Story by Jody Robbins
RADIUM HOT SPRINGS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Driving along scenic Highway 93, that slices its way through Banff and Kootenay National Park, I spotted a herd of deer, a flock of bighorn sheep, a grey wolf, a black bear and even a couple of cougars in a Honda Odyssey.
The cougars were likely headed for the same place I was, and perhaps with a similar game plan. Radium Hot Springs, an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Calgary, makes for ferocious weekend away, no matter what your animal instinct.
What’s in a Name?
Best known for it’s rejuvenating hot springs, you needn’t be too concerned about spending time in a village named after a radioactive gas. While an early analysis of the hot springs water did reveal the presence of radon, a gas naturally produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and groundwater, the trace amounts were deemed not harmful.
With a population of 1,000 permanent residents, the village swells to 5,000 come summer. Weekender Andrea Wade, comes here to sink into the town’s natural beauty and quietness. “It’s the perfect stepping stone to Panorama, Kicking Horse and Lake Windermere,” she says, naming some of the nearby resorts and attractions.
With more Bavarian options than Oktoberfest, kitschy motels and German restaurants, flank the main road leading into town. Be aware, once in Radium, you’re operating on Valley-time, the Columbia Valley’s equivalent to mañana.
Soothing soaks in Canada’s largest mineral springs pool, has long drawn tourists to this village. Nestled next to dramatic Sinclair Canyon, anyone can take to the waters of Radium Hot Springs, including young children in the shallow area or in a cooler swimming pool.
Housed in the same facility, Pleiades Radium, offers affordable treatments to enhance your rejuvenation experience. Add a massage ($82 per hour) or facial (from $67) to your visit and all traces of city stressors are sure to dissolve.
Bare Hand Day Spa, Radium’s only full-service spa offers waxing and facials in their treatment line-up. Located in the Prestige Inn, spa guests are welcome to soak in the hot tub or swim a few lengths prior to treatment. Wee ones can even partake in pampering with Prince and Princesses manicures ($35 for 30 minutes), while their folks might indulge in a Muscle Melt massage ($90 for 60 minutes).
The Hills are Alive
Wildlife (the real kind) is abundant in this part of the Valley. Besides the highway sightings, I was mesmerized by another black bear as he nonchalantly snacked on grass near Sinclair Canyon. But the town is most famous for the Radium-Stoddart herd of 150 big horn sheep. Just south of Radium, Mile Hill is a favourite lookout point, especially in the fall when the rams strut their stuff in head-banging competitions that rival any Ozzy concert.
When healthy living seems too much, traipse over to the Old Salzburg Restaurant for beers and brats or, chat with the locals at Meet on Higher Ground Coffee House for lattes and homemade power bars.
For potential cougar spotting and a delightful garden atmosphere, while the night away at Casa Vino, a wine bar with more than 100 bottles to sample. On the main floor of the mayor’s house (gotta love small towns) and spilling into her backyard, jazzy music plays softly while you sit under the heady scent of honeysuckle blossoms and savour the menu of tapas and desserts.
Where to Stay
Just below the hoodoos, Canyon RV Resort on Sinclair Creek is a sweet little camping spot, sporting full hook up, laundry and shower facilities ($35.50-$45.50 per night).
For those who prefer four solid walls at night, Prestige Inn (from $129 per night) offers walkable access to the shops in addition to an indoor pool, gym and designer suites.
FOR MORE ABOUT RADIUM HOT SPRINGS
Visit the town’s website.