A trip to Alberta’s Banff National Park is not complete without taking a dip at Banff Upper Hot Springs, one of the most popular hot springs in Canada. It’s located near Sulphur Mountain across the valley from Rundle Mountain, it’s situated about 4 km (2.3 mi) from the town of Banff.
Banff Upper Hot Springs has one large pool that guests can enter on a first-come, first-served basis. Locals recommend visiting during the morning hours to avoid crowds. Sunset is also an ideal time to soak in the springs.
Before this area was considered a national park and historic site, it was first used by Indigenous people for healing and spiritual purposes. However, in 1883, the waters were discovered by a couple of railway workers, when they noticed steam coming out of a cave on Sulphur Mountain.
After doing some more exploring, it turns out that this was just one of nine hot springs that were located on the northeast side of the mountain.
During the time of discovery, hot springs were very popular in Europe. Canada had a boom in tourism due to this, The discovery of the springs is also the main reason the Canadian Government bought the land and made it a national park. Today, Banff Upper Hot Springs is the last one of the nine hot springs open to the public.
Visiting the Hot Springs
For years, people have been traveling to the hot springs to soak in the magical, natural waters and was the spark for Canada’s first national park. Water temperatures range from 81 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, all the way to 116 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, but average around 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year.
The water contains natural minerals such as sulfate, sodium, bicarbonate, calcium, and magnesium, answering the questions as to why they have ‘healing powers.’ Soaking in the Upper hot springs is one of the oldest and greatest traditions when visiting Banff National Park and is considered a ‘must see’ attraction in Canada.
Banff Upper Hot Springs do not offer or require reservations. There is one large pool, and the hot springs work on a first come first serve basis, so visitors should try to limit their stay to 1 hour. There are times in peak seasons when visitors may be asked to wait outside, so be sure to dress appropriately for the weather.
There are rental swimsuits and towels available. You can also purchase a towel or swimsuit if desired, or rent a historical bathing suit from the 1920s. Lifeguards are present and on-site during operating hours and the capacity of visitors will be reduced if there is a low staff ratio.
Also, please be mindful that there is no food, drink, or alcohol allowed in the hot springs themselves. It is recommended to stay hydrated, so there are picnic tables on-site for cooling off and water breaks.
Things to do & Amenities
When visiting the Banff Upper Hot Springs, obviously, soaking in the warm and relaxing waters is going to be the main thing that people come to experience. However, the area offers other activities as well such as exploring the Basin Cave, scaling Sulphur Mountain, hiking to Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site, and other beautiful natural sites as well.
The bathhouse is considered to be a federal heritage building. Grand View Hotel, formerly known as Grand View Villa, offers a day spa, showers, changing rooms, an outdoor terrace, and a wonder of water hydrology exhibit.
The building has had to be remolded and restructured numerous times due to multiple fires and damage to the building. Grand View Villa is now a hotel, with a restaurant located inside as well as a gift shop. It is the closest and most perfect place to stay for a visit to the hot springs.
As you can see, this natural beauty is a site to see and experience. Come soak, relax, ‘take the waters’ and enjoy the magic and beauty of the mineral-rich hot springs that Banff National Park has to offer!
Address: 1 Mountain Ave, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Last entry 5 pm)