Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the Upper Hot Springs in Banff is a popular destination for visitors looking to relax and soak in the natural hot springs. The Upper Hot Springs offers visitors a perfect way to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate after an exhilarating day exploring the Canadian Rockies.
Soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters and benefit from the springs’ healing properties and explore the area’s other options as well. As with many of Banff’s popular destinations, tips and tricks exist to help you get the most from your visit. Here’s everything you need to know about the Upper Hot Springs in Banff.
What Is It Like?
The Upper Hot Springs are located in a beautiful setting, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. With all the vigorous outdoor activities Banff has to offer, the springs gives visitors a chance to slow down and soak in some serenity. If you visit Banff in the winter, you can capture some extra magic and visit the springs as the sun sets. As white flakes drift down around you and dust the craggy peaks, you’ll feel like you’re in an enchanted snow globe.
The Upper Hot Springs can be enjoyed at any time of year, however. The springs enjoy the title of “highest hot springs in Canada.” Located at a soaring elevation nearly 1,600 meters (over 5,000 feet), visitors can enjoy staggering views no matter the season. The close proximity to the Banff townsite provides a unique perspective over the rooftops. You can also catch fantastic views of Mount Rundle in the distance.
Where Does the Water Come From?
The hot springs themselves are fed by natural mineral water. Trickling down from elevations high atop Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle, the waters that feed the Upper Hot Springs actually begin their journey over three kilometers, almost two miles, below the earth’s crust. There they undergo geothermal heating before bubbling up to the surface. In the winter, temperatures can reach nearly 50°C (118°F). Spring temperatures actually drop. The mercury rises to about 30°C (84°F).
As the water makes its journey down the mountains, it collects a myriad of minerals which contribute to the well-known therapeutic and healing properties of natural hot springs. The particular combination of minerals found in the water at Upper Hot Springs has a unique signature, one found in no other hot spring in the world. When the hard bite of winter slows or stops the flow of water down the mountain, source water is supplemented so visitors can enjoy the springs year-round.
The Upper Hot Springs have been a popular destination for over a century, attracting visitors from all over the world. The facility has undergone many renovations over the years, but still retains its historic charm.
History of the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
The Upper Hot Springs in Banff National Park have been a popular destination for over a century, but the history of springs reaches much farther back. Before Canadian Pacific Railway workers “discovered” the hot springs in 1883, indigenous people frequented the springs as a source of healing.
Once the railway workers happened upon the springs, plans were enacted to develop the area and create Banff National Park. In 1886, the Canadian government set aside the area as a federal reserve. The Canadian government capitalized on the European popularity of natural hot springs and drew influence from the Europeans for the design. In 1887, they initiated construction of a log bath house and the Grand View Villa. Later, they forged passages to accommodate easier access for the growing crowds resulting from the railroad expansion in 1888. Motorways were developed in 1915 allowing travel to the site by vehicle.
The Canadian government declared the original bath house a Registered Federal Heritage building in 1931. The site has seen much development over the years, improvements and renovations which have made the Upper Hot Springs a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. The facility hosts over 300,000 visitors every year. Yet, even with all the changes, the site still retains its historic charm.
You can find the Banff Upper Hot Springs nestled near the summit of Sulphur Mountain, approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) on the southern side of Banff townsite. From Calgary, the springs rest about 129 km (80 miles) to the west, about ninety minutes away. Traveling from the Trans-Canada Highway, the destination lies 25 km (almost 16 miles) east of the Castle Mountain Junction.
If you are an avid hiker, Castle Mountain offers a rewarding hike up the face of the mountain. A great half-day hike, the clear, but steep, trail winds through alpine forest and opens to a broad vista with views to Lake Louise, Banff, and even as far as Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. Experienced climbers and scramblers can enjoy some pulse-pounding actions on the uncrowded slope before enjoying an evening soak in the Upper Hot Springs.
If you want to reach the Upper Hot Springs by car, you can simply plug 115.5606 °W 51.1506 °N into your vehicle’s navigation system, or use 1 Mountain Ave, Banff AB T1L 1K2. Traveling from Calgary, take the Trans-Canada Highway west. Take the exit toward Banff and continue on Mount Norquay Road Drive about twelve minutes until you reach Mountain Avenue.
If you are already in Banff, just follow Banff Avenue over the Bow River. At the intersection, turn left, then keep right for Mountain Avenue. From there, signs guide you up Sulphur Mountain. Access the parking lot from the first exit on the traffic circle. Follow the short sidewalk for entrance to the springs.
The parking lot can accommodate cars, RVs, and buses. Larger vehicles are required to park toward the rear of the lot. Do note, regardless of your vehicle’s size, spaces are limited. You may want to consider alternative transportation when planning your visit, such as taxi or public transit. Accessible parking can be found next to the bath house.
To avoid the hassle of trying to find parking at Banff Upper Hot Springs, try public transportation. ROAM Bus Route 1 provides an inexpensive, worry-free ride up Sulphur Mountain. The terminus drops you in the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. Look for the sidewalk to make a short climb to reach the springs.
For adults 19 years and older, one-way fares cost $2 CAD and day passes cost $5 CAD. Children from ages 13-18 travel for $1 CAD one-way, with day-passes priced at $2.50 CAD. Seniors aged 65 and over also travel for $1 CAD one-way, with day passes priced at $2.50 CAD. Children 12 and under travel free of charge.
You can purchase fares directly on ROAM buses using both U.S. and Canadian currency. Accepted tender ranges between a nickel and $20 bills. Note that pennies are not accepted in the fare boxes, and no change is offered. Alternatively, you can purchase fares at the ROAM Customer Service Center located in the Banff Visitor Center at 224 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B3.
Renting a bike offers fantastic benefits while you’re visiting Banff. Cycling to the Upper Hot Springs also avoids the headache of trying to find a spot to park your vehicle. Several locations in Banff rent bikes for reasonable rates.
Banff Cycle and Sport new, convenient downtown location opens on May 1, 2023, in the Cascade Shops at 317 Banff Avenue. Rentals start at $35 CAD per day for children’s bikes and go to $119 per day for a performance road bike. They also offer E-Bikes and attachments, such as bike trailers, pedal trailers, and pet trailers. All rentals include a helmet, a lock, and a tire changing kit with C02 canister.
Banff Adventures, located at 211 Bear Street, also offers a selection of bikes for rental. Half-day rates begin at $40 CAD and full-day rates, for rentals of three hours or more, go up to $89 CAD. They have standard, front suspension mountain bikes available for rental as well as E-Bikes, including fat tire E-Bikes. All rentals come with a helmet, a lock, and a trail map.
Cost to Visit the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
The cost of admission to the Upper Hot Springs varies depending on the season. You also have a variety of options available to you if you plan on visiting the springs multiple times, or would like to visit any of the other hot springs in the area, like Radium or Miette.
Single Entry Visits
Current prices for a single visit to the Upper Hot Springs for adults ages 18-64 is $16.50. Children’s tickets for those aged 3-17 years old cost $14.25. Adults 65 years and older also cost $14.25 CAD. Children under three enter free. One locker token is included with each separate ticket.
Families can purchase a family ticket for $53.00 which includes up to four people. Combinations include two adults and two youths, one adult and three youths, two seniors and two youths, one senior, one adult, and two youths, or four sibling youths where at least one of the siblings is aged 18 or older. Those families with additional children can purchase extra youth passes for $7.75 CAD each. One locker token is included with a family group ticket.
Group Single Entry Visits
If your group includes ten or more people, single-entry tickets drop in cost. Adults 18-64 cost $15 CAD each. Children ages 3-17 and seniors ages 65 and over cost $13.00 CAD each. Please note that groups are charged in a single transaction and must enter at the same time. One locker token is included with a group entry.
Three Visit Punch Cards
If you plan on visiting Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia or Miette Hot Springs, which is closer to Jasper, you may want to consider a three visit punch card. These passes can be redeemed at any Canadian Hot Springs facility within the five-day pass validation period. They are non-transferrable. Adult passes can be purchased for $45 CAD, children’s and senior passes for $38.75, family passes for $144.50, and additional children’s passes for $21.25. One locker token is included with each pass.
Four Visit Punch Cards
Can’t get enough? A four visit punch card costs $57 CAD for adults, $49.25 for children and seniors, $183.25 for families, and $27.25 for each additional children’s pass. One locker token is included with the purchase of each pass..
Mid-Week Five Visit Punch Cards
If winding down after each active day exploring the Canadian countryside is in your plans, you can cut down on costs (and crowds) with the purchase of a midweek, five-visit punch card. Adult passes cost $71.25 CAD. Children’s and senior passes cost $61.50 CAD. Family passes run $229 CAD with extra children’s tickets priced at $34 CAD each. The midweek passes are only valid Mondays through Thursdays beginning the Tuesday after Labor Day and the Thursday falling before June 30th. They are not valid on blackout dates.
Blackout dates for the 2023 midweek five-visit punch card include June 29, 2023 through September 4, 2023 and the Friday through Monday stretches around Thanksgiving, Family Day, Easter, and Remembrance Day weekends. Additional blackout dates during the Christmas and New Year’s seasons, and include December 22, 20023-January 2, 2024.
Keep in mind, you cannot pre purchase tickets to the Banff Upper Hot Springs or make reservations. Availability is first come, first served.
If needed, you can purchase additional locker tokens to accommodate your personal items for $1.25 CAD each. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of carrying towels up the mountain, towels can be rented for $2 CAD each. Forgot your swimsuit? No worries. You can rent one of those, too, for just $2 CAD.
Hours of Operation
The Upper Hot Springs are open year-round, with hours varying depending on the season. During the off-peak season (October-April), the hot springs are open from 10am-10pm daily with the last entry at 9:30 PM. During the peak season (May-September), the hot springs are open from 9am-11pm daily.
The springs are open on most Canadian holidays including Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday. Always check the website before you go as hours and availability are subject to change.
Banff Hot Springs Statistics
- The Upper Hot Springs are located at an elevation of 1,585 meters (5,200 feet) above sea level.
- The water temperature in the hot pool is kept at around 40°C (104°F).
- The water in the hot springs contains various minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and sulfate.
- The hot springs receive around 500,000 visitors each year.
- The hot pool can accommodate up to 200 people at a time.
- The Upper Hot Springs are one of nine natural hot springs in Banff National Park.
- The Upper Hot Springs are part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The facility includes a café, gift shop, changerooms, and lockers for visitors.
Amenities at the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
The Upper Hot Springs offers a range of amenities, including:
- A large hot pool that can accommodate up to 200 people at a time
- A cooler pool for those who prefer slightly cooler water
- A steam room
- A café offering snacks and drinks
- A gift shop selling souvenirs and bathrobes
- Change rooms and lockers
Best Time to Visit the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
The best time to visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs depends on your preferences and what you want to experience. Here are some factors to consider when deciding the best time to visit:
- Weather: The Upper Hot Springs are open year-round, but the weather conditions can vary greatly depending on the season. If you prefer milder temperatures and fewer crowds, consider visiting in the spring or fall. If you want to soak in the hot springs while surrounded by snow, visit in the winter.
- Crowds: Banff National Park is a popular destination, and the Upper Hot Springs can get quite crowded during peak tourist season in the summer months. If you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons in the spring or fall, or early in the morning or later in the evening.
Monday through Thursday offer the most ideal times to visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Tuesdays traditionally experience the lowest crowds. These weekdays all see thinner attendance between 10-12 and 5-9pm. Start to climb around noon peaking between 3-5pm. Numbers begin to fall again at 5pm.
Expect attendance to double on the weekends. If you plan on visiting the Banff Hot Springs on Saturday or Sunday, arrive before 11AM or after 8pm to avoid long wait times. Attendance peaks between 3-5pm.
- Special events: Banff hosts many special events throughout the year, such as the Banff Mountain Film Festival in November and the Banff Lake Louise Winterstart Festival in December. If you’re interested in attending one of these events, plan your visit accordingly.
- Cost: Admission to the Upper Hot Springs is the same year-round, but other costs such as accommodations and transportation can vary depending on the season. If you’re looking for a more affordable trip, consider visiting in the shoulder season.
Before Hitting the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
- Visit the Banff Gondola: Take a scenic ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain and enjoy panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies.
- Explore Banff Avenue: Stroll along Banff Avenue and browse the unique shops, boutiques, and galleries. There are also many restaurants and cafes to choose from.
- Hike to the Hoodoos: Take a short hike to the Hoodoos, unique rock formations that offer stunning views of the Bow River Valley.
- Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Learn about the history of the hot springs at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where the springs were first discovered.
- Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs Day Spa: After your soak in the hot springs, treat yourself to a spa treatment at the Banff Upper Hot Springs Day Spa.
- Take a scenic drive: Drive along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world. The route takes you past glaciers, turquoise lakes, and stunning mountain scenery.
- Visit Lake Louise: Head to nearby Lake Louise and enjoy a picnic or hike around the stunning blue-green lake.
- Go skiing or snowboarding: If you’re visiting in the winter, hit the slopes at one of Banff’s ski resorts, such as Mount Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort, or Banff Sunshine Village.
- Enjoy a meal at a local restaurant: Banff has many great restaurants serving a variety of cuisine, from local Canadian fare to international dishes.
Overall, there’s no shortage of things to do in Banff before or after visiting the Upper Hot Springs. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, relaxation, or great food, Banff has something to offer everyone.
“Absolutely breathtaking! The hot springs are a must-visit when you’re in Banff. The water is incredibly relaxing, and the view of the mountains is unbeatable. The facility is clean and well-maintained, and the staff are friendly and helpful. I can’t recommend this place enough!”
– Sarah S.
“This was the highlight of our trip to Banff. The hot springs are amazing, and the view is spectacular. We spent a couple of hours soaking in the water and taking in the scenery. The facilities are top-notch, and the staff are very friendly. I would definitely recommend this to anyone visiting Banff.”
– John L.
“The Upper Hot Springs in Banff are a must-see. The water is incredibly relaxing, and the surrounding scenery is stunning. The facilities are clean and well-maintained, and there’s a nice café and gift shop on site. It’s definitely worth the admission price, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Banff.”
– Amanda C.
“I was a bit skeptical about visiting the hot springs, but I’m so glad I did. The water is very therapeutic, and it was so relaxing to soak in it while surrounded by the beautiful mountains. The facility is very well-run, and the staff are friendly and helpful. I would definitely go back!”
– David T.
“The Upper Hot Springs are a bit pricey, but they’re definitely worth it. The water is incredibly soothing, and the view is amazing. The facility is clean and well-maintained, and there’s a nice steam room and cooler pool as well. I would highly recommend a visit!”
– Lisa R.
The Upper Hot Springs in Banff National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to relax and unwind in the heart of the Rockies. With a range of amenities, beautiful setting, and therapeutic water, it’s no wonder that the Upper Hot Springs has been a popular destination for over a century.