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Best of Whistler

Best Trails This Week

Hot Springs Near Whistler BC - Keyhole View

Whistler Area Hot Springs Map

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Whistler is in the midst of a wonderful array of beautiful hot springs.  From the amazing Keyhole, Meager and Sloquet Hot Springs, to the tacky Skookumchuck, to the secretive Etta's Pool, and the enigmatic Glacier Creek Springs

Sloquet Hot Springs - Hike in Whistler

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Sloquet Hot Springs - Whistler Area Hot Springs

Sloquet Hot Springs Waterfall SourceAccess Road to Sloquet is Very Potholed - Accessible by Most CarsSloquet Hot Springs is a wonderfully wild set of shallow, man-made pools fed by a small, all natural, and very hot, waterfall.  The pools stretch from the waterfall to the large and crashing Sloquet River. The large, spread out campsite for the hot springs lies a short 5 minute walk from the springs.

You have to follow a dark and quickly descending trail toward the crashing river. As you near, you can smell the unusual, but kind of nice hot springs scent, and you see steam rising all around you, some steam rising, bizarrely, out of the grass clearing on the edge of the river. On your left a rising cliff, on your right the crashing river.

The path narrows and steepens, leading to a large fallen tree which the trail seems to run to. So huge though as to not worry you walking the length of. Then, there it is. The massive fallen tree flanks it. Nestled between the tree and a cliff, in a large triangular area, with the river forming the third side are the Sloquet Hot Springs.

Lillooet Lake on the Way to Sloquet Hot SpringsSloquet Hot Springs is 142 kilometres from Whistler, which translates to well over 3 hours of driving.  Much of the driving is along the In-Shuck-Ch Forest Service Road, which runs the length of the very scenic Lillooet Lake and river.  This gravel road takes you well into the wilderness, far from civilization and past quite a few nice sights along the way.

Just 20 minutes north of Whistler you pass Nairn Falls Provincial Park.  This is a great pit-stop on the journey to Sloquet, whether you hike the short, 1.2 kilometre trail to the falls or just check out the river viewpoint near the parking lot.  Back on the highway, Pemberton is just 5 minutes north of Nairn Falls.  This little town is your last chance for gas, food, alcohol, ect before Sloquet.

Continuing through Pemberton, on the way to Sloquet you will pass North Arm Farm.  This is a great place to visit.  You can wander around the beautiful farm grounds, visit the interesting farm animals and marvel at the amazing view of Mount Currie.  The farm is free to visit and open weekends in the winter and everyday the rest of the year.  They have a fantastic cafe with all sorts of baked goods and lunch items as well as various farm fresh produce for sale as well.  Also, a great place for your last coffee before entering the wilderness.

Skookumchuck Hot Springs on the Way to SloquetAnother 10 minutes on the highway further and you come to the turnoff to the In-Shuck-Ch Forest Service Road and begin the long and beautiful drive along Lillooet Lake.  There are several excellent places to stop along the way.  From the obvious and frequent viewpoints along the road to the numerous campsites along the way.

Even if you have no intention of camping, these are great places to stop and see Lillooet Lake, have a beer, swim, or all three.  Depending on the season, Lillooet Lake can be emerald, though cloudy green or muddy brown.  This is all dependent on the spring runoff and especially the silty brown, Lillooet River that flows into Lillooet Lake from Pemberton.

At 96 kilometres from Whistler Village you will come to Skookumchuck Hot Springs.  This is a popular and beautiful campsite along the edge of Lillooet River and home to an odd collection of hot spring fed tubs.  Though Skookumchuck is a bit messy looking, you would be crazy to not stop for an hour or two and give the tubs a try.

Lillooet River on the way to Sloquet Hot SpringsIt is a strange feature of Skookumchuck, that after you give the place a chance, you fall in love with the place.  Despite the usually bad first impression most get, after 5 minutes in one of the tubs, the place becomes warm and welcoming.  There is a drop in charge of $7.50 to use the springs and you will find a cash and envelope drop box on the way in by the caretaker house, or you may see the friendly caretaker and can pay him.  If you can, get him talking.  He's very funny and full of great stories about just about every subject you can imagine.

The final few kilometres to Sloquet is not terribly scenic except for the beautiful river crossing which will probably be your last stop before Sloquet.  This very high, one lane, old-school logging bridge towers over, and is an amazing viewpoint over the Lillooet River.  The sides of the bridge have a wooden, bench-like railing that all but invites you to sit, swing your legs over and watch the mighty, green whirling water below you.  From here, Sloquet is just 20 minutes away, and the potholes quickly become gigantic.

Sloquet Hot SpringsThe beauty and wildness of Sloquet brings quite a few people to the area during some weekends and in the summer months.  There is quite a lot of industrial activity in the area as well that brings in the occasional large groups of boisterous workers to the area.

Though you will often find the campsite a loud and chaotic place with music playing and two or three campsite parties, the hot springs, a couple hundred metres away, serene and tranquil.  This is one of the accidental beauties of Sloquet.

The campsite and the hot springs are separated by this steep, short trail and deep forest keeps them apart from each other.  The tailgate parties that sometimes erupt at the campsite are far removed from the hot springs oasis wedged between the river, cliff and forest.

Sloquet is quite a contrast to its neighbour to the south, Skookumchuck Hot Springs.  Skookumchuck is shabby, institutionalized and far from natural.  Sloquet Hot Springs at the Edge of Sloquet RiverSloquet is beautiful, natural and serene. It consists of seven pools formed with rocks positioned to segment pools out of what must have been one huge pool.  Recently, in late 2013, dozens of volunteers did a massive cleanup of the pools, forming them into a more natural and even more beautiful place to be.

It is the natural, cozy and hidden feeling you get at the Sloquet Hot Springs that makes it special. Every(natural) aspect of the springs seems fined tuned for comfort. The cold, dark cliff at your back, specked with candles. Natural little rock coves and multiple pools to separate your conversation from your neighbours.  The majestic river so loud and so close. The scent of cedar from the huge, thick forest spread out in front of you. As if it could get any more perfect you can't help but smile at the little waterfall that feeds these beautiful pools.  Cascading down the ancient looking cliff, alive with rainforest life growing out of every inch. What a wonderful place.

The Extraordinarily Wild and Beautiful Sloquet Hot Springs >>

Skookumchuck Hot Springs - Hiking in Whistler

Skookumchuck is the most convenient hot springs to Whistler, 96k away.  From Whistler it takes a little over two hours to drive to it.  The drive is quite beautiful though, despite being logging road.  There are some fantastic places to stop on the spectacularly huge Lillooet Lake.  Massive, vertical mountains of the Coastal Range across the lake extend forever it seems.  Toward Whistler and Vancouver beyond.  You will pass the occasional camping area, which you should not miss.  They are wonderfully located on serenely beautiful vantage points, ideal for a swim in the Lillooet.  It's bizarre to think as you swim that if you had a canoe you could conceivably make it to Vancouver, following the flow of water as it snakes it way to the ocean. Skookumchuck is both wonderful and awful. It's awful for so many reasons. The hot springs are hidden by dirty pipes that empty into a tacky collection of tubs. Ex-tubs, and hopefully modified, ex-sewage tanks.

Some of the Weird & Wonderful Tubs at Skookumchuck Hot Springs

Skookumchuck Hot Springs on a Snowy March Day

From here it can only get better, and it does, much better. Once in the massive, main tub, covered by an old wooden A-frame, the shabbiness fades away. The place becomes a wonderful, dark and hot, and certainly surreal world, rimmed with candles and steam.

Skookumchuck Hot Springs at NightSkookumchuck Hot Springs at Night

Skookumchuck Hot Springs candle trail to tubs

Hours later you will see in the morning light and the wonderfully massive and dramatically crashing Lillooet River that was so close all night. Looking around the rustic campground that the springs lie in, everything is wet and cold. The trees, the grass. It's raining. You look around and it's tremendously beautiful in the morning light. The glistening, massive trees, the spectacular river, the scent of the forest. The place is not so much awful now, but beautiful. Wonderfully beautiful.

The Campground at Skookumchuck Hot Springs is Very Nice

Skookumchuck Campsite View of Lillooet River

Certainly if you can manage a quieter time to go, which evidently goes for all campsites, you will have a nicer time. Nearly all the numerous sites are beautifully located along the Lillooet River with nice mountain views. The rolling landscape and ample trees give a wonderful sense of seclusion as the sun goes down. So, if you are not too snobby about the aesthetics of the tubs, you really have little to complain about. Which is surely why Skookumchuck is consistently gaining in popularity despite it's remoteness.

Directions to Skookumchuck Hot Springs >>

Meager Hot Springs - Hiking in Whistler

Meager Creek Hot Springs - Whistler Area Hot Springs

Very Steep and Boulder Strewn Logging RoadMeager Creek Hot Springs is located 93k northwest of Whistler, was beautifully developed into gorgeous pools, with a caretaker and usage charge.  At its height of The Debris Field from the Meager Slide in 2010popularity, Meager Creek Hot Springs had 30,000 yearly visitors.  Unfortunately, due to two recent avalanches it seems unlikely to ever officially reopen. After several years of being closed, access reopened on 2009 with a nice, expensive, new bridge.  Only to be dramatically obliterated from another slide in 2010In 2014 the new VOC Harrison Hut Trail was mostly completed, allowing access to Meager Creek Hot Springs once again. Frequent construction and logging in the area often blocks access as well as road damage from the harsh winter months. Be prepared for disappointment if you can access the last few kilometres of road to the trailhead. As of October 2017 access was open.

The old access bridge over the Upper Lillooet River which cost nearly a million dollars was wrecked in seconds in 2010.  There was considerable wrangling and negotiating to get it built in in 2009, but now it will almost certainly never be rebuilt.  The area is far too active.  Access to the springs is now via the new Harrison Trail via the south side of the the Upper Lillooet River, above and beyond the still visible, still awe inspiring, mudslide carnage.

Meager Hot Springs Devistation Aerial 2

With the catastrophic mud and debris slide let loose from Devastator Peak in 2010, the nice new (in 2009) million dollar bridge to the Meager Creek Hot Springs was destroyed.  Though destroyed doesn't even begin to describe it.  Looking on the now, dead end road, where the bridge once stood, the place still looks a mess.  "Meager Creek FSR is closed indefinitely; no access to the hot springs."  This is from the BCParks Upper Lillooet Provincial Park site, and evidently quite accurate.

Meager Creek Hot Springs River CrossingDead and still dying grey ghosts of trees still stand as they did in piles of forest wreckage.  Even the road in looks bizarre.  The road was simply bulldozed back to life.  On either side, hemmed in by piles of dirt and dead trees.  The mudslide that did this seems beyond belief.  This river valley in the midst of a beautiful, green forest, is a sea of brown.  Mud, dirt, and dead trees.

At its peak of popularity in 1994, Meager Creek Hot Springs had 30,000 visitors a year.  With the unrestrained numbers, vandalism and violence broke out at the springs often so the BC Forest Service stepped in.  They hired an on-site supervisor, limited vehicle access and charged a usage fee.  Then the big slide of 2010 happened and now of course it only gets a few, very motivated visitors.

Harrison Trail Access to Meager Creek Hot SpringsIn 2014 a new route was built to Meager Creek Hot Springs by the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club.  The new VOC Harrison Hut Trail regains access to the much prized Harrison Hut, but also opens up an excellent access trail to Meager. The trail is long and not too easy, however, and getting to the trailhead is quite an adventure.  The logging road deteriorates quickly on the last couple kilometres and you find yourself dodging basketball sized boulders strewn across the road.

Meager Creek Slide Aerial Video 1

The old access route to Meager ran along the far(north side) of the Lillooet Forest Service Rd.  This new trailhead is located on the near(left or south) side of the Upper Lillooet River and you simply continue along the Pemberton Meadows Road (almost) until you can't go any further.  From Meager Hot Springs Geothermal Activitythe middle of Pemberton to the trailhead is 64 kilometres.  The easy to miss trailhead is marked with a small trailhead sign for "VOC Harrison Hut Trail"  No mention of Meager Creek Hot Springs on it.

The old access route, now that the bridge will never be rebuilt, is by crossing a the slow, though potentially dangerous, Upper Lillooet River where the bridge used to be, hiking 7k through the mudslide debris, then crossing the small, though fast flowing, Capricorn Creek to reach the much intact Meager Creek Hot Springs.  If you have a canoe you can paddle across the Upper Lillooet at this wide, though slow flowing area where the bridge used to be, then make the interesting hike through the considerable debris left from the catastrophic slide.  Spring runoff does increase the water through this area considerably and canoe crossing becomes quite tricky and even dangerous.

The landscape across the river in the debris field is hypnotizing.  Every inch is mangled and wrecked looking.  Twisted trees, extraordinary looking rocks.. and nothing is where it looks like it should be.

Both river and creek are fairly shallow, even during the spring runoff.  But then again the Upper Lillooet River has only had a couple years to erode back into a conventional river through the debris field.  If you are into adventure Meager is still an option, but the whole access route is fraught with peril from another all-to-possible mudslide or trouble at one of the river crossings.

The Meager Creek area in general and Mt Meager in particular is an extraordinarily active area under the ground.  There have been massively destructive landslides and the inevitable debris flows that follow in 1931, 1947, 1975, 1986 as well as the brutally enormous one in 2010.  Four geologists were never found after being killed in the 1975 debris flow.

Below are pictures of before and after the slide of 2010.

Old Meager Bridge in 2009

Old Meager Bridge in 2012

If you do venture across this river now, only part of the hard part is behind you.  From the other side of the river, hike for 7k keeping Meager Creek on your left (until you have to cross it at about 6.8k) and you will come to the obvious entrance trail to the springs.  Capricorn Creek is another water crossing you will come to just before the springs.  It is narrower and faster moving, but quite small so even at high water levels should not be more than knee high.

Not surprisingly, due to the extraordinary activity under the ground here, there are two more hot springs near Meager (aside from the obvious Keyhole Hot Springs).  They are smaller and not very hot.  Placid Hot Springs and No Good Hot Springs.  You can find them by continuing past Meager (do not go up the Meager trail, but instead stay on the logging road).

Directions via the New Harrison Hut Trail to Meager Creek Hot Springs >>

Keyhole Hot Springs - Hiking in Whistler

Keyhole Hot Springs(aka Pebble Creek)

Keyhole Hot Springs(aka Pebble Creek Hot Springs) is located 100 kilometres from Whistler(Village Gate Blvd).  Though most of the 100k is on logging roads, it is Keyhole Hot Springsdrivable by most cars without any trouble.  The final couple kilometres is the only difficult to drive section, but aside from the small, though wide stream to drive through near the trailhead, most cars should be able to make it.  Dodging potholes and the occasional boulder are usually the only obstacles.  However, if you are one of the first to venture out to Keyhole in the spring you may have to deal with small rock slides and sometimes fallen trees along this final section.

The hot springs at Keyhole flow out of the ground adjacent to the swirling, crashing and wonderfully glacier coloured water of the Lillooet River.  The colour varies with the season, but for the most part it is a wonderful, deep, milky turquoise.  When the sunlight penetrates the deep valley, the milky turquoise changes to a wonderful, emerald green colour as it swirls all around you.

Sitting in the springs you look across to the vertical rock face and the massive, truck sized chunks of it that lay in the river next to you.  The Lillooet is fed from various glaciers and snowy mountains visible all the way to Pemberton.  At the Lillooet River crossing in Pemberton Meadows take a look in the distance and you will make out the spectacularly jagged and violent looking peak of Mount Meager.  It The Very Steep Trail to Keyhole Hot Springsis also a good place to reflect on the fact that Mount Meager produced the larges volcanic eruption in Canada, in the last ten thousand years.  It occurred about 2400 years ago and Keyhole and Meager Creek Hot Springs are symptoms of current volcanic activity and another major eruption is possible.

For such a remote place, the Keyhole Hot Springs have a pretty elaborate hot springs layout as well as a very large(unmaintained) campground area in the deep forest, high above the hot springs about a 10 minute walk away.  Signs of semi-permanent tarp dwellings can be seen in stages of ruin, but overall the campsite area is amazing.

With the exception of being dark due to the thick forest and fresh water a steep, 5 minute walk away, it is perched on a wonderful cliff with great views of the river below and cliff and mountains and waterfalls across.  If the campsite had a dozen tents within it, you could space them out enough to not see or hear each other fairly easily.

Further down the river, in the opposite direction of the Keyhole Hot Springs is a beautiful and easily hiked stretch of the river, passing waterfalls on both sides of the river as well as some wonderful, potential campsites on sandy and grassy plateaus next to the river(about 15 minutes away).  Across from Keyhole Hot Springs and campsite there is a abrupt and massive opposing rock face created from the eruption of Plinth Peak on Mount Meager in 410BCE.  Plinth is one of six main summits on Meager, hidden beyond this rock face that looks both impressively huge and wonderfully close.  You can actually see trees frozen in time from the last eruption in the face of this cliff.  Sticking out, black eroding away with the cliff.

Directions to Keyhole Hot Springs >>


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