East of Vancouver is a small resort community known as Harrison Hot Springs. Famous for its naturally hot water, tourists have been flocking to the area for some well needed r&r since the Canadian National Railway built their mainline a short distance away in 1886.
The springs have been used by the First Nations people who live nearby on the Harrison River and gold miners discovered the hot water on their way to Port Douglas over 150 years earlier. Today, the resort and town offer pools where you can enjoy the water without the smell of sulphur in your nose, which you will appreciate since this spring, one of a few up the Lillooet Valley and Harrison River, has the highest mineral content of almost any spring.
We stayed just one night at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa, located just steps from the lake front. They have three pools to enjoy the water, several on-site restaurants, a spa, and outdoor activities such as tennis. The outdoor bar provided us with fresh beverages as did our pool side room.
The lake itself provides a beautiful backdrop to the resort, with stunning blues and tree-lined mountains. A small enclosed swimming area within the lake gives swimmers a safe place to play without threat the many motorized boats. Speaking of which, the boat dock was located at the far end of the beach and was busy all day long. There are facilities on the beach and restaurants and food shacks line the boulevard that runs parallel with the water.
It looked like a fun place for kids too. There was a giant off shore play structure, boat rentals, bumper boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes; you name it, they had it. They also play host to a sand castle contest every year. Kids were scooting up the roads on rented tricycles and families took to the four-person pedal powered quadracycles.
For recreation, we decided to hike up the mountain nearest our hotel. We learned that many of the hikes traverse rough terrain with steep climbs and can last an entire day. Since we didn’t have the right kind of equipment for that type of adventure, we found a trail that lead us passed the point where the spring emerges from the mountain and concluded at a secluded beach called Sandy Cove. It was perfect. Just a small amount of exertion, fresh mountain air, breathtaking views down to the lake through the trees, a fern filled forest walk and a small stretch of sand away from everyone.
I feel like I need to share this little hike with you so here are the directions:
Leaving from the Harrison Resort, the easiest trailhead is found 30 metres passed the Hot Springs source on the left hand side. A short switch-back will take you to the main trail that climbs the mountain. The first 150 metres are the most difficult. After reaching the first plateau you will have a great view of Harrison Lake. As you turn back from the view to the trail it appears to head right, around the massive rock in front of you, in fact the actual trail forks off to the left climbing the hill on this left side. This is a short, hand-over-foot climb (fairly difficult and you should have good shoes) for roughly 25 metres. Once you reach the top the rest of the hike is comparatively straightforward. Follow the trail as it winds its way around the mountain until you hit a “T” junction at the bottom of a hill. Head right to get to Sandy Cove.
Head back if you have had enough or continue along the beach and at the far end you will pick up the Whippoorwill Point Trail. Another 300 metres will bring you to Whippoorwill Point. Keep your eyes open as it can be difficult to spot as it is somewhat overgrown. Whippoorwill Point is a rock out cropping that marks the entrance to the Harrison River. Back on the trail, you will follow the Harrison River until the trail brings you back to the original “T” where you originally turned right. Turn right back up the hill and head back the way you came to the village.
There are two paths to start the hike, one behind the yellow cement Hot Springs source building and one further up the gravel road on your left hand sides just before the road ends in front of the wire fence gates.
The only really tricky part of this hike is after the first climb to the lookout over Harrison Lake. Be sure to climb the rock bluff on the left hand side when facing the bluff.
Our room at the resort provided us with the essentials for an overnight stay and the easy access to the pools was definitely a plus.
For a quick, last-minute weekend getaway, it was certainly a win.
- The drive was about two hours from Vancouver
- The resort had a lot of children playing and splashing in the pools. If this is a romantic get-away be sure to stay in the adult pool and ask for a pool-side ground level room if you want easy access to the water
- Come prepared for a rigorous hike if that’s your thing but always tell someone when you expect to be back
- Visit http://www.tourismharrison.com for more information
- Count on driving one hour north to the Othello Tunnels
- The Bridal Veil Falls were a short thirty minute drive from the village of Harrison