Scenic Banff and the surrounding mountains provide some of the most beautiful and serene places on earth. The crystal blue skies and the abundance of nature make the Canadian Rockies a perfect place to visit any time of year. One of the must-do things when visiting Banff is Hot Springs.
CP Rail’s Discovery of Thermal Waters
Around 1883 while surveying the land to plan for the building of the train line, Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled across the Cave and Basin hot springs at the foot of Sulphur Mountain. Astonished by the hot water rising out of the ground, their discovery ultimately led to the creation of Canada’s first National Park.
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Before the discovery by the CP Rail workers, these sacred mineral springs were used by the indigenous people in the region for the healing properties of the warm waters.
Beginning of Tourism & Upper Hot Springs
Soon after CP Rail announced the discovery of the hot springs, there was an influx of European visitors, many of which were arriving in Canada for the very first time. As interest grew, this sparked a need for accommodation. Near the top of Sulphur Mountain, you will find the spot where the first government facility was built. The Grandview Villa was erected with a series of thermal baths and a villa to provide the tourists with a place to stay during their visit. Today, the Rimrock Resort occupies that spot.
Unfortunately, a fire broke out destroying the facility in 1901. Due to the popularity of the area, it was quickly rebuilt. In 1915 the first road to the upper hot springs was opened to the public, allowing motorists to drive up the winding pathway to reach the springs.
Another fire raised the Grandview to the ground in 1931. The Upper Hot Springs as it is known today, is built just uphill from the Rimrock Resort and opened on Canada Day (July 1st), 1932.
Cave and Basin
At the location of the cave discovered by the CP rail workers in 1883, the Cave & Basin pools were open for bathing to the public until 1975. They were then closed for renovations and ultimately closed permanently in 1992. The building and all the structures surrounding the cave and basin were declared a heritage site in 1981 because of its historical, architectural, and environmental value.
The stunning façade and pavilion blend beautifully into the natural landscape. Multiple trails leading upwards around the Cave and Basin are lined with rock and bubbling thermal waters rising from the depths of the earth. The surrounding area is protected through environmental controls to preserve local species like the Banff springs snail that are on the endangered species list.
The heritage site is now a visitor attraction with a great display history of the Banff hot springs. Perhaps the most exciting part is that you can still access the ‘cave’ the CP rail workers discovered. The neighbouring boardwalks and interpretive trails provide the opportunity to enjoy additional flora and fauna of the Park, along with stunning views of the Bow River and surrounding peaks.
Hot Springs Today
The Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain that is enjoyed by millions of tourists every year. The soothing mineral waters have been a source of relaxation and healing for over 135 years, remaining one of the top tourist attractions in the Banff region.
There is now a café, gift shop and, if the waters themselves weren’t rejuvenating enough, visitors can also treat themselves to a massage in the onsite spa. No visit to Banff is complete without a soak in the waters and the location is a great gateway to the summit of Sulphur Mountain – either by the switchback trail, or the Banff Gondola.