Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Jump into Spring at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

My family has spent a lot of time at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort over the years and it's always been one of our favourite places to spend a weekend while exploring in the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia.

Spring is especially glorious when there's already green grass and dry trails in April. Add hot pools to soak in, and it's a pretty sweet place for a family getaway.

Spring at Fairmont Hot Springs is pretty glorious!

Move over Mexico, Hello Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

On our last visit to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, I actually felt like we were on an all inclusive getaway in Mexico. We didn't bring any groceries with us but allowed ourselves to eat out the entire time. We made use of the restaurants at the resort and enjoyed a decadent weekend with no cooking! No sandwiches for lunch, no packed lunches in backpacks, but simply walking into one of the restaurants every time we were hungry.

Add hot pools where you can spend hours lounging in the sun, and it definitely felt like we'd left Canada.

Hands up if you'd like to spend a day here soaking in hot water and basking in spring sunshine!

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in the Columbia Valley 

Fairmont Hot Springs is located in the Columbia Valley between the communities of Radium Hot Springs and Invermere to the north, and the City of Kimberley to the south. From Calgary, the drive is just over 3 hours depending on where you live. It's easy enough to reach Fairmont on a Friday after work, and the drive is doable for a short weekend, returning to the city Sunday afternoon.

For a more relaxed visit, plan a trip out to Fairmont over a long weekend or reserve one of the deluxe cabins for a week this coming summer. (It's a great vacation spot!)

This is April at Fairmont Hot Springs!

Everything you need to know about the Fairmont Hot Springs Pools 

It's no secret in our family that I love the Fairmont Hot Springs pools and that we will be visiting the resort (no matter where we stay in the Columbia Valley) for at least an afternoon.

The hot soaking pool and the warm swimming pool are side by side so I can spend my time happily soaking in the hotter pool while my son is playing with his dad in the other pool - and I can keep an eye on the fun, so I don't feel like I've abandoned my boys.

There's a dive tank for the summer months which has had two diving boards. New regulations for pools have closed the high board but hopefully the small one will be open again this year (usually by the May long weekend.)

In a normal year (without Covid restrictions) you can spend the whole day here at the hot pools. You'll find a large grassy area with lawn chairs, poolside cabana rentals in the summer season, a cabana restaurant (where you can purchase drinks or snacks to enjoy beside the pool) and with your day pass you're usually allowed to come and go through the day (which is great if you're staying at the RV resort next door.) Resort guests already get unlimited access to the pools.

There's also a snack bar next door where you can purchase items to go (to enjoy beside the pool.)

Side by side hot soaking and warm swimming pools at Fairmont Hot Springs

Current Covid operational changes for spring 2021

  • The public hot springs pools are open only to registered overnight guests of the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort during allotted time slots for each group, with a strict maximum of 150 visitors permitted in the pool area at any one time. You can visit the pools for more than one time slot per day but know that there is a half hour cleaning period between slots so you can't book back to back slots.

  • The resort has  implemented an online reservation system to allow guests to book their preferred swim times in advance. Reservations are available on Eventbrite and can be booked 48 hours prior to your stay. Check your pre-arrival email for access to the Eventbrite link. Most time slots are one hour in length.

    Guests are asked to be courteous and to not reserve each time slot to ensure everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the hot springs pools. For Friday & Saturday stays it is asked that you keep your reservations to 2 time slots per day.

  • Only 30 guests can be in the hot soaking pool at one time. When this pool reaches capacity, a line is formed in the warm swimming pool where you can wait to enter the hot pool. For this reason it is recommended you arrive early for the time slot you've chosen if you want to be one of those 30 people. (Though they do encourage people to rotate between pools frequently.)

  • The drive tank is closed until further notice.

  • There is a separate guest-exclusive hot springs pool which is open to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort guests only, with a strict maximum of 12 guests permitted in the pool at any one time. If the pool is full you can either return to your room or wait until other guests leave the pool. It is requested that guests cap their time in this pool to 30 minutes. No reservations are required.

  • Pool hours and allotted guest access times are subject to change without prior notice as restrictions are constantly changing.

  • Limited lockers are available on a first come, first serve basis in the change rooms (which are open with bathrooms.) Most guests of the resort change into their swim wear in their hotel room and wear one of the bath robes provided when going to the pools.

    Be very careful about where you leave your bath robe so that you take the correct one back with you to your room - especially if you have your room key or a phone in the pocket. And if the kids want bath robes you should bring their own from home.

  • No towel rentals are available at this time but towels are included in your room if you're staying at the resort. Again, be careful about where you leave it by the pool as they all look the same! Bring your own towels if this is a concern to you. 

  • The check-in time is 4:00PM MST and access to the pools will not be granted prior to your check-in. 

Pool Spring Maintenance: Also note the Public Hot Springs Pools will be closed for annual maintenance between April 25th and May 7th, 2021

The guest-exclusive hot springs pool is a magical place to relax

Accommodations for all Comfort Levels, Family Needs, and Budgets

On our most recent trip to Fairmont Hot Springs we had a loft room with kitchenette in the main lodge. It worked well for us, and our son could go to sleep upstairs while my husband and I stayed downstairs to quietly read or play a game of crib.

Our room had two queen sized beds on the main floor with two single beds upstairs in the loft (perfect for a moms' weekend getaway with a few girlfriends once restrictions are lifted!)

Our cozy loft room with kitchenette at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

And while we didn't do any cooking in our room, we did have a basic kitchenette that would have worked well for breakfast and lunch (honestly for dinner you want to eat out at one of the resort restaurants.)

Staying in the lodge is convenient if you want to run downstairs to grab a coffee in the morning or you want to go out for a meal at one of the restaurants without having to put on a jacket. (Heck, you could wear slippers to breakfast. - which I actually saw.) 

Our cozy upstairs loft room (pretty palatial for one child!)

On a previous trip we got to try one of the new deluxe cabins (open year round,) located beside the resort in the campground. 

Read about our previous cabin stay below

Lest you think you'll be "camping," these cabins are pretty comfortable. Each cabin has a kitchen with a full sized fridge, a dishwasher, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, stove and oven, and everything you'll need for your family's needs. There's also a barbecue located on the deck of each cabin. Going one step further, the TV also has Netflix on it so you can hang out on the balcony with your glass of wine while the kids are happily entertained.

The cabins sleep four people and have two bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed for the parents, and the other with bunk beds for the kids. I loved the separate bedrooms because it meant I didn't have to go to bed at 8pm with my son. (The kids went to bed, and us adults could stay up and hang out in the living room.) It also worked out well when my son was awake at 6am the next morning - and needed a place to read books and eat his cheerios (without disturbing this mom's beauty sleep.)

Deluxe cabins at Fairmont Hot Springs

Spend a few nights in one of these comfortable cabins and wake up to deer grazing outside your door. Start your day with a short walk over to the main lodge for a cup of coffee from Steamers Cafe or enjoy weekend brunch at the Antler's Restaurant. After that, you'll enjoy your proximity to the hot pools which you can easily reach in your bathrobe (adult robes provided in each room.) - bring your own bathrobes for the children.

And when you get tired of cooking, there's a great family-friendly lounge, the Bear's Paw Bar and Grill, in the main lodge. The pizza is incredible so I highly recommend at least one meal here.

Cabin to hot springs!

Other accommodations at Fairmont Hot Springs include:

Lodge rooms (some with lofts and kitchenettes) - they sleep 4-6 people

Summer duplex-style cabins - they sleep up to 4 people and are dog friendly

Summer cottages - they sleep up to 6 people

Juniper Lodge rooms (with kitchenettes) - they sleep up to 4 people and some are dog friendly. 

* All stays include access to the hot pools during your visit including a private hot pool for resort guests only.

** Many of the cabins and cottages work very well for groups or family reunions. Book a bunch of rooms or cabins side by side, bring your lawn chairs, and you can hang out on the lawn visiting while the kids run around and play.

For more information, please visit the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort website.

Pool Spring Maintenance: Also note the Public Hot Springs Pools will be closed for annual maintenance between April 25th and May 7th, 2021

Not a bad place to spend a spring weekend!

Camping at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort (Albertans welcome!)

The Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort is next door to the regular resort and we've stayed here several times for long weekends. While the hot springs are not included with RV stays, you do get discounted admission and in the past we've always been able to get day passes allowing us unlimited access to the pools per day.

RV Guests can use any of the lodge guest time slots for the hot springs pools and will have their own allocated time slots after the May long weekend. 

We love camping here because there are many hiking and biking paths that start right from the campground. We can go out for a walk, warm up in the hot pools, hang out at camp for a while, go for a bike ride, and then go back to the pools. And to splurge, the resort is a short walk away for a decadent restaurant meal or even afternoon appies and drinks at the family friendly pub.

We also love that every site has full hook ups so we don't have to fill our water tank before setting up camp. (And we don't have to empty the tanks when leaving!) I can use my coffee maker, the toaster, and the microwave (we don't camp simply,) and cable TV hook ups are available on some sites.

And should you fancy some early season camping, the RV Resort is already open.

Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort

For more information on the campground follow this link. 

Note that the RV resort does not allow tents. You must have a trailer or RV. 

However, tents are allowed just down the road at the Spruce Grove Campground. This campground opens on May 19th and is a lovely campground for tenters with many non serviced sites. It also has several RV sites with hookups, a swimming pool, and you'll still get discounts for the hot springs.

When we last camped at the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort in 2020 the bathrooms were closed due to Covid restrictions. If you are making a booking here for the 2021 season make sure you ask about bathrooms if this is important to you. (Our trailer has a bathroom so it wasn't a big deal for us.)

I have checked and bathrooms will definitely be open at Spruce Grove.

And before you make a giant group booking with a large gang of friends, check out the Covid policies here for the campgrounds. Large social gatherings with members outside your household or cohort are discouraged.

Follow this link to make an online booking for the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort. And for the first year, you can now make reservations online! No more calling in. (This makes me very happy!)

You can also make an online booking for the Spruce Grove Campground here. 

Note Albertan residents are allowed to camp at both campgrounds regardless of the Covid situation because these are private campgrounds. They do not fall under the same rules that BC Provincial Parks have created for their campgrounds.

Mountain biking on one of the trails from the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort

Bike, Hike, and Soak from April through October!

Spring comes very early to the Columbia Valley and you can be mountain biking on dry trails by mid to late April! There's even green grass by that time. We also come out for Thanksgiving in October because it's definitely still warm and we can even camp.

For hiking around the campground, we like the Owl Loop and the Geary Lookout Trail. For biking, my boys like the Montezuma's Revenge loop and we also liked biking to the Geary Lookout.

You can see the resort trails here and download a map. And all trails are fully dry and good for hiking by April. (Note the Waterfall Trail is officially closed due to flooding that occurred in the spring of 2020.)

Some of our favourite family-friendly mountain bike trails are located near Fairmont so we always come out here in the spring and fall when it's not quite as hot.

Spring mountain biking near Fairmont Hot Springs

There's also a brand new paved bike trail that starts near Invermere and ends at Fairmont. The Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail is 25 km long (one way) and has easy, intermediate, and advanced sections. Check out the map at the link above to choose a section that would be right for your family.

Strong riders could do the entire thing one way if you set up a vehicle shuttle for your family or if an adult rode back to the beginning. (If you were to do this, I'd ride one way from Invermere to Fairmont so you can bike back to the resort while one adult bikes back for the car.) - Although know that you'll have to climb to get back up to the resort from the highway.

My family usually does short segments out and back.

Biking towards Fairmont on the new Westside Legacy Trail

Read more about mountain biking in the Columbia Valley here: 

Read: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley 

Read more about hiking in the Columbia Valley here: 

Read: The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond!) 

Other recommended reading:

Spring hiking near Fairmont Hot Springs

Soak in Natural Hot Springs at Fairmont

One of our favourite things to do when we're at Fairmont Hot Springs is to soak in natural mineral pools that don't have chlorine or chemicals added to them. The water isn't always as "hot" or as comfortable for soaking in as the main commercial pools at the resort, but it's a fun experience (especially on a warm day.)

Soaking in the Indigenous Baths at Fairmont Hot Springs

There are two options for natural soaking near the resort:

1. The Indigenous Baths at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

From the overflow parking lot hike up to the top of the little knoll where you'll see an old stone house. This is the historic Indigenous Bath House. It is closed to entry but there are pools outside the bath house that have warm water in them. 

These pools are very small so I recommend visiting them early morning or in the evening when they might be quieter. Be prepared to wait if others are using them or to return later. We've had good luck going early morning.

There is nowhere to change at the site so wear your swim suit under your clothes and bring a towel for the return to your hotel room or campsite.

The Indigenous Baths at Fairmont Hot Springs

These are the best known natural hot springs near Fairmont but have been closed since the beginning of Covid. Check the website at the link above to see if they've opened again. As of spring 2021 they are still closed.  Find out if the hot springs are open here

When they open, know that this area is very busy. Don't expect to have the pools to yourself at any time of the day. Also be prepared for a rough drive on a gravel road that may scare some people afraid of heights.

From the parking area, it is a short walk down a steep but well maintained trail to the pools by the river. There is an outhouse on site but it's easier if you wear your swimsuit and then you only have to change before driving home.

Lussier Hot Springs near Fairmont

Disclaimer: Use the natural hot springs and mineral pools at Fairmont Hot Springs at your own risk.

Please obey all closures and respect the areas you are visiting. Pack out all garbage, do not bring glass bottles to the pools, and swim suits must be worn in all public areas.

Soaking in the Indigenous Baths at Fairmont Hot Springs

Explore Fairmont Hot Springs from the River

Lake Windermere is just a short drive away if you want a beach day in May or June, and the Columbia River flows through the valley for great paddling.

We spent a great day paddling down the Columbia River through Fairmont Hot Springs on our stand up paddleboards last spring. We timed our visit for a warm day in May and the river was high enough for our boards. (Later in the summer the water gets too shallow and is better enjoyed in tubes.)

Recommended activities:

May on the Columbia River near Fairmont Hot Springs 

Alternately, you can bring your own stand up paddleboards and head out for a lazy float down the Columbia River through Fairmont. You'll need your own equipment and will have to set up your own shuttle. We used bikes for this.

If you want to float the river on your own, this is where you'll put in. (And I know it looks like you're walking to the put in, but I assure you Columbia River Road continues past where it ends on Google Maps. The put in is right on Columbia River Road so just follow this road until you see the obvious boat launch beside the river.)

And this is where you'll take out. There's a lovely little boat launch on the other side of the highway from the resort beside the river.

Note, previous experience is highly recommended!! There are several tight corners on this stretch of river, the water can be cold early season, and there are some fast sections. There is also one bridge that was a bit tricky to get under last time we went (with rocks to dodge.)

Paddling through the golf course in Fairmont Hot Springs

Other Recommended Spring Activities at Fairmont Hot Springs

My family doesn't golf, but golfing would be the big draw for many adults (and families with older youth) for a spring trip to the Columbia Valley.

Golf courses at Fairmont Hot Springs open as early as March 26th for the season! (That's way earlier than Calgary.)

You can get all the details on golf courses at Fairmont Hot Springs here. (And there are options for easy family-friendly par 3 courses.)

There are golf specials as well, and kids 12 and under golf for free (follow the specials link for information on times kids can golf for free.)

There are golf courses for all abilities at Fairmont (including mini golf for the non-golfer)

Still not convinced your family will be entertained at Fairmont Hot Springs?

How about a zipline adventure! My family tried the Mineral Mountain Ziplines Course and it was a blast! The course is located right at the resort so you don't have to drive anywhere. (And it's the real deal! - we were thoroughly impressed.)

Contact the resort to find out when the ziplines will open for spring 2021. They'll definitely be open by the May long weekend.

Flying above the Columbia Valley at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Add to all of that, the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort also has a full activity program run by the "Activity and Experience Centre" which includes kids' day camps.

Other activities to try include:

  • Mini golf (on site with a cost)

  • Tennis and volleyball courts (on site)

  • ATV tours (nearby)

  • Geocaching (on site)

  • Horseback riding at the stables right at Fairmont Hot Springs (along with pony rides for the younger kids)

  • River rafting tours (nearby) 

  • Fishing (nearby) 

Note there are additional charges for most of the activities above and some of them are not guided by the resort. The Activity Centre will connect you with your tour operator though and make reservations for you. 

For more information, follow this link to Things to Do at Fairmont Hot Springs 

Fishing on the Columbia River near Fairmont Hot Springs

Additional Recommended Reading

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond!) 

Five Reasons you Need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family

Autumn Family Fun at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort (with more information on the zipline tour)

Mountain biking near Fairmont Hot Springs 

Travel Disclaimer

As of early spring, travel is still not "encouraged" between the provinces of Alberta and BC, and the Government of BC is asking their residents to travel locally.

Should you choose to visit Fairmont before the restrictions are lifted, do so at your own risk and on your own conscience. I trust you to make your own decisions.

The resort continues to welcome all visitors and the RV Resort is open to non-residents of BC.

Please follow all safety guidelines while visiting at this time including limiting your socializing to your own household (restaurants included,) obeying physical distancing rules (especially in the hot spring pools,) and staying home if you are not feeling well.

If you become ill while at Fairmont, please try to return to your own city to seek medical attention and keep the local hospitals for the locals who need them.

Finally, check all cancelation policies when booking trips at this time.

Disclaimer: My family has been hosted on recent visits to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Also please note that we have not tried all of the activities mentioned in this story (yet.) It's an ongoing mission of ours to explore every corner of the valley but it's going to take us a few years yet to try everything. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

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