California

9 Soak-Worthy Hot Springs in California

by Emily Pennington
Updated February 07, 2022

california hot springs
Photo: Shutterstock

What’s not to love about soaking your bones in naturally heated thermal springs?

Humans have been flocking to geothermal pools for centuries for their rumored curative powers, and there’s no better place to get a little R&R than in California’s dynamic landscape.

We’ve compiled a list of our nine favorite hot springs across the Golden State, from high desert rock pools to redwood resorts complete with cozy cabin rentals. In other words, there’s something for even the pickiest nature lover in your crew on this list.

But first, a little housekeeping: many of these hot springs are undeveloped, free to access, and preserved by local volunteers to keep them tidy. Most undeveloped sites do not have amenities like porta-potties, trash services, water, or camping, so following the seven principles of leave no trace is essential.

Bring water and food (just keep it away from wildlife!) and pack out everything you packed in. If you plan on staying the night, do a quick search on Recreation.gov to see what campgrounds are nearby so you’re not caught in the woods without a plan.

Lastly, check the weather before heading out, as many springs on this list are down long, dusty dirt roads. Happy soaking!

1. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs

Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Location: Mammoth Lakes
  • Type: Undeveloped
  • Reservations: No

A time-honored rite of passage for anyone hiking or skiing in the nearby town of Mammoth Lakes, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is the perfect spot to take a rest day and soak your aching adventurous bones.

Located a mile down a dirt road — and a quarter-mile hike down a wooden boardwalk from the parking lot — Wild Willy’s has two main, larger pools than can accommodate up to two dozen people comfortably, plus a series of terraced smaller pools, depending on the snow melt each year.

This is wild soaking at its finest, with few restrictions and epic views of the Eastern Sierra. Be advised — the springs are clothing optional and hippie friendly. Because of its remote location, make sure to bring plenty of water, grab a few snacks for the road, and pack out all your trash. There is no camping allowed at this site.

Related read: 10 Best Hikes In Mammoth Lakes, California

2. Benton Hot Springs

The Inn at Benton Hot Springs
Photo: The Inn at Benton Hot Springs
  • Location: Benton
  • Type: Developed
  • Reservations: Yes

Sure, the campsites at Benton Hot Springs are on the pricier side, but with each scenic spot comes privacy, room for two vehicles, a picnic table and fire ring, and your own, naturally-fed soaking tub.

The property is set at the edge of the White Mountains, with striking views of Boundary Peak, on the edge of Nevada. Plus, to comply with Covid restrictions, the owners just installed a series of five new restroom units for tub campers.

Not interested in roughing it? Benton also has a stellar Bed and Breakfast and cabins available to rent, full of the creature comforts of home and easy access to the mineral pools. No one staying at the inn leaves hungry.

Related read: 11 Epic Winter Camping Spots in California

3. Travertine Hot Springs

travertine hot springs california
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Location: Bridgeport
  • Type: Undeveloped
  • Reservations: No

Conveniently located off California’s storied Highway 395, Travertine Hot Springs is one of the most accessible wild springs in the state. Full of bright orange and ochre-colored rock formations from the water’s mineral content, these whimsical pools are open year-round and are a great stopover for anyone traveling to or from Lake Tahoe.

The area boasts three natural, rock-bottomed pools and one cement pool for groups or individuals to soak in. Best of all? Travertine is located on BLM land and is free to use — just be sure to follow Leave No Trace guidelines.

Related read: 8 Best Airbnbs & Cabin Rentals Near Yosemite National Park

4. Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs
Photo: Orr Hot Springs
  • Location: Ukiah
  • Type: Developed
  • Reservations: Yes

Sleep in your tent, glamp in a yurt, or rent one of this woodsy resort’s hobbit-worthy cabins, in any case, you’ll have access to Orr Hot Springs’ plethora of soaking options. From private clawfoot tubs to outdoor springs under the night sky to a cold pool for intermittent plunging, there’s no shortage of relaxing options at this wonderland outside of Ukiah.

The site also offers day use passes for travelers who are just passing through and want a slice of woodland heaven. Looking to hike through towering redwoods while you’re in town? Montgomery Woods is just a ten minute drive away.

Related read: 7 Awesome Weekend Road Trips from San Francisco, California

5. Remington Hot Springs

Remington Hot Springs
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Location: Bodfish
  • Type: Undeveloped
  • Reservations: No

One of the last best bohemian hot springs of yore, Remington sits on the banks of the infamous Kern River and serves as a haven for wild soakers who want a free place to relax and unwind in nature. Several of the stone pools are adorned with hippie art and quotes, adding a quirky and special ambiance to the place.

This series of rock pools is convenient to both Bakersfield and the tiny mountain town of Kernville, and with the opportunity to hop back and forth between the cool river water and the steaming springs, it’s easy to spend an entire day at Remington.

For those looking to camp nearby, Hobo Campground, open seasonally, is located just two miles east of the warm pools, near Lake Isabella.

Related read: 8 Epic Backpacking Trips in Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon

6. Wilbur Hot Springs

Wilbur Hot Springs
Photo: Wilbur Hot Springs
  • Location: Williams
  • Type: Developed
  • Reservations: Yes

Tucked behind a country road between Sacramento and Redding lies the geothermal sanctuary of Wilbur Hot Springs, an off-grid, solar-powered retreat set on an 1,800-acre nature preserve. The landscape surrounding the resort feels beautiful and untrammeled, with wide open valleys, scenic meadows, and rolling green hills.

The year-round resort features a communal-style kitchen and is open for both overnight and day use guests, hosting a series of bright cabins and lodge rooms to bed down after a day in the pools. Massage services are also available to maximize your relaxation.

Related read: 14 Wow-Worthy Hikes at Mount Shasta, California

7. Mono Hot Springs

YouTube video

  • Location: Mono Hot Springs
  • Type: Undeveloped and developed
  • Reservations: No

At Mono Hot Springs, there’s a little something for everyone. Not only are there a series of naturally-fed thermal pools that are free to use for the general public, there’s also a small, rustic resort nearby with private soaking pools for cabin and tent cabin guests.

The free pools are woodsy and a bit more crowded, located on the banks of nearby Mono Creek, while the outdoor mineral pools of the resort look out at the Ansel Adams Wilderness and 12,000-foot Mount Hooper.

Mono is an excellent place to hang your hat for a few days, with the resort offering massage, a restaurant, and a country store. Plus, lake swimming, river floats numerous hiking trails into the incredible Sierra Nevada are right nearby.

Related read: An Epic Guide to California’s 14ers: Hiking & Climbing the High Peaks

8. Esalen Hot Springs

esalen big sur california
Views from Esalen Institute. Photo: Shutterstock
  • Location: Big Sur
  • Type: Developed
  • Reservations: Yes

A name synonymous with the counter culture of the ’60s and ’70s, Esalen has truly cemented its place in Big Sur history. Since then, a lot has changed, with its bohemian vibe giving way to a relaxed, elegance that makes its pricey wellness retreats well worth the strain on your bank account.

In addition to the excellent home-grown food and classes on site, the campus features a stunning, natural spring-fed bathhouse perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Private tubs and stone-lined group pools gaze out into infinity or, on a clear day, the majesty of the star-strewn night sky.

Visitors to Esalen can choose to participate in a scheduled workshop or embark on a 3-5 day “self guided exploration.” Both include 24-hour access to the phenomenal hot springs.

Looking to go a little renegade? Check back often, as they are soon bringing back their 1am-3am public night bathing.

Related read: 5 Best Backpacking Trips & Trails in Big Sur, California

9. Deep Creek Hot Springs

deep creek hot springs ca
Aerial view of Deep Creek Hot Springs. Photo: Tom Ha
  • Location: Apple Valley
  • Type: Undeveloped
  • Reservations: No

There are two ways to get into Deep Creek Hot Springs, located just two hours from Los Angeles: travelers can hike the six-mile (each way) stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that skirts the edge of the springs, or they can drive in through Bowen Ranch Road and pay for day use or car camping, which only requires a steep, 2.5-mile trek to the pools. There is no camping allowed at the springs themselves.

Once at the springs, visitors can enjoy clothing-optional access to a series of rock-lined pools of varying temperature or take a chilling dip into Deep Creek itself to cool off. In March and April, you’re likely to run into more than a few PCT thru hikers, as this SoCal gem receives perfect weather in the spring and fall.

Related read: 9 Amazing Glamping Spots Near Los Angeles, California

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