Follow a century old trail to Nakusp Hot Springs
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Staring at me with sad big brown eyes from inside a chain link pen did the trick.
“Can Annie come with me?” I said to her owner.
Laurie Page, the veterinarian in Nakusp who had to work that day, laughed at me. “You really think she’ll let you go without her?”
Two strides had her in the back of the car ready for adventure.
I was visiting Nakusp to explore the region and on the roster, was a hike up Kuskanax Creek to Nakusp Hot Springs. At 8.5 km in one direction it meant we needed to leave a car at the other end of the trail. My hiking companion, Cedra was leaving her car at the end along with our swim gear for the post hike soak. There are two pools at the complex; either hot springs temperature or cooled off to a comfortable linger inducing degree waiting for anyone wanting to relax.
The trail is far from extreme; it’s actually a lovely, easy hike with a moderate amount of elevation gain. With Annie leading the way, we stepped into a thick forest of cedar and hemlock. The temperature dipped and the air moistened under the canopy that worked diligently to block the sun. It also worked to strip the highway and my worries from my mind.
Century old pack horse trail
I wasn’t surprised to find out I wasn’t the first traveller to feel the fresh air relax my bones, but I didn’t expect the story to start back in 1912 with pack horses hauling the pioneers on the same trail. In the 30s and 40s, more pack horses were employed to meet the paddle wheeler at the town docks and bring tourists, along with their luggage, up to the famous mineral rich hot springs.
Pack horses brought pioneers and tourists up this trail from 1912 and well into the 40s. Horses and humans rested in the corrals and old buildings still lining parts of the trail to Nakusp Hot Springs.
Along the trail, there is still evidence of horse stalls, rein posts and corrals. A dilapidated A-frame used by the guides melts under the thick carpet of moss. The structure is slowly sagging under the pressure but looks like its stood the test of time.
It was mid-September and that meant it was mushroom season. I had a hard time keeping up with Annie because I spent too much time examining all the different fungi. Cedra said many were edible and people come to town specifically for the harvest, but I wasn’t tempted to nibble.
That thick canopy made for tall skinny trees lacking in lower branches with a ground cover all reliant on a shady environment. Without the middle layer, it was easy to see the trail meander. Every creek crossing had a wooden bridge, but Annie usually lunged across the trickle.
A beautiful covered bridge marks the end of the 8.5 km trail that leads to the source of the hot water for the Nakusp Hot Springs. A few hundred metres down the trail are the outdoor pools of the mineral rich hot water.
Perfect picnic on a covered bridge
Near the end of the trail, there's a fork where we connected with Kuskanax Creek. We continued up the valley along the creek for about 800 metres to see where the hot water is tapped, before entering the thundering cool water. The water cascades over huge rocks. The trail continued, but we turned back towards a beautiful covered bridge.
It helps when a community is full of craftsmen. The covered bridge near the hot springs is a stunning piece of art. We stopped to enjoy our lunch there. The sound of the river, the smell of the forest and the calming colours of the cedars and ferns were working magic on me. One question kept coming back, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
I could tell Annie, sitting attentively at my feet was asking the same question.
To get to the trail
You might want to stop at the Visitor Information Centre in town for a map and hopefully you have a vehicle with good clearance, the trail head is up a logging road and it’s a bumpy one.
Contact the Visitor Centre at 250-265-4234
From Nakusp, head south on Highway 6 towards Nelson for 2 km. Turn left onto Alexander Road and drive 2.3 km to the brown wooden Kuskanax Creek Trail sign on the right. Follow the logging road for 1.4 km and park there if your vehicle is not made for rough roads. Continue up the rough road to the right a short distance if you don’t care about the paint job. Make sure there is a car at the Hot Springs or plan for a pickup in about four hours.
Check out other things to do in Nakusp like chomping on chocolates from Jennifer Chocolates, enjoying a pint at the oldest hotel in B.C., or just enjoying the view of the lake from the shoreline walkway.