Nestled within the heart of the Canadian Rockies is the Banff Hot Springs — also known as the Banff Upper Hot Springs. The serene, mineral-rich hot springs have become a must-visit destination for travellers visiting Banff National Park. You can soak up in natural hot water springs for a relaxing day or after spending hours exploring the area.
Settlers in Canada first became aware of the natural hot springs in 1883. The location has remained a serene retreat, offering a unique blend of relaxation and natural beauty. Man-made pools that collect the spring waters allow visitors to relax in the soothing mineral water, while taking in the views of Rundle Mountain.
The travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations can help you plan your trip to Banff and its hot springs. Many of our train tours include time in this stunning area. Here's our comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about Banff Hot Springs.
Location of Banff Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs sits at 1,585 meters (5,200 feet), making it the highest hot springs in the country. The hot springs are at the base of Sulphur Mountain at the end of Mountain Ave. near the Banff Gondola and Sulphur Mountain parking area. The location offers stunning alpine views and serene spots perfect for a picnic.
[ Experience: The Banff Gondola Ride ]
History of Banff Hot Springs
European railway workers first became aware of the Banff Hot Springs 1883 while building the Canadian Pacific Railway. At the time, the hot springs were well-known only to the Indigenous community that used its waters for healing and wellness. Since then, the hot springs have been commercially developed into a modern travel destination for visitors from Canada and beyond.
1. Pre-European Settlement
Archeological evidence points to thousands of years of human inhabitation around the hot springs in Banff Canada. The local Indigenous peoples have a historical connection to the area for centuries and consider the spring's waters sacred. The community used the natural thermal waters for healing, wellness, and spiritual purposes. Hot springs were revered in ancient times because of the supposed medicinal benefits of soaking in warm, mineral-rich water.
2. Early Development of the Hot Springs
When the Canadian Pacific Railway workers discovered the Banff Upper Hot Springs in 1883, it led to the development of Banff National Park. The initial stages were a log bath house and Grand View Villa. By 1887, the government had reserved about 674 square kilometres of the land around the springs. The expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888 also increased the springs' popularity. Tourism influx led to the paving of roads and paths to make the area more accessible. By 1915, tourists could drive up Upper Hot Springs Road to the springs.
3. Expansion and Preservation
The government of Canada has done a lot over the years to modernize park facilities at Banff Hot Springs, starting with the villa and log bath house, which suffered from fires in 1901 and 1931. The government completed a rebuild on both occasions. The bathhouse became a Registered Federal Heritage Building in 1931, part of the springs’ long history of expansion and preservation.
Back in 1904, the government added two cement plunge basins, a swimming basin, and bathtubs on what is today's Rimrock Resort. After the second fire in 1931, the government added a sulphur water swimming pool, steam rooms, plunge baths, showers, and dressing rooms. More updates and renovations came in 1961 and 1995. In 1996, the government opened the springs with a new spa, restaurant, gift shop, and updated fixtures. The destination has seen significant expansion to the current state, which hosts over 300,000 visitors annually.
[ Explore: Canadian Rockies Train Trips ]
Features of Banff Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs hosts a wide range of features you'll encounter in other top relaxation destinations in Canada, the US, and Europe. You can expect modernized access points, viewing platforms with panoramic views, poolside services and amenities, locker rooms, and more. Below are some of the features of the Banff Hot Springs:
1. Upper Hot Springs Pool
Banff Hot Springs is home to the Upper Springs Pool, a hot sulphur water pool. Other features include a steam room, café, gift shop, changing rooms, and lockers. The hot pool is filled with water from the natural spring. It can comfortably host up to 200 people.
2. Viewing Platforms and Panoramic Views
The hot springs in Banff offer spectacular views across the valley to Mount Rundle. There are various viewing platforms to maximize the panoramic views of the surrounding natural landscape. The landscape features towering alpine trees climbing up to the snow-capped peaks of the mountains. For stunning photos of the area, ride the Banff Gondola, which offers a quick 8-minute ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
3. Locker Tokens and Annual Passes
Banff Hot Springs tickets feature locker tokens included with single-entry tickets. Visitors can also purchase an annual pass, which doesn't include locker tokens. Entry prices are based on age. Children under three can enter for free. An adult (18-64) single entry is $16.50, youth (3-17) and seniors (65+) are $14.25, families are $53. Annual passes cost $220.5 for adults, $187.5 for youth and seniors, $625.75 for families, and $93.75 for extra youth. Rental prices are $2 for swimsuit and towel and $1.25 for locker tokens. You can also find 3, 4, and 5-visit punch cards, group rates, and family and multi-entry passes.
When to Visit Banff Hot Springs
Planning a trip to the hot springs near Banff should be effortless, given the year-round accessibility of the destination. Contacting destination experts in advance can help with booking options and hotel reservations. Top accommodations include Rimrock Resort Hotel and Fairmont Banff Springs.
The best time to visit Banff Hot Springs is winter, with the chilly weather and snow contrasting the hot sulphur water. Consider visiting during morning and evening hours to avoid the crowds during the day.
#1 Travel Tip: Visit in the morning
Beat the crowds by visiting first thing in the morning. Early birds can even squeeze in a sunrise hike before their soak.
Amenities and Activities
Banff Hot Springs offers modern amenities and exciting activities for singles, couples, and families. The upper level of the bathhouse features a café where you can enjoy coffee, a meal, or ice cream after soaking in the hot pool. You can also find the perfect souvenir from the gift shop, which offers various items and keepsakes. Nearby gondolas provide panoramic views of the alpines, while Banff Hot Springs hotels feature accommodations with modern amenities. You can enjoy hikes, skiing, water activities, and the ultimate hot pool dip to round up your day.
The Hot Springs Experience
Banff Hot Springs offers a serene destination for anyone looking to unwind and soak in the rejuvenating waters of the natural spring. The location is surrounded by beautiful alpine scenery, and includes a modernized retreat with a hot pool, outdoor hot tubs, washrooms, café, and gift shop. Banff Hot Springs is a popular destination, so there is always people enjoying their time at the pool and taking pictures of the spectacular views.
Water Temperature and Minerals
Banff Hot Springs water flows through the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. The geothermal water picks up heat as it flows down the mountain, picking up sulphates, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, sodium, and other minerals. Soaking in mineral-rich water can improve skin irritations and reduce muscle tension. Water flow peaks during spring, reaching 900 litres per minute, and drops in winter. Temperatures can reach 50°C (122°F) in winter, but the typical Banff Hot Springs temperature is 37-40°C (98-104°F).
Transportation to the Hot Springs
Public transit or a private transfer is the recommended way to reach Banff Upper Hot Springs. The location has limited parking for RVs, buses, coaches, and cars, so you avoid driving. The ROAM bus Route 1 takes you to the Upper Hot Springs, making it the ideal transportation. If you prefer biking, take Route 1 up Sulphur Mountain, then follow the sidewalk from the parking lot. The distance is only 3.6 km, which is a short bike trip, and the road is well-signed. Peak season also sees a lot of traffic headed to the springs.
Getting to the Springs: Mountain Avenue Access Point
Set your navigator to 1 Mountain Avenue, Banff, AB, to get to the hot springs. You can take public transit, which is the best option, given the limited parking at the location. ROAM Transit Route 1 is available from Downtown Banff to the Upper Hot Springs access point at the base of Sulphur Mountain. You can also ride your bike on a short 3.6 km (2.2 miles) trip up Sulphur Mountain. Stay on Route 1 until you reach the Upper Hot Springs parking lot, then take the sidewalk. The road has helpful signage and steady traffic.
Banff Hot Springs safety considerations cover water temperature, pool-use policies, and facility rules. The hot springs are maintained at optimal temperatures of around 40°C. Before entering the pool, you're required to bathe with soap and water. The facility provides washrooms with running water for this purpose. You can also rent a swimsuit and towel to use in the pool. Food is not allowed inside the pool, but you can enjoy meals on the side deck. Lifeguards are on watch in case of an emergency. Make sure you review the policies and safety information on the visitor handout to learn about potential hazards, pool etiquette and precautions.
#2 Travel Tip: Drink lots of water
It’s important to stay hydrated while soaking in a hot spring. Take an unbreakable water bottle with you and take frequent breaks.
Testimonials and Stories
These reviews from visitors provide insight into the experience you can expect.
- “Visiting the Banff Hot Springs and Banff Gondola is a memorable experience. The location offers the perfect warm spring in the mountains and some stunning views of the area. Banff is also an iconic piece of history. We learned a lot from our one-hour stay at the facility. I recommend the thermal water pass to learn more about the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. People were still at the pool by 7 p.m., so I recommend visiting in the morning hours if you want to avoid the crowd during the day.”
- “The café has some hearty meals, but we packed a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed on the deck overlooking the hot pool. The view of the Cascade Mountain and Rundle range is spectacular. Another great stop in Banff Hot Springs is the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site. A short 750 m (2460 feet) elevation gain hike was all we needed to reach the summit of Sulphur Mountain, from which we enjoyed an exhilarating 13 km (8 miles) return journey. This trip offers the ultimate view of Banff town and its mountain ranges.”
Final thoughts: A relaxing experience
You can read much about the Banff Upper Hot Springs, but nothing compares to experiencing the destination first-hand. The natural oasis sees hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and remains one of the top activities for anyone touring Banff. You can relax in the mineral-rich waters to relieve sore muscles and improve your skin. Plan a trip today and enjoy one of Canada’s natural wonders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there hot springs in Banff?
Yes. Banff is home to the Upper Hot Springs, naturally occurring hot springs on Sulphur Mountain. The Banff hot springs contain sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and sodium.
Are the hot springs in Banff worth it?
Yes. The Banff Hot Springs offer a soothing soak with amazing views. Nearby highlights include a national park, glaciers lakes, iconic railway hotels, and a charming mountain town.
Can you swim in the hot springs in Banff?
Yes. The pool can get crowded, making it difficult to swim, but swimming is possible during low season months or early in the morning before large numbers arrive. Lifeguards are available on site to make sure everyone is safe while using the pool. Due to the large number of visitors, swimming may not always be an option, but you can soak and move from one end to another with ease.
Is it safe to bathe in hot springs?
Yes. Hot springs have been popular for centuries and offer various therapeutic benefits, from soothing muscles to skincare. Not all hot springs are safe due to hot temperatures and harsh minerals or chemicals. However, the Banff Hot Springs have been tested and are maintained throughout the year to ensure visitors are safe. Don't forget to read the safety instructions provided when you arrive at the destination.
Popular Train Trips to Banff
About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more
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