Who hasn’t dreamt about soaking in a natural hot spring, in the middle of the wilderness, at the edge of a rushing glacial river? If you have (and why wouldn’t you) Halfway Hot Springs should be right at the top of your “must do” list.
Hidden away in the middle of the Kootenays, this tiny (mostly) wild hot springs is the perfect spot if you’re looking for something off the beaten track. This incredible place is developed enough to be comfortable, i.e. the water in the pools isn’t scalding, but rugged enough that you’re still in the middle of the wilderness. It’s an easy day trip from both Nakusp and Revelstoke, and doesn’t require a long off-road drive or hike to reach it. Halfway River hot springs really checks all the boxes!
The drive to the hot springs definitely takes some effort. Combine that with the hike down 150+ stairs and you’ll feel like you’ve earned it. Like all good things though, having to work a bit harder for it makes the experience all the more rewarding in the end.
Your first step into the pool confirms it was worth every step…and will be worth every wet step back up once you’re done! The heat of the water wraps around you as you sink into the pools with your toes buried in the sandy bottom. Tall trees tower overhead and the Halfway river rushes by not too far in the distance.
This is exactly what a natural hot spring should be.
Halfway Hot Springs Directions
Halfway Hotsprings is about halfway (go figure!) between Nakusp and the ferry to Revelstoke. The easiest way to get there is to visit from Nakusp. If you’re coming from Revelstoke you have to cross the Galena Bay Ferry, which is still doable, but can make for a long day trip. Revelstoke is a pretty cool town filled with things to do, but if you’re planning a hot spring tour in the Kootenay’s, Nakusp is a better place to base yourself anyways!
Starting in Nakusp, drive North on Hwy 23 towards Revelstoke. In about 20min (26km) you’ll see the sign for Halfway Hot Springs 400m ahead on the right. There’s no signage at the actual turn off, so this is your only indicator. If you cross the bridge over Halfway River you’ve gone too far!
The road up to Halfway River hotsprings is 11km of unpaved forestry road, although for a gravel road it’s in reasonable condition. You’ll feel better driving it in a 4×4 however it’s not absolutely necessary. Whichever vehicle you drive keep in mind that this is, at times, an active logging road, so be cautious of oncoming vehicles as you drive. Stay to the right, and only swerve around holes & rocks if you can see what’s coming towards you.
When you come to a fork in the road, just after km 1, stay on the main road (the larger of the 2). If you generally tend to stay to the left along the river you should be okay. The only exception to this just past km 6. The road forks and you’ll want to stay to the right and head up the larger of the two roads.
Once you reach the 11km mark you’ll see the entrance to the hotsprings on the left. The parking lot is quite large (I guess they’re expecting it to get busy!), and I suggest parking close to the stairs. It’s a bit of a trek down to the hot springs, so you won’t want to walk any further than you have to once you get back to the top!
If you’re in this part of BC, I also highly recommend you visit Nelson. It’s worth a little detour for the hippie vibe, and some seriously great food!
What To Expect When You Visit Halfway Hot Springs BC
The hike to the pools is all downhill, mostly along a wooden staircase that’s in reasonable condition. We hiked down with our girls without any issue, but it’s not something you should tackle if you have mobility issues. You’ll know you’re getting close because you’ll be able to hear the river and smell the hint of sulfur floating in the air.
Once you get to the bottom there’s a small change house where you can pop on your bathingsuit and store your bag. The lovely cedar shack is adorned with a sign saying, “There is no place, like this place, near this place, so this must be the place.” This alone lets you know you’ve arrived!
Although these hot springs are wild, there is a small rec site camping area just above the springs, so you likely won’t be alone if you’re visiting between June and September. We got incredibly lucky during our visit and had them all to ourselves, but that’s definitely not the norm. Even with the company, they’re still a pretty magical place.
There are three rock pools that have been lovingly built amongst the trees alongside the river. They tend to vary in temperature with the one against the bank being the coolest, the top one closest to the shack being the hottest (usually), and the one closest to the river being in the middle. The last one was our favourite and was where we spent most of our time (although the girls liked to jump back and forth between it and the cooler one).
The coolest pool tucked up under the trees:
The middle pool, definitely our favourite!
The hottest pool, right beside the cedar shack:
If you’re feeling adventurous, throw on your flip flops and head to the small pool right along the banks of the river. If you’re visiting in the spring or early summer there may not be much of a pool left, but once the river calms down it’s rebuilt to keep out a bit of the river. From here you can dip into the frigid glacial river before warming back up in the small pool.
I couldn’t bring myself to go any deeper than my knees, but the rest of my family was brave enough to dunk all the way in (I’m not sure if “brave” is the best word for it…but it’s nicer than the other word I’m thinking of!).
*expert tip – Be very careful as the river moves quite quickly and could easily carry you away if you’re not careful. Also, watch out for the water coming into the pool as it’s extremely hot until it mixes with the river water.
It’s easy to spend a few hours moving back and forth between the different pools. The scenery is incredibly peaceful, and the impending walk back up all the stairs, make it hard to leave. When it is time to go, make sure to pack out everything you brought in. The site stays pristine and natural only if everyone respects it.
*expert tip – There’s a pit toilet near the bottom of the stairs, away from the hot springs but close enough if you need it! I highly recommend you use this rather than the bush. There’s lots of poison ivy so you don’t want to wander off the trails! And please, PLEASE, don’t pee in the pools. There’s no chlorine (obviously) so you’ll contaminate them for everyone else.
Camping at Hot Springs
The site here used to be completely wild, but in 2016 BC Parks took it over as a Recreation Site Usually when this happens it’s a bad thing, but in the case of Halfway hotspring it’s actually been quite positive. There’s less of the partying/garbage/glass mess that could frequent the pool sides in the past. The caretaker, Bob Moody, lives here in the summer and ensures the site is well respected and enjoyable for everyone. He has a passion for this place and loves to share his passion with others.
The fact that it’s a rec site means there’s maintained camp sites. There are a few car camping sites (12) that are pretty close together, as well as some great tent pads which are a bit more spaced out. The tent pads offer a lot more privacy, but you’ll have to haul all your gear down the hill. I do think it’s worth it!
The cost to camp is $15/night for each site, and you’ll have to pay with cash. You can’t reserve in advance, and in the summer it does tend to fill up so make sure you arrive by mid-afternoon.
If you don’t want to spend the night camping at Halfway River Hot Springs, Nakusp is the best place to stay. We stayed at Shon’s Bike-Ski-Stay and I highly recommend it. It’s a hostel with dorm rooms and private rooms, as well as a nicely equipped kitchen, BBQ on the deck and living area. If you like a bit more privacy, The Lodge at Arrow Lakes is another great option.
What To Bring With You
- Obviously bring your bathing suit and a towel! I’ve heard stories that clothing is optional here, but since it’s become a more popular site nudity isn’t really accepted (and is illegal!)
- Wear sturdy shoes for walking up and down the hill, and bring flip flops to wear when you’re hopping between pools (or crocs for the kiddos).
- Bring LOTS of water down, at least 1-2L for everyone in your group. You work up a sweat soaking in the hot springs and you’ll want to replenish with water. There’s a spring in the campground where you can fill up your water bottles. If you’re “brave” (like us), you can also refill your water bottle in the rushing glacial river. We’re still here to talk about it so I’m assuming it was drinkable but I don’t necessarily recommend it (again, I use the term “brave” as a nice alternative to a different, likely more accurate word!).
- Wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and sunglasses to reduce the glare off the water.
- Carry a small bag so you can hang up your clothes in the cedar shack.
- Drinks are allowed by the pool, and if you’re spending the night having a beer in the hotsprings is a lovely after-dinner activity. The rule is no glass by the pools, so make sure you have cans. (And you’re not allowed to camp right by the hot springs, so don’t drink so much that you can’t negotiate the stairs on the way back up!)
Visiting In The Winter
The hot springs are open year-round, and a visit in the winter would be absolutely magical. However, the road is not drivable, so your best option is to hike in the 11km or snowmobile. Whichever way you do it, I’m sure the journey will be worth it! And you’ll be much more likely to have the whole place to yourself.
Visiting In The Spring
Once the snow starts to melt in March & April there seems to be a surge of people wanting to visit the hot springs. Everyone seems to forget that the elevation is quite a bit higher than Nakusp and the road can be difficult. Conditions vary year-by-year depending on the amount of snow and the spring weather. Luckily, there’s usually great, up to date information on the BC Hot Springs Facebook group.
We visited during the first week of April and it was quite the ordeal. Our truck has great all-terrain winter tires and my husband is a very experienced off-road driver. We managed to make it all the way up to the springs in our F150, but came across an F250 that didn’t make it. We (and by “we” I mean Randy, I took the girls and walked to the springs for a soak) ended up helping to dig out a Mazda 6 (what were they thinking?!) and two Subarus just to get them out of the way so we could get up the road.
All three vehicles had spent the night stuck on the road, very cold and with almost no food (although they had an abundance of booze!). If you’re planning on visiting in the spring, don’t be like these (not very smart) people, make sure you go prepared.
What to bring if you’re visiting Halfway Hot Springs in the Spring:
- A full tank of gas – fill up in Nakusp before you head out.
- Drinking water – we’ve used the creek water for drinking, but I don’t know how safe that is, especially for an extended period of time. Plus, it’s a long walk to the creek. We ran into people who were drinking from the stream in the ditch on the side of the road, but that didn’t seem like the best idea to me if it could be avoided.
- Warm clothes and a blanket or two. Be prepared to spend the night in your car just in case.
- Matches and tinder for a fire if needed.
- Food and snacks just in case you get stuck (and aren’t rescued by an F150 with a Grandma who always packs tons of food!). Make sure it can be consumed without having to start a fire to cook it.
- A tow strap – if you’re in a truck there’s a good chance you’ll need to pull someone out to get by.
- A shovel – you may need to dig out a vehicle prior to being able to pull them out. We saw someone trying to use a golf club for this…I promise a shovel works a whole lot better!
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