Nothing says winter like a cozy getaway! So during the beginning of December my family and I had the pleasure of visiting Harrison Hot Springs, just a 90 minute car ride from Vancouver. Nestled against Southwestern B.C’s magnificent mountains and sandy beaches, Harrison is known for their famous hot springs! However today, I want to showcase Harrison in a different light- one that not only offers natural wonders but also a travel destination full of things to explore like their great outdoors, their friendly locals and the rich history of the Sasquatch to keep you busy and intrigued. So come explore with me the surreal lodge that my family stayed in and discover the wonderful culture and beauty just up the road at Harrison Hot Springs!
Welcome to Sasquatch Country
Did you know the word Sasquatch comes from the local First Nations word ‘Sasq’ets’ meaning “hairy man”? For centuries, they believe that the Sasquatch is a spiritual being that can vanish into the spirit realm at will which may explain why they are so difficult to track down. Described as a bi-pedal mammal of exception size, great strength and reddish hair covering the entire body, the Sasquatch is legendary in Harrison Hot Springs with many regional sightings! In fact, I didn’t know that the Sasquatch played such a prominent part of the local history at Harrison Hot Springs until we stopped by the visitor centre and learned that there is a Sasquatch Museum, a Sasquatch Trail and even a Sasquatch Day – a weekend celebration and storytelling dedicated to the mysterious big foot creature. Our first “sighting” was a gift from the tourism board, a plush female Sasquatch stuffy with pink toe nails and a cute pink bow adorned on her head for Adelina. An incredibly sweet gesture, I absolutely love that the infamous “Big Foot” is an integral part of the local history and culture and also so fun to see how many sightings of the enigmatic creature you can find. So, keep your eyes open because you might just stumble upon one of these elusive creatures at the mall, during a hike up the mountains or even in the chocolate treats at the village.
Accommodation: Welcome to the Lodge on Harrison Lake
The Lodge on Harrison Lake is literally the perfect cozy winter getaway destination with a panoramic view of Harrison Lake. When we got to Harrison that day it was extremely cold especially for us Vancouverites (who are known to be babies when it comes to the cold) but it is not a winter getaway without a little chill right? Situated just a few minutes drive away from the village but still really close by to everything, the lodge is a secluded getaway right on Harrison Lake. The moment we entered the parkade we were astounded by the gorgeous view and it was already dark. Harrison Lake is an incredibly breathtaking glacier lake where people can enjoy countless water activities and home to many species like rainbow trout, herons, water fowls, harbour seals and salmons that attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles to the area in North America. I actually during our stay saw some eagles fly by once and awhile and it was quite a treat to see these magnificent creatures especially for a city girl like me.
This beautiful and modern waterfront accommodation has its own private beach and dock and can sleep up to 22 people for the entire lodge which is really great for like a group of friends with kids for example or they have individual suites for smaller groups or couples. Sectioned into 5 distinct areas, our particular suite was called the Carriage House that sleep comfortably six people and requires a code (sent the day prior) to access the door so you don’t need a key. The owner Jason is also on site so if have any questions and he will come to check up on you to make sure you have everything you need. We also got to meet Jason, the owner’s mom and dog (the cutest) who was so sweet and told us about great local spots to visit and eat!
Of course the first day we arrived it was already dark by like 4pm during the winter, so we only got to see the inside of the lodge which we were so happy about already. However, it is even more beautiful to wake up to the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline with the most stunning view of Harrison Lake and you truly feel like all your worries are left behind! So heavenly, I love to just go out to the balcony and take a few deep breaths before everyone wakes up and there is even a bbq outside if you want to grill and cook some food while you are here.
I actually slept upstairs in the futon during our first night because I had some work to finish and it was quite nice and comfy. I love that there is two floors and an open concept because it is really spacious for Adelina to run around which is important since a toddler needs lots of space and it was too cold outside to take her out at night. Speaking of toddlers, I love the giant soaker tub in the master bedroom (there is also a vanity area) where I can bath Adelina after a long day of exploring and there was even the most gorgeous sunset to finish off the day. The next morning, before we head out to grab breakfast my husband and I went to explore the beach area and the rest of the property, and its just so breathtaking which I thought would be a great spot for a small intimate wedding can you imagine?
Activities: What to Do At Harrison Hot Springs?
Soak in the Public Hot Spring Pools
Well there are lots of things to do at Harrison Hot Spring but most people come here to experience the hot spring wonders. Did you know? Harrison sits on a fault line and combined with its geothermal energy, makes it the perfect location to form hot springs! With high concentration of minerals like calcium, lithium and even radium, hot springs offers many healing benefits like pain relief and winter time is really the perfect time to come and relax and recharge and soak up the therapeutic qualities. Harrison has two hot springs that are combined to create the unique Harrison Hot Springs healing waters. They have a public pool that is centrally located at the junction of Hot Springs Road and Esplanade and is accessible by all visitors. The other hot spring pool is located inside the Harrison Hot Spring Resort and is only accessibly by their hotel guests.
Lights By the Lake
There is one main section at Harrison Hot Springs which is Espanlade Road or the Village and that is where most of the restaurants and shops are located! What is also there during this festive time of year till Jan 12, is the second annual Lights By the Lake Festival – an enchanting holiday light display that transforms Harrison lakefront into a magical world of lights highlighting local wildlife and the elusive Sasquatch. Coming alive during the evening, the lake offers the most spectacular stroll with dazzling lights, illuminated streets and Christmas feels to get you into the spirit. New this year is also a synthetic ice skating rink which I wasn’t able to check out but you can either bring your own skates or rent a pair at the local concessions for a small fee.
Harrison Eco Tours
One of the most exciting highlight of the season is the gathering of over 1000 bald eagles in the area because with the lakes rich biodiversity, it becomes a great feasting ground of salmon and other fish for the great bald eagles. Like I have said before, you can probably get a glimpse of the eagles here and there and even at our lodge! However, if you want a really up close view and truly a experience of a lifetime, you can book a covered boat tour to see the eagles!
Suggested Hikes & Walks:
As mentioned, for this trip I not only want to showcase the hot springs but also the wonderful outdoor activities available at Harrison for you to explore like hiking
Hike the Spirit Trail (1km)
Spirit Trail is a short walk through a beautiful cedar forest that is very accessible from the Village of Harrison Hot Springs. What makes this trail so special is that a local resident and artist has decorated many of the cedars along the trail with beautiful masks. We actually got to hike just a little bit of this trail and it was quite lovely and easy to walk and the mask made it more interesting for sure. I wouldn’t say this is a stroller-friendly hike so if you have a toddler that can’t walk too much it would probably be hard but if you have a smaller baby (where you can put in a carrier) or older kids this trail would be a nice stroll for them.
The Heritage Walk (5km return)
This pleasant walk takes you back through time, past historical buildings and landmark moments in Harrison Hot Springs history. It starts at the Visitor Centre and gives a great overview of Harrison Hot Springs.
Sandy Cove & Whippoorwill Point
After reaching the first plateau you will have a great view of Harrison Lake. As you turn back from the view to the trail it appears to head right, around the massive rock in front of you, in fact, the actual trail forks off to the left climbing the hill on the left side. This is a short, hand over foot climb (fairly difficult and you should have good shoes) for maybe 25 metres. Once you reach the top the rest of the hike is comparatively straightforward. Follow the trail as it winds its way around the mountain until you hit a “T” junction at the bottom of a hill and then head to the right to get to Sandy Cove.
Bonfire at the Beach
While I love going out to explore, my favourite part of the trip is coming back to our beautiful! While there is no fireplace inside the Carriage House, the property does offer a really fun bonfire at their private beach and you can buy firewood from the owner and build your own bonfire which is oh so romantic and fun. Sadly it was too cold the day we went with lots of wind chill, so we decided to just skipped that but definitely will do that next time if we are here because I love bonfires by the beach while roasting some delicious s’mores watching the stars.
Food: What to Eat at Harrison Hot Springs?
Not only known for their great outdoors and hot springs, Harrison Hot springs also has some great dining options while you are there and I highly suggest you venture out and try the local cuisine.
Muddy Waters Restaurant
Located on the waterfront on Esplanade Ave, Muddy Waters is a family-run café that uses fresh, local
ingredients to create a unique farm-to-table experience. From locally-roasted coffee to
cheeses from Agassiz, Muddy Waters is a local foodie destination and favourite! The cafe isn’t very big and has more of a coffee shop vibe; however, the food is so excellent and I love the variety of breakfast sandwiches they offer amongst other delicious options. They also have great lattes and even offers some seasonal ones like gingerbread! Another fun fact is there is also a ice cream shop next door which you can access through Muddy Waters!
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Right next door is also the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and we decided to go in and check out some fun treats. The Rocky Mountain brand is quite famous and there is many chains across B.C I think but I really love this location because the owner, Mark Schweinbenz and wife Julie Edwards took the shop over from a friend that have passed and wanted to keep the tradition alive. I had the most wonderful time talking to Mark, he was so friendly and passionate about Harrison Hot Springs and just loves his life here. He told us some great local places to visit and history of the area and gave us some delicious chocolates like fudge and of course some big foot milky chocolates to take home. The Lodge also greeted us with chocolates from Rocky Mountain so this is a great place to buy gifts for the holidays (have many festive treats) and also a fun shop to visit and have a chat with Mark!
Harrison Corner Street Cafe
Another local favourite, this cafe is literally at the corner! On Harrison Hot Springs Road, the cafe cherishes a seasonal menu that is made from scratch! This restaurant slowly gained the support of the locals and became a destination for tourists and foodies. Enjoy the ambiance that combines rustic and classic feels, perfect for a family gathering or date night. I really loved their hash browns or taters that come with their breakfast and everything taste so wonderful and fresh.
Like Corner Cafe, Sushi Kitami is located on Harrison Hot Spring Road and is a authentic Japanese restaurant owned by Japanese. If you are like me and need your sushi fix they are pretty good and the restaurant, although small has quite the nice ambiance! Instead of dining there, we decided we wanted just a chill night in so we ordered takeout and enjoyed it at our beautiful lodge and had a nice little wine party!
An Overview: Why Come Visit?
I mean can you picture just waking up to the sound of waves or taking a relaxing sunset bath with this view? That reason alone is enough to make you want to come and visit Harrison Hot Springs! When I first saw photos of the lodge my jaws nearly dropped because this was exactly how I would envision a winter lodge to be! The accommodation is so important because it really sets the tone for the whole trip, so I highly recommend you check out this lodge if you are thinking of visiting. Not only picturesque, it can accommodate many people but still offer that serenity you are looking for. Another great reason to visit is that it is located and not too far from Vancouver, so it has the ease of a staycation but the feel of a true vacation where you are away from the city. Instantly, I felt relaxed when I saw the beautiful view that surrounded the lodge and really gave me a peace of mind from a extremely hectic but fulfilling year of blogging and motherhood.
I feel so blessed to be able to share these experiences with my family and this trip was the perfect way to end the year. I want to thank Tourism Harrison Hot Springs and the lodge for hosting us this and made my winter vacation dreams come true. I hope you visit Harrison Hot Springs and experience the coziest winter getaway this season.
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!
*This experience was gifted by Tourism Harrison Hot Springs