Write up by Ali Becker – Thanks to Ali and Matt for sharing their amazing journey on the Arrow Lakes and Hot Springs Loop with us!
We gratefully acknowledge that this route exists on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Sinixt, Syilx, Secwepemc and Ktunaxa peoples and it is with great respect that we traverse these sacred lands.
The Lakes & Hot Springs Loop is a scenic and rewarding 550 kilometre (342 mile), figure eight bikepacking route that begins and ends in the burgeoning village of Nakusp in the Central Kootenay region of British Columbia, Canada.
This mixed road route gains over 8,098 m (26, 570 ft) in elevation as it explores every spectacular side of Upper Arrow Lakes, and traverses the entirety of the lush Lardeau Valley, connecting the two areas with some small but stunning mountain summits and eclectic Kootenay communities.
(Scroll to the bottom to see the whole route with stops.)
Those who choose to ride this remote feeling route will pass by fourteen charming freshwater lakes and more than a dozen BC Recreation Sites, all of which offer great opportunities to set up camp and gather fresh water.
The loop lives up to its name as it rolls through ‘The Valley of the Hot Springs’, giving travellers the choice of soaking in a selection of three rejuvenating hot springs – the more developed mineral pools of Halcyon and Nakusp, or the more rustic and remote at Halfway River Hot Springs.
Lake and hot spring travellers get a chance to observe the rugged mountain ranges that line the valley as they embark upon two free ferry sailings that cross both the north and south end of Upper Arrow Lakes. As of June 2022, riders also get to navigate an exhilarating cable car crossing over Carpenter Creek along the Galena Trail.
The figure eight loop – which can be broken down into two shorter loops – connects active, undulating forest service roads with quiet stretches of paved Kootenay backroads and historic rail trails and wagon roads which offer a diverse mix of challenging, engaging and easy-rolling terrain.
Bikepackers should prepare for prolonged stretches after leaving Nakusp, New Denver or Kaslo with extremely limited or no opportunities for any resupply, although fresh water is abundant all throughout the route.
The Hot Springs
Halcyon Hot Springs & Spa – A great way to truly treat yourself along the route is by soaking up the healing waters and nourishing experiences that the Halcyon Hot Springs & Spa has to offer.
The world renowned wellness resort boasts three spacious mineral pools and one rejuvenating cold plunge pool that overlooks Upper Arrow Lakes with stunning views of the adjacent Monashee Mountains.
After your soak, treat your tastebuds to an exquisite culinary experience at the on-site Kingfisher Restaurant, which serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner. From here you can continue on your adventure or book yourself a swoon-worthy two-night stay in one of their cozy cabins or cottages and do it all over again.
Nakusp Hot Springs – Just a short pedal out of town is the highway turn-off to the Nakusp Hot Springs, which leads you 12km up a meandering paved road to the quaint mineral pools that have been soothing sore bones for thousands of years.
Nakusp offers a warm pool, a hot pool and a cold outdoor shower all surrounded by evergreens as far as the eye can see. The main lodge houses an on-site cafe that serves up a small selection of hot food and locally made snacks and free wifi.
Pitch your tent in the nearby Hot Springs Campground for $26 a night and have access to hot showers, flush toilets and bear proof garbage bins or treat yourself to indoor luxury in one of their Cedar Chalets.
In the morning, take a short walk from the main building to a bridge that crosses the raging Kuskanax Creek before turning north towards the source springs, or opt south along the stunning, moss covered, multi use, Hot Springs Trail that takes you an adventurous 8 km up and down and up and down to town.
Halfway Hot Springs – Nestled next to the Halfway River, Halfway Hot Springs is one of the finest soaking experiences in the Valley of the Hot Springs and a worthy reward for the challenging, 11 km dirt road grind that it takes to get there.
More rustic than the nearby Halcyon or Nakusp Hot Springs, Halfway goers will feel more ‘among’ the elements at this sanctioned BC Rec Site. The campground is first-come, first-serve and offers up 16 vehicle access sites, as well as 6 hike/bike-in wooden tent pads with pit toilets and fire rings that are situated on a shelf just below the main campground.
It’s free to soak, and $15 to stay the night.
Other Campgrounds & Accommodations
Mount Abriel Recreation Site & Bike Trails – A project to behold, the Mount Abriel Rec Site offers over 60 km of xc and mountain bike trails, a skills park, a freshly built pump track and the first adaptive mountain bike (aMTB) trail in all of BC. The beautiful lakeside site boasts an undercover pavilion, numerous outhouses and 48 camping spots for cyclists to rest up for the night, all for a nominal fee of $15 a night that goes back to the Nakusp and Area Bike Society (NABS) to keep building the dream.
The Leland Hotel – Located a stone’s throw from Nakusp’s main street and touted as one of BC’s oldest consecutively running hotels, The Leland has all the charm you’d expect from a building built during the mining boom in 1892. With fair prices on lakeview rooms and a great little restaurant with the best waterfront patio in town, you don’t even have to leave the property to get fed, watered, washed and rested up.
Nakusp Municipal Campground – Walking distance from all the amenities of town, the Nakusp Campground offers a little piece of non-powered paradise to pitch your tent for $26 a night, which includes hot showers, good wifi and a nice view of the mountains surrounding town.
Rider’s Retreat – Situated along the historic Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail, the Rider’s Retreat is an all-inclusive campground offering spacious, already set-up tents with queen mattresses and soft jersey sheets, or you can opt for a unique nights stay in a revived ‘69 Bluebird bus or 5th wheel trailer. A night at the Rider’s Retreat gives you access to an undercover cooking area stocked with BBQs, condiments, cutlery and spices as well as flush toilets, hot showers and unlimited firewood. In the morning, you’re a short walk from the Nakusp Golf Course Clubhouse that offers up early bird breakfast fit for hungry cyclists.
Other lodging options include: Arrow Lakes Lodge, Selkirk Inn & local Air BnB’s
Resupply on the Route
Nakusp serves as a main resupply point along the Lakes & Hot Springs Loop, and is rife with plenty of great options for food, lodging, bike services and camping supplies.
Food in Nakusp
Save-On Foods – A well-stocked grocery store with everything you need to keep you fueled for long days on the road and stretches without resupply (of which there are many). Save-On has a great selection of ready-made meals, bulk foods and everything else you can dream of.
HomeGrown Market & Juice Bar – A great little health food store with a nice selection of locally grown, organic fruit and veggies, locally made products and a great range of cycling snacks like bars, chocolate, chips and granola. (I highly recommend picking up some Banana Brownies (made from just bananas!) and some delicious Date & Nut Manna Bread found in the freezer section.)
Jennifer Chocolates – You can’t miss the bright pink and purple chocolate shop just a block off Broadway – the main street in Nakusp. Loaded with delicious treats handmade by talented local chocolatier – Jennifer Cross, it’s a must stop for adventure cyclists looking to get a little extra boost in their legs. (I recommend the 100% Dark Chocolate Bar – Fleur de Sel)
Restaurants & Pubs in Nakusp
Arrow & Anchor Pizza – Some of the best pizza offered up in the Kootenays, the delicious thin crust pizza made by culinary expert Ryan Chisholm is sure to satisfy even the hungriest cyclist. Experience their unique array of worldly pizzas made with local ingredients, and wash it down with some crisp craft beer from Kaslo’s Angry Hen Brewery or one of Burton City Ciders.
Hoss & Jill’s Bistro – Beyond a belly-filling breakfast, the Bistro offers delicious submarine sandwiches, homemade soups, grab and go snacks, a plethora of baked goods, delicious in-house made beef jerky and pepperoni, and so much more. A great stop for riders looking for a quick grab and go, or those who want to stop for something hot off the grill.
Bella Soriah – Nakusp’s newest addition to the food scene is a fantastic tapas bar serving up Spanish inspired fare using local ingredients, brought to life and plated with elegance by talented chef, Trevor and his team. With a weekly features menu and rotating craft beer taps, there is always something new to taste test, but their staple menu is home to the best hummus you’ve ever had.
Other options include: The Tavern at Arrow Lakes Lodge, Chumley’s, The Leland Restaurant, The Hut Drive In (seasonal) and The Paddy Shack.
Coffee in Nakusp
Mountain Top Coffee – Kickstart your heart with an espresso coffee at Nakusp’s newest coffee shop. Located at the far end of Broadway, this cozy cabin-like coffee shop is open early and serves locally roasted coffee and tasty baked goods all day long. They offer free wifi and a warm, welcoming interior, making it a good place to catch up on your missed media and meet some local characters.
Other cafe options include: What’s Brewing On Broadway, Hoss & Jill’s Bistro
Home Hardware and Nakusp General Store have a few options to get you by in a pinch.
Link through to Ride with GPS to explore the whole route.
Get Geared Up
Bike Pack Canada is a great source for gear and new routes to explore on your bike. www.bikepack.ca