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Soak Away Your Worries
at Liard River Hot Springs

by Murray Lundberg

Updated January 4, 2006

I just noticed that this article is badly out of date - it will be updated in the next few days (Feb. 28, 2015)
The major changes are that there is now only one pool (Beta Pool was closed), and only one lodge (Liard River Lodge was closed).

    If you drive the Alaska Highway and don't spend some time in the pools at Liard River Hot Springs, you've missed one of Mother Nature's most sublime gifts to Northerners. Wonderful in the summer, the springs are beautiful beyond description in the winter. Three hours north of Fort Nelson, B.C., at Historic Mile 497 (now km 765), the hot springs should be a red-circled item on your circle tour map.

Soaking away your worries at Liard Hot Springs Liard Hot Springs in the fall.
Click to enlarge

    The water in the 2 pools at Liard remains at close to 105-110 degrees year-round (although there are some hotter spots). Both large pools have wooden decks part way around them, and changing rooms are just a couple of steps from the water. Human nature being what it is, Alpha Pool, the one closest to the parking lot, gets by far the greatest use - in July, it can be far too crowded for me. But if you run into that problem, walk the extra 1/2-mile to Beta Pool, and you'll have few, if any, neighbours. On your way up to Beta Pool, be sure and take the short side trail to see the Hanging Gardens, a series of terraces with lush vegetation.

    At the Beta Pool, rumour has it ( ) that despite signs stating that bathing suits must be worn, clothing is optional at times. But whichever pool you visit, and regardless of how long you stay, Liard will probably make it into your trip diary too.

The beauty of Liard Hot Springs at Christmas Liard Hot Springs makes a unique Christmas vacation spot.
Click to enlarge

    Ever since the area first became heavily used, during the construction of the highway, this region has been of significant importance in terms of land-use planning. Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park now provides 53 campsites, picnic tables, toilets and drinking water. The Liard River Corridor, of which the springs are a focal point, is an area of 90,450 hectares (223,000 acres) that has been recognized for the importance of its archaeological sites, fossils, old growth spruce, high population of grizzly and wood bison, and sites which show evidence of Native and fur trading activities dating back to the early 1800s.

    There are two lodges close to the hot springs, though only one is open in the winter. Across the highway from the springs is the Liard Hotsprings Lodge (formerly Trapper Ray's) - this log structure has fuel, 12 rooms in the lodge and 25 RV sites, and is open year-round (phone 250-776-7349). The lodge used to be well-known mostly due to Ray's campaign to save the Northern Woolly Spiders (Undertoilet Seaterus) - I'm no "spiderologist", but the ones pinned to the wall looked rather like cotton balls with pipe-cleaner legs! Buying a pin was said to help set up a Wooly Spider Refuge nearby. A half-mile south is Liard River Lodge, one of the original highway lodges, located on a spectacular bluff above the river. They have full services, from gas and tire repairs to a forested campground, and the food is excellent (phone 250-776-7341).

    For brief notes on what else to expect along the Alaska Highway, The Milepost has posted a mile-by-mile guide that provides an introduction to the route. We at ExploreNorth have posted a mile-by-mile photo album with over 100 photos of the highway shot in all seasons. As other questions come up, feel free to drop me a line, and I'll help if I can.

Linked below are photojournals and a video from some of my recent visits to the hot springs: