Imagine relaxing in a bubbling hot natural pool, surrounded by lush vegetation, without a single other soul around for miles. The USA is full of these off-the-beaten-path hot springs that are reasonably easy to access and available for anyone to enjoy!
We have our personal favorites but we also enlisted the help of a few other travel bloggers to bring you a list of the best of the best hot springs in the USA.
Hot Springs Map
Hot Springs Basics
- Many of the hot springs in the US are “clothing optional” but you should be sure to check the rules before you strip down. If kids are around, best to keep it PC.
- Test the water before jumping in, the water might be scalding hot near the source.
- If the hot pools are small and already occupied, ask before you join. If they prefer their privacy simply wait your turn.
- Don’t get frisky or gawk at any nude soakers.
- Many pools restrict the consumption of alcohol as hot temperatures and booze generally don’t mix well. Follow the rules, and if you do choose to partake, be responsible.
- If you bring your pup keep them leashed and under control.
- Drink plenty of water! It’s easy to get dehydrated without realizing it, especially when consuming alcohol.
What to Bring
While many of the hot springs in the US are “clothing optional”, depending on who else is soaking, you may want to keep your suit on.
Be sure to bring an absorbent, quick-drying towel for drying off after using the pools. Bonus if you bring one that can double as a picnic blanket for snacking during your visit.
Water Shoes or Tennis Shoes
Most of our recommended hot springs involve some hiking to get to the pools. And occasionally that can involve walking on slippery rocks or trails. Invest in a pair of water shoes to give you added traction and dry off fast!
Bring some flip flops as well so you don’t have to wear shoes when walking into and out of the pools.
If you have expensive camera equipment that is not meant to get wet, invest in a quality dry bag to keep your gear safe, just in case.
Other Hot Springs Necessities
- Plenty of water
- Wine/beer (if allowed)
- Headlamp in case you don’t make it back to your car before dark
Travertine Hot Springs, California
As described by Carol of Wayfaring Views
Travertine Hot Springs are located in the eastern shadow of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. This sparsely populated region of California is notable for it’s dry terrain, looming mountains and kooky geology. Geologically speaking, the Sierra Nevada mountains are fairly new. This means that there is a lot of geothermal activity all along the Highway 395 corridor running from Carson City Nevada down to Death Valley.
You can visit seventeen hot springs along 395 but Travertine Hot Springs are special for several reasons. The first is that, while they seem remote, they are very easy to get to. They are located just fifteen minutes outside of Bridgeport and the dirt road to the hot pots can be navigated by a car or even a small RV. The next benefit is that the springs are free. They are located in open space on state park land. The land is ungated and there is a decent sized parking lot.
If that doesn’t convince you, you’ll also be happy to know that there are several different pools with different water temperatures. The water temperature is (sorta) easily controlled by placing a rock in the inlet. That said, the water is very hot there so I recommend that you chose the pool that is highest and furthest west. This pool also has the best view of the nearby mountain range.
Furthermore, for those of you who are exhibitionists, the pools are also clothing optional. I chose to go au natural, because why not. However, most people there wore bathing suits and there were kids around, so if you do want to do the Full Monty, be aware that you may be doing it alone.
Penny Hot Springs, Colorado
Penny Hot Springs is a popular après-ski destination for the area locals as it is peaceful, relaxing, and the river views are stunning. The boiling hot water bubbles up from the ground in the pools that have been sectioned off from the river with large rocks. Cold river water flows into the pools to cool off the temperature of the water.
The hot springs is conveniently located on the edge of the Crystal River, past the town of Carbondale, near Aspen. There is a small area where cars are parked on the side of the road and there is just a short walk down to the pools. The pools get crowded at the end of the day when the Carbondale residents are finished with their hiking and skiing adventures for the day so bring some extra beers to share!
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, Idaho
As described by Dane of Holiday from Where:
We went to Rocky Canyon Hot Springs in March so the road was covered in snow and closed. We parked in a big car park near the start of the dirt road, packed our camping gear, and started a 1-2 hour hike to get to the hot springs. The plus side of this is that I have heard these hot springs can get extremely crowded in summer and we didn’t see anyone for 2 days.
Once there you will have to cross a river. This was the worst part for us being the middle of winter the water was FREEZING! I thought I was going to have frost bite by the other side for sure! On the other side though you have several pools of varying temperatures the hottest being at the top to the coolest being at the bottom.
Overall it was one of the more incredible hot springs I have been to due to the fact no one was there and once we were safely warm in the springs everything else was covered in snow!
San Antonio Hot Springs, New Mexico
The San Antonio Hot Springs (also known as Jemez Hot Springs) are a set of natural pools tucked away in the Jemez Mountains with views of the valley below. It is the perfect place to have a tranquil and relaxing soak while surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of the surrounding nature. And being that it’s 5 miles from the closest major road, you’ll really feel like you’re off-the-beaten path!
In the summer you can probably make it to the hot springs with a 2-wheel drive car, but in the winter or if it has been raining we recommend a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance. In these conditions many people just opt to park at the gate and walk the remaining 5 miles to the springs.
If you choose to hike in rather than drive, the hike is actually quite lovely, albeit long. It’s 5 miles one-way and mostly flat until you reach the base of the mountain. If it has been snowing you should plan on bringing snow shoes as the road is not plowed or maintained in the winter.
The pool at the very top is the most popular as the water is the hottest, at 105 °F. There are 4 pools in total and you should expect to share your space with others. The top pool is large and can easily fit 10 people.
Terwilliger Hot Springs, Oregon
As described by Victoria of Follow Me Away:
Terwilliger Hot Springs, also called Cougar Hot Springs, is located in the Cascade Mountains about an hour from Eugene, Oregon. You must drive on a winding mountain road until you arrive at the hot springs entrance. Once you arrive, you must pay a small entrance fee for the upkeep of the spring and then you go on a short, easy hike.
The hike is beautiful and takes probably about 10-15 minutes (~1/4 mile) depending on how fast you walk. Once you arrive at Terwilliger Hot Springs there is an outdoor compost toilet and a small area to hang your bags and shoes.
This is a clothing optional Hot Spring so you may or may not see nude people when you visit. When we went, there was a mixture, but we chose to keep our clothes on.
The hot springs is a combination of multiple crystal blue cascading pools in the middle of an old growth forest. The pools range in temperature from 115° F down to 95° F the further you get away from the source.
This is one of the best hot springs in America and a must visit for anyone who wants a soak in the woods!
Hart Mountain Hot Springs, Oregon
This spectacular natural hot springs is located in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and is surrounded by unimpeded mountain views. This area is the perfect place to camp, soak, spot wildlife, and explore with your 4-wheel vehicle.
There are two pools here as well as a campground right nearby. One is a 7×10 feet soaking pool that is enclosed by walls and has benches surrounding it. Six people can fit comfortably (although it’s a clothing optional area so you may or may not be comfortable depending on who you’re sharing it with).
The other more natural pool is across the parking lot. Nothing has been constructed here so your views of the landscape around you are amazing. If you go for sunrise you may be lucky enough to spot antelope grazing nearby.
Alvord Hot Springs, Oregon
The Alvord Desert is a massive dry lake bed in Southeastern Oregon. It’s huge and essentially lawless as you can drive all over the flat lake bed traveling as fast as you would like (it’s a popular place to set land speed records). The hot springs are on the outskirts of the lake bed and are privately owned and operated. It’s the perfect place to camp, cruise, and soak!
There is no hike to get to the Alvord Hot Springs. Just park at the general store, pay your entrance fee, and the pools are right there!
There are two pools and the temperatures are describe as “hot” and “scalding”. The “scalding” pool is only for the extremely brave and it’s unlikely that you can last in there for long.
Boquillas Hot Springs, Texas
The Boquillas Hot Springs sits right on the banks of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. The water is heated geothermally and stays at a perfect temperature of 105° F year-round. The structure surrounding the pool was originally constructed by J.O. Langford in the 1900s as a bathhouse and only the remnant remain. It’s the perfect place to soak your sore muscles after a long day spent trekking around the park!
The hot springs is an easy 1/2 mile round trip hike from the trailhead. You can make it a 1-mile loop if you continue from the hot springs around on the bluff above the river.
If you find yourself getting uncomfortably warm during your soak, simply hop over the edge of the pool into the frigid Rio Grande for a quick dip. But be careful, the rocks are slippery and the river current is strong!
Fifth Water Hot Springs, Utah
The bright blue, milky-looking water of Fifth Water Hot Springs looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. There are several soaking pools offering amazing views of the canyon at the end of the hike which is the most popular spot for visitors. As you get further downstream you’ll find that the water is a bit cooler but you’ll have the swimming holes all to yourself.
You’ll want to spend the entire day in the stunningly beautiful, relaxing pools. Start your hike early in the day so you have plenty of time to soak! The pools are warmest near the waterfall at the top but none of the pools are scalding.
The hike to the hot springs is approximately 5 miles round trip. When you get to the trailhead you’ll see a map with a note on it stating “the trail is unmarked the whole way.” So although there are several marked trails off to the right, you’ll be taking the unmarked trail on the left. You’ll come to a bridge, cross it, and keep on going. After another mile or so you’ll start to see the beautiful, milky blue waters flowing along the trail. Don’t stop there, keep on heading up to the waterfall at the top.
Keep in mind that you have a 2.5 mile hike ahead of you when you leave the pools so bring a headlamp if you plan on staying after dark.
Boiling River Hot Springs, Wyoming
As described by Ryan and Jen of Passions and Places:
It’s eerily quiet. No birds chirping. Only the faint rustling of a herd of bison nearby. There’s a chill in the air and heavy sulfur smell invades your nostrils. You’re enjoying a winter adventure in Yellowstone, a woefully under-visited national park in the colder months. Few things are better than seeing the crusty Mammoth Hot Springs flanked by powdery drifts or the magic of Old Faithful’s steam crystallizing in the frigid air, but after a long day of exploring the park, nothing feels better than sliding into a relaxing hot spring.
While jumping into almost any of Yellowstone’s many hot springs would result in immediate death, the Boiling River (actually a small hot spring) on the park’s northern border is a welcome exception. The temperature of the Boiling River is around 135° F, certainly hot enough to scald you. However, when it mixes with the chilly waters of the adjacent Gardiner River, it cools to a pleasant 100° F. Finding the sweet spot in the river with the perfect temperature is part of the fun.
The trail to reach the hot springs starts very near to a sign demarcating the Montana-Wyoming border and extends for half a mile along the Gardiner River before reaching the swimming hole – easy enough to cover in a swimsuit and flip-flops without freezing to death.
Dunanda Falls Hot Springs, Wyoming
As described by Jess of Longest Bus Rides, the off the beaten path travel blog:
Dunanda Falls Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park is the most stunning hot springs I’ve ever been in. Period. The pools sit at the base of the 150 foot Dunanda Waterfall, and the location is totally off the beaten path. The environment is lush with trees, beautiful and secluded.
You’ll be hiking into the backcountry and should plan on spending at least a night or two in a campsite. If you start your hike at the Bechler Ranger Station it’s a 16.4 mile one-way trek. Turn off the main trail at one of the marked campsites, hike down the very steep path to the river, and then walk along the river approximately 10 minutes upstream until you reach the falls.
Once you see the falls, just look for the steam and select the pool with your preferred temperature. While sitting in the pool my body was nice and hot, while my face was sprayed by the cool spray from the river crashing down at the bottom of the falls.
The hot spring water is comfortably hot or warm, depending on which pool you select. Hot water enters the pool and mixes with river water to reach a comfortable temperature. There are various pools to choose from and they vary in temperature.
Did we miss your favorite? Comment below so we can add it to the list!
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