Perched on a bench above the river on the east side of the Columbia Valley, Fairmont Hot Springs is a great resort experience in the magnificent setting of the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The largest and most popular hot spring pool complex in Canada, with nearly 1,000 square metres of pools, the internationally renowned Fairmont springs soothe visitors year-round with the curative powers of the 35 to 45 deg C waters.
Located on ancient trading and hunting routes, the odourless and sulphurless waters of the springs were first used for medicinal and healing purposes by the Kutenai Indians. The earliest discovery of the springs by white explorers dates back to George Simpson in 1841. Today, the Fairmont Hot Springs attracts half a million annual visitors, and includes access to the general public.
Location: Fairmont Hot Springs is located on Highway 93/95 at the northern end of Columbia Lake in the Columbia River Valley in the BC Rockies, between Canal Flats and Invermere, 81 miles (130 km) north of Cranbrook.
Airstrip: If you’re in a hurry to get into hot water, fly directly to the airstrip adjacent to the resort. The 6,000 foot strip is built to B-737 specifications, and is capable of handling a variety of chartered aircraft, with a shuttle service to the resort.
Pioneer Homestead: Follow the golf course to its southern end, and look for the first homestead in the area, a pioneer home built by George Geary in 1887.
Trace the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, which geographers consider to be the nearby Columbia Lake, fed by small tributary streams from the Purcell Wilderness.
On a little knoll just north of the parking lot are the quieter Indian Baths, open to the general public.
Golf: Fairmont is a world-class four-season resort, featuring two championship golf courses: Riverside Golf Course (18 holes, 5,488 yards) and Mountainside Golf Course (18 holes, 5,370 yards). There’s something special about these courses. Could it be the way they wind through the mature pine and spruce trees, or maybe it’s the terrific vistas of the Columbia Valley that challenge you to focus on the view instead of the ball? Neighbouring courses include Eagle Ranch Golf Resort in Invermere, Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Village, and Windermere Valley Golf Course in Windermere. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
RV Campground: A full and non-service RV Park is located in a magnificent mountain setting at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
Skiing: From Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort skiers can head out to the Fairmont Ski Hills for downhill skiing and snowboarding on the 300-metre vertical rise serviced by a T-bar and rope tow. Twenty kilometres of groomed trails are available for cross-country skiing. Night skiing is available for four nights each week.
Aerial Tour: Non-skiers and adventure buffs can take an exciting 20-minute Heli-Sightseeing tour that will thrill all ages. Fly to Goat Ridge to view the Delphine Glacier, site of Walt Disney’s Alive movie, past precipitous rock faces and tumbling icefalls. Disembark and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Whitewater rafting is one of the most popular guided adventure vacations in BC. Throughout the province, you’ll find extreme waterways in beautiful wilderness settings, offering stomach-churning thrills. Of course, many rivers run slower, allowing you a more leisurely experience. To experience the power of this whitewater, contact one of the local outfitters.
Summer Activities: Golfing, hiking and paddling during the summer months are reasons enough to visit Fairmont. Campers can avail themselves of the Forest Service campsites, and hikers can head out on the Spirit Trail that will take them all the way to Canal Flats.
Paddlers can put in at Columbia Lake for an easy and peaceful 3 to 5 day paddle down the meandering headwaters of the Columbia River. Wildlife is abundant, and camping is available on the frequent gravel flats of the river.
Beach: The broad sandy beach fronting Windermere Lake at James Chabot Provincial Park, 2 miles (3 km) west of Hwy 93 at Invermere (north of Fairmont), attracts travellers searching for a pleasant, landscaped environment.
Windsurfing can be an especially elevating experience when it takes place between the towering peaks of the Rockies and the serrated ridges of the Purcells. Windermere Lake is the place to go for this serene activity. Launch from the wide, sandy beach in James Chabot Provincial Park in Invermere where strong winds arise with regularity on summer afternoons. Nearby at Canal Flats Provincial Park, windsurfers can breeze along on Columbia Lake, getting a head start on the same waters that eventually flow through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, one of the preeminent windsurfing spots on the continent.
Fishing: Abundant fish populations of Whiteswan Lake and Alces Lake, both wholly in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, led to the establishment of this semi-wilderness park. Both lakes are managed for high-yield fisheries. Rainbow trout have been stocked in the lakes since 1961, with annual releases of about 30,000 fingerlings. Steps taken to make the fishery self-supporting include improvements to the spawning channel, prohibiting motorboats on Alces Lake, and restricting angling to fly-fishing only. Boat ramps are located at Whiteswan Lake beside the Packrat Point and Home Basin Campgrounds. Car-top boats can be launched at the Alces Lake Campground. To find the park, head 12 miles (20 km) east of Hwy 93/95, south of Canal Flats on a rough road. Windermere Lake in Invermere (18 km north of Fairmont) has good trout fishing. You’ll find a boat launch at James Chabot Provincial Park.
Biking: For an easy, scenic ride, West Side Road is perfect. It’s more than 16 miles (26 km) of paved road running along the west side of Windermere Lake. The road starts just north of Columbia Lake on Hwy 93/95, just south of Fairmont Hot Springs, and heads north to Invermere. Take Toby Creek Road west out of Invermere to explore the Panorama Resort trails.
Take a side trip to the award winning Creekside Flower Gardens located 15 minutes north of Fairmont Hot Springs.
Hoodoos: Watch for the Dutch Creek Hoodoos, strangely shaped formations of earth resulting from erosion, located at the north end of Columbia Lake (immediately south of Fairmont Hot Springs). The highway drives right past them. Nearby, Hwy 93/95 crosses the headwaters of the Columbia River, a river that flows from here to Washington-Oregon border on the Pacific Ocean, a 12,000-mile journey.
Pictographs: On the east side of Columbia Lake the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) people have constructed numerous pictograph sites which chart some of their movements through the region since time began. Some can still be viewed today, although hiking is necessary; boat access may also be helpful.
Panorama Mountain Ski Resort: Due to its remote location in the Toby Creek Valley of the Purcell Mountains, Panorama Ski Resort is more of a mountain retreat, comfortably able to handle 7,000 day-skiers – only 3,000 skiers and boarders show up on a busy day. Panorama has all the trappings of a tremendous destination resort: walk-to-lifts accommodation, high-speed quad chairlifts, 4,300 vertical feet (1,320 m) of skiing, and even several outdoor hot tubs located right at the base of the lifts for soaking your weary bones after a day on the slopes. Skiers looking to improve their form need go no farther than Panorama’s famous ski school. There’s also great cross-country skiing on a network of 19 miles (30 km) of trails that winds its way through the woods at the base of the mountain. Panorama is located 11 miles (17 km) west of Invermere on Toby Creek Road, and 20 miles (32 km) north of Fairmont Hot Springs. Invermere and Fairmont Hot Springs are well located to provide accommodation for Panorama Ski Resort.
Thunder Hill Provincial Park is a small, tucked-away roadside campground with spectacular views of Columbia Lake and the undulating terrain of the Rocky Mountain Trench. In the past, Kootenay Indians camped near the site and named it for the stormy natural phenomenon they experienced. Nearby are the remnants of the Thunder Hill mine tramway. Thunder Hill Park is located 20 km south of Fairmont Hot Springs off Hwy 93/95.
When you’re swimming in 6-hectare Canal Flats Provincial Park, you’re swimming in Columbia Lake, the source of the great Columbia River. The park sits on the south side of the lake, a short 2 miles north of Canal Flats on Hwy 93/95.
Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park is a favourite destination for anglers. Campsites are spread out among four locations in the park, primarily at Alces Lake Campground, Packrat Point Campground, and Inlet Creek Campground, all easily accessed from the Whiteswan Forest Road. More sites are located at Homebasin Campground, reached via the Moscow Creek Forest Road, which branches away from Whiteswan Forest Road at the northwest corner of Whiteswan Lake. To reach the park, go south from Canal Flats on Hwy 93/95 and go east on Whiteswan Forest Road for about 12 miles (20 km) east.
Kootenay National Park blankets almost 350,000 acres (140,600 hectares) north of Fairmont Hot Springs. Its lands were ceded to the federal government from British Columbia in 1919. In return, the federal government built the Banff-Windermere Road (Hwy 93) – the first motor road through the Canadian Rockies. Situated on the west side of the Continental Divide, Kootenay National Park extends across the valleys of the Vermilion and Kootenay Rivers, touches on the Rocky Mountain Trench at Radium Hot Springs (north of Fairmont), and straddles the Main and Western Ranges of the Rockies. Some of these peaks rise to 11,000 feet (3355 m). The park features three major campgrounds: Redstreak Campground, McLeod Meadows Campground and Marble Canyon Campground, with a total of over 400 campsites.
Camping is also available at Dry Gulch Provincial Park, just 33 km north of Fairmont Hot Springs on Hwy 93. Dry Gulch is frequently used as an overflow campground for the popular Kootenay National Park nearby.
Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park is in a class of its own. Early in this century, Earl Grey, then Governor-General of Canada, crossed the Purcell Mountains from Invermere in the Columbia Valley to Argenta on Kootenay Lake. His route followed a trail up Toby Creek and down Hamill Creek over a 7,401-foot (2257 m) pass. This route, later named the Earl Grey Pass Trail, had already been well defined by the Shuswap Indians. Despite Grey’s urging to set aside this magnificently scenic area as a park, not much was done until the 1970s, when the area was designated as a roadless tract in which the natural environment would remain undisturbed by any development. Consequently, there’s no road access, and all forms of mechanized access are prohibited, including helicopters. Over 85 miles (137 km) of hiking trails, challenging mountaineering, horse riding, and winter recreation await backpackers in the five biogeoclimactic zones spread throughout this central portion of the Purcell Mountains. Access the park via the Toby Creek Trail from Invermere.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop. Circle Tours in British Columbia.