Ainsworth Hot Springs in the Kootenays

As the cooler weather takes hold, there is no better place for a visit than Ainsworth Hot Springs. Tucked away into the beautiful Purcell Mountains, the hot springs lie next to Kootenay Lake. The hot water begins in the Cody Caves and flows directly into the resort at an average temperature of 47 C, where it is then cooled slightly before entering the pools. The waters have naturally high concentrations of minerals that have been shown to improve blood circulation, help detox your body, and improve your metabolism. The resort also features a cold plunge pool that helps strengthen your immune system and fight off sickness.

Photo by April Blumberg.

The real gem of the resort is the 150 foot long cave. The entrance of the cave gives you the impression that you are entering another pool with stairs leading in but once you enter the tunnel you are suddenly transported into a natural cave system. Stalactites cover the ceiling of the cave creating unique formations, and relaxing sounds of running water fill the space as streams of water drop into the cave from above. The entire length of the cave is lit by soft yellow lights to guide your way as the steam builds up the deeper you go. You will notice the temperature in the cave is significantly hotter than the main pool at 42 C. Once you’ve heated up in the cave, cool off with a dip in the freezing-cold plunge pool… if you’re brave enough. 

For hundreds of years, these hot springs have been used for healing and relaxation. Ainsworth Hotsprings sits in the homeland of the Ktunaxa people, who traditionally used these hot springs known as spirit waters (nupika wu’u) to help heal the wounds of warriors and ease the pain of conditions such as arthritis. In 2015 the Lower Kootenay Band purchased Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort returning the waters back to the Ktunaxa people.  

Ainsworth is the oldest village on Kootenay Lake and was initially a mining town. The town is named after George Ainsworth, an American prospector who in the 1880s was granted 166 acres of land. It became known to miners as the Hot Springs Camp after deposits of silver, lead, and zinc were discovered there. The town began as a remote mining camp, only accessible by steamboat or pack horse. But with the influx of miners to the area, Ainsworth grew quickly as more businesses and services established themselves.

It was John Burn who first envisioned Ainsworth as a tourist destination. In 1930 he completed construction on the pools, charging only 10 cents for admission. Since its initial construction, the resort has been remodelled and expanded over the decades into the resort you see today.

Today the Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort includes accommodations, the Ktunaxa Grill, and the Spirit Water Spa. Entry to the hot springs is from 10 am to 6:30 pm by reservation, you can reserve online here.

With incredible views of Kootenay Lake and unlimited access to the hot springs till 9 pm, I highly recommend staying at the hotel to experience the pools at night and avoid the crowds.

The Ktunaxa grill is another must with exceptional dishes inspired by indigenous culture and locally sourced ingredients. The history, culture, and natural beauty of Ainsworth make it the perfect weekend getaway.