you have a wristband on. These include lap pools, adult only pools, as well as both cold indoor and outdoor pools.
It’s a perfect destination for families, because of the resort facilities. The resort itself is located at the base of the beautiful and picturesque Harrison Lake that opens North into the mountains. If the Hot Springs get too hot, why not explore the lake, the hiking trails or the cute village of Harrison to cool off? Harrison Hot Springs is a popular family destination in summer for people traveling through BC.
Keyhole Hot Springs *Closed*
Distance From Whistler: NA
Unfortunately, the bears got to this hot spring. No seriously. Keyhole hot spring, long the darling of Whistler day trippers and social media influencers have been shut down for the foreseeable future because an aggressive pack of grizzly bears took over the campsite and springs.Keyhole was arguably one of the most picturesque of the local hot springs around whistler, but it has now been closed down indefinitely during summer months until the food-habituated bears go away.
It’s mainly because of the hot springs popularity that these bears have caused a ruckus. In May of 2017 alone, one bear charged four people according to a news report on the subject. Campers leaving food around, and not practicing their bear-aware camping skills encouraged bears to come around for lunch, and stay for the long term.
Be warned; bears have very long food associations in their memory. This Keyhole Springs will likely be shut down for years as these bears slowly move on to other more delicious sources of food. There are fines in place for anyone who chooses to ignore the ban, upwards of $1000. This is one BC hot spring to skip.
For updates check Keyhole Hot Springs facebook.
The Whistler Hot Spring Road Trip
For those with a good 4×4 truck, a sense of adventure and the right camping gear, why not take a weekend and explore three local hot springs starting in Whistler? You can always take a simple day trip to Pemberton, but why not take it further?
Start off by hitting T’sek Hot Springs for the first night, to get your feet wet in the first of many hot springs around Whistler. This is a good warm-up for the road ahead. Next stop, pack up whenever you want the next day and head off the Sloquet further down the road. The trek between these two isn’t that long, and the road is scenic so take your time. Spend a late night relaxing down by the river in a hot pool all to yourself.
Final stop and the most adventurous is to take the back road down the West side of Harrison Lake. This road has sections which are not for the faint of heart, be warned road conditions vary and require a four-wheel drive vehicle in all seasons. The best part of is you’ve saved the most luxurious hot spring for last, Harrison Hot Springs serves a hot meal and a hot tub to intrepid travelers.