Fairmont Hidden Hot Spring, Banff Canada

Waterfall at Fairmont Hot Springs

Canada Road Trip

    I was desperate for nature and solitude. It was June and I had headed to Banff, Canada to try to regain some sanity. My whole self needed to absorb some peace from nature after my dad had passed away in May. I was traveling alone for the 1st time and wanted to check out some hot springs during my 5 day, over 600 mile road trip. The springs I had visited so far were relaxing and scenic, but I was looking for something different. I wanted to find one of those private springs you see in photos, the ones in nature that no one knows about. The ones with a small private pool built by Mother Nature with fantastic mountain views and warm geothermal water where I could just be.

     When I researched before my trip, I may have found what I was looking for. After spending the day hiking and checking out beautiful aquamarine lakes, other hot springs, a canyon and a couple breweries, I headed to Kootenay.

The Quest For Hot Springs in Banff

     It was late in the day, maybe 8:30 p.m. but still light outside. I carried my swimsuit and headed toward the soaking area at Fairmont Hot Springs. I was somewhat disappointed when I peeked over the gate.

Fairmont Hot Springs Pool

     “Kind of looks like a crowded public pool.” I thought as I watched children splashing in the steamy Olympic-sized rectangle. 

     I remembered the article I had read online… not a major travel publication… but a random person who had written an account describing a hidden natural hot spring nearby. In that description, there is a small soaking area that is not well known. It is behind the Fairmont Springs, down a path, along the river and under a waterfall. This is the spring I sought.

Over the River and Through the Woods…

     The article described a walking path behind the geothermal swimming pool, over a bridge and down some steps. It said you will follow the path to a waterfall, cross the stream and it should be there, under the falls.

     “Okay,” I thought. “Well…let’s see if said bridge and steps really exist.” I headed away from the public area.

     It was chilly, maybe 48°F and my breath was starting to do visible puffs as I hiked toward the trees. A short way behind the public pool I spotted a bridge further down.

     “Bingo…Big score!” I thought. “The bridge actually exists!”

Could it be? The Super Secret Hidden Fairmont Hot Springs?

     I quickened my pace, excited about the possibility that the spring would really be there. I climbed over the bridge and made my way down a flight of stairs. A path led in two directions and a tiny stream trickled and bubbled on my right.

     “Yes!! A path!” My brain quickly registered that I might actually find this thing.

     The article had not indicated which direction to turn but there was steam rising in the distance to my right, so I chose to turn right. The small white gravel crunched under my flip flops as I walked and I inhaled deeply. There was strong fresh pine in the cool air.

     I had been walking a while when I spotted a tiny waterfall trickling down the patchy brown hill to my right ahead. My heart got happy and I began walking even faster, seeing mountains and mist ahead of me, past the small falls.

     “Holy moly, it’s the waterfall!” I breathed. “There it is! The bridge, the path, the waterfall! It’s there!”

The Not-So-Mad Dash to One of Canada’s Natural Hot Springs

     The path was deserted and I practically ran as I frantically whipped off clothing items one by one and slapped on swimsuit items in their place. I flip flopped and crunched my way quickly toward the steamy plumes, not wasting any time.

     When I turned around the bend, I breathlessly stopped…staring in disbelief at the fast moving river and the flowing steamy water pouring down from the top of the rocky hill.

    My flip flops went flying as I kicked them off and stomped into the rocky river.

    “Holy Toledo that’s cold!” I yelled, stepping as quickly as the slippery river rocks allowed across the frigid water. At several points, I was doing a three point bear crawl, clothes, flippies and phone in one hand, while the other hand helped me not fall on my face on mossy slick rocks. 

     My feet were numb with cold as I stepped onto the steep grass hill on the other side, gripping foliage to pull myself up the river bank. I slid my flippies back on my feet to climb the small incline, hoping for the mystery pool that the article foretold.

The Fairmont Hidden Hot Springs Really DO Exist

    Suddenly, there before me, under the gushing waterfall, was a shimmery green pool of clear water. The steamy liquid flowed out into several other smaller, glistening pools below.

     “It exists!” My brain shouted…”I found it!” I smiled and laughed maniacally out loud to myself.

     The rocks surrounding the pools were covered in wet stringy moss that made them ultra slippery. I threw down my clothes, becoming more aware how goose bumpy I was with my cold wet toes and my swimmy suit on in the 48° weather.

     I excitedly picked my way to the water’s edge and felt it with one toe.  

     “Yes! It’s warm!” I thought happily as I let my whole self sink into the welcoming liquid.

     “Ahhhh…yessss…warm…” I announced aloud. I continued laughing crazily to myself as the waterfall poured into the water beside me. I couldn’t believe I was actually here. I was filled with overwhelming feelings as I relaxed into the shallow water and gazed out into the pine trees and mountains, waterfall hitting my outstretched toes. 

I Got What I Came For…Soaking in Banff Canada

     “Here I am…all by myself, in a little hot spring in the mountains in Canada.” I couldn’t stop smiling and giggling.

     The pools were shallow, and not hot, but warm. I tried out each one, balancing across slick wet moss to get from one to the other. The pool under the waterfall was the warmest and the subsequent pools increasingly cool. I was a bit shaky with cold as I went back to the sparkling green waterfall pool and sank back into the warmth.

     The faint sulfur scent of springs and cool pine air filled my lungs. The sun began shining colors of sunset and a warm mist of steam swirled around me. I reveled in the moment for a while, gazing at the tall straight trees and mountains. I gathered myself closer to the waterfall, where the warmest water fell. Sitting still in the warm water that wasn’t quite hot, I began to get a chill. 

The Missing Towel

    I was thinking I should head back,  being that it was starting to get dark and I had about an hour drive to the cabin I was staying at. It was then that I had the unfortunate realization, that in my excitement, I didn’t bring a towel.

     “Well, alrighty then…” I thought. “I’ll have to make this quick.” 

    I inched my way across the slippery rocks to my clothes pile. Quickly grabbing my stash, I slipped on my flippies and held my clothes tight to my goosebumpy body. Traversing the icy rapid river was unpleasant to say the least, as I shouted rapid fire expletives to myself with each slippery ankle deep step.  

Dashing Through the Canada Cold…In a Frozen Swimming Suit…

The Path Back from Fairmont Hidden Hot Spring

     I yanked my skirt up my wet legs into place, attempting for a little warmth and dragged my shirt down over my swimsuit. Jogging up the gravel path in the dusk, my whole self trembled uncontrollably, my jaw feeling sore and shaky. Down the path, round the bend, along the river, up the steps and over the bridge.

     My breath was puffing in front of me and my hands shook as I got the key into the ignition, cranking up the heat and yelling swears to myself about the cold. 

Emergency Radium Hot Springs

    On my way back to the cabin, it was  getting dark and I passed a sign for Radium Hot Springs along the way. It was more like the swimming pool kind but at that point I did not care, I was just cold to the bone. I raced inside and paid my fee and made my way into the hot hot water to warm up.

     The pool was man made at Radium Hot Springs… But the water was geothermal and very warm. When I had warmed myself sufficiently I got dressed and made my way back to the car. 

The Long Ride to Kootenay Park Lodge

      It was after 10 p.m. and getting foggy on the long winding road through the mountains. There was a flashing traffic sign that said bear cubs on the road ahead. I was hoping that was the case because I was dying to see a bear. As I made my way up the road I saw a dark flash to the side of the car and stopped. There was no other traffic on the road and I laughed with happiness as a small brown bear went running to my right and into the woods. I was thrilled to have seen it.

   The GPS didn’t work out here so I wasn’t exactly sure where the cabins were but I knew they were on this road. It was foggy and hard to see and I kept wondering if I had passed it but was still driving anyways. 

    Finally after a tense 50 minutes, I spotted the gate and the sign for the cabins in front of me to the right. I breathed with relief at having found my way. Once I got to the gate, I pulled over in front of it…but when I got out to open it, I found that the padlock was locked.

     “Uh-oh”

     I had checked in earlier that day on the way to the Hot Springs so I had the key to the cabin. But apparently I could not get in the gate.

     I got a little nervous and fumbled with the latch. I realized I was able to slide the whole ensemble of the gate with the lock still on it and it swung open in front of me. Whew…

Safe and Warm for the Night at Kootenay Lodge

     The Kootenay Park Lodge log cabins were small, adorable and perfect. There was a bedroom with a fireplace, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom. They were situated away from any towns and were in the middle of forests and mountains. Bears were said to have passed through the property.

     I realized I hadn’t eaten since lunch and was suddenly very hungry. The reception area and little store was closed so I dug around to see what I had with me. I had 2 pieces of string cheese, a tube of Pringles and a Canadian stout. Dinner of champions, I guess. I sat happily, thinking about my adventures and feeling fortunate for all I had seen, and planned for the full day ahead of me.

Click here to read about a waterfall adventure in Iceland

Click here to read about the ice museum in Alaska

Click here to read about my solo adventure at Bankhead mining ruins and Emerald Lake Canada

 

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