Hot Springs in Banff National Park
The hot springs in Banff National Park are what first made this destination so famous, and you can still experience them today! For over 125 years, travellers, allured by the medicinal qualities of the hot springs, journeyed to Banff via the newly constructed Canadian Pacific Railway to take a dip in the mineral waters. The water temperature is kept between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius, making them an ideal temperature for soaking in year-round.
Located at the end of Mountain Avenue at an elevation of 1,585 metres, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are the highest springs in Canada. The hot springs facility consists of a large pool, spa and café.
Banff sees beautifully warm temperatures in summertime, but it’s not uncommon for the mountain air to be cool and refreshing, particularly in the evening. After a day of adventuring and sightseeing, the hot springs are the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate and make plans for the rest of your stay. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open until at least 10 p.m., making this a great option for a late-night activity (and some stargazing if the skies are clear!).
History of the Hot Springs in Banff National Park
Archaeological evidence reveals humans have lived in the Banff National Park region for 10,000 years or more, so it is likely that the First Nations people were the first to discover and use the hot springs. And while there is documentation that other explorers came across the hot springs in the mid 19th century, it wasn’t until 1882 that a few Canadian Pacific workers stumbled across the hot springs (at what is now known as the Cave and Basin) and this site so famous.
To explore the hot springs, these railway workers, William McCardell, Thomas McCardell and Frank McCabe, descended a felled tree into the skylight of the cave that held the hot pools. A year later, they built a small cabin nearby, hoping to commercialize the mineral waters. This led to conflict over ownership of the hot springs, and eventually the Canadian government intervened and created the Hot Springs Reserve in 1885. This was the origin of the entire National Parks system in Canada.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs were explored and developed around the same time as the Cave and Basin, but remain the only hot springs that can be enjoyed by the public today. The hot springs elsewhere, included the Cave and Basin site, are the habitat of an endangered snail and are no longer open for public use.