Relaxation seeps into your body as you ease into the second largest hot spring in Canada. Liard River Hot Springs provides relief to Alaskan bound travellers after a long day on the road.
The hot springs complex is of national ecological significance and is well known for its natural setting in a lush boreal spruce forest. The park is such a popular stop over for tourists that the campground fills up early each day during the summer months. Liard is also open year-round. There is a hot spring open to the public called Alpha pool with water temperatures ranging from 42°C to 52°C. Facilities include a change house and composting toilet. A boardwalk, which leads to the hot spring pools, passes through a warm water swamp and boreal forest that supports rich and diverse plant communities as well as mammal and bird species.
Visitors are required to stay on the boardwalk at all times in this area so as not to disturb the sensitive habitat. Watch for moose feeding in the warm water swamps. Due to the lush plant life influenced by the warmth of the springs, the area was originally known as the “Tropical Valley.”
Watch a short video of the scenic views at Liard River Hot Springs park.
From April 1 to October 31, there is a day-use fee of $5 for adults, $3 for children or $10 for families. Annual passes cost $10 for adults and $20 for families.
Visitors can pay at the staffed gatehouse, which also functions as a local visitor centre. The funding will go toward increased services and staff presence. The fees also help to cover the park’s maintenance costs, which are high due to weather variances and heavy use. Fees are payable in cash only at the park.
All campsite reservations must be made the BC Parks reservations system. When reservations are not available all campsites function as first come, first served.
Campsite reservations are accepted and first come, first served sites are also available.
This park offers vehicle-accessible campsites.
Campsite reservations are accepted and first come, first served sites are also available. Camping fees are payable in cash only at the park.
Winter vehicle accessible camping fee: $16.00 per party per night
Winter camping fees are charged in the off-season, services may be reduced this time of year.
There is a day-use fee at Liard River Hot Springs Park for use of the hot springs. From April 1 to October 31, the fee is $5 for adults, $3 for children or $10 for families. Annual passes cost $10 for adults and $20 for families. Visitors pay at the staffed gatehouse, which also functions as the local visitor centre.
75% of these revenues will be invested back into the park. The funding will go towards increased services and staff presence. These new fees will also help to cover this park’s maintenance costs, which are high due to weather variances and heavy use.
This park only has pit toilets, no flush toilets.
Two hand pumps are available in the campground. Taps are shut off during the off-season.
An adventure playground is located in the day-use area.
While campfires are allowed and campfire rings are provided at each campsite, we encourage visitors to conserve wood and protect the environment by minimizing the use of fire and using campstoves instead. Firewood can be purchased in the park or you may bring your own wood. Fees for firewood are set locally and may vary from park to park. Limited burning hours or campfire bans may be implemented. To preserve vegetation and ground cover, please don’t gather firewood from the area around your campsite or elsewhere in the park (this is a ticketable offence under the Park Act). Dead wood is an important habitat element for many plants and animals and it adds organic matter to the soil.
The hot springs complex is of national ecological significance and is well known for its natural setting in a lush boreal spruce forest. The hot spring open to the public is called Alpha pool, with water temperatures ranging from 42°C to 52°C. Facilities include a change house and composting toilet. A boardwalk, which leads to the hot spring pools, passes through a warm water swamp and boreal forest that supports rich and diverse plant communities as well as mammal and bird species. Visitors are required to stay on the boardwalk at all times in this area so as not to disturb the sensitive habitat.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
Visitors can bathe in the Alpha pool which has a shallow end for children, benches are also located in the pool. There are no lifeguards on duty.
A boardwalk, which leads to the hot spring pools, passes through a warm water swamp and boreal forest which supports rich and diverse plant communities as well as mammal and bird species. Watch for moose feeding in the the warm water swamps.
Pets and domestic animals must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed in beach areas or park buildings. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Bicycles must keep to roadways. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are not allowed on the trails within Liard River Hot Springs Park. E-bikes are restricted to park roads and areas where motorized use is permitted. The only exception to this policy will be for authorized and identified trail maintenance bikes conducting work on behalf of BC Parks.
This park is located at kilometre 765 of the Alaska Highway, approximately 60km north of Muncho Lake Park.
This park proudly operated by:
Kootenay Forest Services Ltd.
For information concerning the campground:
Historical themes at Liard River Hot Springs include First Nation use of the area, the fur trade, geological survey exploration, settlement by pioneers, and construction of the Alaska Highway.
The Liard region was home to people speaking the Athapaskan and Kaska tongues, with original groups including the Beaver, Sikanni, Nahanni, and the Dog Rib. Moose was a mainstay of these peoples and they travelled the rivers of the region by canoe. Following the arrival of white man, native use became closely linked to the fur trade and exploration work.
The first written recording of the hot springs on the Liard River was made in 1835 by Robert Campbell of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Following Campbell’s exploration, the Liard River was used as a trading route to the Yukon. The rapids along the upper Liard River were so treacherous that this route was abandoned in 1870.
The first scientific exploration of the Liard region was undertaken in 1887 by R. C. McConnell for the Geological Survey of Canada. William Ogilvie further explored the Liard in 1888 and 1889 and his party camped at Liard Hot Springs on both expeditions.
The first white man to live at Liard River Hot Springs was Tom Smith, a prospector in the Klondike Gold Rush, who built and lived with his daughter in a cabin by the Alpha pool in the early 1920’s. They left the area after two years of trapping; on their way to Fort Liard, Tom was drowned in the Liard River, while his daughter was rescued by some local First Nations people, and sent to the Anglican mission at Hay River.
The Japanese thrust to Alaska and the allied commitment to supply war materials to the Soviet Union spurred construction of the Alcan Military Highway (Alaska Highway). The 1,600 miles of highway was construction by 10,000 American Army Engineers and 6,000 civilians. The first boardwalk and pool facilities were built by the American Army in 1942. Liard River Hot Springs Park was created in April 1957.
Liard River Hot Springs is underlain by folded, faulted sedimentary rock overlaid by a veneer of glacial drift. The springs may be related to a major fault system which parallels the valley on the south side of the Liard River, however, the exact mechanism and source of the hot springs are unknown. It is believed that ground water following gravity seeps down through the folded, faulted sedimentary rock of the Liard Plateau down towards the earths core.
The groundwater, heated and pressurized by hot gases deep underground, strips minerals from the rocks and is forced back to the surface along natural faults to emerge as a thermal spring. As the hot springs water bubbles from the earth it reacts with air and certain minerals are deposited. Calcium carbonate is one of the minerals that precipitates to form tufa. Tufa forms the terraced base of the Hanging Gardens. About eight pools make up the hot springs complex in the park.
Unlike most other thermal springs in Canada, Liard River Hot Springs does not flow directly into a nearby river or creek, but into an intricate system of swamps. These warm swamps are the most unique feature of the park; these swamps create a micro climate allowing a unique vegetative community to thrive here.
Liard River Hot Springs lies in the Liard River Valley and is located in the Liard Rabbit Plateau. The park lies within the Boreal Black and White Spruce biogeoclimatic zone. The majority of the 250 plant species in the park are of the boreal variety. However, the effect of the hot springs accounts for the occurrence of 14 thermally influenced species.
The hot spring vegetation is striking compared to outlying areas in species composition, in the large diversity of species (including 14 species of orchids) and the luxuriance of its growth and its early-blooming growth pattern.
There are several plant communities in the park that exhibit thermal effects. The pools themselves create a rich environment for growth. Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) gives the springs a tropical look as well as cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) that grows to extremely tall heights. Thermally influenced species that thrive near the spring include black snakeroot (Sanicula marililanda), Lyall’s nettle (Urtica lyallii) and yellow monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus).
The occurrence of tufa (calcium deposits precipitated from hot springs water) influences the hot springs vegetation pattern. Tufa forms the base for the spectacular greenery and flowers that grow at the Hanging Garden.
The warm water swamps although being extremely shallow never freeze in winter due to the continual inflow of warm water. The vegetation here is very interesting and often overlooked. Aquatic plants include the bladderworts, butterwort and sundews which are all carnivorous plants. The carnivorous plants are likely due to the low nitrogen content of the spring water. Several species of orchids and the uncommon Kalms lobelia (Lobelia kalmii) are found on tufa islands. Successional meadows supporting cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) shrubs occur in previously wet swampy areas.
A total of 104 bird species and 28 mammals have been recorded at Liard River Hot Springs. Moose are year-round residents and provide the most consistent viewing opportunities. During the summer months, bulls, cows and calves are observed feeding on aquatic vegetation in the swamps.
Mallard ducks and Canada geese are known to breed in the area. Shorebirds such as the solitary sandpiper and common snipe breed in the swamp. Gulls, swallows, blackbirds, kingfishers, and nighthawks are frequently observed near the swamp, while flocks of bohemian waxwings use black spruce perches around the edges of the swamp. Many species of woodpeckers, thrushes, warblers, and sparrows have also been observed in the park.
Of particular interest to visitors are the numerous small fishing swimming in pools alongside the boardwalk to Alpha pool. The tiny lake chub that swim back and forth under the boardwalk are unique due to their ability to survive in the warm water of the swamp.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.