On a long, isolated stretch of the Alaska Highway at historical mile 496, between Fort Nelson, BC, and Watson Lake, Yukon, there is a hidden oasis in the lush muskeg of the northern Rocky Mountains.
The Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park includes two beautiful hot springs pools and a Provincial campground amid the natural beauty of the spruce trees of the northern boreal forests. From the campground, a half-mile wander along boardwalks take you into the forest to the rustic hot springs.
Only the Alpha pool is open to public use; the Beta pool, another half mile hike from the Alpha pool, is now closed to human use and reserved exclusively for the wild bruin visitors.
Sharing the muskeg and warm waters with you are fourteen different species of orchid, ostrich ferns, yellow monkey flower, over 100 different species of birds, bears, moose, and other wildlife that make the warmth of the hot springs their home.
A species of lake chub fish, uniquely adapted to the warm waters, dart back and forth under the boardwalk access as you approach the hot springs pool.
The Liard Hot Springs is Canada’s second largest hot springs with temperatures in the Alpha Pool ranging from 107-125°F. Boardwalks serve as access routes, and visitors must stay on them at all times to avoid damaging the sensitive environment.
There is a visitor center at the gatehouse for information about the Provincial Park. During the summer months, a restaurant provides food service within the park, as well as the Liard Lodge located on the other side of the Alaskan Highway.
The area was historically called “Tropical Valley” and was used as a traditional cleansing location by the Athabaskan people. The Laird River was a popular trade route during the 1800s, and traders used the Hot Springs as a rest area much as they are used by travelers on the Alaskan Highway today.
Liard Hot Springs are unique in that they are not directly related to a river, even though the Liard River is nearby. It is believed that the Liard Hot Springs are related to a major fault system paralleling the valley floor. The naturally occurring groundwater seeps down through the sedimentary bedrock, where it is heated by subsurface geothermal sources.
The build-up of pressure from the heated water then forces it back up through the faults as hot springs. Calcium carbonate and Tufa limestone deposits form from when the minerals contained in the hot water are exposed to the oxygen in the air.
Both the campground and hot springs are open year round and can get very crowded during the summer months. Campsites cost $26(CN)/night during the summer months and $16(CN)/night in the off-season.
The campsite cost includes free access to the hot springs, which otherwise are $5(CN) for adults or $10(CN) for families for day-use. Campground reservations from May through September are recommended.
The Provincial campground has 53 dry campsites that can accommodate RVs and fifth wheels. Because of its remote location (about 3.5 hours drive from Fort Nelson), there is no internet or cell coverage, so plan on relaxing and enjoying the show that nature provides.
Additional camping can be found at the Liard Hot Springs Lodge and RV Park across the highway from the Provincial Park and campground, or about 50 minutes south at Muncho Lake Provincial Park..