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Banff Hot Springs

Travel Alberta

World Famous Banff Hot Springs

You slowly lower your body into the steaming hot waters. Aaaahhh. The ache in your body from countless laps on the ski hill is easing as you let your legs lift and float. Sinking deeper into the water and tipping your head back, you gaze up at the dark sky pin-pricked with stars. The weather forecast has promised an overnight storm and a load of fresh snow in the morning. You relax and let the water do its magical rejuvenating work. It’s going to be another big day tomorrow.

Locals’ tip: visit the Upper Banff Hot Springs in the morning for the most relaxing visit.

In 1883, three railworkers stumbled across hot water and steam flowing out of a cave on the lower slopes of what is now known as Sulphur Mountain. The hot spring was discovered to be one of nine sulphurous hot springs on the mountain’s northeast flank. In the midst of the late 19th century craze for the “water cure”, commercial operations were soon established and people flocked to Banff to “take the waters” and enjoy the soothing and reputedly healing properties of the mineral-rich springs. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are the last remaining springs open to the public for bathing. 

The Banff Hot Springs are still a favourite today amongst visitors and locals. It’s magical to sit in the pools in the wintertime, watching snow fall on the surrounding peaks. Sunrise and sunset at any time of the year is also a wonderful time to visit, as the mountain air cools down during these times of day. The springs are open until late in the evening year-round. 

The facilities at the Banff Hot Springs include a large pool and cafe. 

Travel Alberta

The natural history of the Banff Upper Hot Springs

The water in the Banff Upper Hot Springs is heated geothermally, bubbling up to the surface from three kilometres into the earth’s crust. The water that reaches the surface has not seen daylight for hundreds of years. It began as precipitation (rain and snow) which very slowly seeped through the sedimentary rock layers, getting hotter and absorbing dissolved minerals as it descended. The water then flows up to the surface along the ‘Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault’, a large fracture in the mountain where rock layers have slid on top of each other.  

The natural temperature of the water that emerges at the Upper Hot Springs outlet varies depending on the season. During the winter, the temperature is as hot as 47°C (116°F). In the spring, the flow increases and the temperature cools off, to a minimum of 27°C/81°F. Heated municipal water is used to top up the pool during winter when the spring’s natural volume is lower. 

How to get there

The Banff Upper Hot Springs are located at the end of Mountain Avenue, four kilometres (2.5 miles) south of the town of Banff.