The “Hot Springs Circle Route” in British Columbia is a 500-mile adventure through some of Canada’s most gorgeous countryside in the Kootenay Rockies region.
We did it last April in a CanaDream RV, which proved to be a great experience. The Class C RV was super comfortable and warm, which was nice during the early spring. Best of all, it allowed us to camp in some great spots along the way.
When we weren’t soaking in British Columbia’s hot springs, we explored some very interesting towns, met lots of friendly Canadians and hiked amid the beautiful mountain scenery.
Here’s a look at four excellent spots for full-service RV camping along the route:
1. Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke
Just outside of Revy, as everyone calls it, is this clean and scenic full-service campground. The heavy winter snows were still melting, but the campground was up and running to a hardy group of travelers. Info: williamsonlakecampground.com
2. Nakusp Hot Springs Campground
High in the mountains about 25 minutes away from the town of Nakusp, British Columbia, this campground felt very remote. We were the only people camping at the snowy site, which offered easy walking-distance access to the beautiful Nakusp Hot Springs. Info: www.nakusphotsprings.com
This resort is ginormous and has its own set of hiking trails to go along with the expansive pool. Just down the road about 30 minutes is another great place to soak — Radium Hot Springs. Info: www.fairmonthotsprings.com
Leslie says: I’m kinda shocked to discover I really love the challenge of cooking in a tiny kitchen. On a recent hot springs tour around British Columbia, I used the excellent setup in our CanaDreamClass C RV to grill steak, stir smoked salmon into risotto, and, my biggest triumph yet, making pizza!
Prepping is Key
Before we hit the road, I spent a few hours in my home kitchen, getting some dishes dialed in. Even when you’re traveling, though, that’s such an essential part of putting together meals in a flash. Plastic containers and ziplock baggies are perfect for keeping ingredients sorted. Even if it seems obvi, label and date everything. A little trick I picked up years ago, working as an apprentice in Tom Douglas restaurants.
Making Some Dough
Adapted from my favorite pizza dough recipe from the awesome Sara Moulton, I added the dry ingredients to a plastic bag and planned on finishing the dough on Pizza Day. That special dinner came at the end of a long day on the road and a relaxing soak at Fairmont Hot Springs, with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The kind of breathtaking, Instagram-worthy setting that reinforces this kinda crazy journey we’re taking. Before hitting the pool, I added water and some olive oil and put the wet dough in a sealed container, covered in the filtered afternoon sun. Two hours later, it had doubled, and was ready to go.
Crank Up The Heat
A blazing fire is best for creating the pleasantly blistered on the bottom, yet still soft inside crust and we had hoped to try this over bunch of crackling wood, but the weather turned drizzly. So, I tried the next best thing and heat my Lodge Cast Iron grill pan in the teeny oven. Ten minutes in, the smoke detector started shrieking. Not an uncommon experience when I’m in the kitchen. Johnny removed the battery — temporarily — and we were back in business.
Getting the Dough in the Red Hot Pan
This took some team work, and while my first attempt to fill up the skillet wasn’t spot on, it convinced me to go smaller on the second round. While Johnny propped open the oven door, I transferred the dough from one of those floppy cutting boards. There were many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked. I added the toppings — fresh mozzarella, pesto, chopped cherry tomatoes — after about 10 minutes, and let it cook another five. Probably could have gone a little longer.
The Take Aways
Our Grand Tour has been evolving towards a pretty low key approach to breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a big deal. It’s the evening’s entertainment — followed by a round of cribbage (we’re all tied up in this epic battle!) — so, I put a lot of thought into meal planning. Going forward, I’m going to focus on recipes from some of my fave cookbooks. First up, next trip: PNW Veg by my friend, Kim O’Donnel.
You think reds when it comes to pizza, but instead I poured my current obsession, an Oregon Pinot blanc from Elk Cove Vineyards. I love how this crisp, fruity white has the backbone to stand up to strong flavors like the pesto. It balanced the richness of the creamy cheese and brightened up the dreary spring evening in beautiful Canadian mountains. Of course, because we’re in British Columbia, we followed that up with a glass of merlot from Tinhorn Creek.
Do we look relaxed? Because we just spent a week exploring the hot springs of British Columbia, a trip that included five long soaks, 500 miles in a Class C RV, gobs of eye-dropping views and one surprising conclusion: It is possible to overdo it on the hot springs circuit. Here’s how to pace yourself.
Ainsworth Hot Springs north of Nelson, B.C.
Fairmont Hot Springs near Invermere, B.C.
Halcyon Hot Springs on Upper Arrow Lake, B.C.
Nakusp Hot Springs, in the Selkirk Mountains of B.C.
Don’t dip your toe in the hot springs after a big meal. The experience is all about slowing down and speeding up your blood flow, so adding digestion to the picture complicates the healthy effects. It’s much better to have a meal, post soak. We loved lunch at Kingfisher, the impressive restaurant at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort.
Get Hot, Then Plunge
Again, the idea is to get the blood pumping while chilling in those mineral infused waters coming from deep in the earth. We follow a routine prescribed by those in the know at the awesome Scandinave Spa near Whistler: 20 minutes in the hot pool, followed by a cold plunge, followed by a break in the warm pool or, as we saw many doing, a snooze in the lounge chair.
Drink Lots of Water
Bring a bottle of cold H20 with you to sip at a steady pace, pool side. It’s essential. We add a packet of Emergen-C to boost the healthy effects. We actually witnessed at least one person who didn’t hydrate practically pass out after too much time soaking and not enough water. Be safe out there!
Be Prepared to Chat
One of the best parts of visiting hot springs is that you meet all sorts of interesting people from around the world. We heard intriguing restaurant recommendations, tips for avoiding traffic and suggestions about off-the-grid hot springs to discover. The group dynamic was also fun when the fearless cold plungers took the frigid challenge. Everyone cheered.
Chill Out Afterwards
We had to jump in our big rig and drive to a destination a couple of times, and the stress of being on the road wiped out the good we did in the pool. If possible, stay put and mellow out in place. Fairmont Hot Springs’ nearby RV campground made that mission possible.
We’ve been on an epic road trip around British Columbia, starting with a couple days in Vancouver. This gorgeous city is so much fun to explore, whether it’s on foot, or an itty-bitty ferry. Here’s some of our favorite fun things to do.
Jump on Board a Water Taxi
These small boats stop at spots along False Creek, the main waterway on the south side of town. Ride it the full length for about $3, an incredible deal, before getting out at Granville Island. There, walk through the bustling marketplace. There are loads of cafes to get a meal, drink or coffee. Or, go DIY and score some outstanding charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Company before heading outside for a picnic. Talented buskers entertain the crowds on sunny days.
Walk the Sea Wall at Stanley Park
Take the roughly 4-mile perimeter trail around the premier park that helps define the urban area’s embrace of natural beauty. You’ll see snow-capped mountains in the distance and lots of ship traffic on the busy commercial gateway to the Pacific, all while sharing the path with runners, cyclists and skaters. Plan on spending some time in the English Beach area on the end of your hike. The Sylvia Hotel‘s bar is excellent for happy hour or a casual meal. Try the fried squid and the signature cocktail, a delicious gin-based drink called The Vancouver.
Eat Southern Fried Chicken in Chinatown
Juke nails the crunchy, seasoned just right bird at spot on the edge of Chinatown. The vibe is fast food, order at the counter, but the results are shockingly sophisticated. Definitely drizzle some housemade hot honey over the golden pieces of perfect poultry.
Drink a Toast to Gassy Jack
Head upstairs to The Diamond, a retro cool bar with a view of Gastown’s heart, Maple Tree Square. The soaring windows look down and a statute of one of the city’s founders, John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack. Trust the friendly staff to make suggestions on beverage and food, but, if you’re adventurous, order the brandade. This sassy dip is made with potatoes and salt cod, which might sound strange, but it’s wonderful.
Go Downtown and Get a View
Canada Place, the iconic sailing-ship-themed convention center and gathering place on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, is as striking up close as it is from afar. Take a walk around it. While you’re there, consider going on the Fly Over Canada ride. It’s a bit cheesy, but undeniably fun. You’ll watch a beautiful big-screen view of the Canada’s beauty while hanging over a dark abyss. For another nice city view, ascend Vancouver Lookout at nearby Harbour Centre.
Eat a Boatload of Sushi
There are about a million sushi options in the city, which means the competition’s stiff. We checked in with the super helpful concierge at the swank hotel where we were staying — The Douglas — and he recommended a few spots within walking distance. We were so impressed by the depth of fish selection and pristine quality at Bistro Sakana in the buzzy Yaletown neighborhood, and its gracious staff. It was also pretty darned affordable, with dinner for two ringing up at under $70, Canadian.
Start the Day Brunching
Medina Cafe is crazy popular for the morning/midday meal, so if you don’t arrive early, you’re going to have to wait. But you’ll be in good company. Your patience will be rewarded by inventive global twists on brunch like the egg-topped paella, cassoulet and spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs. The legendary Belgian-style waffles are a fine way to start a meal, or end it.