Some people hike to waterfalls. Others prefer to venture to tall peaks. Then there are those of us that seek to soak in nature’s version of a hot tub: natural hot springs. California is vast, the third largest state in the United States to be exact, and it is filled with a number of natural hot springs.
Some of these require miles of trekking to get to, others you can simply pull off the side of the highway. Whether you’re looking to decompress, wash your worries away, or warm up on a cool winter’s day, these 10 natural California hot springs are worth checking out.
Deep Creek Hot Springs | Hesperia California
Deep in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains are the Deep Creek Hot Springs, several small pools of warm, welcoming water. To reach nature’s version of a hot tub, you can take the Pacific Crest Trail for a roughly 12-mile round trip hike or access the trailhead via Bowen Ranch Road for a much shorter 5-mile round trip hike. Note that if you park at Bowen Ranch Road you will need to cough up some cash as you’ll be parking on private property.
Sykes Hot Springs | Big Sur
Along the California coast near Big Sur, you’ll find the Ventana Wilderness. Venture deep enough beneath staggering redwoods and along a mountain stream and you’ll eventually find the Sykes Hot Springs. Pick up the strenuous, 10-mile trail beginning at Big Sur Station. The warm tubs that can be found downstream from the camp grounds. At an average of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, these hot springs will leave you feeling relaxed and ready to take on your next adventure.
Crab Cooker | Mammoth Lakes
As the name Crab Cooker suggests, this hot spring can reach blistering hot temperatures, hot enough to cook a crab. Smaller, shallower, and more difficult to find than other nearby hot springs in the Mammoth Lakes area, Crab Cooker allows for a more private experience. Its off the beaten path location and stunning views certainly call for a dip in this pot.
Sespe Hot Springs | Ojai
Just a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles will get you to Sespe Hot Springs, a prime destination for wildlife viewing and backpacking. There are three routes you can hike to get to Sespe Hot Springs including the Piedra Blanca Trailhead (19.5 miles one-way) or Mutau Flats (9.5 miles one-way), or Alder Creek Trail (15 miles round trip). Mountain lions, condors, mountain lions, and big horn sheep are known to frequent the hottest hot springs in all of California, so if you do camp or visit here, come prepared and keep your food tightly sealed.
Travertine Hot Springs | Bridgeport
Travertine Hot Springs is one of the easiest natural heated pools to get to in the state. This also makes it one of the most popular. Just south of Bridgeport, Travertine Hot Springs is made up of 5 different pools and provides breathtaking views of the Sierras. With a quick one-mile walk along Jack Sawyer Road you’ll be basking beneath the California sun, comfortably soaking in a 103-degree pool.
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs | Mammoth Lakes
Picture yourself neck-deep, soaking peacefully in a pool of warm natural water, with picturesque mountains looming in the near distance. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs in the Long Valley Caldera south of Mammoth Lakes is one of California’s highest concentrations of geothermal surface water. With two hot spring pools, you can take your pick of where to admire the views of the Sierra Nevadas to the west and the Glass Mountain Ridge to the east.
Buckeye Hot Springs | Bridgeport
Just north of Bridgeport, you’ll find Buckeye Hot Springs in Toiyabe National Forest. Unlike the nearby Travertine Hot Springs, Buckeye is more secluded and therefor experiences less foot traffic. To reach the springs, you’ll need to take a moderately steep hike downhill. Here you’ll find several small pools of varying temperature. A big bonus: The river water cycles through these pools leaving them a bit cleaner than others you’ll find in this state.
Shepherd Hot Springs | Mammoth Lakes
Located near the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport, Shepherd Hot Springs is another prime location to take in the Eastern Sierras. Whether you’ve spent the day hiking or hitting the slopes, Shepherd Hot Springs provides some much needed relaxation. Though the pool is man-made, it is fed by the nearby spring located about 20 feet away.
Steep Ravine Hot Springs | Marin
One of San Francisco’s best hidden gems are the Steep Ravine Hot Springs. They can only be accessed at negative low tide, which limits your time available to soak in these pools. To reach these elusive pools, walk through the Steep Ravine cabins then continue north along Steep Ravine Beach. Climb over the rocks and continue walking for a bout 500ft to reach the “Grotto”. Note that these springs also go by the names Rocky Point Hot Springs and Marin Tidal Hot Springs.
Hilltop Tub | Mammoth Lakes
The most popular hot spring in Mammoth, the Hilltop Tub is hardly a secret to nearby residents. It is easily accessible, requiring only a 300-yard walk in winter and an even shorter walk in summer, and has arguably the best views in the valley. Because it is the most-known hot spring in the area, don’t expect to be relax alone. You’ll likely have your fair share of company.