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#GetOutside: Sloquet Hot Springs

I'm intending for #GetOutside to be a recurring series of posts about my ventures into the wilderness. Sloquet Hot Springs, near Pemberton, BC, is this week's instalment.

The hot springs at Sloquet are simply marvellous. They're also very remote; about five hours' drive from Vancouver, much of it on unpaved road through the middle of nowhere.

No gas stations. No cell service.

(My friend Arthur somehow drove the very rough, very 85km gravel leg in his Acura RSX in the dark, but I would definitely recommend a vehicle with high ground clearance.)

My first visit to Sloquet came after the Black Tusk ascent, when I promised my friends Jay and Stan a campfire and hot springs in penance for the no-fire policy in Garibaldi Park.

We were aiming for Keyhole Hot Springs on the other side of Pemberton, but that fell through spectacularly; after making the summit of the Tusk, returning to our campground and packing up our gear, we continued our descent to the Garibaldi parking area, reaching it at dusk, in the rain.

From there, we drove to Pemberton in the gloomy black, stopped for fuel and, ugh, McDonald's for dinner, then set out to drive the next hour-plus through the backcountry to the Keyhole springs.

We made it about 95% of the way there when, at 11pm in the middle of the woods, we came upon a manned checkpoint and a dude stepped out and told us we could go no further.

Rockslides, he said.


So we bombed it back to Pemberton, found a quick campsite in the rain and slept the whole long, eventful day off. And then next morning, I took them to Sloquet.

Many hot springs in BC are "developed" to a certain extent. People bring in old bathtubs and hot tubs and hose, and the springs take on the look of a redneck country club.

Sloquet has some improvements; there's a place to hang your stuff, for instance, and the pools have been built up with rocks, but there are no cracked hot tubs here. The illusion, if you squint, is all natural.

There's a campground about 150m up a trail from the springs. It has maybe fifteen spots, and they do fill up.

There are sometimes caretakers from the nearby reserve who'll sell you firewood and take an admission fee. I feel like it was $20 per carload of people or something equally as reasonable, but obviously bring cash.

The other thing about the springs is that dogs are allowed on the campground, but not at the springs themselves. So when I went back with Lucy last fall, she stayed in the tent and napped while we soaked.

The springs themselves are glorious, and they usually attract a chill, kind of hippy crowd. There's plenty of space to do your own thing, but the people who make the trek to Sloquet are usually social, and you'll probably find yourself making new friends pretty quick.

At night, someone often lights tea lamps around the perimeter of the pools, and with the steam coming off the water and the flicker of candlelight, it's like a primeval utopia, so peaceful and relaxing.

And when peaceful and relaxing gets old, there's the Sloquet river raging right beside the springs! I like to alternate long hot soaks with plunges in the icy river to cool off. About a minute usually does the trick, and then I'm ready for another bath :-)

I've only ever gone to Sloquet in the fall; I feel like shoulder seasons are the best time to go, though I've heard of people somehow getting through in the winter, too. My nightmare would be to roll into the campground and find it full, as there aren't really any feasible options nearby offsite, and it's a hell of a drive to get there!

Definitely a worthwhile trip, though. The number of pristine, accessible hot springs spots in southwestern BC seems to be dropping year by year, and Sloquet is undoubtedly one of the best.

Pick a weekend (or better yet, go during the week), pack some beers along, and I'll see you there!

(Bathing suits optional.)

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