Nothing is better after a long day in the snow than warming up in a hot tub. That is, unless you can swap that hot tub for a natural geothermal spring surrounded by stunning views.
California has a number of noteworthy ones. Here, we’ve rounded five of our favorite natural hot springs that the Golden State has to offer.
Travertine Hot Springs: Bridgeport, CA
Located just outside of Bridgeport, off Route 395, Travertine Hot Springs is one of the easiest hot springs to access in the Eastern Sierra while still offering views aplenty. From Bridgeport, head south on Route 395 until you reach an unmarked paved road just before the Forest Service Office. Turn left and follow the road a short distance until the road splits. Once again, turn left and then head into the hills until you reach a parking lot with a pit toilet. You may consider putting the address into Google Maps if you’re unsure of the route.
Once you reach the parking lot, you’re basically at the springs. Simply crest the small hill and you’ll find four small springs. If you wish to explore the other hot springs in the area, head southwest on the trail and you should find three more springs scattered throughout the valley.
Crowley (Wild Willy’s) Hot Springs: Mammoth Lakes, CA
When you think of a visit to Mammoth Lakes, California, the first thing that comes to mind is probably skiing or snowboarding. And there’s no better way to warm up after a long day on the slopes than a visit to a natural hot spring. Luckily, Mammoth is in no short supply.
While there are multiple hot springs located off of Benton Crossing Road, Wild Willy’s is probably the easiest to find and access. From Bishop, head north on Highway 395. When you reach Benton Crossing Road, turn right and follow the road for about three miles. When you reach the second cow grate, turn right and follow the road for a mile and a half until you reach the dirt car park. From there, you will follow an elevated wooden walkway approximately 0.2 miles that will lead you directly to the springs.
There are two pools: one small and one large. Both are jacuzzi-hot and offer stunning views of the surrounding grasslands and mountains. The area is surrounded by BLM land, so if you wish to make a camping trip out of it, simply find a secluded spot to set up camp for the night.
Sykes Hot Springs: Big Sur, CA
To access the springs, park at the Big Sur station and follow the Pine Ridge trail – be prepared to cross the creek and scramble over rocks and trees in some spots. There are three campgrounds along the route: Terrace Creek (5 miles in), Barlow Flat (8 miles in), and Sykes Campground (right by the springs). Campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-serve basis and campfire permits are required for both fires and stoves.
The springs themselves are situated 10 miles in along the Big Sur River – there may or may not be signs directing you. Regardless, once you reach the river, follow it downstream for approximately half a mile until you reach the springs. There are two springs adjacent to the river and another up the hill. The springs average 102 degrees Fahrenheit and the view can’t be beat.
Note: The trail to the springs is currently closed due to damage from 2017 storms. You can call the USFS Monterey District Office for more information: (831)385-5434
Gaviota Hot Springs: Goleta, CA
The hike to Gaviota Hot Springs is a short and sweet, one mile round-trip hike with a mild 400-foot elevation gain. To get to the springs, park in the cul-de-sac lot at Gaviota Park Boundary Road, off Highway 101 (be sure and pay the $2 parking fee).
Begin with a short climb up the fire road until you reach the junction at Trespass Trail. Make a left and continue up the road until you reach another junction, located along the creek. Follow the stream approximately a tenth of a mile along a single-track trail until you reach the springs.
The springs fluctuate from 90-100 degrees and can hold half a dozen people. If you wish to lengthen your expedition, you can follow the trail to Gaviota Peak (6.2 miles round-trip) or hike the Campbell trail loop (11 miles round-trip).
Deep Creek Hot Springs: Hesperia, CA
To access the hiking trail, park at the car park off of Bowen Ranch Road and pay the $5 per person entrance fee. From the trailhead, follow the somewhat steep and sandy trail two miles downhill to the Mojave River where you will find the hot springs. Alternatively, you can follow the Pacific Crest Trail east from Arrowhead Lake Ridge (approximately six miles).
Once you reach the springs, you will have a number of choices as far as swimming and bathing goes. There are six or seven different pools to choose from, most of which range in temperature from 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you venture farther up the Mojave River, there are a number of other less-frequented geothermal pools. The trail to the springs is dog friendly but it is strictly day use, camping is prohibited. Temperatures soar into the triple-digits in the summer months so be sure to bring plenty of water.
It is important to practice “Leave No Trace” principles when visiting natural hot springs. Pick up trash and belongings and leave the area better than you found it.
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