California Hot Springs Guide

Soak and Relax in California's Natural Hot Springs

Wild Willy's Hot Spring
Wild Willy's Hot Spring. graham at Flickr Under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

As you slip into one of the many California hot springs, 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 we've rounded up a collection of the best places to enjoy them.

We're sticking to developed California hot springs and a few natural ones that we've been able to check out ourselves. If you're looking for more of the delightful outdoor springs, try Touring California and Nevada Hot Springs by Matt Bischoff. Total Escape also has a good list of natural California hot springs.

Northern California Hot Springs

Folks have been soaking in these California hot springs and thermal pools for hundreds of years and 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 US Hwy 299.
  • Vichy Springs is a 150-year-old resort near the town of Ukiah. Its history is rich -  authorJack London, actor Dustin Hoffman, and two U. S. Presidents have soaked here - and the specialty is naturally-carbonated mineral baths.
  • Wilbur Hot Springs, 22 miles east of Clear Lake has been popular for so long that the adjacent hotel is more than 100 years old. Their "flumes" channel the hot water into pools of varying temperature. Clothing is optional.

Wine Country California Hot Springs

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 spa treatment that is my favorite: a mud bath. Find out why mud baths are the best - and where to get one - in this guide: Everything You Need to Know About Mud Baths in Calistoga.

Further north in Wine Country, just off CA Hwy 29, you'll find Harbin Hot Springs, which is included in our 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.

California Hot Springs, Mid-State

Big Sur Hot Springs are few but notable. They include the pools at Esalen, Japanese-style soaking at a Zen monastery and a highly-rated outdoor pool in the Ventana Wilderness.

Further south along the coast, Sycamore Mineral Springs is just north of Pismo Beach in Avila. The hot pools are nice, and rooms were upgraded in 2009, but you may want to read some of their reviews at TripAdvisor before deciding to stay overnight. Nearby Avila Hot Springs is a great place for a getaway, with RV and tent camping, cabins and a large, warm, spring-fed pool.

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.

Further east, Mono Hot Springs Resort is about 90 miles east of Fresno, but it will take about 2.5 hours to get 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 wasn't already enough to get excited about in the Southland, these places will surely get you warmed up even more:

  • Agua Caliente County Park, about 100 miles east of San Diego features two naturally-fed pools. Camp nearby and you can also enjoy the waters in their spring-fed showers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fountain of Youth Spa near the Salton Sea is a deluxe snowbird resort with hot water spas and pools.
  • Glen Ivy Hot Springs has been a favorite of mine for many years. 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.
  • 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 CA Hwy 127.

    Palm Springs Area Hot Springs

    There are so many hot water spas near Palm Springs that you might begin to think it's more like an oasis than a desert. Desert Hot Springs Resorts include some of the best-rated places in the state for rest and relaxation. At one of them, you can wear your bathrobe all day long, even to dinner. At others, standard attire is nothing at all.

    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. Our guide to Eastern California hot springs will lead you to some of the best outdoor pools in the state as well as a few resorts and a little-known getaway near the Nevada border.