Turn up the heat in California’s hot spring hotspots
The hottest of California’s hotspots aren’t the beaches, deserts, or even lightning fast coffee shop Wi-Fi. Thanks to a network of tectonic fault lines that spiderweb through the state’s subterranean and pockets of water trapped deep below, hot water forces its way to the surface, creating idyllic natural hot springs.
Whether you’re looking for a back country soak a la nude or a head-to-toe mud bath, get ready to dive in with these ten hot springs in California.
1. West Valley Hot Spring
You’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle and a sense of adventure to find this hot spring tucked far in the North-eastern corner of the state among the marshy hillside above the West Valley Reservoir. Those who make the trek will be met by an unassuming A-frame shack that protects soakers from the high-elevation wind chill while taking a dip in the 108-degree tub.
Time your visit to watch the sun set with your sweetheart from your soaking spot.
2. Steep Ravine Hot Spring
Steep Ravine Hot Spring is Mother Nature’s idea of a triple threat. With the hot spring, the sandy beach, and a cluster of nearby hiking paths, this area draws locals and tourists alike.
The hot spring is only exposed during a low tide – the lower the better – so be sure to consult a tide chart before planning a trip. If the grotto is too crowded for your liking, grab a shovel and follow your nose to the sulfur-scented geothermal vents at the base of the cliffs on the beach to dig your own personal pool.
3. Buckeye Hot Springs
This shallow pool is fed by steaming hot waterfalls traveling down from the thermal springs above. Follow the water as it trickles down an outcropping of stone and find three pools set off from Buckeye Creek with a low river rock dam. The waterfalls themselves are too hot to sit beneath, but when married with the cool waters of the creek, it makes for a perfect soaking spot.
The nearby Travertine Hot Springs make this area a great area for pool hopping; however, with the popularity of the well-known Travertine Hot Springs, you’re more likely to snag a pool for yourself if you stick to Buckeye Hot Springs.
4. Mono Hot Springs
Threading the needle between two National Parks, Yosemite to the north and Kings Canyon to the South, Mono Hot Springs is a series of several naturally occurring and man-made pools dotted along the South Fork of the San Joaquin River.
The mineral rich waters range from more than 100 degrees in the two largest pools to a tepid 80 degrees in the smaller pools. First discovered by the Mono Indians, these hot springs afford visitors stunning views of the sweeping granite slopes for which the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is renowned. Nowadays this is a popular destination for campers, but still the Mono Hot Springs remain some of the most remote springs accessible by car.
5. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park’s steamy geothermal valleys, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs offers weary road trippers a little love as they take a dip in the heart-shaped pool. Follow the wooden boardwalk through the sage brush countryside to the main pool and enjoy stunning 360-degree views of snow peaked mountains.
For a more intimate soak, opt for the smaller of the two pools, which frequently comes in around 100 degrees and is a cozy spot for two people.
6. Pyramid Hot Spring
This elusive hot spring is hard to find and often is only accessible during the drier months of late summer. Be prepared for a chilly swim across the Kern River to get there and back, but you’re nearly guaranteed a private soak among the smooth river rocks and greenery.
If you’re not a strong swimmer or find that other conditions aren’t ideal, opt instead for the nearby Remington Hot Springs – but be prepared to share your spot.
7. Tecopa Hot Spring
Tecopa is a small town near the southern end of Death Valley National Park that is home to several hot springs and mud baths. Framed by green reeds and grasses, the main hot spring, Tecopa Hot Spring, is an oasis amongst the mud flats and desert dunes. Visitors swear by the restorative properties of the mineral-rich, silty mud that coats the bottoms of these hot springs – but some people have walked away with mud mite bites, especially during the months of March and April.
For a mud mite free experience, opt for the small concrete Tecopa Hot Tub that was excavated – possibly as part of a long-gone residence – just outside of town.
8. Gaviota Hot Springs
At the end of this 3/4 mile hike, you’ll find a natural spring that falls nearer the “warm” end of the spectrum than “hot.” Two pools have been dammed under the cover of palm fronds, giving the impression of a jungle getaway in the heart of the Los Padres National Forest.
9. Sespe Hot Springs
A favorite with backpackers, Sespe Hot Spring is the coup de grace of a nearly 20-mile trek from Piedra Blanca, two hours north of Los Angles. You can also opt for the 10-mile hike from Mutau Flats to the north of the hot springs.
The hot springs are dotted along the valley in a constellation connected by a creek and series of small waterfalls. At their source the hot springs are the hottest in the state at nearly 200 degrees. The further downstream you go, the more the water cools, so feel free to play Goldie Locks as you find the pool that is just right.
10. Deep Creek Hot Springs
As one of the larger hot springs in the state, Deep Creek Hot Springs has half a dozen main pools to choose from and several more as you go further downstream along the Deep Creek Fork of the Mojave River. The largest of these pools is big enough to swim in; the smallest is the perfect place to snag for a soak in a personal pool.
There are two ways to reach the hot springs. The first starts at Bowen Ranch Road and is a steep, 2.5-mile downhill hike in – which means a steep, 2.5 miles uphill returning from the hot springs. The second option is to follow a six-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail, starting at Arrowhead Lake Road.
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