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Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

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Everett, Washington
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Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

Using Google Maps to devise a route from Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs....but the directions given include "FSR" routes which I'm figure mean 'Forest Service Road". My experience with these in the U.S. are they are often dirt/gravel and either very dusty or muddy and rutted.

Specifically from Wasa it puts me on St. Marys Lake Rd. then St. Marys River FS Rd. then Redding Creek FSR. How "decent" are these roads.

Otherwise I was thinking of routing via Revelstoke (via Yoho NP and Glacier (Canada's) NP and Nakusp which does not look that much longer. How's the Shelter Bay ferry work? I have links to the ferry info...just wondered about local tips such as best time of day and/or how busy it might be. I used to take the Washington State ferries frequently and know there are things their web site does not eplain either.


Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

Interesting how Google gets you there. No, unless you really want to go the back roads, I wouldn't take those FSR routes. You can encounter washouts, sometimes they've been decommisioned since the last time a map survey was done, all sorts of potential for problems.

Two options really, both very nice. Not sure about the times for both of them, but I think you could probably plan the routes through Mapquest and compare distances and travel times.

A)South, then west

Banff-Invermere-Cranbrook-Creston-up the east side of Kootenay Lake to the Crawford Bay ferry-Balfour-Ainsworth.

B)West, then south

Banff-Golden-Revelstoke-across Upper Arrow Lake-Nakusp-New Denver-Kaslo-Ainsworth.

We drove Cranbrook to Nelson that way in 2007. Lovely route, and quite easy drive. Long ferry journey, so that would slow you down. The Arrow Lakes crossing is shorter, therefore more frequent. Both routes would be scenic and a nice drive, so probably toss a coin. I really liked Ainsworth, although the pool deck is fully exposed with no shade, so the hot pool with the hot sun was too much we found. But the caves were an amazing experience! They are small, but it's still a very neat thing to do.

Everett, Washington
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2. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

Thanks for the really quick response. I think I will plan the West then South route because when we leave Ainsworth we'll be heading south to enter WA state via Nelway so there would be no backtracking. it also looks like there is plenty via Revelstoke and we would get to take a peek at Halcyon Hot Springs on the way.

Thanks also about the tips for Ainsworth. I had posted a question about there in the Nelson forum.

Calgary, Canada
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for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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3. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

That google route is quite amusing!

One other word of advice to you as you don't mention when you will be travelling. You should be advised that the Shelter Bay ferry crossing is extremely busy on long weekends. It's not unusual to have to wait for 3 hours to get on the ferry. It is a free ferry, as are all of BC's inland ferries. The ferry crossing at Crawford Bay to Balfour is usually not as busy, which is why we usually go that way instead.

Everett, Washington
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4. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

Good point. We had been planning mid-August but have changed it to mid-July. Well after July 2 & 4 holidays period and timing wise would be on that route on a Tuesday. Route so far is...

Sat...St. Paul to Moose Jaw

Sun...Moose Jaw to Banff

Mon...at Banff

Tue...Banff to Ainsworth

Wed...at Ainsworth

Thu...Ainsworth to Seattle (optional stop in Chelan, WA)

Then visiting son and his wife in Seattle and taking boring old I-90 home. Maybe a stop at Chico Hot Springs, MT.

Kimberley, Canada
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5. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

You don't want to do the FSR route. They are, indeed, forest service roads and are not well maintained and, in fact, "Gray Creek Pass", which is what you would be taking, is only passsable for a few months out of the year, those being the summer months. Also, it's a very high mountain pass with very steep grades. There are no services. Not exactly what you want to do.

Best to go from Banff to Cranbrook, then to Creston. Then if you want a scenic route, travel from Creston to Gray Creek and Crawford Bay and take the free ferry across Kootenay Lake. Once on the other Side, Turn right and you'll be at Ainsworth in about 5 minutes or so. IF you would rather stay on dry land, (longer route, though) you can drive from Creston to Salmo, then to Nelson, and from Nelson to Ainsworth.

I live in Kimberley and lived for several years in the Cranbrook and Creston areas. Going the Revelstoke route is VERY much longer and you will drive many miles without services. It's a scenic route, though, so if time is not a consideration go that route. The ferry is a free ferry leaving every hour on the hour from 5:00am to 12:00am with additional services added in the summer.

Hope this helps you. If you need any more info, just ask!

6. Re: Banff to Ainsworth Hot Springs Route

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