Traditionally, First Nations people came to the area now known as Harrison Hot Springs for healing and spirituality, calling the earth-heated waters Waum Chuck. In 1886, Joseph Armstrong commercialized the healing waters, opening a modern-era holiday resort called the St. Alice Hotel on 40 acres of land on the lake's south side.
Today, Harrison Hot Springs retains its resort village atmosphere. A waterfront promenade connects the beach with hotels. Mountains and a teal-hued Harrison Lake serve as a stunning backdrop.
The town's famed sulfuric hot springs are located on the west lakeshore. A long soak in a mineral pool is a sublime way to spend an evening, but the small lakeside village offers lots more to do.
Harrison Hot Springs Visitor Info:
Address: 499 Hot Springs Rd., Harrison Hot Springs
Things to Do in Harrison Hot Springs:
1. Soak in Hot Springs Pools
Walk west along the lake from Harrison Hot Springs, and you'll find the source of the village's allure: the hot springs. With a subtle sulfur smell and wafting steam, the natural hot springs are walled in and the naturally heated water is pumped to public and hotel pools.
The public mineral pool is located on the town's main street. There is one pool and, heated to about 38˚C (100˚F), it is a soothing spot to soak. An adult day pass costs $9.
Far more therapeutic for the senses, however, are the five pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa. The mineral water is sourced from the same springs (called Potash and Sulpher) as the public pool. But the resort pools simply offer more variety. The three outdoor pools all have varying temperatures, and mature cedar trees, sun loungers, and a pool bar add a retreat-like atmosphere. Indoors, the two pools are adjacent to saunas and the hotel spa.
If you're seeking an untamed experience, there are wilderness pools situated north along the lake. I've not visited these natural pools, but a staff member at the visitor center provided me with a map on request. Reportedly, it's a couple of hours over forestry roads to reach the wilderness hot springs.
2. Cool Off on Harrison Lake
About 60 km (37 miles) long, Harrison Lake is glacial fed and a hot-spot for fishing and boating. Rent a Seadoo, powerboat, or bumper boat to explore the lake, or join a guided kayak excursion.
In summer, there's a huge inflatable water park just in front of Harrison Hot Springs Resort. It's impossible to miss the blue, yellow, and green water jungle gym, where daring folk jump off platforms, slip down slides, and climb towers -- definitely a favorite with older kids and young adults.
The Harrison Lake fishing waters offer particularly rich rewards to anglers. All five species of salmon spawn in the surrounding rivers. Giant sturgeon, which can live for 200 years and can reach over 4.2 meters (13 feet) in length, are a mammoth lake catch.
3. Enjoy the Beach
Harrison Lake has a wide sandy beach at its southern end. While the lake can be cool, a sand bank creates a water lagoon popular with families. Both the main beach and lagoon area are near washrooms, a children's playground, and the waterfront promenade.
For more freshwater swimming, visit the much smaller Hicks and Deer lakes in Sasquatch Provincial Park.
4. Walk, Hike, and Ski
In contrast to the flat waterfront stroll in the village, the area around Harrison Hot Springs is wilderness. A nice balance between groomed trails and the mountains is Sasquatch Provincial Park, to the east of the lake. There are campsites, trails, and small swimming lakes in the park.
Mt. Cheam, the rocky mountain to the south, lures serious hikers with its wide-open viewpoints and moderately steep ascent. Bagging the peak is a long day hike.
Come winter, the slopes at Hemlock Valley Resort attract low-key skiers and snowboarders. Note that you'll need chains to travel on the access road to the ski hill during winter. The resort is not open to summer hiking.
5. Simply Relax
Despite all there is to do, Harrison never loses its chilled out feel. Most days end with a long and quiet soak in the hot springs.
Besides the mineral pools, a number of spas offer additional relaxation through massages, facials, and intensive pampering. The Healing Springs Spa at Harrison Hot Springs Resort has a varied spa menu -- everything from quick 30-minute treatments to full-day spa packages. The signature treat here is a soak in untreated hot springs mineral water. The waters are simply cooled from the source, meaning the water doesn't have the added chlorine of the public and hotel pools.
Harrison Beach Hotel also has its Lake Haven Spa, offering massages, facials, and nail services.
A string of restaurants line Esplanade Avenue, across from Harrison Lake. Sushi, fish and chips, and German cuisine are all on-offer. In summer, those Harrison Hot Springs restaurants with patios are particularly popular.
The Copper Room at Harrison Hot Springs Resort is a special-occasion dining room, with live music nightly. The timeless atmosphere builds on the restaurant's long history as a resort nightspot.
For a casual meal, try the Old Settler Pub alongside the Miami River or Morgan's at Harrison Beach Hotel.
7. Gardens and Farms
Have a love of gardens? Then head straight to the manicured 32 acres at Minter Gardens, located close to Highway 1. The quiet grounds are filled with stunning arbors, flowerbeds, and water features.
When driving to Harrison Hot Springs you'll pass through Fraser Valley farm country -- the region's main agricultural area. Watch for roadside farm stands like Sparkes Corn Barn and Canadian Hazelnut, both en-route to Harrison. They offer couldn't-be-more-local produce for a tasty souvenir or impromptu picnic.