Supplement your next road trip adventure with some soaking in the swimming pool sized hot springs on B.C.’s Hot Springs Circle Route.
The B.C. Hot Springs Circle Route is a great road trip adventure. There are well over a dozen springs on the route, which circles the Kootenays between Cranbrook and Revelstoke in Southeastern B.C., Canada. Many of these springs are extremely remote, and though they are alluring, not all of us have the time or the four-wheel drive necessary to go hunting for wild hot springs. Luckily, there are a handful of developed springs that cater to the road-tripping family who like to stay “on pavement.” These resorts are all places to spend a day by the swimming pool or to soak tired muscles in the hot mineral water after a long day of outdoor activity. These hot springs have all played a part in the history and development of the Kootenay region and each has stories of people miraculously healed by the waters. With the price of a soak hovering around ten dollars, they are a fun, healthy and affordable activity. What’s more, the landscape is itself captivating enough that even gazing out the car window as the scenery rolls by between is a satisfying way to spend the day.
Below are the Hot Spring Resorts in order if you head south from Revelstoke.
Halcyon Hot Springs is one of the more polished resorts on the route with three large pools and a great view. There is also a spa onsite for those who are looking for a bit of extra relaxation.
Nakusp Hot Springs has a north-south layout that is perfect for late night stargazing. Nakusp is a good starting point on the route if you are coming from the Okanagan or if you just want to make the area your destination. There are a number of wild hot springs near by and Halcyon Hot Springs is not far away either.
Ainsworth Hot Springs are not to be missed. The source of the springs is inside a large horseshoe shaped cave. The cave is completely covered in calcified mineral deposits and assessable for bathers to explore.
Fairmont Hot Springs have a wonderland of facilities and activities that sprawl across the landscape. Not the least of which is their massive hot spring pool with a high diving board.
Radium Hot Springs is in Kootenay National Park. The facility is all terraces and walkways that look down into the hot spring pools and span the canyon that the springs are nestled in.
Canyon Hot Springs east of Roger’s Pass is truly RV heaven. It’s a perfect stop after a long day of hiking at Glacier National Park.
Hayao Miyazaki is a cornerstone of Japanese anime. His work is often compared to Walt Disney’s, but as much as I love The Little Mermaid, this comparison hardly does him justice. Many of his stories are original, and every scene looks as though it could be framed for an exhibit. What I love about Miyazaki is that he incorporates the ideas, myths, histories, and landscapes of Japan into his work.
One of my favorite movies by Miyazaki is called Spirited Away. The movie’s original Japanese name is Sento Chihiro. A sento is a Japanese public bath house that does not necessarily use hot spring water, but heats the water. Until the second half of the 20th century many Japanese people did not have baths in their homes, so they went to a sento to wash and refresh themselves. Though some sentos are utilitarian others are quite opulent. The more luxurious onsens and sentos often add minerals and infusions to the bath water for additional health benefits. Spirited Away is a magical story of an enchanted sento that hosts the spirits of everything from frogs to radishes; and the young, shy girl who gets trapped in service there. The narrative and the visuals are spectacular and the sento itself is the stuff of dreams.
Fortunately, the sento in Spirited Away is actually based on a real place on the island of Shikoku in Japan. It is called Dogo Onsen. I was lucky enough to visit Dogo Onsen in August of 2006 and I was surprised at how much inspiration the movie actually got from this historical landmark.
Dogo Onsen is the oldest in Japan. It has a history of about 3,000 years, and is the onsen that healed the gods and emperors of Japan. According to legend, the onsen was discovered by a white heron who put its injured leg in the water and was healed, so the heron prevails as the symbol of Dogo Onsen.
During my stay at Dogo I was able to imbibe the waters, tour of the Royal Baths reserved only for the royal family, and do this all wearing the traditional Japanese leisure wear: a yukata. Though the baths themselves are not in my top ten because they are small and crowded, the experience ranks quite high on my list. It was definitely one of my most memorable experiences in Japan, and a must for anyone who loves to watch or be Spirited Away.