You've made the drive, packed the towels, and deliberated on the suit. As you pad up to your soaking destination, eagerly anticipating a luxurious few hours to yourself loitering in one of nature's finest hot pools, your eyes take in the poached forms of several like-minded individuals who motivated a little earlier than you did. Great minds thinking alike? Maybe so, and maybe you'll meet some wonderful people. Still, the hot spring posse wasn't quite what you had in mind.
Soaking in relative peace and isolation can be a tall order when you're in a state with 39 million people; on the other hand, California is also one of the nation's largest and most geographically diverse states. This means that finding your pool is often just a matter of getting a little farther away, out where the views are expansive and the access is remote.
Even then, you'll want to make sure you arrive early or on weekdays to keep the crowds low. Eastern California hosts quite a few of these incredible hot spots, from the Sierra to the Mojave and Death Valley. And while the drive times may preclude a single destination visit, these special pools are essential add-ons to trip itineraries in this majestic portion of the state.
We've assembled a list of some of our favorite spots, including a few options for those who prefer a more developed facility. Have a look at the individual adventures for more information regarding access, infrastructure, fees and local etiquette.
Travertine Hot Springs: One large pool that accommodates four to eight people and two smaller pools that are better for two or three people, clothing is optional.
Keough Hot Springs: Attached restaurant, two developed pools, dressing rooms, clothing mandatory.
Keough's Hot Springs Ditch: Fed by the water from Keough Hot Springs Resort, warm temperatures, clothing optional.
Tecpoa Hot Tub: Tiny pool on the edge of
Death Valley National Park, variable temperature, clothing optional.
Buckeye Hot Springs: Hot temperatures cascading in from above with the terrific relief of adjacent Buckeye Creek, three pools, clothing optional.
Sierra Hot Springs: Lodging and camping accommodations, indoor and outdoor soaking, sauna, clothing optional.
Wild Willy's Hot Springs: Two hot pools, unforgettable views of the Eastern Sierra, clothing optional.
West Valley Hot Springs: Hot temperatures, structure to protect from wind and rain, road access can be difficult.
Eagleville Hot Springs: Two large pools with hot temperatures.
Feather River Hot Springs: Small resort area with camping area, day use is permitted.
East Fork Carson River Hot Springs: Two hot pools with nearby camping options.
Grover Hot Springs: Concrete pool with hot temperatures open year-round operated by Grover Hot Springs State Park.
Mono Hot Springs: Seasonal access, three main pools and a handful of smaller soaking pools with nearby camping options.
The Rock Tub Hot Springs: One pool that accommodates six to eight people in Eastern Sierra's Long Valley Caldera.
Pyramid Hot Springs: One secluded pool, seasonal access due to river crossing.
Remington Hot Springs: Three man-made tubs that perched on the edge of the Kern River slightly downstream from Lake Isabella.
Tecopa Mud Baths: One large pool with varying temperatures.
Leave No Trace The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.