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Ainsworth Hot Springs: Soothing Mineral Waters & a Cave in the West Kootenays

Updated on January 1, 2017
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green hails from Nelson, B.C. and is a lover of clean air, pristine lakes, hot springs, and mountains.

Looking toward entrance to cave.
Looking toward entrance to cave.

Warm Mineral Waters and a Cave with Stalagmites and Stalactities Spell a First-Class Visitor Destination

Ainsworth Hot Springs attracts visitors from around the world, eager to take a dip in mineral waters and explore a cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

The hot springs are located in the beautiful West Kootenay region of British Columbia, Canada, overlooking the main arm of Kootenay Lake, a spot where breathtaking mountains are almost as enticing as the warm waters that await visitors.

Travelers go north of Nelson, B.C. or south from Kaslo and are treated to some incredible mountain views along the way. Stretches of the highway are winding and narrow with sheer cliff-faces on one side and dizzying drops on the other. Carved out of the mountainsides, the road may not be for the faint of heart but the hot springs that await are well worth the trip.

Getting to Ainsworth Hot Springs--North from Nelson, South From Kaslo

A markerAinsworth Hot Springs -
Ainsworth Hot Springs, BC V0G, Canada
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Grab the yellow icon and drag it to the road area, then click on the arrows to travel the highway to Ainsworth to get a feel for Kootenay country.

Traveling From Nelson Along Highway 31 Offers Views of Kootenay Lake

Photo: Traveling north along highway 31. Locals are familiar with the curve ahead which descends to a bridge.
Photo: Traveling north along highway 31. Locals are familiar with the curve ahead which descends to a bridge.

Superlative Mountain Views

Photo: Winding road takes travelers to Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort
Photo: Winding road takes travelers to Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

Coming into Resort Area

Photo: Visitors pass J.B. Fletcher Store, a reminder of days gone by.
Photo: Visitors pass J.B. Fletcher Store, a reminder of days gone by.

Ainsworth Hotsprings Resort

Photo: Ainsworth Hotsprings Resort is situated in pristine wilderness on Kootenay Lake, B.C.
Photo: Ainsworth Hotsprings Resort is situated in pristine wilderness on Kootenay Lake, B.C. | Source

Comfortable Rooms and Fine Dining

The modern-day resort offers 43 rooms for lodgers and is open year round. The Springs Dining Room provides two menus a year, offering a line-up of homemade dishes prepared by a chef, using in-season, locally grown food. Diners can sample a selection of fine B.C wines. Floor to ceiling windows add to the dining experience, capturing views of the mountains and lake and the pool down below. A gift shop offers bathing attire and other souvenirs.

Mineral-Rich Water Bubbles to the Surface and Leaves Mineral Deposits at Side of Road at Ainsworth

Photo: Mineral formations at side of highway at Ainsworth, B.C.
Photo: Mineral formations at side of highway at Ainsworth, B.C.

Where Do the Waters Originate?

The geothermally heated water has its source in the Cody Caves system, nearby. It travels downward to a fault and then is forced upwards by means of hydraulic pressure. It surfaces at Ainsworth at a temperature of approximately 47C/117F and is cooled to approximately 42C/108Fprior to entering the cave.

Evidence of this geothermal activity is evident, as seen by minerals at the side of the highway and in the mountainside up above the cave area. Any place where warm, mineral-laden water surfaces, formations become apparent.

The waters are the warmest inside the cave. Water streams in, in various spots, and also drips from the ceiling, plus there's a natural water shower in one part of the cave. Those who enter are treated to a steam bath as they wade through waist-deep water while exploring the horseshoe-shaped cave.

Because of the continual movement of water flowing through the area, the water is changed naturally every couple of hours.

Ainsworth Pools--Perfect for Soaking in

Main Pool--Outside the cave, in the main outdoor pool, the temperature stays at around 35C/96F. Visitors can swim or soak in the warm water and take in views of the magnificent Purcell mountains overlooking Kootenay Lake. Many alternate between the cave and main pool, coming outside to cool off from the intense close heat inside the cave.

Cold Plunge Pool--Not for the faint of heart, the smaller cold plunge pool offers frigid stream-fed water for those brave enough to try it.

Main Pool--Water Temperature is Not as Intense as Inside the Cave

Photo: Ainsworth Main Pool
Photo: Ainsworth Main Pool

From Near and Far

  • The cave and pool is a favorite spot for locals who often stay until closing time.
  • Many visitors from the U.S. make a yearly trip up to Ainsworth to enjoy all that the resort offers.
  • The resort is a favorite honeymoon spot.

Shelved Pool in Front of Cave Entrance--Good Spot for Pool-Goers to Chat

Photo: Main Pool Ainsworth, B.C, and pool in front of cave area.
Photo: Main Pool Ainsworth, B.C, and pool in front of cave area.

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Ainsworth Cave

Exploring the 150-foot horseshoe-shaped cave is a must. The water is waist deep through the different tunnels and chambers and the cave is like a natural sauna of sorts.

The formations are impressive but caution is necessary because these are rough.

At the back of the cave, a natural ledge provides a seating spot for those who want to take it all in. Water pours in, in this area, and is hot to the touch. The heat is so intense, most visitors cannot stay in this part of the cave for more than 5-15 minutes.

Hottest Area of Cave

The Cave Awaits, While Dark Corners Beckon Couples for a Little Romance

Photo: Cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort
Photo: Cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

It's quite the experience to navigate the echoing tunnels and continue further into the cave, walking through dimly-lit passageways and inner chambers that wind their way throughout. Water drips from the ceiling, sounds echo, and mineral formations crust walls and ceiling areas.

The cave is a delight for newcomers to Ainsworth. Locals visit again and again. And couples find the darkened corners a favorite spot for a little romance.

Ainsworth is considered one of the best hot spring resorts in B.C. And it's not hard to see why.

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Take a Virtual Tour--Explore the Cave at Ainsworth

Mineral Content of the Waters

The waters offer a high concentration of minerals but are odorless.

  • alumina
  • calcium
  • iron
  • lithium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • silica
  • sodium

A Local Shares Xmas Memories

One Christmas a bunch of us traveled out to Ainsworth. It was evening and the snow was gently falling. The pool area had been decorated with Christmas lights. The water was glassy and mist and steam rising from the water created a magical effect.

A Ukrainian choir had discovered the acoustics inside the cave and decided to practice Christmas carols. They raise their voices in song.

The rest of us were captivated to hear beautiful singing emanating from the cave. While no one could understand the words, we all recognized the familiar tunes. Drawn as if by a magnet, every person left the main pool and gathered in the small pool in the front of the cave to listen. While we couldn't understand the words, the carols were easily recognizable. There we stood in awe and soon we joined our voices with the choir and sang along in English. There was such a feeling of kinship with those singers.

That was the best Christmas gift that year.

Ainsworth Hot Springs, Popular Tourist Destination and Welcome Winter Get-Away

Ainsworth is considered to be the best commercially developed hot springs in British Columbia. While the hotsprings are enchanting at any time of the year, regulars believe that the best way to experience the soothing mineral waters is to take a dip in the colder months. As temperatures drop, the springs and cave offer a unique winter get-away.

© 2013 Athlyn Green


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    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 9 months ago from West Kootenays

      It truly is beautiful. One can soak in the hot springs and look out on the magnificent mountains. Such incredible scenery. It's one of the favorite spots for locals, and many times, while I've been there, people have related that they travel from other places every year to visit Ainsworth.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      One of the many things I wished I could have done while living in the Seattle area was to visit Ainsworth, and for that matter, the entire Kootenay Region. The Pacific Northwest is so spectacular!

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 4 years ago from West Kootenays

      It's one of my favorite spots. I was fortunate to grow up near the area and this was a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible and must be such a pleasure to be there.

    • theluckywriter profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Canada

      Sounds absolutely beautiful! I've only been to hot springs once, at Hot Springs Cove on Vancouver Island. It really is an experience!