Skip to content
60 Essential Safety Tips for Solo Travel Get it Now

What to expect at Upper Hot Springs in Banff

An honest review of my first visit to the famous natural upper hot springs in Banff

A soak in the Upper Hot Springs in Banff is one of the most popular things to do in Rocky Mountains. And no wonder! It’s the highest elevation natural hot spring in Canada. And the oldest. It costs less than $20 to enter. It’s accessible by public transit. You can rent a super cute vintage swimsuit to use if you don’t have one. Oh, and in an area of gorgeous views, it has especially stunning views. Which, if you ask me, makes the hot springs in Banff one of the most must-do experiences in all of Canada. So here’s everything you need to know before you go!

Where are the Upper Hot Springs in Banff?

Banff Hot Springs History

Best Time to Go

How Hot are the Banff Hot Springs?

What minerals are in the Banff Hot Springs?

What to wear?

Is Banff Upper Hot Springs good for solo female travellers?

Hours, Admission Prices and what you need to know before you go

This Banff Upper Hot Springs review is part of the series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals.

Disclosure: My blog contains links from Affiliate programmes. At no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase from these links, I earn a small commissionThank you for supporting my work and the site!

Sunshine over the natural pools at Upper Hot springs in Banff
Photo: N Hendrickson for Banff and Lake Louise Tourism

Where are the Upper Hot Springs in Banff?

The hot springs are located 4km outside of Banff town near the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Operated by Parks Canada, the site is meant to preserve the natural environment, while making it accessible to as many people as possible. So don’t expect spa services, lounge chairs or a fancy restaurant. Do expect a large but shallow swimming pool fed by thermal waters that’s a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the views that is absolutely one of the best things to do in Banff.

Transit is the best way to access Banff Upper Hot Springs. We drove but parking is limited. There’s a local ROAM bus (Route #1) from downtown Banff that drops you there – but there’s a steep incline walk to the entrance from there.

Visiting Banff Alberta
Which way to the Banff Hot Springs?!

A bit of Banff Hot Springs History

There are two different hot springs in Banff that you can visit.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs is a modern thermal-fed pool where the public can soak surrounded by Rocky mountain views. The Cave and Basin Historic Site is the original hot springs, which is no longer swimmable but preserved as an educational experience.

Banff National Park is actually the very first national park in Canada, dating back to 1885. And the whole reason it was created was because various settlers who thought they had “discovered” the Cave and Basin hot springs while working on a railroad were arguing over who should own them. To resolve the conflict, then-Prime Minster John A. Macdonald dedicated 26 square kilometres around the natural wonder as a public park.

Soon Canadians and other travellers “discovered” what the Indigenous people already knew: these natural waters are rich in restorative minerals, and a fine place to gather, take a load off after a long hike, and enjoy the views.

Entrance to the Upper Hot Springs in Banff
Entrance to Banff Hot Springs

Best time to go Banff Upper Hot Springs

I visited the Upper Hot Springs in Banff in summer with a friend from Alberta who has been many times and gave good advice: go early.

They don’t sell advance tickets and there’s a capacity limit on the pool. I didn’t want to find myself queuing outside in the hot summer sun, so we arrived right at 10am as it opened and found a short line-up that moved quickly. Within minutes, we changed into our suits and slipped into the waters. A perfect way to start our day.

If you’re worried about getting too much sun or have a full day, you can do the reverse avoid the crowds by visiting in the evening. In the summer Banff Upper Hot Springs is open to 10pm. So while other people are having dinner, you can have this pool more to yourselves.

Upper Hot Springs in Banff is open year-round, including holidays, and is very popular in winter as well.

Recommended: A Sauna Hat

Want to upgrade your sauna experience? The Finns will tell you to wear a sauna hat. These simple felt hats help regulate the temperature of your head so you can sweat harder, longer. This style has the traditional grey felt and is stylish for all genders.

How hot are the Banff Hot Springs?

The Upper Hot Springs pool temperature varies depending on the day, and the season. That’s a result of being natural, and not mechanically heated. I’ve read that in winter is can get to 47 degrees celsius! Whereas in spring it drops to as low as 27 degrees.

The water was registering about 40 degrees Celsius on the day we visited. Is this too hot? I think that’s a personal preference, but for me, I found it challenging to relax in.

Maybe my body was extra-sensitive to the heat — I had recently been through cancer treatments and this was my first hot pool since chemotherapy. Maybe I’d become too accustomed to man-made spas with multiple pools, where you can acclimatize in a warm pool before getting into the hottest ones, and cold plunge in between. I just know I couldn’t stay in the pool there as long as I wanted to.


I don’t want to leave the impression that because it was too hot for me you shouldn’t go. There aren’t many pools this affordable in the world with such majestic surroundings. And of course, thermal waters have more health benefits.

What minerals are in the Banff Hot Springs?

They claim the top five minerals found in these waters are Sulfate, Calcium, Bicarbonate, Magnesium, and Sodium.

the Upper Springs in Banff has vintage swimsuit rentals
Historic swimwear is available for rent. Photo by Parks Canada.

What should I wear to the Banff Hot Springs?

You will need to wear a swimsuit to visit the pool.

As mentioned, this is a Parks Canada attraction, not a spa. It’s meant for all ages and we did in fact see families with kids, couples and friends across the spectrum hanging out and relaxing. This is a true gem of Canada that feels like a community pool for the entire country to enjoy. So wear what you would feel comfortable in when in that kind of mixed company.

What if you don’t have a swimsuit with you? One of the coolest and most unique things about Banff Upper Hot Springs is the historic swimsuit rentals. They offer vintage style unisex swimwear in a classic navy blue and white style. They did not have big enough sizes for me or I would have tried one for sure.

Apart from “traditional North American swimwear” visitors can wear other clothes such as Tshirt and shorts, long-sleeved shirts and pants, or modest “burkini” style suits. However these must be clothes other than what you are walking in off the street in. And no you can’t go in wearing just underwear.

One thing surprised me: the no-shoes policy – including any kind of sandals or flipflops. You must carry all footwear starting at the front entrance and move about barefoot. This didn’t bother me but I know some people might not like that.

Edit: the official Parks Canada FAQ says you can bring clean sandals to wear in the change rooms, etc. so perhaps that rule has changed.

Is Banff Hot Springs good for solo female travellers?

Visiting the hot springs in Banff is an excellent activity for a solo traveller. It’s a social environment, in the style of a Scandinavian public bath, so you can be comfortable chatting with strangers, if you want. Or just zone out and look at – I know, I know I keep mentioning it – the gorgeous views.

As a Parks Canada attraction, accessibility for all genders and abilities is well considered. It’s a safe place I would recommend for other women travelling alone in Banff.

All things considered, there’s a good reason that Banff has one of the most famous hot springs in Canada. I look forward to returning in the winter to experience it surrounded by snow!

Upper Hot Springs in Banff review

Know Before You Go

My last visit was July 2022. Updated info January 2024. Always check their website for latest info.

Where: Banff Upper Hot Springs is located near the top of Sulphur Mountain, 4 km south of the town of Banff at 1 Mountain Ave, Banff AB T1L 1K2. Parking is free but limited. Take the local public transit, route 1 bus.

When: Open every day from 10am to 10. Last entry at 9:30pm. First come, first served – no reservations or advance tickets.

What to Bring: Your swimsuit and towel if you have them – or rent on site. Water bottle and sunscreen. Cameras are allowed and you’ll probably want pictures of the views. Locker is included. No food or drink allowed by the pool but there is a café upstairs open from noon to 5pm. Note that management allows all type of swimwear as long as it’s different from what you showed up in, including “long-sleeved shirt and pants, T-shirt and shorts or other swimwear that allows patrons to feel confident and comfortable, whether for cultural, religious, or medical/health reasons or personal preference.”

How Much: The prices have jumped since my visit but it’s still a good deal: Adult $17.50, 3-17 years and seniors $15.25, children under 3 are free. Family passes available. Note that all visitors to Banff (including the hot springs) must purchase a National Parks pass – currently $10.50 per person or $21 per group.

Bathers at Banff Upper Hot Springs with view of Rocky Mountains
Save this post for later on Pinterest!

One comment on “What to expect at Upper Hot Springs in Banff”

  1. Karen  on July 26, 2022

    Great review! I definitely want to go visit some day now!!!

Submit Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *