Tag Archives: hot springs

Lesser Known Destinations In Western Canada That Are Worth Your Time

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When you think of Western Canada, images of the Canadian Rockies and the mountains of British Columbia typically spring to mind. Additionally, one might imagine strolling the streets of Whistler or Banff, admiring the peaks with winter snow hanging on even in the first days of summer, as you hunt for the perfect souvenir that will define your trip in one sophisticated trinket.

If the touristy nature of these places is a turn-off for you, don’t despair, as there are many other places throughout the Canadian west where you can enjoy the timeless vistas that this corner of North America is famous for, without having to wade through a sea of fanny pack toting tourists to get the perfect photographic angle.

The following places are favoured by Canadian locals for their natural assets, views, and their access to amenities that ensure that you will have a relaxing getaway that won’t be disturbed by a massive wave of humanity. Let’s start by profiling…

1) Harrison Hot Springs, BC

Identified by Canadian Pacific Railway officials as a site for tourism in the late 1800′s due to the presence of multiple hot springs in the area, a picturesque lake, and mountain peaks that completed the area’s stunning backdrop, a hotel and community was established here. While the popularity of this place never quite reached the proportions of Banff to the east, it slowly built up a following from those living in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Today, commercial hot spring operations are complimented by a fabulous beach on Lake Harrison, boat cruises, sportfishing, opportunities for watersports, and much more.

2) Emerald Lake, BC

Of all the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper hog much of the attention and the press, leading many to overlook the stunning views and experiences one can have in BC national parks like Yoho and Kootenay. The former park contains the jade green gem that is Emerald Lake, which has an abundance of lush plant life due to its location on the windward side of the Rockies. Trails circle this under-appreciated lake, permitting views of the towering President Range, and they play host to excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.

3) Canmore, Alberta

While Banff is the most famous town in the Canadian Rockies, it comprises less than half of the population of the Bow River Valley. The town of Canmore, a former mining town that was reborn into an outdoor recreation and lifestyle destination after coal prices crashed in the 1980′s, is a place that most tourists blaze through on their way to its more glamorous cousin further up the valley.

However, the views of the front range of the Rockies are no less impressive here, as the Three Sisters make for many spectacular photos, and many trails can be hiked from town, and Kananaskis Country is a short drive away, where even more stunning treks can be embarked upon.

Hot Springs, NC

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What would happen if you take two (sub)urbanites and put them in a town with a population of 645? That’s what Lyndsi and I found out earlier this month. It’s different, but that was part of the intrigue of Hot Springs, NC. Iron Horse Station is a fascinating little inn in the center of town where we stayed. It’s an old, restored historic building situated by the train tracks that run by town. Considering that I’m a bit of a train nerd, I found that cool.

Upon check-in, the hotel proudly displayed a newspaper story detailing Hollywood star James Franco’s recent stay there (his crew took over the entire hotel). After walking up the creaky wooden stairs (elevators? not in Hot Springs) we finally found our room upstairs, the Pullman Deluxe room. Nothing crazy given its $95/night price, but brewing with character. Our charming room had hardwood floors, a queen bed with four posts, and best of all, there was a restaurant and tavern downstairs.

Mind you, there were no TVs, no phones, and only a small window overlooking the railroad tracks. Oh, and no AT&T phone service. The WiFi was our only connection to civilization, it seemed. The room had its quirks — broken lamp shade, shower leaked on to the wooden bathroom floor, etc. — but it was cozy once the thunderstorm moved in that evening.

A couple of interesting things happened as we wondered around town before dinner. First, this is a dry county. In 2011. Really, Hot Springs? I jokingly asked a store attendant if this town has any alcohols, and she pointed across the street to this “biker” store. Hmm, looks interesting. And there’s a high likelihood we’ll be shot. So, onward!

Now listen. I enjoy the occasional cigar, so smoke usually doesn’t bother me. But the stench in this biker store was so horrific that Lyndsi had to breathe through her shirt to survive, before exiting. We picked up a case of Sweetwater and promptly escaped to fresh air.

Then I realized how are we going to open these bottles? Next door was a hardware store (far from Home Depot) and I picked up a bottle opener. The owner took my money and said, “that’s close enough.” I guess they don’t do exact change in Hot Springs. Interesting.

Aside from eating at Iron Horse Station, the other big attraction in the area is the “world-famous” Hot Springs natural mineral water springs. We enjoyed the hour-long relaxation of the hot tubs where they pump natural mineral water from the area. Walking distance from the town center.

Hot Springs was a nice little town, though too small for my liking. I love visiting small towns, but Hot Springs was just too small (case in point, the only place for breakfast in town was jam-packed, so we ended up getting snacks at a convenience store). It’s a great place for lunch and while it was nice to get away from Charlotte, it’s not somewhere we’ll be returning to. At least the twisty roads around it made it all worthwhile.

~ Marc