Hidden back in the Eastern Sierra mountain range, you’ll find over 6 natural hot springs with stunning views looking out across the Sierra Nevadas. While both the views and tubs are well worth the visit, getting to these hot springs is not for the faint of heart and comes with some preparation.
There are a few ways to hike into the Iva Bell Hot Springs. The first, and the “easiest” way is to enter from the Fish Creek trailhead in the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, near Mammoth California. To soak in these hot springs requires a +25mile roundtrip hike, about 12.5miles in and out, and a vigorous 4,000ft elevation gain. Yes, you did the math correctly, that’s a little too long for a one-day trip. You will need to backpack into the hot springs where you can easily find camping around the pools. Even for an experienced hiker – this is quite the trek. I would recommend doing this over a two or three-day period.
Getting there: The trail itself is quite the workout, but it also provides epic views along the way. The fish creek trail begins by winding itself down well-graded switchbacks, before sending you through a forest of beautiful Aspen trees, crossing through creeks, and pushing you back up onto a granite mountain for an insane view of a hidden waterfall. Take a lunch break and cool off in the small swimming holes near the top of the falls. Just be cognizant of the water current and overflow levels to ensure your safety. Now that you’ve gone about 4.5miles in… continue onto even more switchbacks that will send you way down the mountain to a valley floor, before you start your trek back up to the hot springs.
Okay, so you made it to the end of the trail, now where are all of these hot springs? The key here is to follow the path or the water trails created by the hot creek. The pools are scattered throughout the mountainside. Your best chance for success is to download a heat map prior to the journey on apps like @alltrails, so you can see where others have traveled to.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight travel into the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness areas. Passes do fill up quickly so make sure you book in advance to grab your spot. Look for the permit “Fish Creek”.
A longer route is also possible for hikers looking to hit Duck Lake first.
This is an active bear area. You will need a bear storage container to do any hikes within the Eastern Sierra Mountain range. You can either buy one or rent one from REI or some ranger station. While we were on trial, we saw 2 mountain lions, a rattlesnake, and an adult brown bear. I’m not saying this to scare you but to prepare you for the possibilities. Of course, that’s anytime you are out in nature.
Parking can also be a bit tricky, as you will need to park at the trailhead for Rainbow Falls or the overnight parking at Red Meadows. Parking fills up quickly in the peak seasons. If you do not make it to the parking area before 8 am, you will probably need to take in a shuttle.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun and enjoy the adventure. Remember, you are going to a place that not many have seen and maybe one of California’s best-kept secrets!