This weekend we have made a trip to Keystone Hot Springs, which are also called Pebble Creek Hot Springs. How to get there is a really tricky part, because they are not listed on Google Maps (oh no!); however, if you have a GPS-capable device, it should not be a problem. If you don’t have maps pre-loaded, make sure to load the route in advance – there is no coverage past Pemberton (approx. 60 km away).
50.668178,-123.455064 on Lillooet Forest Service Rd (Upper Lillooet Forest Service Rd); the location is approximate, but it is very close (within a 100 meters) to the trail entrance. The Keyhole Hot Springs are about 220 kilometers away from Vancouver.
Last 44 kilometers are on the gravel road, so all being on a FWD sedan and coupes, we could not go faster than 30 km/h, and in certain spots had to go as slow as 15 km/h. I would recommend bringing the GPS, because there are a few places where the road splits, with no further directions.
What to bring
- Hiking boots
- Swimming clothes
- Drinking water
- Sunblock and sunglasses (optional)
- LOTS AND LOTS of bug spray (I use the one linked at the right);
I can’t emphasize the importance of having enough bug repellent. The flies were everywhere; and unlike urban flies, these ones can and will bite.
How to get there
We had 12 people and 3 cars: ’99 Honda Civic Si (manual, FWD, 1.6l VTEC), ’97 Acura CL (automatic, FWD, 3.0l) and ’95 Toyota Tercel (automatic, FWD, 1.5l). We made 2 stops for gas: 1 in Vancouver and 1 in Pemberton. Total cost for gas in Civic and Tercel was $60 per car, and about $90 for Acura.
The driving directions we followed – from http://whistlerhiatus.com/
- From Whistler Drive north on Highway 99 until you reach Pemberton
- When you reach Pemberton turn left at the traffic lights and after 1k you will come to a roundabout, left here and drive 200 meters to the T junction, you will see a sign for “The Meadows” turn right here and another “The Meadows” sign in a couple hundred meters pointing left.
- Head NW from Pemberton on Pemberton Meadows road for 25km, and turn right onto Upper Lillooet. Be careful to keep left at 9km (right goes to Gold Bridge via Hurley Pass)
- At km 37 continue straight past the Meager Creek turn-off on your left, which is now a mound of dirt blocking the road that once was the giant bridge to Meager Creek Hot Springs [which I did not see]
- At about km 43.2, a shallow stream crosses the road (2WD OK though it may be up to 2 feet deep or more in the summer) [NOTE: you can leave the car before the creek crossing, it is only a 3-5 minute walk to the trail entrance uphill]
- Climb a short hill, curving to the right for about 400 metres
- The pull out is just past the climb, on the left at 43.8. There are no real trail markings but the path is well-worn and easy to follow [NOTE: there were hardly noticeable pink strings marking the trail entrance]
- From the trailhead you should reach the campsite in about 15 minutes. As you approach the campsite the hot springs are another 5 minutes down the trail that extends to the right down towards the river/springs.
Forget the Grouse Grind: this trail is a lot more difficult. Even though it’s only 20 minutes, the last 3/4 of it are very steep, and in some places you have to hold on to the ropes to go down. It is best not to bring your kids or pets.
We saw pieces of the yellow string handing on the trees, marking the proper trail. However, there are a few smaller paths that should still take you to the same destination. The trail is pretty well-worn, so unless you are specifically trying, you should not get lost.
What are the springs like
There are 5 smaller pools in total, and they are small, so prepare to make new close friends. 5 of us could fit in one pool, and we were all in the upright sitting position. The water gets very hot, but there was a small ice-cream bucket we used to pour the river water in the springs (the river water is very cold, by the way). There are valves in the upper pools, so you can add more hot water to the bottom ones. The water has a slight smell of hydrogen sulfide, which is not too noticeable and did not bother us at all.
The land and the recreational area are severely undeveloped (in comparison to, say, Harrison Hot Springs), so don’t expect a 5-star resort amenities. There are no stores within less than 1 hour drive.