I’m posting this one retrospectively as this was a great trip. My great friend Ben was over and we had just done Tough Mudder on Whistler the day before. A good night of drinking was had with Stephen, then we headed off towards Pemberton to relax. I had found out about Keyhole Hot Springs on Whistler Hiatus and thought it looked perfect for sore muscles.
So we drive out there, you have to spend about 1 hour driving on a gravel forest service road. It’s groomed and graded in summer, but in winter, the signage says it’s not. You’ll know you’re going the right way when you come across the 2010 Mount Meager landslide! The 2nd largest (in fact some measurements say it is the largest) landslide in Canadian history, you will see a soily, branch covered desert in the middle of a valley. Worth a stop.
Once you get up a bit, you will have to fjord a river. You can do this in a All Wheel Drive city car like a 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i when the water level is what it was for us. I think a 2WD car could do it too (many say it can), but make your own call on that, there is parking before the river and it’s only a few hundred meters to get to the trailhead. This river is also the last spot where you can get water that you can purify. I recommend bringing extra water down to the camp site as we couldn’t find any local sources and the river had a lot of sediment. I would bring quite a few liters just to be safe (note: beer does not count).
The trailhead has parking for about 5 cars (maybe 6). I personally added a load of orange trail markers on the bush that leads to it, and trail markers down to the campsite, where you will find a bear cache. When we went, there were a couple of collapsed picnic tables and some abandoned tarps and tent poles (shame on their owners for not packing them out!). We set up camp and explored.
For anyone down there, the hot springs are located to the North West of the campsite, that is to the right if you are standing in the campsite and facing the river (or further up the valley away from Pemberton in a third way to put it). We did get tricked by some deceptive trail markers that took us the other way, but I’ve added some markers that will get you to some log stairs (right Ben?).
Once you get there, you will see several pools, including some that were built by a well wisher. There is an old, bear mauled, water drum down there, but you might want to bring your own collapsable bucket or sturdy drybag to be safe. The main pool is down some more log stairs, and you can get 6 people in. There is a further pool but it was covered by river water when we were there. The river can be fast flowing (was for us) so be careful. The upper pools get very hot but you can add water to them to make them more pleasant. There is quite a bit of green slimy weed/algea in the pools, but this didn’t hurt us (other than making the white parts of my shorts look green, and I forgot to wash them until we got to St. Lucia!).
We were sharing the pools with a group, and got talking, they were saying that the waterfall you can see was basically hot water, and if it could be channeled, it could be used to make more pools.
Anyway, all very relaxing. We were glad we took headlamps down there because we came back to camp after dark for dinner. You can hear the river if you are close to the edge, but I had no trouble sleeping for almost 14 hours (after Tough Mudder remember).
The next day I got up late and we headed back up, I added trail markers as we went, so hopefully the route is better signed now. It’s a steep uphill hike, so be ready.
We went down to Keyhole Falls, which is a drive further up the hill (i.e. North West, away from Pemberton), then keep left at the fork in the road and stop when you come to the bridge. Worth it for a little jaunt, and again, I added trail markers (used the last of my roll). Be careful with you car as there are more rocks/rockfalls near here.
You’ll come back with a muddy car and some soothed muscles!
Also, I shot a few Photosynths of the area:
I’m tempted to start a project to rebuild some of the existing pools, and add a few more. Anyone interested?