I grew up in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada & everyone in my family has worked in the tourism industry at some point – I even worked at the local tourism information center while I was in university. This post is focused mainly on local geography, attractions & events, but if there is enough interest I can do a follow-up on local accommodations and dining establishments – please leave a comment if this interests you!
The Hot Springs
The Harrison ‘Hot Springs’ are said to have one of the highest concentrations of dissolved mineral solids of any mineral springs & are known to have healing properties. But sorry folks, you can’t swim directly in the source of the hot springs, nor should you want to – they are HOT!
There are actually two springs, the ‘Potash’ with a temperature of 40°C (120°F), and the ‘Sulphur’, with a temperature of 65°C (150°F). There is an easy walk out to the source where you can view & smell them (follow the scent of rotten eggs past the resort heading west), but they are contained in a fenced-in building to protect visitors from going in & getting burned.
While you can’t swim in the source, there are still a few ways to experience the benefits of the springs. The Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa‘s indoor & outdoor pools contain water from the springs’ source, but they are only available to guests of the resort. The public hot springs pool also is sourced from the springs’ water, is accessible to all visitors to the village, and is indoors so it can be enjoyed year-round. In case you were wondering, the water is cooled down for the pools to a comfortable 38°C (100°F).
Local tip: There are some other ‘secret’ hot springs up around the east side of the lake, accessible by Clear Creek FSR. The road is a bit sketchy at most times of the year & it is susceptible to washouts (wouldn’t attempt it without a 4×4, letting people know where you are going & being prepared to walk in part way), and the tubs aren’t maintained or cleaned regularly so it’s hit or miss depending on who’s been up there recently – but it’s the only local place to enjoy the hot springs in nature & for free.
I’m just going to put this out there – do NOT swim in the lagoon if you can avoid it. It was designed to create a safe & warm swimming area, but it’s absolutely disgusting and actually quite dangerous. There is always a huge flock of Canadian Geese who make the lagoon their home so there is goose poop EVERYWHERE. There are signs & showers now up warning tourists of ‘Swimmer’s Itch’, but the locals know better and just don’t go in. Also, the bottom of the lagoon is full of weeds & the width can be deceiving – there have unfortunately been a few failed attempts to swim across the lagoon.
However, the 5km walk around the lagoon is a nice, easy walk with benches to sit & enjoy the view, and there are 2 great playgrounds for kids right on the beach, as well as a covered workout area just being finished.
Harrison Lake itself is clean, but it’s glacier fed and HUGE so it’s freezing – but you can’t beat jumping off the dock on a hot summer day. There are few different spots along the lake that are sandy & suitable for wading in, including the areas on both sides of the lagoon. You can also drive up around the east side of the lake towards Sasquatch Park and stop at Green Point day use area. It is a scenic & windy 10 minute drive from the village & the beach is a little rocky, but it’s much less crowded than the main village beach area, and dogs are allowed to swim.
You can also take a great boat cruise up the lake to Rainbow Falls, it’s a popular spot in the summer with a small beach and a short hike to the falls (I even photographed a wedding up there last year).
WARNING: Again, the lake is HUGE & COLD and there are some underwater currents near the mouth of the Harrison River. If you fall into the water away from the shore, hypothermia & drowning are both very possible outcomes. PLEASE, always wear a life jacket when out on the water, and don’t drink & drive a boat.
Hicks Lake (Sasquatch Provincial Park)
If you continue from Green Point further into Sasquatch Provincial Park, there are two make lakes – Hicks Lake & Deer Lake. The drive takes about 20 minutes from the village, that turns into a gravel road once you get into the provincial park. Hicks Lake is the best lake for swimming, and is typically where the locals will go camping or for a day of swimming. Hicks Lake also has an enjoyable, easy 2 hour walk/hike around the entire lake.
Boat Launches & Rentals
There is a boat launch on the far east side of the village by Rendall Park, and another up at Green Point day use area (10 minutes up the east side of the lake). There is also a boat launch at Hicks Lake, and a car-top launch at deer lake (there are some motor restrictions on Hicks & Deer Lake, but none on Harrison Lake).
On the west side of the lake, out in front of the Harrison Resort & Spa, there is a dock with boat & watercraft rentals for all ages, and an inflatable waterpark.
When to Visit
The Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa is great to visit year round – my family just did a mid-week stay in November, and had a great evening swim in the outdoor hot pools. Remember, none of the other hotels have access to the springs, but there is the indoor hot spring public pool that is available to everyone. There is also the nearby Hemlock Resort if you are into skiing or just playing in the snow.
Summer definitely has advantages in the resort community, who doesn’t love a day out on the lake or on the beach? But weekends can be especially busy in the village during the summer, and campground are packed, so make sure to do your homework and book in advance.
Harrison Hot Springs is known to be a haven for the mythical creatures known as Sasquatch. Legend has it that they used to come down into the village and steal away the women to take back up into the mountains. Nowadays, if you look closely, maybe you’ll find some footprints, or one hanging out on a local bench.
Nearby Areas & Attractions
Popkum & Bridal Falls
If you come off Highway #1, you’ll immediately find yourself in the Popkum/Bridal Falls community right in the shadow of beautiful Mt. Cheam. Bridal Falls is on the south side of the highway, and has attractions such as the Falls Golf Course, Bridal Falls Waterpark, Popkum Motor Park, and Bridal Falls itself. On the Popkum side, we have the Cheam Trading Post and the Cheam Wetlands, from where you can watch Para-gliders come down off the launch pad on the way up to Mt. Cheam.
Agassiz & Harrison Mills
Agassiz is an old farming community and is world-famous for it’s corn & hazelnuts. If you are lucky enough to visit in September, make sure to catch the Agassiz Fall Fair & Corn Festival – I might be biased, but it’s the bast small-town fair I’ve ever been to. The local Circle Farm Tour showcases the farming community as well as local artisans and historical sites.
Harrison Mills has it’s own unique history, with the Kilby Historic Site, which is a museum featuring a working farm and general store right out of the 1920’s. Just down the road is the Kilby Park which is available for day use & overnight camping right on the Harrison River. It is also known for it’s abundant Bald Eagle population, so it’s a great place for bird-watching and golfing at the Sandpiper Golf Course.