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The Palliser expedition used the Vermilion Pass in 1858 and reported to British government its potential as a transportation route.On the Columbia River side, an early homesteader included the hot spring that would later become Radium Hot Springs in his land claim in the 1880s, but it was Roland Stuart and his business partner H. Pearse who were successful in acquiring the 160 acres around the springs in 1890 as a provincial crown grant.European fur traders and trappers passed through, as did George Simpson in 1841, through what would later be named Simpson Pass, during his circumnavigation of the world.Likewise, James Sinclair led Red River colonists westward and Pierre-Jean De Smet traveled eastward, through the area.Archaeological evidence suggests humans have been either traveling through, or temporarily residing in, the area for about 10,000 years.Pictographs found in the hot spring caves indicate that it was the Ktunaxa people who first made more permanent use of the area, particularly the hot springs, several hundred years ago.With his agent unable to reach him, or Stuart ignoring the offer, the government expropriated the land, in 1922, with a settlement, after numerous hearings right up to the Supreme Court, of ,000 in 1927.In that same year, a new two-storey bath-house was erected and the pool lengthened by 30 feet.

To the northwest, the watershed boundary between the Vermillion River and the Kicking Horse River is the park boundary between the Kootenay and Yoho National Park.

Just outside the park's southwestern entrance is the town of Radium Hot Springs.

The town is named for the odourless hot springs located just inside the park boundary.

The federal government agreed to build a road from Banff to the park boundary at the provincial border at the Vermilion Pass, while the provincial government, with some funds from the CPR, would build a road from Windermere to the border.

However, the BC government under-estimated its cost, found itself over-budget and its work was suspended in 1913, while the federal government completed their portion in November 1914.

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