Cave and Basin Historic Site and Upper Banff Springs – relaxation and history in the Rockies.

Cave and Basin Historic Site

During our first whole weekend off in a while, Fergus and I decided to play tourists, learn some history and have a soak in the hot pools on Sulphur Mountain (which we can see from our house).

Sulphur Mountain is very important in Banff’s history. During the construction of the railway through the Rockies in 1883, 3 railroad workers rediscouvered the mineral hot springs on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain (others including the First Nations people had previously discovered the springs) and decided to commercialise the area. They built a hut near the springs and laid claim to the area. Later the government reserved an area of 10 miles around the site and that was the birth of Canada’s National parks system.

Soon after the Banff Springs hotel was built and the tourists followed…..

Visiting The Cave and Basin Historic Site was really interesting, first we climbed up to the area behind the main building where there was a boardwalk leading up to the original spring where the hut was built all those years ago. Walking through the forest, past hot steaming rocks and streams full of egg smelling Sulphur deposits was fascinating and makes you realise what an important find this was for the area. ​

We got in for free since we had a 12 month parks pass (yippee) and read a bit of history about the springs before making our way into the cave itself. 

The cave isn’t huge, it’s one small cavern with a pool at its base. There is a small opening in the ceiling of the cave that lets the sunlight through. The Banff snail lives here, it’s the only place in the world this 3-5mm snail lives so the area is of course, protected. Back in the museum we watched a short movie about Canada’s national parks and looked at the displays before heading outside to the other hot pool. This one was built later in 1887 as a bathhouse.The pools were closed and opened many times before finally closing in 1992 and the Banff Upper Hot Springs was opened.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

The hot pool you are allowed to swim in is just up the hill from the Banff Gondola on the East facing slope of Sulphur Mountain looking over to Rundle and over Banff and Tunnel Mountain. Built in 1932, the mineral water at Banff Upper Hot Springs is a balmy 40 degrees and it’s so relaxing after being in the cold air. The day we went the pool wasn’t that busy which was good. The facilities are nice and I think we might get a 10 day pass to use during the ski season when our muscles will be hurting.


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