6 of America’s Most Hidden Hot Springs

The steam rises up into the forest as you breathe in the vapors of the natural pool you lay in, gazing into the mountains. There’s nothing quite like finding a hot spring in the middle of the woods, detached from society and undeveloped by money-grubbing resorts. Unfortunately, the easy-to find hot springs are usually the most crowded. That’s why we put together a list of some of the most secluded hot springs in the country so that you can retreat into a peaceful pool and treat yourself to a spa-day in the wild.

The Mammoth Lake area in California is home to some of the best soaking pools in the country. There are many pools in the high desert of Mammoth Lakes and nearly all of them provide views of the high sierra. The Crab Cooker is one of the most secluded and offers possibly the widest view of the Sierra. It rests in the middle of a flat plateau that is surrounded by the mountains. This hot spring is fed by a pipe and adjusted with a valve, but is more rugged and natural than you will find in most places. There are also benches surrounding the pool in case soakers get too hot.

Conundrum hot springs is secluded because accessing it requires hiking 8.5 miles with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet. It’s not a huge climb, but the springs are at an elevation of 11,200 feet, which means that no matter whom you are, you’ll be sucking air by the time you get to the pool. The scenery is well worth the climb to the hot springs though. The view from the pools is a panorama of the Maroon-Bells Snowmass Wilderness, rocky mountain peaks as far as the eye can see. There are plenty of campsites surrounding the pools, which are semi-social. It’s a place where everyone soaks after harsh climbs and passes around cheap wine. Conundrum hot springs is also a base-camp for summiting a few of the surrounding peaks.

Near the Idaho-Montana Border lies Weir Hot Springs. The well-kept secret that is Weir Hot Springs is about 2.5 miles from Missoula Montana on highway 12 at mile marker 142. There is no sign for the springs, only slight trail that follows a creek. After a quick half mile walk, you’ll find yourself at a large campsite near a creek. The hot Springs are up about 30 feet on a small cliff. The hot water runs into a rock and mortar pool, and then flows into the creek. From the springs, you have a view of the campsites below and the surrounding Selkirk Mountains. Although you’ll probably be alone in these hot springs, don’t be surprised if you end up seeing a few people show up and strip down completely.

The Olympic peninsula is a land of dramatic landscapes. Rain forests and snow-capped mountains spring out of the earth and within the valleys, you guessed it, hot springs. Olympic hot springs is located in the rainforest of the Elwah River Valley. At one point, these springs were part of a resort, but they are now undeveloped and surrounded by vegetation. Accessing the springs requires a 2.5 mile walk, but the reward is complete seclusion since there are more popular, more accessible hot springs nearby. The park also discourages use of the springs, which drives away some patrons. Nudity is prohibited at these springs, but when has that ever stopped anyone? The trail that leads to the Olympic Hot Springs connects to many other loop trails, so soaking can be just the beginning (or end) of your adventure.

Within the high plains of Utah exists a bulbous, travertine rock formation out of which flows hot, sulfuric water. Years ago at the the Mystic Hot Springs, bath tubs were placed beside Travertine rock formations so that they would collect water and people could enjoy a nice soak. Now, the mineral deposits from the flowing water have begun to envelop the bathtubs, making them part of the rock. The water now flows naturally into each tub by way of this intriguing, beautiful rock.

There are many ways to enjoy the central cascades and they don’t all have to involve climbing mountains or rafting whitewater. The Umpqua Hot Springs are ontop of a large cliff right above the Umpqua River. One of the pools is covered by an old abandoned shack, but there are plenty of other naturally formed calcium tubs. The tubs are oriented above and below one another so that the water from the top tub cascades down into the tubs below. Soakers are perched on a steep slope looking down into the rushing river below and up to the surrounding Cascades.

By Robin Johnson