Alaska RV Tour – Liard Hot Springs


Top of the World Highway, Yukon

Day 20 – Liard Hot Springs – Alaska Hwy.

Brilliant blue skies and a bright sunrise greeted Lynda and I as we emerged from our camper at Big Creek Yukon government campground. Minus 2 with frost on the windshields was totally bearable in the sunshine.
The other couples were already up and enjoying cinnamon buns by the time Lynda and I wandered over to the campfire with our morning coffee.
The cinnamon buns were not the style gramma would make but the sticky flavor was still there, nothing like a morning sugar high to get the juices flowing. Allyson picked up the buns for the group, a thoughtful gesture.
Today’s drive should be short, our next stop was another highlight of the trip. In no time it was follow the leader as we headed south on the Alaska highway toward Laird Hot Springs in gorgeous sunshine. Henry leads most of the time on this trip and I’m number two spot and Ralph bringing up his rear. The reasoning is Henry and I are towing trailers.
As I mentioned previously I’m not sure why this arrangement has stuck? Ralph is also towing a trailer, a 5th wheel?……………. food for thought. 
I’m not sure if it’s my age but a sunny morning starts my day with brighter spirits. After a few hours of sunshine one quickly forgets the previous rainy days.
A nice morning drive through rolling forested hills and misty valleys. At one point the sun shining through the mist took on the appearance of a blazing wild-fire. This phenomenon was brought to our attention over the walkie talkie by the hysterical voice of Allyson.
Not that I’m the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do work for the forest service as a Fire Warden and considering the amount of rain we’ve driven through the last few days the likelihood of a raging wildfire would be slim to none.
It took a few days for Allyson to live down her reaction to the orange colored mist. During a relaxed comatose driving day, someone would announce FIRE over the walkie talkie bringing a roar of laughter. Allyson is so much fun.
A couple of hours on the road brought us to Watson Lake, Yukon, and another fuel stop, $1.06 per litre, prices are beginning to drop. As I filled my tank a white car with Alberta plates pulled up to the opposite gas pump, a middle-aged couple climbed out.
While the male filled the tank the female proceeded to wash the entire car with the windshield squeegee while mumbling in a foreign language, German I think. A strange sight. 
Watson lake is one of the larger towns on the Alaska Hwy. Situated near the border of British Columbia and the Yukon. A good place to refuel and stock up on supplies.
Watson Lake was a center for mine registry back in the day, but recently the sign post forest has stolen the show, a major tourist attraction.
Sign post forest, Watson Lake, Yukon
The story goes, in 1942 a homesick soldier working on the construction of the Alaska Hwy. posted the name of his hometown a highway mileage post  thus began the tradition.
The soldier’s sign posting caught on, to date, there are more than 80,000 signs at this famous corner in Watson Lake, Yukon. An interesting stop.
Sign post forest Watson Lake, Yukon
After wandering around the sign forest  checking out signs from across the world it was time to continue to Liard Hot Springs across the BC border.
About a half hour or so south of Watson Lake, Allyson broke the silence over the walkie talkie announcing something on the side of the road. Lynda and I perked up straining to see. We spotted a large dark figure ahead on the side of the road, at first I thought it was a bear but as we got closer I realized it was the wrong shape for a bear.
It was a large bull buffalo grazing contently. We pulled over behind Allyson and Henry. A magnificent creature the size of a large cow. I wasn’t sure if I should venture out of the truck to take a picture? The buffalo didn’t seem at all concerned about our vehicles so I decided to take the chance.
Large bull Buffalo, Alaska Hwy, northern British Columbia
The buffalo showed no reaction at all as I slowly approached for a picture. I left the truck door ajar for a quick escape if the buffalo took exception to his picture being taken. I took a few shots and returned to the safety of my truck. We watched the animal for a few minutes before continuing on.
Over the next few miles another couple of large bulls and then to our amazement a large herd of buffalo probably 40 strong. Cows, calves and young bulls from yearlings to almost full grown specimens. An amazing sight.
Buffalo herd, Alaska Hwy. northern BC
Buffalo herd, Alaska Hwy. northern BC
At the planning stages of this trip everyone in the group and others commented on the wildlife we were sure to see on this trip. The opposite has been more the case. Up to this point, a couple of fleeting bears has been it for wildlife.
Each of us in the group has commented about the lack of wildlife we’ve seen after traveling for several thousand kilometers through total wilderness. There’s been more wildlife around our campfire. 
The reaction of this large herd to our presence was surprising, except for the odd glance, the entire herd paid no attention to us or our vehicles.
Young Buffalo posing for a picture Alaska Hwy northern BC
Young Buffalo posing for a picture Alaska Hwy northern BC
Shortly after leaving Watson Lake we crossed back into British Columbia. The distance from Watson Lake to Liard Hot Springs is just 100 kilometers (60 miles). Besides the buffalo, a couple construction delays were all that hampered our progress this day.
Once across the BC-Yukon border, the quality of the Alaska Hwy improved greatly. Straighter, wider and more pull outs, which we took advantage of for a lunch stop.
As we traveled south the change in seasons from summer to fall was less apparent. Fall colors were less noticeable, the air temperature and the weather improved nicely. In some respects, it was like traveling back in time.
Our campsite, Liard Hot Springs BC provincial park
Our campsite, Liard Hot Springs BC provincial park
Soon after a sunny lunch stop, we arrived at Liard Hot Springs in the sunshine. +16 C (65 f), the warm sunshine gave a feeling of summer compared to the cool temperature we experienced the last couple of weeks.
Conveniently, Liard Hot Springs is part of a BC provincial campground. The cost is reasonable for BC seniors $13, per night, half price after Labour day, Sept. 6,  including entry into the hot springs. 
Even though we arrived early afternoon the campground was half full, obviously, a point of interest destination. It appeared some campers had been here for more than a night or two. I imagine the hot springs would be packed during high season.
In fact someone in the group mentioned the parking lot across the street is full during high season with patrons waiting for a spot to camp.
After setting up camp, it was time to check out the hot springs. Lynda and I have visited hot springs in BC several times over the years.
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
One feature they all have in common, a smell like rotten eggs or leaking propane. Some hot springs have a slight smell and some stronger. Unfortunately, Liard gave off a stronger smell, not unbearable but unpleasant.
There was no problem finding our way to the hot springs, the closer we got the stronger the smell. An elevated boardwalk meandered through a swamp from the day use parking lot.
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
The hot spring is a well-organized site with change rooms connected to a large deck and a wide staircase descending into the very warm water.
The water temperature varies from warm to very hot 110 F depending on how far you are from the source. The heat was a nice change from the cool temperatures our group had experienced the last week.
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Hwy. northern British Columbia
The temperature of the water determined our stay, short, it was easy to become overheated. After twenty minutes it was time to dress and head back to camp.
On the walk back to camp the group agreed another dip in the hot spring either later that evening or in the morning would suffice. We would continue our travels the next morning.
Lynda and I hosted the evening’s campfire and of course happy hour. An obvious choice considering my trailer contained the firewood.
Liard Hot Springs campground is in BC marking an end to the free firewood, back to limiting the size of the campfire to conserve wood. I get chastised often for adding more wood to the fire, not sure why as we can easily replenish our supply with a quick trip into the forest.
The Liard Hot Springs provincial campground is typical of BC provincial park campgrounds. Spacious campsites dispersed through the forest. Each campsite contains a picnic table, fire ring, and level gravel  camping area.
BC provincial campgrounds are scenic and reasonably priced, little or no amenities is the downside. Most have outhouses (pit toilets) and water taps dispersed through the campground, in other words ,dry camping.
Another pleasant evening around the campfire, recapping the day while a stream of campers arrived for the night. I guess the northern RV travel season is not finished yet.
The next morning we were greeted with another sunny day. Cool morning, 0 C. Coffee a quick breakfast and back to the hot springs for the group.
As we approached the boardwalk there seemed to be a calamity. A group of other patrons stared and pointed across the swamp. As we emerged from the grove of tree bordering the swamp we spotted the cause of the excitement.
A large bull moose at the edge of the swamp grazed in the tall grass unconcerned with the flock of admirers. People strained to take pictures of the magnificent beast in the distance. Some crept through the bush to get a closer shot.
A moose at Liard Hot Springs.
A moose at Liard Hot Springs.

Henry, a hunter commented on the fact the moose was not afraid, he seemed to be somewhat perturbed by the fact. I should have asked him what was the problem, now I’m guessing this amazing specimen may become easy prey once out of the provincial park. Although it’s obvious to me this is a full grown bull moose that has survived this long, maybe the odds are in his favor?

Next article Muncho Lake BC provincial park in the heart of the northern Rocky Mountains.

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Thanks for visiting.
Gord B.

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