Across North America, Day 18: Miette Hot Springs

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December 15, 2015

Miette hot springs are the hottest springs in the Rockies.

The water comes from the source at 54˚C, about a kilometre and a half below the ground. The pools in the proper hot spring building are much safer to swim in at 39˚C.

[white_box]Fun Fact: Scientists have shown the mountain range that Miette is a part of used to be an underwater reef that eventually was pushed above the surface and up to become mountains. Today they sit more than 1,800m above sea level. Neat![/white_box]

Before hitting the springs, there are lots of hiking choices you should investigate! All the trails can be reached from the main parking lot.

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There’s the short, sweet and steep Sulphur Skyline Trail (8km, ~3hrs, 700m elevation) which gives you the best view of the surrounding valley.

Then there’s the Utopia Trail. It’s a lot flatter (6km, ~2hrs) and it follows the hot springs creek past its sources and an abandoned Aquacourt. This is the one we took.

Even as you’re starting off on the trail, there’s a shallow stream burbling beside you. It’s warm, and not just because it’s sunny.

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The water in the stream is heated by a hot spring source. The further we walked down the trail, the hotter the water got. Eventually, I couldn’t step in it any more. It was uncomfortably hot. Almost near the source!

The Abandoned Aquacourt is right on the trail. The Miette Aquacourt opened in 1938 and closed 46 years later in 1984.

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Millions of people bathed here in its time.

It eventually closed because its crumbling concrete base and the surrounding hillside began to collapse. In its later days, it also suffered from overcrowding, ageing equipment and poor access.

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You don’t need a map to find the spring’s source either. Just follow the smell of sulphur.

The water from the source mixes a few metres down with a higher water source, cooling it down so it’s not dangerously hot. The water geysers up hot enough to scald you.
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It’s also pretty smelly. That’s sulphur,

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Properly hiked, we returned to the Miette main building near the parking lot for a soak in the hot springs.

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First thing’s first: historic bathing suit rental.

Surprisingly affordable at only $2! You have to leave a valid ID as insurance with the check in person, lest you run away with a suit.

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Also: would not recommend these historic bathing suits if you have a long torso. I’m about 5’8″ with a long torso and I felt like it kept trying to give me a wedgie. Historics were fun and looked awesome, but next time I’d bring a two-piece.

Something I’d really like to try is a hot spring in the rain. My aunt was telling me that when it rains the cold water hits the hot water and becomes a mist that floats over the pool.

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Sounds incredibly relaxing.

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The spring made me really thirsty. You can buy water from the snack shop right there, but watch out for that. Yes, you’re in the water, but you can still get dehydrated.

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On the way back from Miette, we stopped in at Jasper Lake.

Jasper Lake isn’t so much a lake as it is a flood. It happens yearly in the summer, the whole ‘lake’ fills with water only a few inches deep. It’s basically a sheet of moving water.

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We also stopped for this common Jasper occurrence: tourists testing their luck with local wildlife.

Some people are willing to risk life and limb for the quintessential ‘Canadian Wilderness’ pic. I’m sure there’s at least one person in that group who’s trying to justify their expensive DSLR purchase.

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If you’re in the Rockies, please keep your distance from animals. And keep your eyes on the road if you see wildlife too.

My aunt was telling me the number one cause of car accidents in Jasper is people not watching the road because they get distracted by wildlife, or tourists looking at wildlife.

I resisted the urge to tell them: Let’s face it. You’re trying to shoot that wild beast with a cheap point and shoot camera, or an iPhone… the shot isn’t going to be that great. It’s not worth your life.

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Speaking of encounters with wildlife, we arrived back at my Aunt & Uncle’s place in Jasper to find this scene in our front yard:

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The pup is local folk hero Maggie. My Aunt and Uncle’s wolf-fighting, border collie sheep dog.

She really likes watching the elk.

They often wander into the Jasper suburbs. There’s a warden in town who will generally chase them away if they’re causing trouble. Elk are scared off by ribbons flapping in the wind. A lot of people in Jasper tie ribbons on posts around their gardens to keep the elk out. The warden has this hockey stick with ribbons on either side that he’ll shake at them, and that generally gets them running away.

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And we fell down into our beds after another great day’s adventure.

Little did I know what the next day would bring.

Day 18 Costs:

  • The Other Paw Bakery, $19.05
  • Hot springs, historic bathing suit rental, towel rental and locker rental for two!: $21.70
  • Fiddle Valley Cafe lunch: $22.11
  • Barako Jasper Cafe: $7.22
  • Liquor store jasper: $21.30

Total: $104.96

ps. Another important thing I learned on this day… goats can’t give high fives.

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