What could be better than a relaxing spa day for some well-earned you-time? For many, the answer lies in the allure of genuine natural hot springs, where one can immerse themselves in the tranquil embrace of waters steeped in soothing and healing properties, possibly dating back thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years!
Hot springs are truly remarkable destinations, each with its unique charm and potential therapeutic attributes. In the abundant world of natural hot springs, California stands out as a place where these natural wonders are especially abundant and diverse.
Best Natural Hot Springs in California
California is home to a variety of natural hot springs, each with its unique charm and setting. Whether you’re looking for a remote, backcountry soak or a luxurious spa experience, California offers hot springs to suit your preferences. Here are some notable natural hot springs in the state:
1. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, also known as Crowley Hot Springs, is a serene, easily accessible haven for relaxation, situated approximately 14 miles east of Mammoth Lakes in California. Nestled within public land, these geothermal waters offer two inviting soaking pools, one larger than the other, seemingly emerging in the midst of a tranquil wilderness setting. To reach the parking area for Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, follow Benton Crossing Road from I-395; please note that the final stretch of the journey involves navigating a dirt road, which can be challenging in winter after heavy snowfall, so exercise caution. Whether you choose to visit under the daytime sun, soaking in vistas of the Eastern Sierra mountains and Glass Mountain Ridge, or prefer an evening visit for an enchanting display of remote wilderness stargazing, Wild Willy’s promises an unforgettable experience.
2. Deep Creek Hot Springs
The trail leading to Deep Creek Hot Springs spans approximately 2.5 miles in length, but it’s important to note that it’s a downhill journey toward the springs. However, the elevation change during this trek is a significant 950 feet. This means that after indulging in the hot pools and enjoying a soothing experience, you’ll face a rugged ascent back to your starting point, so be prepared for the climb.
Here are a few additional essential points to consider: To access Deep Creek Hot Springs, you must cross a river, which can be chilly and may have varying water levels depending on the time of year. Additionally, it’s important to be aware that clothing is optional at this location, as many bathers choose to enjoy the springs in their natural state.
3. Vichy Springs Resort, Ukiah
Indulge in a timeless spa experience in the charming city of Ukiah, California, conveniently located just a two-hour drive from San Francisco. At Vichy Springs Resort, you’ll discover the allure of immersing yourself in warm, naturally carbonated mineral baths that have a rich history.
According to the resort’s website, these mineral baths possess unique qualities. The combination of CO2 and water creates a profoundly relaxing effect, gently penetrating the skin and causing a rapid dilation of capillaries. This results in an extraordinary sensation of calm, warmth, peace, and tranquility. The waters are believed to hold magical properties, realigning one’s natural magnetic field and inducing a state of profound relaxation.
Guests staying at the resort have the privilege of enjoying these mineral baths, as well as a soaking pool and a seasonally available Olympic-size swimming pool. However, the Vichy Springs experience extends beyond water therapy. Explore the resort’s expansive 700-plus private acres, providing a serene backdrop for leisurely walks and peaceful contemplation.
4. Wilbur Hot Springs
Nestled in Northern California, Wilbur Hot Springs stands as a rustic and historic haven, offering a unique hot springs experience. Here, the natural mineral springs flow into three distinct soaking areas, each offering varying temperatures of relaxation: 100, 105, and a toasty 109 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambiance of these secluded pools evokes the tranquil spirit of Japanese-style onsen baths.
In addition to these soothing hot springs, the resort boasts a range of aquatic amenities, including a spring-fed swimming pool that is chlorinated during the summer months, a compact cold plunge pool, an enticing outdoor hot mineral flume, and a rejuvenating dry sauna.
For those seeking an extended retreat, guests have the option to book a cabin, hotel room, or lodge room for overnight visits. Seasonal camping sites are available from April to October, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. It’s important to note that Wilbur Hot Springs operates off the grid and relies on solar power, meaning you won’t find Wi-Fi access or cell service here. Additionally, guests are encouraged to bring their own food, which can be stored and prepared in a communal kitchen.
For added relaxation, indulge in a massage treatment or explore the resort’s extensive 1,800-acre nature reserve, which features scenic hiking trails. It’s worth mentioning that the bathing area at Wilbur Hot Springs is clothing optional, allowing guests to fully embrace the liberating atmosphere of this natural retreat.
5. Calistoga Hot Springs
When you embark on a journey to California’s renowned wine country, a visit to the natural hot springs in the picturesque spa town of Calistoga is an absolute must. Among these thermal wonders, you’ll find the Calistoga Springs Resort, a true gem in the heart of the region.
What sets these hot springs apart is their exceptional offering – natural mud baths infused with nutrient-rich volcanic ash. This unique experience not only provides relaxation for your muscles and joints but also serves as a purifying and detoxifying ritual, leaving you with a profound sense of refreshment and rejuvenation.
Calistoga itself is a charming destination that extends a warm welcome to visitors. You’ll discover a wealth of enjoyable amenities, from renting bicycles to explore the scenic surroundings to easy access to nearby wine tours, where you can savor the local vintages. The town is dotted with delightful boutiques and eateries, offering the perfect complement to your hot springs retreat.
6. Esalen Hot Springs
Elevate your hot springs experience to sheer luxury by reserving a stay at Esalen, a hidden gem nestled along the captivating California coast. Perched dramatically on a cliffside in the breathtaking Big Sur, Esalen isn’t just a place to unwind; it’s an intentional community dedicated to guiding its guests on a transformative journey toward their best selves.
Esalen’s hot springs, cradled by the stunning coastal landscape, provide a sanctuary for soaking away life’s worries and immersing yourself in pure relaxation. What’s more, Esalen offers a clothing-optional retreat, where you can fully embrace the liberating atmosphere of this coastal paradise. Complement your soak with an array of healing treatments, including massages and acupuncture, designed to rejuvenate both body and spirit.
For those seeking a deeper connection and personal growth, Esalen offers an array of workshops and activities. Engage in meditation and mindfulness sessions, fostering inner peace and self-awareness. Esalen’s commitment to holistic well-being extends beyond the hot springs, making it a destination where you can truly nourish your mind, body, and soul.
7. Beverly Hot Springs, Los Angeles
Indulge in a rejuvenating soak right in the heart of the city at Beverly Hot Springs. This urban oasis offers a unique hot springs experience that’s both historical and therapeutic.
The spa’s origins trace back to 1910 when Richard S. Grant, while intending to develop the land for housing, stumbled upon a hidden gem. Drilling for oil led to the discovery of a 2,200-foot artesian well, yielding a robust flow of naturally heated water, ranging from 96 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Initially, the water was bottled and sold, gaining popularity among those seeking relief, especially after long weekends.
Today, you have the opportunity to partake in this tradition of wellness. Whether you’re in need of a hangover cure or simply seeking a healing dip, the coed pool at Beverly Hot Springs offers respite from the bustling city life. Enhance your experience by adding on a massage or body treatment, transforming your visit into a soothing and revitalizing escape.
Key Characteristics of Natural Hot Springs
- Temperature: Hot springs are defined by their elevated water temperature, which can range from slightly warm to scalding hot, depending on their location and depth.
- Mineral Content: Hot springs often contain various minerals and trace elements that are believed to have therapeutic properties. These minerals can include sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and silica.
- Color and Appearance: The presence of minerals can give hot springs unique colors and appearances. For example, sulfur-rich springs may have a distinct odor and a milky or yellowish hue.
- Location: Hot springs are commonly found in regions with volcanic or tectonic activity. They can be located in remote wilderness areas, national parks, or developed spa resorts.
Uses and Benefits of Natural Hot Springs
- Therapeutic and Relaxation: Hot springs are known for their potential therapeutic benefits, such as soothing sore muscles, relieving stress, and improving circulation. Many people visit hot springs for relaxation and to unwind in a natural, tranquil setting.
- Mineral Baths: The mineral-rich water of hot springs is often used for therapeutic baths, known as balneotherapy. Different minerals are believed to offer various health benefits, including improved skin health and joint pain relief.
- Spa and Wellness Tourism: Hot springs have become popular tourist destinations, with many resorts and spa facilities built around them. These destinations offer a range of amenities, including pools, saunas, and massage services.
- Cultural and Recreational: Hot springs hold cultural and recreational significance for many communities and indigenous peoples. They are often used for rituals, ceremonies, or as gathering places.
- Geothermal Energy: In some regions, the heat from hot springs is harnessed to generate geothermal energy for heating buildings and producing electricity.
- Environmental Impact: Hot springs are ecosystems in themselves, hosting unique flora and fauna adapted to the warm, mineral-rich waters. It’s essential to protect these ecosystems and maintain their natural balance when developing or using hot springs for recreational purposes.
These hot springs offer diverse experiences, from remote wilderness soaks to luxurious spa retreats. Always check accessibility, regulations, and any seasonal closures before planning your visit to make the most of your California hot springs adventure.
1. Are natural hot springs safe to soak in?
Natural hot springs are generally safe to soak in, but it’s essential to exercise caution. Always check the water temperature before entering, and be aware of any posted rules or warnings. Some hot springs may have areas with extremely hot water.
2. Are clothing-optional hot springs common in California?
Yes, some hot springs in California, like Harbin Hot Springs and Deep Creek Hot Springs, have clothing-optional areas. However, it’s essential to research each hot spring’s policies and guidelines before visiting.
3. Do I need to make reservations to visit hot springs in California?
Reservations are generally not required for public natural hot springs. However, some private resorts and spas may have specific reservation requirements.
4. Are hot springs accessible year-round?
Many natural hot springs are accessible year-round, but accessibility can be affected by weather conditions, road closures, or maintenance. It’s advisable to check current conditions before planning a visit, especially during the winter months.
5. What should I bring when visiting natural hot springs?
When visiting hot springs, it’s recommended to bring essentials such as a swimsuit (if required), water, sunscreen, towels, and appropriate footwear for walking to and from the springs. Some hot springs may also require you to pack out your trash, so consider bringing trash bags.
6. Are pets allowed at natural hot springs?
Pets’ policies vary by hot spring location. Some hot springs may allow pets, while others may have restrictions or prohibit pets altogether. Always check the specific hot spring’s rules regarding pets before bringing your furry companion.
7. Can I camp near natural hot springs in California?
Camping near natural hot springs is possible in some areas, but it’s essential to research the specific location’s camping regulations. Many hot springs are within or near public lands that may have designated camping areas.
8. Are there any health benefits associated with soaking in natural hot springs?
Many people believe that soaking in natural hot springs offers potential health benefits, such as stress relief, improved circulation, and relief from certain skin conditions and muscle aches. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.
9. Do I need to pay an entrance fee to access natural hot springs?
The accessibility and fees for natural hot springs vary widely. Some hot springs are free to access, while others may require a small entrance fee or parking fee. Private resorts and spas typically charge for access.
10. How do I find the exact location of natural hot springs in California? – You can use maps, guidebooks, online resources, or GPS coordinates to locate natural hot springs in California. It’s also helpful to seek local recommendations or ask fellow travelers for directions and tips.