Hikes & Hot Springs: Rocky Mountain Route

The drive to Alaska is filled with spectacular scenery, but be sure to pull over, lace up those hiking boots, and don those swimsuits to discover more beauty and adventure. Steaming springs of nutrient-rich natural waters surrounded by miles of dream hikes make exercise and relaxation simple and refreshing. Follow this route for healing mineral pools and inspiring walks.

Crossing into Canada

From the I-90 in Coeur d’Alene, ID head north on Highway 95 to cross the border at Eastport. Or from the I-15 border crossing in Sweet Grass, MT go west on Canada’s Highway 3 in Lethbridge, AB until you reach Highway 95. Then go north!

Fairmont Hot Springs

Day One: Fairmont Hot Springs, BC

Hot springs aficionados will be spoiled for choice upon arrival. Lussier Hot Springs is a free, undeveloped series of natural pools about 10 miles off the main road. It also never closes, so moonlight bathers are welcome.

Just a few miles north, the Radium Hot Springs lurk from just along the Banff highway. Yes, they contain traces of the radioactive element radon, and no, the amount is not enough to turn bathers into Spiderman, or affect their health in any way.

Stay at Fairmont Hot Springs. The largest hot springs area in Canada also has a resort attached with golf, skiing, and a fully mapped array of hiking options. Many of the hikes rate easy to moderate, including several short saunters with waterfall views. Some are more difficult so take note: “Weeping Wall” got its name for a reason.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Day Two: Banff, Alberta

Turn off Highway 95 at Radium Hot Springs onto Highway 93 to head through beautiful Kootenay National Park. Two hours north, the picture-perfect Rocky Mountain town of Banff is home to a match made in hike and soak heaven: Upper Hot Springs and the Upper Hot Springs Trail. “Upper” hot springs are the highest in the country at 5200 feet—and have been open to the public for over 130 years.

Adventurous hikers can scramble up another 3.4 miles to summit Sulphur Mountain at a height of 7,486 feet and then take the gondola down when it’s time to soak. The extra hike takes about two hours to complete—one way.

Miette Hot Springs

Day Three: Jasper & Miette Hot Springs, AB

Take note of the drive along Highway 93 to stunning Jasper National Park. The 140-mile section known as the Icefields Parkway is regularly listed as one of the most gorgeous drives on the planet.

Easy day hikes are on the agenda today. The hike to upper and lower Sunapta Falls is painless, yet offers tremendous photo ops. Or take a leisurely stroll around Lac Beauvert at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The two-mile walk offers no elevation gain and a crystal-clear lake in a magnificent setting.

Miette Hot Springs, located inside the national park, is known for being the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies, with liquid pouring in at a scalding 129 degrees. Fear not, the water is cooled to 104 for your safety and enjoyment.

Jasper offers a plethora of eating, drinking, and sleeping options. Rest up, the drive is about to get serious.

Liard River Hot Springs

800 Miles North: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, BC

This is the one not to miss! However you choose to get here—and it may take a while—Liard River is the iconic Alaska Highway hot spring. The setting is magical, deep in the wilderness and shrouded by a unique forest, a microclimate created by the springs themselves. It was originally known as Tropical Valley and features 14 species of orchid alone.

Hike along the shores of Teeter Creek, just five miles from the hot springs. The picturesque stroll culminates in a waterfall and pool below that offers good grayling fishing during summer.

The nearby Liard Hot Springs Lodge and Northern Rockies Lodge have hot food and warm beds. So enjoy—the Yukon awaits.

Takhini Hot Springs

400 Miles North – Takhini Hot Pools, Whitehorse YT

Continue on Highway 97 to Watson Lake, and its famous sign post forest, where the road turns into Highway 1 and travelers will enter the Yukon Territory. The capital city Whitehorse awaits, with plenty of opportunities to refuel and recharge.

Treat yourself—the Takhini Hot Pools beckon. Clear, odorless water pours through at 86 gallons per minute, cooled to 95 to 108 degrees, rich in calcium, magnesium, and iron. Open all year, the pools also feature a hostel and campground on-site, with hiking trails, and a café open Thursday through Sunday.

Whitehorse makes a great base to explore the area. Fish Lake is an easy hike, an alpine lake beloved by locals for its proximity.

Dezadeash River Trail

Next Day – Haines Junction and Kluane National Park

After a soothing morning soak, continue on Highway 1 for approximately two hours to the west. The town of Haines Junction has ample services and lodgings to stay for a night or longer. It’s the ideal spot for exploring Kluane National Park and its numerous trails, glaciers, mountains, and wildlife.

The Dezadeash River Trail is a civilized 3.5 mile walk along a pleasant trail with boardwalks and fantastic views of the Auriol Range mountains. The fit and hardy can bag Auriol Peak, accomplishing a six-hour return trip that climbs over 4000 feet in elevation gain. Then be sure to get plenty of sleep, the next day you will reach Alaska!

Chena Hot Springs

500 Miles North – Fairbanks & Chena Hot Springs

Continue north on Highway 1 for four hours until you reach the Alaska border. Spend the night in Tok or Delta Junction, AK. Your reward awaits you the next day at Chena Hot Springs, 56 miles northeast of Fairbanks, and the pool is open until midnight.

Chena Hot Springs is legendary among photographers and on Instagram—it’s the place where you can see the Northern Lights while bathing in 106-degree water. Conditions must be favorable, and winter is better than summer, but regardless of the time of year just go.

The nearby Angel Rocks Trail is perfect for all fitness levels and even families. It offers—what else—fantastic views and can be as short as a three mile/two-hour hike, or evolve into an eight-mile day hike. Whatever your choice, enjoy your drink of choice and pat yourself on the back. You accomplished the drive of a lifetime—and you sampled every hike and hot spring along the way.

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