Banff National Park is an incredibly popular vacation destination all year, but this Southern California gal was invited to have a few days’ worth of outdoor adventure in wintertime. Yes, that’s me, the one who puts on a sweater when the temperature dips below 60F. An outdoor adventure of any sort is almost impossible to pass up, though, and Banff National Park’s vast, raw beauty is legendary. I traveled with Emily Kaufman for a girlfriend getaway, adventure style, to Alberta, Canada and was instantly enchanted. First on our agenda was to try something new: relaxing in Banff Upper Hot Springs in Banff National Park. In winter. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are natural, with some filtering agents; the water is clear and fluctuates between 98F and 104F. So, how did two thin-blooded Los Angeles natives do? Take a look for yourself.
We had a great time! I ended up running (barefoot, on ice) back inside to put my camera away and swim around. My friend and I noticed we had ice forming in our hair. We laughed at the sight of toddlers and kids splashing around next to romantic couples who seemed oblivious to everyone around them. Some people ran into the hot springs, stayed for a minute, and ran back inside, while those lovey-dovey couples were there before we arrived and, for all I know, still there now.
Banff Upper Hot Springs was first discovered by Canadians in 1884 (although the First Nations people knew about it well before this), and it was one of the area’s first tourist attractions. It remains popular to this day, as can be seen in the video. The historic bathhouse opened in 1932, and has its own spa and gift shop. There’s also a restaurant — but we didn’t buy anything or eat there. This wasn’t a shopping vacation, this was an adventurous girlfriend getaway, and we took it seriously…until that night, when we curled up with chocolate, wine, and the 84th annual Academy Awards. After all, nothing beats following a new outdoor travel experience like the comforts of friendship and mindless television.
Banff Upper Hot Springs is open year-round, with different hours of operation depending on the season. From October to May, the hours are 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM Sunday to Thursday, and 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM Friday and Saturday. From May to October, Banff Upper Hot Springs is open every day from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Entrance fees are $7.30 (CAD) for adults 18-64 yrs, kids 3-17 are $6.30, under 3 year old tots and babies have free admission, and seniors over 65 yrs are $6.30. There are small add-on fees: a dollar for a locker, $1.90 for a towel, and $1.90 for a bathing suit. However, most people bring their own suits and towels.
There were plenty of lovebirds and toddlers enjoying themselves here: Banff Upper Hot Springs is clearly a draw for romantic vacations and family travel alike. But for a different type of girlfriend getaway, one less about shopping and spa treatments, and more about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, I recommend Banff Upper Hot Springs. A winter dip into these natural hot springs in Alberta, Canada, provides the perfect amount of thrill and excitement to be part of an outdoor adventure-themed trip for your friends.