Courtesy of Visitjacksonhole
Courtesy of C2 Photography
High in the mountains of Colorado, Conundrum Hot Springs is one of the country’s best hot springs.
Plus a bonus “hot” spot just over the Canadian border
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Nothing warms the bones and soothes the soul like soaking in mineral-rich waters heated deep below the earth’s surface. Add open sky and a killer view to the picture, and you’ve pretty much achieved nirvana. It’s no wonder that people from all walks of life have long sought out hot springs across the United States.
Most of the country’s hot springs are concentrated in the western United States, a region particularly conducive to producing geothermically heated water. Regular soakers tend to have their favorite spots, and here we have gathered 12 of ours. With isolated natural pools for ambitious outdoor enthusiasts and thoughtfully designed retreats built around thermal springs for those seeking total relaxation, this list recognizes that there is more than one way to experience a hot spring.
Granite Hot Springs Pool
Nestled in a meadow at an elevation of 11,200 feet in the majestic Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Conundrum Hot Springs (pictured at top) features a main pool that fits around 15 people and a smaller cool pool. The natural springs offer stunning views, looking out over three nearby peaks that top 14,000 feet: Cathedral Peak, Conundrum Peak, and Castle Peak. A soak at this glorious, clothing-optional spot does not come easily. Simply arriving at the springs requires an 8.5-mile uphill hike, so most visitors stay overnight at one of 20 primitive campsites, which require a permit and a $6 reservation that can be made through Recreation.gov. Campers should be aware that there are no toilets on site and should visit between July and September to avoid camping in snowy conditions.
This hot spring–fed swimming pool in the scenic Bridger Teton National Forest sits among huge evergreens on the banks of Granite Creek, just above Granite Creek Falls. About 30 miles southeast of Jackson, Wyoming, the family-friendly spot is beloved by locals and has a strict no-alcohol policy. It is open from late May to late October and from early December to early April. Summer visitors can drive the bumpy and winding, 11-mile access road to the springs, but in the winter, soakers arrive via snowmobile, cross-country skis, or dog sled. There are changing rooms and toilets on site, and entry is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
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Goldmyer Hot Springs
For most of the day, guests attending spiritual retreats at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur have exclusive access to the property’s cliff-side spring-fed hot tubs with dramatic ocean views. But night owls can experience the magic during the public “night bathing” sessions from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. An attendant guides nighttime soakers from the roadside parking area down a steep, dark path to the baths, but guests are on their own for the return journey and should bring flashlights. Soakers choose from seven “quiet” or “silent” hot tubs, and there is a handicap-accessible tub with a lift and a wheelchair-friendly changing room. The tubs are clothing optional, but most choose to forgo swimsuits. There is a $35 entry fee during these public sessions; reservations can only be made the morning before visiting and are limited to groups of four.
With a daily admission cap of 20 people, large crowds are never a concern at Goldmyer Hot Springs, located 60 miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Ancient forests surround these three minimally developed hot pools (and one cool pool), which were privatized as part of a mining claim in the early 1900s and served as a retreat for loggers and miners. One of the pools sits at the entrance of a horizontal mine shaft, creating a cave-like atmosphere. The 4.5-mile hike to the clothing-optional springs begins at the end of an unpaved forest service road. Facilities include an open-air cabana, outhouses, and campsites. Reservations are required (no groups larger than eight are permitted) and can be made by phone through the Northwest Wilderness Program, a nonprofit that now manages the site. Costs include a national forest pass ($5) and entry fees ($20 for adults, $10 for seniors). Camping is an additional $5 per person, per night.
The mountain valley village of Jemez Springs, located about 45 minutes from Albuquerque, has attracted soakers since the late 1870s, when one of the area’s springs erupted into a geyser and locals enclosed the spot with a rock wall. Jemez Hot Springs is a day resort that features four mineral-rich pools surrounded by gently sloping terra cotta–colored banks that blend seamlessly into the peaceful red-rock mountain backdrop. Statues of pagan goddesses, Buddha, and the Virgin Mary are scattered throughout the wildflower-dotted gardens and around the comfortable lounge areas. Guests must be 14 or older to enter, and the entry fee is $25 for one hour, with discounted rates for longer visits.Dunton Hot Springs Resort
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Situated in an alpine valley in the San Juan Mountains about two hours southwest of Telluride, Dunton Hot Springs is a former ghost town that has been transformed into a rustic luxury resort complete with refurbished log cabins and communal, chef-prepared meals served in the old Saloon. There are six different hot, mineral-rich soaking options, including an outdoor spring near the main compound, a restored 19th-century bathhouse, and a natural pool overlooking the nearby Delores River. Nightly rates, which include food and beverages, start at $1,430 in the winter and spring and $1,730 in the summer and fall.
One of only two legal swimming spots in Yellowstone National Park (the other being the Firehole Swimming Area), Boiling River is actually the confluence of the Boiling River hot spring and the Gardner River. Located in the Mammoth area of the park and about three miles south of the North Entrance, this is a popular spot. The trick to enjoying your soak is to find areas where the hot and cold waters from the two rivers mix to create that “just-right” warm temperature. Proceed with caution, as the hot spots are truly hot. Also, the river is lined with slippery rocks and can have a swift current, so consider bringing water shoes. Boiling River is only open during the day and closes during the spring when the river is too high to safely enter. On-site facilities are limited to one vault toilet, and the entry fee to the park is $25 per vehicle.Travertine Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs Resort
Before adopting its current name in 1950, the New Mexican town of Truth or Consequences was aptly called “Hot Springs.” This small community about two hours south of Albuquerque sits on top of a hot spring and has a long history as a spa town. It is home to 10 commercial bathhouses; Riverbend Hot Springs, a hotel and spa that boasts the town’s only open-air soaking option, stands out among the rest. Visitors can use the spa’s communal pools or book one of four private pools, and every option sits next to the Rio Grande and enjoys mountain views. After dark, the property is gently lit with multi-colored lighting, making for a romantic scene. Overnight guests get unlimited access to the communal pools and discounted rates on private pools; day passes are $12 for a one-hour soak. Guests must be 12 years or older to enter.
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