It’s so close to Vancouver, yet we often take this mountain and lake framed destination in the Fraser Valley for granted. Harrison Hot Springs, perched on the southernmost end of glacial-fed Harrison Lake, is an underrated, quick getaway from the city. And as it turns out, the hot springs are not the only attraction around this small mountain town.
Accompanied by some friends, I stayed at the resort for a night, and altogether it was a 24-hour trip from the moment we left the city.
10 am – On the road
From Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs, it’s roughly a 120 kilometre one-way trip, so when Honda Canada provided a spacious SUV with plenty of leg and headroom, suitable for people who are taller than six feet, we were beyond ecstatic.
The Acura RDX, a compact luxury SUV by Honda, features everything you would expect from a high-end vehicle, including leather seating, one-touch power moonroof with tilt feature and visor, an incredible seven-speaker sound system with SiriusXM satellite radio, multi-angle rear view camera, and smart entry with pushbutton start.
There are two ways you can get to Harrison Hot Springs from downtown Vancouver. The quickest route runs along the Trans Canada Highway takes 90 minutes while the longer and significantly more scenic Highway 7 route takes a little over two hours. We took the longer scenic route, and it was well worth it.
East of Pitt Meadows, just beyond the Pitt River Bridge, the road closely hugs the Fraser River’s north bank. All the while, on the opposite side of the road, mountains soar high above the valley floor throughout almost the entire remaining journey.
11:30 am – Pit stop at Hopcott Premium Meats & Bistro
This family institution in the lower Fraser Valley has been around for several generations. Approximately 10 years ago, Hopcott Meats opened a 9,000-square-foot shop for its operations, where the production and packaging processes and the retail business are all housed under one roof.
Everything is non-GMO, they’re serious about their naturally raised reputation. Hormones, steroids and antibiotics are not used from birth for anything that goes through the building; for smoked products, they even use a high-tech wood chip smoker instead of a liquid smoker to provide a better natural flavour.
Their main business revolves around beef, but they also do poultry, pork, lamb, and produce. As well, there is an effort to reduce scraps by churning out leftover bones and meat into dog food and treats.
Late last year, the store nearly doubled in size to 17,000 square feet to include more retail space, a kitchen, sit-down bistro and outdoor patio. All menu items taste incredibly fresh, ranging from a variety of wraps and sandwiches to baked goods and sweets.
Just down the road, a few minutes walk away, the business is busily preparing its seasonal 15-acre corn maze. However, the attraction won’t be ready until August 21.
1:30 pm – Arrival at Harrison Hot Springs
Mountains to the north, west, and east hem in the vast lake and the resort town. The high street, a petite retail village with a number of restaurants, cafes, and even a gelato shop, is located right on the waterfront. Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa is on the westernmost edge of the Esplanade area and impossible to miss.
While the glacial-fed waters of Harrison Lake are far too cold for most people to swim, there is a large lagoon area – a man-made body of water on the waterfront – that becomes a popular swimming hole during the warm summer months. The waters in this lagoon are typically warm during this period.
The man-made sandbar that separates the lake from the lagoon is also a popular walking route that brings you right to the edge of the water.
For those who can brave the cold waters, there is a seasonal inflatable water park just off the shoreline in front of the resort building. Access to the water park is only by a boat shuttle from the nearby marina. Other activities found at the marina include bumper boats, banana tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing tours.
3 pm – Boat tour of Harrison Lake and Harrison River
Harrison Eco Tours provided us with an extensive scenic tour of Harrison River, the tributary that drains water from Harrison Lake into the Fraser River. Over the span of 90 minutes, we passed by steep mountains and cliffs.
Our operator made several brief stops along the tour, including a stop along a cliffside with aboriginal paintings on rocks dating back to 1,000 AD.
The sight of the turquoise waters of the Harrison River merging with the silt-laden waters of the Fraser River was also among the highlights of the boat tour.
5 pm – Check-in at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa
The sixth floor room at Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa we had featured a private balcony that overlooked the hot springs’ pools on the south side of the resort complex. The room, and the hotel overall for that matter, had contemporary finishings that revolved around the extensive use of wood and stone. Complimentary internet access and bathrobes (a must for the hot springs) are provided for all rooms.
6 pm – Dinner at the resort’s The Copper Room
The Copper Room within the lower level of the main resort building is the town’s flagship fine dining experience. Prior to arrival, we were told there was a minimum dress code – nothing too fancy, but t-shirts, shorts, and sandals would be inappropriate.
The restaurant boasts a large illuminated dance floor, and when we arrived there were already people dancing and singing along to live music being played by a band. We had the Avocado Crab Salad and Scallops and Pork Belly for appetizers before moving on to the main entrees: Lobster Thermidor, Wild Boar Chop, and Rack of Lamb. We topped off the night with a trio of sweet endings: the Berry Cheesecake, Apple Croustade, and Ginger Cake.
7:30 pm – Dip in the hot springs
We spent at least four hours that evening at the resort’s mineral-fed hot springs – it was the perfect spot to escape from reality and become relaxed and revitalized. Wristbands provided to guests at check-in are necessary to access this resort amenity.
There are five hot spring pools to enjoy. There are three outdoor pools, including an adults-only pool, outdoor family pool, and outdoor lap pool, with temperatures ranging from 37°C for the adult pool to 28°C for the family and lap pools. All of the outdoor pools are shallow and surrounded by waterfalls, rocks, and greenery.
Next to the outdoor pools, there is an enclosed, tastefully-designed spa building that houses an indoor hot pool where temperatures reach up to 40°C and an indoor wade and swimming pool where temperatures go up to 32°C.
8 am the next day – Buffet breakfast, one last dip, and check-out
We opted to have breakfast the next morning at the resort’s buffet breakfast at Lakeside Cafe, and we sat on the patio overlooking the lake. It offered all the items you’d expect from a breakfast meal, including waffles, pancakes, sausages, bacon, yogourt, and various pastries, fruits, and juices to choose from. There is even an omelette station where guests can have their eggs cooked in any way they desire.
Prior to checking out, we had one last dip in the outdoor hot spring pools. We later decided to take the quicker route, the Trans Canada Highway, back to work in downtown Vancouver.
Disclaimer: Our stay was complimentary, made possible by Tourism Harrison, Harrison Hot Springs, Harrison Eco Tours, and Honda Canada. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.