As you slip into one of the many hot springs in California, you're sure to think they're just another reason why Californians love their state so much.
You'll find natural, mineral-laden hot water bubbling up all around the Golden State, and this is a collection of the best places to enjoy them. It features developed California hot springs and a few tested and proven natural ones.
Northern California Hot Springs
Folks have been soaking in northern California hot springs and thermal pools for hundreds of years. The options in the northern part of the state include some historic properties.
- Drakesbad Guest Ranch at Mt. Lassen National Park has a hot spring-fed swimming pool on the premises. It's only open in the summer months.
- Orr Hot Springs is a 14-mile drive from Ukiah via mountain roads, in a resort that offers accommodations and a communal kitchen for preparing meals. This resort is clothing optional.
- Surprise Valley is just a few miles south of the Oregon border off U.S. Highway 299.
- Vichy Springs is a 150-year-old resort near the town of Ukiah. The specialty is naturally-carbonated mineral baths that feel like you're soaking in a glass of champagne.
- Wilbur Hot Springs is 22 miles east of Clear Lake and has an adjacent hotel which is more than 100 years old. Their "flumes" channel the hot water into pools of varying temperature. Relaxation is mandatory, but clothing is optional.
- Harbin Hot Springs is just off California Highway 29 south of Clear Lake, which is profiled in the guide to clothing-optional recreation in California. It has a retreat and workshop center. With plenty of pools of varying temperatures and beautiful grounds, it's an all-around getaway spot. Clothing is optional, and dressing areas are co-ed.
Wine Country California Hot Springs
At the north end of Napa Valley, Calistoga is the center of geothermal features in wine country, with spas and spa hotels to enjoy them at.
Most of the hot springs in Calistoga offer a totally adult spa treatment that sounds like a messy small child's dream: a mud bath. Find out why mud baths are the best way for adults to relax - and where to get one.
California Hot Springs on the Central Coast
Hot springs along the Big Sur coast include the pools at Esalen, Japanese-style soaking at a Zen monastery and a highly-rated outdoor pool in the Ventana Wilderness. Find out more about them in the Big Sur hot springs guide.
Further south along the coast, Sycamore Mineral Springs is just north of Pismo Beach in Avila. The hot pools are nice, but you may want to read some of their reviews at TripAdvisor before deciding to stay overnight. Nearby Avila Hot Springs is an excellent place for a getaway, with RV and tent camping, cabins and a large, warm, spring-fed pool.
California Hot Springs in Central California
Mercey Hot Springs near Hollister has been around since the early 1900s when its water was bottled and sold in pharmacies. They aim to be clean, comfortable and affordable.
Mono Hot Springs Resort is about 90 miles east of Fresno, but it will take about 2.5 hours to get from there to its secluded mountain location on the edge of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The outdoor, jetted pool is filled with natural mineral water and has views of Mt. Hooper.
Southern California Hot Springs
If there wasn't already enough to get excited about in SoCal, these places will surely get you warmed up even more:
- Death Valley Area: Tecopa Hot Springs near the south end of Death Valley boasts excellent, silky waters and has a range of other spa treatments. Delight's Hot Springs has an RV park, cabins and four pools, one of which is equipped for easy access if you have a mobility challenge. It's just east of the edge of Death Valley off California Highway 127.
- Los Angeles: Beverly Hot Springs is the only natural hot spring spa in Los Angeles. It gets its naturally-carbonated water from a spring discovered by accident in the 1930s when a wildcat driller was looking for oil.
- Salton Sea: Bashford's Hot Mineral Spa near the Salton Sea gets its hot water from deep wells. It has six mineral baths, heated pools, and plenty of camping spots for RVs and tents. The Fountain of Youth Spa is a deluxe snowbird resort with hot water spas and pools.
- Agua Caliente County Park, about 100 miles east of San Diego features two naturally-fed pools. Camp nearby and you can also enjoy the natural hot water in their spring-fed showers.
- Glen Ivy Hot Springs is between LA and Palm Springs. Their facilities include natural waters and red clay mud baths that give it the nickname "Club Mud." It's about 60 miles from Los Angeles and 90 miles from San Diego.
Palm Springs Area Hot Springs
There are so many hot water spas near Palm Springs that you might begin to rethink its reputation as a desert locale. Most of them are east of town where the Desert Hot Springs resorts include some of the best-rated places in the state for rest and relaxation.
Eastern California Hot Springs
Lots of geologic activity beneath the surface means lots of thermal features and pools on the surface. And that's exactly what you will find on the eastern side of the Sierras. Use the guide to Eastern California hot springs to find some of the best outdoor pools in the state, as well as a few resorts and a little-known getaway near the Nevada border.
If you're looking more outdoor springs in California, there are many of them. Try Touring California and Nevada Hot Springs by Matt Bischoff. Another good list of natural California hot springs is on Total Escape.