When you drive into the parking lot of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, all sorts of flashy advertising (signs, restaurants, swim apparel stores) will guide you, as if gently leading you by the hand, to the impressive paid pools located beyond a neat white fence. The surrounding loungers, umbrellas, and cold plunge pools will beckon you like a siren's song. But, if you can resist long enough to take a short walk up the hill behind the resort, you will find a small stone building inside which is located three ancient tubs, each in their own private room.
The tubs were built hundreds of years ago, dug into the rock by natives, who once led white men there to rest their bones after the long journey across the country to the new wild frontier. Although the water is hot, and crystal clear, don't expect much else from this hot spring. The old stone building has cracked walls and muddy floors, there are no lights, no bathrooms (unless you take a trip over to the hotel to use the public bathrooms there, which we did with no issue) and no drinking water. The sides of the tubs have turned green with a thin layer of algae, but to our surprise they weren’t slimy or gross to the touch. The pressure of the water pouring into and out of the tubs was strong enough to assure us that the turnover rate of these tubs must actually be quite high. And, quite frankly, if algae grosses you out, maybe you should just stick to the commercial hot springs. With the exception of a very few wild hot springs, most of them do have a little algae built up in them over time. Hey, they’re wild, and that’s the whole point. If you want them clean, clean ‘em yourself.
Since the little rooms in which the tubs are housed have only a doorway and a small window, the view isn't anything to write home about...unless you look out onto the beautiful valley view from your window while taking a minute to cool off from the tubs. Also, you'll want to check the temperature in each of the tubs first, they are not all the same due to the natural water flowing into one side of the tubs and out the other through a rudimentary trough system. It’s a Goldilocks system, really. When we were there one was too hot, the other was cool, and ours of course, was just right. I’m sure this changes over time, so don’t be discouraged if the first one you test is cold, it’s likely you’ll find one that suits you.
BUT, unlike the fancy-dancy pools at the resort, you can bring your own beer (or wine, or perhaps a little joint), and nobody will be the wiser...AND, you'll have the room all to yourself. The tub is only large enough to fit two lean to moderately sized adults with their knees bent. Only twice did we have curious tourists peak their heads into the room to see the tubs carved by indigenous hands, otherwise we were undisturbed.
When we enjoyed the tubs it was a cold and rainy September day, a terrible combination when you live in your van. However, they were the perfect conditions for enjoying a hot soak. We had an amazing evening here. Many hours were spent lounging in and around the tubs, sipping on local craft beer from Arrowhead Brewing in Invermere, taking small tokes off our joint of home grown and playing tunes from our phones. Without any lifeguards around to spoil the fun, we also brought our own snacks to cure our munchies. In the morning we returned early for another few hours to soak with our coffees and some fruit. It may have been miserable outside, but in our little hut, we were warm and cozy.
Cleanliness = 2
Amenities = 1
Exclusivity = 4
Scenery = 2
Community = 1
Camping = 2