Exploring The Harrison River Valley

Harrison Hot Springs

Last Updated on March 8, 2022

Harrison River Valley

A great local escape and one that we return to time and time again is the Harrison River Valley, best known for its rugged PNW wilderness. When you hear the term Harrison River Valley, it encompasses the communities Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, and Harrison Mills (and those in between) in beautiful British Columbia. It is conveniently located in the Fraser Valley, 90 minutes east of Vancouver or 3 hours north of Seattle.

The Harrison River Valley is filled with scenery that will take your breath away. From mesmerizing mountains to stunning farmland, rivers, and lakes, the Harrison River Valley is a rugged and beautiful slice of heaven. I could never tire of views like these!

 

During this visit, we explored some of Harrison Mills and the town of Harrison Hot Springs.  With just twenty minutes between the towns, there is impressively much to explore.

An outdoor paradise, you can enjoy rushing rivers, mountain peaks, birding, hiking, going for a paddle, Kilby historic site,  fishing for prehistoric sturgeon, golfing, and ski hills during the winter. It is also home to the world’s largest winter bald eagle gathering; a spectacular sight that you do not want to miss, returning in fall.

Eagle Migration

During this annual rite of nature, over 35,000 eagles pass through the lower Fraser Valley annually from late October until February. The peak time for eagle spotting is in the middle of November until early December. Seeing the sheer number of these majestic birds will leave you in awe. With so many prime areas to spot eagles, you are sure to have some great sightings. Many bird watchers will consider themselves lucky if they see one or two great sightings in a lifetime. Especially during peak season, in Harrison Mills, you will be spoiled with the chance for those once-in-a-lifetime viewings.

Our visit this year was at the end of February.  Though there were not any swarms of eagles around us, we still managed to spot a few.

Seriously though, seeing the eagle migration during its peak is a phenomenal experience and one for your bucket list. Mark it down!

Always practice proper etiquette when admiring the eagles from a distance

Related storyRelaxation in Harrison Mills At Sandpiper Resort

Harrison Hot Springs

Harrison Hot Springs on a gorgeous sunny day!

Harrison Hot Springs is one of those great close-to-Vancouver destinations for a quick, but relaxing, getaway.

A getaway to Harrison Hot Springs can tick so many boxes for a great vacation, beyond a soak in the famous Hot Springs. Harrison Hot Springs is a perfect destination to spend time in nature, a weekend of romance, or a trip with friends or family. There is plenty to keep you busy for a weekend of fun, with extra watersport options in the summer. Take a boat tour, go wildlife viewing, hiking, golfing, to the spa, an agri-tour, fishing, waterfront accommodations, and delicious dining options. Take time to wander the village and its small-town shops that sell everything from handmade art by local artisans and tourist souvenirs.

Harrison Lake is the biggest lake in Southwestern BC measuring 60km long, 9 km wide at its largest point, and covering over 200 square kilometers. The depth varies to a maximum of 279m (916 feet). It is glacier-fed and beautiful. The Coast Mountains surround the lake, and a few miles south of the end of the lake, the Cascade Mountains end with Mount Cheam. There are several entrance points to the lake.

Today Harrison Lake is a freshwater lake. However, thousands of years ago it was an arm of the sea. The lake supports a wide range of seasonal and permanent animal species in cutthroat, rainbow, and dolly varden trout, pink, chum, coho, sockeye, chinook salmon, mighty sturgeon, harbor seals, plenty of Canadian geese, heron, and several varieties of waterfowl.

Hiking in the Harrison River Valley

There are plenty of walking trails around the Harrison River Valley to choose from that give you an easy escape into nature.

We have been to the Harrison River Valley and Harrison Hot Springs a handful of times over the years and have discovered some wonderful trails. All the trails listed in this guide below are family-friendly.

Walk Harrison Lagoon

The Harrison Lake Lagoon

An easy and flat 1.4km path around the lagoon is a pretty wander to enjoy the mountains and breathtaking scenery. It is an easy and relaxing walk around the lagoon and could be done with a stroller or wheelchair. The scenery will have you stopping time and time again to take it all in.

The Spirit Trail

A short walk through a cedar forest, close to the village of Harrison Hot Springs, is the fun and unique Spirit Trail. Kids love searching for the masks hidden throughout the forest that was created by a local resident.

The trail is short at 1km. Expect a lot of roots across the trail, but it is an easy walk. The trail can be reached along McCoombs Drive. There are a few parking spaces on the side of the road near the trailhead.

The Spirit Trail is also an excellent trail that we suggest taking the kids on in our Ultimate Guide To Kid-Friendly Hikes Near Vancouver.

Bridle trail

Bridle Trail

If you would like to extend your hike, the Spirit Trail intersects with a trailhead for the Bridle Trail, which would make your extended journey up to a 5.5km loop, depending on where you decide to turn around.

The Miami River pump station building – you’ll exit behind it, and continue down the gravel trail along the lake to the hot springs “source”

Miami Bridges Loop

The Miami Bridges Loop is a quick 0.5km walk under moss-covered trees and 9 little bridges. We could not believe we did not know this little trail existed.

Many of the bridges also have stairs, so this is not a suitable trail for wheelchairs or strollers.

Starting from the back of the parking lot of the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel, this short and pretty trail seems to fly under the radar. The path shoots out near the lake and the Miami River Pump Station. You can continue from there on the gravel path (to the left) along the lake to see the building that houses the “source” of the hot springs.

Hicks Lake Loop

Another family-friendly option, this hike takes you on a 7km loop around Hicks Lake within Sasquatch Provincial Park. It is a short 20-minute drive east of the Village of Harrison Hot Springs.

The trail passes along the lake shores, over several small streams, and returns via a gravel road. If you would prefer to not walk a boring gravel road, you can also turn around and return to the day-use area along the same trail you arrived by. The gravel road option does not include many scenic points; next time we would turn around.

It is bear country, so as always, we recommend that you carry bear spray with you and familiarize yourself with what to do if you encounter a bear.

Hicks Lake Beaver Pond

Another small trail at a 1.1km loop, the Hicks Lake Beaver Pond trail is flat and easy to follow. We have heard that there are no beavers in residence, but there is plenty of small wildlife and it is a pretty little wander.

The Heritage Walk

This 5km roundtrip walk takes you past historical buildings and landmark moments in the history of Harrison Hot Springs. The trail starts at the Visitor Centre, which started life as a logging camp bunkhouse. See one of the first residences in Harrison from 1888, the hot springs source, and the community gathering place since the 1950s, to name a few.

We love learning some history of the places we visit; this is a great little walk back in time to imagine what would have been.

We were losing hope that we would see an eagle in a tree, though we had seen several flying in the sky above. We were approaching the eagle viewing gazebo and turned to find two beauties in the tree nearby.

Sandpiper Resort Eagle Walk

If you are not staying as a guest on Sandpiper Resort property, they ask that you check-in at the front desk before continuing onto the trail.

The Eagle Walk is a short forest walk from the Sandpiper parking lot.  Follow the well-placed eagle directional and interpretive signage through the forest to the Eagle Viewing Gazebo. When eagle viewing at Sandpiper Resort, you are looking out on the Chehalis Flats, the resting grounds for the spawning salmon and migrating eagles. It is important to stay out of the flats from October through February, to not disturb the eagles and endanger salmon eggs.

Even if you are not visiting during the world’s largest winter bald eagle gathering, we still encourage you to stop by this trail for an easy and peaceful wander.

Frozen Waterfall

Along the side of the road when you are driving from Harrison’s main strip towards Sasquatch Provincial Park, we happened upon this frozen waterfall.

We had pulled to the side of the road to admire the beauty. A resident slowed down to tell us that the gorgeous display of ice was not there the previous morning.

We visited Harrison during a cold snap and this was the result of the below-freezing temperatures overnight. We were mesmerized. It was a completely unexpected find. How cool is it that an incredible display of nature’s art can appear seemingly “just like that” overnight?

Shoreline Tours

A popular way to explore Harrison Lake is by hopping on a boat with Shoreline Tours; we have so many people rave about their tour.

During the spring months (February – April), the tour will take you to Rainbow Falls, accessible only by boat. Tour options change during the different seasons.

Our tour was unfortunately canceled due to cold temperatures.

Know before you go: Boarding starts 15 minutes before departure. The boat departs at the reserved time. You must be on time for your reservation, or you miss out, with no option to rebook or obtain a refund.

Sasquatch Territory

Harrison is Hot Springs is Sasquatch territory and the creature is legendary in the area. A sasquatch is a bi-pedal mammal of great size (up to 14′) and is said to have reddish hair covering its entire body.

For centuries, the Sasquatch has been part of the oral traditions of the First Nations communities of Harrison. The Sts’ailes believe the Sasquatch is a spiritual being that can vanish into the spirit realm at will, making the elusive being difficult to track down.

Do not forget to take a photo with the Sasquatch statue at the “Welcome to Harrison Hot Springs” sign and follow the Sasquatch footprints in town.

Also, do not miss grabbing some chocolate Sasquatch feet from Rocky Mountain Chocolate, located in Harrison Village.

Maybe you will have a lucky sighting of this elusive creature!

Kilby Park

We discovered this gorgeous spot during one of our last visits to the area. Actually, we found a huge amount of dead fish heads all over the beach during our last eagle-watching visit a couple of years ago. It is so interesting to see the circle of life take place.

Even though there were not any fish heads this time, the scenery at Kilby Park is stunning. It is worth a stop for a wander along the beach; look at the scenery!

Where To Stay

The Sandpiper Resort

We stayed in a three-bedroom luxury nature series cabin called Chinook at Sandpiper Resort, also home to the Rowena’s Inn on the River, the Sandpiper Golf Course, and the River’s Edge Clubhouse.

If you are an avid golfer, you won’t want to miss the Sandpiper golf course, named one of British Columbia’s best resort courses, and the #1 golf course in the Fraser Valley. The Sandpiper is also renowned for its fishing packages.

Located in the town of Harrison Mills,  the Sandpiper Resort is a short 20-minute drive from Harrison Hot Springs. It was nice and close to all the action while feeling far away from the crowds.

The cabin was incredible, with every part of it feeling so luxurious: the wonderful showers to the simple but comfortable and cozy bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a wood fireplace, and vaulted ceilings.  It was clean, modern, and felt huge, even with six of us. The only thing better was the views!

The luxury nature series cabins, like the one we stayed in, come in 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom layouts. We loved how the cabins honored the wildlife and salmon that are indigenous and sacred to the area.

For cabins without the extra bells and whistles of luxury, another option is the classic rustic cottages that honor the history of the original owners, the Pretty’s. Enjoy incredible views of the Harrison River and mountains that will take your breath away.

Another accommodation option, Rowena’s Inn on the River, is the colonial 1920s themed inn, with European flair. Like the classic cabins, this adorable inn honors the history of the original owners, the Pretty’s. It is a popular destination for weddings and special events.

The Sandpiper Resort is also home to one of the best locations for eagle viewing during the world’s largest winter eagle gathering, returning in the fall. Wander through their forest walk or watch the eagles soar from the Eagle Observation Deck.

Here is a great map of the property so that you can find your way around.

While you are there, enjoy some fall golf while surrounded by the largest eagle gathering in the world.

Where To Eat

There are plenty of mouth-watering dining options in the Harrison River Valley. Here are a few delicious locations that you will not want to miss during your adventure in the Harrison River Valley.

River’s Edge Clubhouse Restaurant

Located on the property of the Sandpiper Resort, the River’s Edge Clubhouse is a convenient and delicious option for a meal with a view. The menu had a great selection for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are staying in a cabin on the property, it is also a comfortable option to take your food to-go to enjoy in your cabin.

Stop by the River’s Edge Clubhouse after a round of golf, eagle viewing, or a long day of adventuring.

Muddy Waters 

Muddy Waters is a family-run cafe that uses fresh, local ingredients, creating a unique farm-to-table experience. From locally-roasted coffee to cheeses from Agassiz, Muddy Waters is a local popular foodie destination for locals and tourists alike.

One bite of a Muddy Waters sandwich and you will immediately be hooked. Muddy Waters is one of the best places to grab a bite along the main strip of Harrison Hot Springs. One of our favorites is the pulled pork; we love the apple slices in the sandwich. There is also a great kids’ menu that will suit even the pickiest eaters.

Muddy Waters Cafe is the perfect cozy spot to grab a quick coffee, lunch, or tasty treat.  Only steps away from the Harrison Lagoon, you can also expect a gorgeous view with your meal.

After you are done with your lunch, go next door into the adjoining Baskin Robbins for ice cream.

Black Forest Restaurant

Stepping into the restaurant and seeing how busy it is on a weeknight in a small town really speaks volumes.

The Black Forest Steak & Schnitzel House has generous servings and an extensive menu.  We cannot go without trying a new Schnitzel each time.

For children who are picky eaters, there are also several options. Our kids loved the spaghetti and asked to go back for more the next day.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Can you ever go wrong with chocolate? 

While this may not be a meal, there are so many treats you must try at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. When in Harrison Hot Springs, you simply cannot go without enjoying one of the iconic sasquatch feet.

Another favorite is the variety of delicious candy and caramel apples.

Do not forget to get a treat wrapped up for you before you leave. You will want to savor it when you return home to help transport you with each bite to this slice of relaxing British Columbia paradise.

 

Disclaimer: We were invited by Tourism Harrison to experience the Harrison River Valley. All experiences were gifted. Our opinions are our own. 

 

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