Over 150 years ago a group of adventurous pioneers capsized their boat in the rough waters of Lake Harrison, British Columbia. Instead of meeting their frigid demise, these settlers stumbled on the warm spring water that is now known as Harrison Hot Springs. Since then, this discovery has been treating visitors to a relaxing retreat and on this day, a couple modern adventure seekers. Instead of paddling my way down the Harrison River in a hollowed out tree I was off to discover adventures in Harrison Hot Springs by bus with BC Transit and their #ExploreBCbyBus campaign. In the process, I found an easily accessible escape with plenty of outdoor activities to keep any explorer entertained.
I was a little skeptical at first about taking the bus to Harrison Hot Springs. It didn’t take long to realize that this was indeed, a smart idea. Besides being an incredibly walkable town, not having to worry about parking was a treat. “Are you guys leaving?” was a common question asked anytime we passed by parked vehicles in town. The look of frustration and disappointment in the eyes of the drivers when notified that we didn’t drive, was priceless. What I should’ve said is “save yourself the stress and park in nearby Agassiz or Chilliwack like we did.” Taking the bus was easy, affordable, and convenient.
Also good to note, I could’ve gone all the way from Vancouver by taking the 66 Fraser Valley Express bus from Langley through Abbotsford to Chilliwack, then hopping on the #11 bus. Next time.
Welcome to Sasquatch Country
What’s more adventurous than seeking out the 7-foot hairy legend that is Sasquatch? Little did I know before my arrival, Harrison Lake is Sasquatch country. This became clear with Big Foot everything throughout town and in the local shops. From wooden carvings to chalk outlines of big feet on sidewalks, you can find it in Harrison Hot Springs. Then there is Sasquatch Days, a festive weekend of canoe races, entertainment, and bbq salmon. But what of the actual beast itself?? Although there is a full-on Sasquatch Tour (I’ve heard it’s amazing), we opted to rent bikes from the Harrison Beach Hotel and headed out on our own adventure. Where better to start than the nearby Sasquatch Provincial Park?
The scenic bike ride along the shores of Lake Harrison definitely got the blood pumping, but not because we stumbled on Big Foot. This short ride took us about 25 minutes and gave us a great view of the lake and its surrounding mountains. We took to the wooded trails of Sasquatch Park but sadly don’t even have a blurry photo to debate over whether the image is a hoax or real. Our disappointment quickly faded upon arriving at Green Point, a day use area that was worth the exertion and then some. With views like this it left us questioning, “Sasquatch who?”
Strolling through the village it was easy to see that this resort town is an ideal getaway for the vacationing family searching for adventures in Harrison Hot Springs. With its sandy lagoon and beaches as well as attractions like tandem bike rentals and a massive waterpark, it’s easy to see why. After our bike ride we wanted to jump in on the water park but felt we may be a touch old. Instead, we blamed the cloud coverage and cold temperatures and headed to the hot springs pool where we debated whether we should start families so we could partake in the waterpark fun.
Yes. It looks that awesome.
Putting the “Hot Springs” in Harrison
Dejected from our unsuccessful Sasquatch hunt and aging ourselves out of the waterpark, we opted to soak it off at the Harrison pool. This public pool is fed by the area’s natural spring water and was key to a quick recovery from the surprisingly tough (for this out-of-shape traveler at least) bike ride.
Although the public pool itself isn’t much to write home about, the hot springs at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel and Resort are. This historic hotel helped put the town on the map and has been inviting guests to its outdoor pools for nearly a century. The key to that sentence is “guests” as you have to be staying at the hotel to enjoy all of this.
Where the Rivers Meet
Our adventures in Harrison Hot Springs turned to the water as to truly appreciate the beauty of Harrison Lake you need to get out on it. Thanks to Harrison Eco Tours, I did just that. For $69 per person, you can book a spot on a scenic cruise down the Harrison River. Aside from the sunshine and green mountains that line the river, there’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy along the way. The area known as Harrison Mills is one of the best places in the world to spot a bald eagle. Between late fall and winter, there are thousands of eagles feeding on the salmon heavy rivers. Although I was visiting during eagle off-season, I did spot a couple of local ones that can’t be bothered to move on with the fish.
Other wildlife spotted on this eco-tour included nesting osprey and, to my surprise, seals that have adapted to the super fresh waters of the Harrison River. Much like the bald eagles, these seals follow the salmon up river. It was a pretty incredible sight to see a pair of these familiar bulbous eyes poking out of the water over 100 kilometers from the ocean.
Our tour concluded with a visit to where the Harrison and Fraser rivers meet. Much like the interesting mix of the Danube and Inn rivers I found in Passau Germany, the line is very distinct. The clear blue waters of the Harrison hit a wall of muddy-green that is the mighty Fraser. The result is a sight to see.
Where to Eat
After our boat tour our adventures in Harrison Hot Springs shifted from searching for eagles and Sasquatches to the towns best eats. There are several tourist restaurants but only a couple caught my eye. Even though it does not come with a side of potato salad, something I came to realize is key to enjoying schnitzel in Vienna, the schnitzel at The Black Forest is not to be missed. There you can order up this Austrian specialty in a variety of ways or go all out with pork hocks and bratwurst. Walking off this heavy meal along one of the shores beautiful paths is recommended.
For a filling lunch, head to J&J Cup Bop. No need for directions, just follow the sound of the blaring K-pop. There you will find a Korean fusion shack selling bowls of vegetable and meat with big flavors. The meal is made better by today’s biggest Korean boy bands crackling over an overpowered sound system. Uniquely Canadian it is not, but delicious it is.
For drinks and pub food, or if you are just craving some Canadiana, make your way to the Old Settlers Pub. There you will find a long list of beers on tap in a cabin-like setting.
Choose your Adventure
Although we weren’t the first to discover a natural hot spring, or get a picture of the elusive Sasquatch, we did find incredible British Columbia beauty and adventures in Harrison Hot Springs that are easily accessible to all. Whether your adventure is hiking one the many trails in the provincial parks, cruising the lake on a jet ski, or just relaxing in healing waters, it’s good to know that Harrison Hot Springs is just a short bus ride away.
Want to plan your own #ExploreBCbyBus trip?
Visit www.explorebcbybus.com for family fun or adventure-seeker day trip itineraries. Plus, if you share how you’re using BC Transit for your adventures this summer on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #ExploreBCbyBus, you’ll be entered to win weekly prizes of month-long bus passes, and a Grand Prize of two year-long bus passes and a stay at the Squamish Outdoor Centre, including whitewater rafting! All details can be found at www.explorebcbybus.com.