Meager Creek Hot Springs, 148k north of Squamish was beautifully developed into gorgeous pools, with a caretaker and usage charge. At its height of popularity, Meager Creek Hot Springs had 30,000 yearly visitors. Unfortunately, due to two recent catastrophic mudslides it seems unlikely to ever officially reopen. After several years of being closed, access reopened on 2009 with a nice, expensive, new bridge. Only to be dramatically obliterated from another slide in 2010. The access bridge over the Upper Lillooet River which cost nearly a million dollars was wrecked in seconds in 2010. There was considerable wrangling and negotiating to get it built in in 2009, but now it will almost certainly never be rebuilt. The area is far too active. Dead and still dying grey ghosts of trees still stand as they did in piles of forest wreckage. Even the road in looks bizarre. The road was simply bulldozed back to life. On either side, hemmed in by piles of dirt and dead trees. The mudslide that did this seems beyond belief. This river valley in the midst of a beautiful, green forest, is a sea of brown. Mud, dirt, and dead trees. In 2014 a new route was built to Meager Creek Hot Springs by the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club. The new VOC Harrison Hut Trail regains access to the much prized Harrison Hut, but also opens up an excellent access trail to Meager. The trail is long and not too easy, however, and getting to the trailhead is quite an adventure. The logging road deteriorates quickly on the last couple kilometres and you find yourself dodging basketball sized boulders strewn across the road. The old access route to Meager ran along the far(north side) of the Lillooet Forest Service Rd. This new trailhead is located on the near(left or south) side of the Upper Lillooet River and you simply continue along the Pemberton Meadows Road (almost) until you can't go any further. From the middle of Pemberton to the trailhead is 64 kilometres. The easy to miss trailhead is marked with a small trailhead sign for "VOC Harrison Hut Trail" No mention of Meager Creek Hot Springs on it. The Meager Creek area in general and Mt Meager in particular is an extraordinarily active area under the ground. There have been massively destructive landslides and the inevitable debris flows that follow in 1931, 1947, 1975, 1986 as well as the brutally enormous one in 2010. Four geologists were never found after being killed in the 1975 debris flow.
Why should you drive and hike to Meager Creek Hot Springs?
Though the old access bridge to Meager Creek Hot Springs is long destroyed, the devastated landscape remains strangely beautiful. Located far up the valley from Pemberton, the area around the Upper Lillooet River looks like the slide happened months, instead of years ago. Few things have grown back and mangled and lifeless trees dot the landscape. For a surreal, yet beautiful driving destination, Meager is hard to beat. You are well off the radar, lots of free places to put up a tent, tons of slide wrecked firewood, and a beautiful river just steps away.
Skookumchuck Hot Springs is both tacky and beautiful. There are several tubs that the hot springs water gets channeled through. On first sight, many are disappointed at the unnatural and shabby setup, however after a couple minutes the disappointment fades. The ramshackle collection of tubs becomes strangely charming and the large A-frame, main tub is quite large. The variety of tubs allows for quite a fun atmosphere as you get a couple people drinking champagne in one tub, more in another tub in serene silence, and others in the main tub relaxing in conversation. As Skookumchuck is located on a relatively busy logging road, it is snowplowed in the winter, allowing the hot springs to remain open year-round. It is by no means convenient to drive to, however, the drive is very enjoyable. Plenty of sights to see on the drive from Squamish. Alice Lake Provincial Park, Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, Whistler's Parks, Nairn Falls Provincial Park, Pemberton and the Lillooet Lake hugging gravel road to Skookumchuck, make the journey amazing. There is a small day use charge for the hot springs as well as an overnight camping charge, however, the facilities are excellent and easily worth the price.
Why should you drive to Skookumchuck Hot Springs?
As road-trips from Squamish go, Skookumchuck Hot Springs ranks quite high in adventure. Lots of stops along the route make it amazing year-round. The huge and very nice campground at Skookumchuck makes the stay very memorable. The well laid out campground sits on the beautiful Lillooet River and its raging and crashing in the background makes the area postcard worthy. If you are more adventurous in your road trips, you may want to continue on to Sloquet Hot Springs. You can easily, and would be foolish not to, go to both in a single day and camp at one or both if you have two or more nights free.
Keyhole Hot Springs(aka Pebble Creek Hot Springs) is located 155 kilometres north of Squamish. Though most of the drive is on logging roads, it is drivable by most cars without any trouble. The massive Innergex hydroelectric project is well underway in the area, turning a once quiet wilderness into a war-zone. On the plus side, the old logging roads near Keyhole Hot Springs are now well maintained and smooth. 2014 saw the permanent closing of the old hot springs trail and a new trail built. The spectacular Keyhole Falls is located just a couple kilometres upriver from the hot springs and very close to ground zero of the Innergex mammoth construction effort. If you are brave enough to drive to the Keyhole Falls trail, just continue driving past the Lillooet River Trail. You will see a large, unmarked parking area and hard to find trail just before the km 50. If you have doubts that you are parking in the right spot, just get out of your vehicle and listen for a moment. The deep rumbling of Keyhole Falls can be faintly heard from where you park. Climb the gravel embankment(don't cross the vehicle bridge) and look for the faint trail, then follow the faint rumbling from the falls as it soon becomes a thundering echo far below. The trail is just a couple hundred metres long from the parking area. The reason you have to be brave to get to Keyhole Falls is because of the colossal war zone you have to drive through to get to it. It is a bit daunting, however, access to the area is still allowed. You just have to be very aware of being considerate to the massive construction vehicles scrambling to get the job done. There are large signs indicated where you cannot go, which makes navigating to the falls more manageable. Back at the Lillooet River Trail, you will find a trailhead parking area, a small sign and permanent outhouse. A new sign now marks the start of the route to Keyhole Hot Springs. This new trail is 2 kilometres long and moderately challenging as it skirts the rugged terrain along the Upper Lillooet River. A couple of sections are very steep, and it is easy to stray from the trail. Along the trail there are at least two fantastic and inviting areas along the trail (beside the river) perfect for camping. Closer to Keyhole Hot Springs, the very nice camping area high up, overlooking the river is still as it has always been. Nice, rustic, wild and of course, unmaintained. The new Lillooet River Trail is well marked with flagging tape and tree reflectors as well as the occasional bench to sit on. Just like the old trail, this new trail is often challenging to navigate. Though it is rarely steep, as the old trail mostly is, this one is a zig-zag through a thick forest and occasional scramble through truck sized boulders. The trail, at a moderate pace should take about a half an hour from your car to the springs. If you have any interest in geology, however, the trail may take you hours. The crumbing cliffs reveal an astounding array of recent volcanic activity and you find yourself staring in amazement at the extraordinarily beautiful rocks. The hot springs at Keyhole flow out of the ground adjacent to the swirling, crashing and wonderfully glacier coloured water of the Lillooet River. The colour varies with the season, but for the most part it is a wonderful, deep, milky turquoise. When the sunlight penetrates the deep valley, the milky turquoise changes to an unnaturally bizarre, emerald green colour as it swirls all around you.
Why should you drive to Keyhole Hot Springs?
The drive up the Upper Lillooet River Valley to Keyhole Hot Springs is packed with sights. You will find yourself stopping several times along the drive to marvel at the beautiful river and endless snowy mountains in the distance. This part of the world shows the devastation of recent volcanism and the terrifically destructive mudslide of 2010 that is still apparent as if it happened just weeks ago. Ghost-like trees, still surrounded by lifeless volcanic ash and mudslide debris make the place look surreal and you will find yourself wandering through it feeling like a nuclear holocaust survivor. And that is just part of the drive to Keyhole!
Sloquet Hot Springs is a wonderfully wild set of shallow, man-made pools fed by a small, all natural, and very hot, waterfall. The pools stretch from the waterfall to the large and crashing Sloquet River. The large, spread out campsite for the hot springs lies a short 5 to 10 minute walk from the springs(depending on your campsite). You have to follow a dark and quickly descending trail toward the crashing river. As you near, you can smell the unusual, but kind of nice hot springs scent, and you see steam rising all around you, some steam rising, bizarrely, out of the grass clearing on the edge of the river. On your left a rising cliff, on your right the crashing river. The path narrows and steepens, leading to a large fallen tree which the trail seems to run to. So huge though as to not worry you walking the length of. Then, there it is. The massive fallen tree flanks it. Nestled between the tree and a cliff, in a large triangular area, with the river forming the third side are the Sloquet Hot Springs. Sloquet Hot Springs is 197 kilometres north of Squamish, which translates to about four or more hours of driving. This seems like a lot of driving, however, the route is almost entirely scenic. From the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway from Squamish to Whistler, then the mountainous stretch from Whistler to Pemberton. After Pemberton, much of the driving is along the In-Shuck-Ch Forest Service Road, which runs the length of the very scenic Lillooet Lake and river. This gravel road takes you well into the wilderness, far from civilization and past quite a few nice sights along the way.
Why should you drive to Sloquet Hot Springs?
Sloquet Hot Springs is about as untouched and natural feeling a hot springs can get. Everything around you is natural except the small wooden changing area, a couple metres from the springs. The springs fall from a small waterfall into the pools formed with rocks, creating several pools. Though Sloquet does get busy in summer weekends, its remoteness keeps it wonderfully quiet weekdays the rest of the year. If you are motivated, you can even hike through the snow to reach it and almost guarantee the place to yourselves. Snow makes the road un-drivable, usually from December to March and requires an easy though snowy hike, depending how close you park, of as much as 8 kilometres(but usually much less in March, for example).