Slow down, put the cell phone away, and immerse yourself in nature right up to your neck. Mountain hot springs offer up a special kind of magic found no place else—they are a balm for the soul, as well as the feet, after a long day of adventure.
Ranging from developed resort-style havens to remote natural pools, we’ve put together a list for every budget and accessibility level. While we couldn’t add every hot spring in the United States, this smattering includes some of the best mountain hot springs you’ll find.
1. Penny Hot Springs – Carbondale, Colorado
Penny Springs is about a natural as you’re going to find. There are rocks around the hot springs pool to stop colder water from Crystal River coming in, but you can easily control the temperature of the pool by moving the rocks around. Surrounded by mountain peaks and a canyon, this easily accessible hot springs (it’s right off the highway), is best in the summer, fall, or winter—before or after the spring snowmelt causes the river to swell and take over the pool. It may be primitive, but clothing is required here.
2. Dunton Hot Springs – Dunton, Colorado
Putting the ‘lux’ in luxury, Dunton Hot Springs is a five-star hot spring experience that is worthy of any bucket list. The former ghost town sits in the spectacular San Juan Mountains where the historic Old West meets modern luxury. There are a variety of pools scattered about the property to suit any style of soak, including pools in a 19th-century bathhouse, or sit outside with such stunning views you might not ever want to get out. Grab a day pass to take in the atmosphere for a few hours, or stay at the resort and follow up your soak with a massage and a gourmet meal.
3. Gold Fork Hot Springs – Donnelly, Idaho
Gold Fork Hot Springs has managed to maintain a backcountry air while being developed enough to be family-friendly, including amenities such as changing rooms and porta-potties (complete with scented candles!). There are several pools to choose from, with varying temperatures and sizes. The water has an unusually high mineral content locals consider particularly healing, and it’s open and accessible year-round, including all holidays. This is a wonderful place to visit over New Year’s—there’s no feeling on the planet like being up to your shoulders in a spring-fed pool of hot water with snow gently falling on your head.
4. Goldbug (Elk Bend) Hot Springs – Salmon, Idaho
Hot waterfall massage anyone? Then head to Salmon, Idaho, and take a dip in one of the crystal clear waterfall pools that overlook the majestic peaks of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Once considered the secret spot by the locals, Goldbug’s remote location means that it’s not overrun on a daily basis, but it also means that you may come across bathers in the nude. If you are comfortable sans-clothing, don’t let the strenuous, two-mile hike scare you off, just enjoy breathing in the sage that lines the trail the whole way. You’ll get there in no time.
5. Spence Hot Springs – Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Take a stroll on an easy, one-mile, out-and-back to the soothing waters of Spence Hot Springs. Immerse yourself in one of two built-up rock pools overlooking the pine-blanketed canyon of the secluded Jemez Valley. If you prefer quirky and rustic to fancy and sophisticated then Spence is your spot. These springs are accessed by a well-maintained trail, are clean and best of all, free. The area is monitored by the Forest Service and nudity is not allowed.
6. Riverbend Hot Springs – Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico
Impeccably maintained with a meditative vibe, Riverbend Hot Springs is a peaceful hidden gem found right alongside the iconic Rio Grande River. While it’s not technically a mountain hot spring, it does offer a fabulous view of Turtleback Mountain just across the river and gets high marks for being an outdoor hot springs experience that people with disabilities can easily access and enjoy. In the summer, you can even go for a swim in the cold river and then relax in the hot pool after.
All pool areas are designated “whisper” only areas and children under 12 are not allowed in the common pools, so if tranquility is what you’re after, look no further. Clothing is required in the common areas and is optional in the private pools.
7. Homestead Crater – Midway, Utah
For a truly unique experience, spend some time in the turquoise waters of the Homestead Crater in Midway, Utah. Accessed by a 110-foot tunnel through the rock wall, it’s like stepping into another world. The high-domed ceiling has a hole that lets in some natural light, and it actually used to be the only way to access the pool before the tunnel was constructed.
If you feel something bubbling up from below, don’t panic, it’s most likely a diver. The 96-degree pool is the only place in the continental U.S. where SCUBA divers can practice in warm water. Reservations are required, so don’t forget to book in advance.
8. Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs – Blue River, Oregon
From the easy, breezy quarter-mile walk through lush forest to the cascading thermal pools and the spectacular Rider Creek waterfall, everything about Cougar Hot Springs is a delight. However, you should know that this woodland adventure is more au natural than most—clothing is optional here. Located in the Willamette National Forest near Eugene, there are six picturesque soaking pools laid out in steps down a ravine.
9. Goldmyer Hot Springs – North Bend, Washington
Intimate and rustic are the name of the game at Goldmyer Hot Springs, nestled in the wilderness of the stunning Cascade Mountains. Run by a nonprofit who maintains a 20-person per day limit, ensuring the integrity of the experience and the facilities, be sure to make a reservation before heading out there. Chances are, you’ll be able to explore the old growth forest, steamy cave, and crystal clear waters in solitude. Goldmyer is typically clothing optional but call the office ahead of time to arrange a “no nudity time” during your visit.
Originally published on Marmot’s outdoor adventure blog.