Exploring hot springs is not just a hobby, it’s an adventure filled with excitement and wonder. Each discovery is like stumbling upon hidden treasure, making it all the more rewarding when you finally find one. The locals who guard the locations of these hot springs are doing us all a favor, keeping them pristine and exclusive for us to enjoy.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of slipping into a turquoise pool of mineral-enriched waters, surrounded by serene and lush landscapes. It’s a place where you can truly unwind and relax, embracing the tranquility and calm of nature. So, whether it’s for privacy, cleanliness or just for bragging rights, searching for hot springs is an unforgettable experience.

I’m excited to share my favorite hot springs in Central and Southern California. Plus, I’ve answered some of the most common questions I’ve come across in my community. Now, let’s uncover the hidden gems and soak in the magic of these natural wonders!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you soak in every hot spring?

The first step to enjoying a relaxing soak in natural hot springs is to confidently research the best ones to visit. While some hot springs are off-limits and too dangerous to soak in, with a little research, you can easily avoid them. For instance, the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park are not soakable, so it’s important to steer clear of them. Always double-check the water temperature before taking a dip and avoid springs that appear to be boiling or steaming excessively. If you’re new to the hot springs scene, with a little digging, you can easily search for them online. However, if you can’t find the information you need, proceed with caution as that could be a sign of inadequate maintenance. Trust in your research and enjoy a safe and restorative soak in the hot springs.

What's with the smell?

The answer to your question is sulfur. Sulfur binds with oxygen to form sulfate, which occurs naturally in hot springs and is responsible for the eggy odor. The strength of the smell is determined by the depth of the hot springs and the speed at which it sends water to the surface. In short, the smell is normal and actually indicates that everything is working fine.

Can hot springs cause diseases?

Naegleria infection is a rare but serious disease caused by an amoeba found in warm freshwater. It’s important to be cautious and avoid submerging your head when in lakes, rivers, or hot springs to prevent exposure to the amoeba. However, if you want to soak in hot springs and there are no extreme warning signs, the risk is minimal and it’s safe to proceed. Just keep in mind that any water source comes with a slight risk and take necessary precautions to protect yourself.

Should you shower after going in a hot spring?

Some people don’t recommend showering after soaking in a hot spring because it reduces the effects of the nutrients and minerals in the water. However, when you have sensitive skin or visit an acidic spring, you should take a shower to prevent possible irritations. I always take a shower after a soak, if it’s possible.

Is everyone nude?

Nudity is legal and frequently observed at hot springs, but not everyone is nude. If it makes you uncomfortable, then please be polite and be respectful.

Can I take my kids there with me?

You can, but I really wouldn’t suggest it. Hot springs are a place adults go to relax and have fun, and as mentioned before, people do like to soak in the nude.

Okay, now for what you’re all here for… my favorite Central and Southern California hot springs and where to find them.

Tecopa Hot Springs

If you’re in Death Valley and looking for a spot to relax, look no further than the Tecopa Hot Springs! The natural pool is located just an hour south of the valley and offers a unique experience that’s hard to find elsewhere in the area. Best of all, it won’t cost you a thing!

While there are options to pay for access to private hot springs and campgrounds, this free alternative is definitely worth checking out. The mineral concentration is said to be some of the highest in the U.S. and, whether or not it has therapeutic properties, you’ll definitely leave feeling refreshed and recharged. Plus, the sunset and night sky views are unbeatable.

So grab a towel, park on the shoulder of the road, and enjoy a soak in the warm waters. Just be mindful of hot pockets and aim for smart footing.

Deep Creek Hot Springs

Deep Creek Hot Springs – undoubtedly one of California’s best! Located in Blue Jay, these springs boast seven beautiful natural pools with picturesque views, and even a rope swing for added entertainment during your soak. The warmest pool is located next to the cool creek and although it can get busy, the large indoor pools make space for multiple people.

There are two easy access points. The first, from Bowen Ranch Road, is only a 3.6-mile round trip hike making it ideal for quick visits and costs $10 per person with parking included. Although the drive is rocky, a 4×4 vehicle will have you there in no time. Alternatively, the Bradford Ridge Path is a fun 5-mile round trip with a steep decline to the springs. It’s free of charge and great if you want a workout with beautiful scenery as the cherry on top.

Wild Willy's Hot Springs

Are you in need of some serious relaxation after a day of exploring the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains? Look no further than Wild Willy’s Hot Spring, also known as Crowley Hot Springs. This hidden gem is just a quick 30-minute drive from Mammoth, making it an easy addition to any itinerary. Take a stroll down the long boardwalk and immerse yourself in the warm waters of any of the several pools available, each with a unique size and atmosphere to offer. Be sure to keep an eye out for the stone-enclosed pool, which not only boasts the perfect temperature, but also forms a heart shape when viewed from a certain angle. And if Wild Willy’s is too crowded, don’t worry, there are plenty of other natural hot pools in the Mammoth area. So, grab your camping gear and head on over to the surrounding public land to have a chance at having the springs all to yourself!

Montecito Hot Springs aka Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Get ready to be amazed and inspired by the incredible and magical milky springs that have been taking social media by storm! These hot springs offer an unforgettable and surreal experience that you won’t want to miss. Join the locals and tourists who have already discovered the wonder of these amazing springs.

Ready to plan your adventure? Lace up your hiking boots and hit the beautiful 3.7-mile loop on the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. This stunning trail located in the breathtaking Santa Barbara region is just the beginning of your journey to the milky springs.

While these hot springs can sometimes get busy, don’t let that discourage you from experiencing something truly unique. Remember, the early bird gets the worm! So get there early in the day to secure your spot.

Iva Bell Hot Springs

Have you heard about the hidden natural hot springs in the Eastern Sierra mountain range? They offer some stunning views of the Sierra Nevadas, and are definitely worth a visit.

However, reaching these hot springs requires a bit of preparation and is not for the faint of heart. But don’t worry, there are a few ways to hike into the Iva Bell Hot Springs. The easiest route is to enter from the Fish Creek trailhead in the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, near Mammoth California. However, it’s important to note that to soak in these hot springs, you’ll need to hike for about 12.5 miles and complete a vigorous 4,000ft elevation gain – definitely not a one-day trip! It’s best to take your time and take a two or three-day trip to complete the hike and enjoy all the hot springs have to offer.

Travertine Hot Spring

If you’re looking for a rad spot to chill and take in some sick views, head to the Sierra Mountain Range in California. It’s super dry there, but the mountains are super aesthetically pleasing and the skies are huge! If you’re into hot springs, make sure you hit up the Travertine ones – they’re legit! There’s a small cement tub and three rock tubs, plus a rad land spring set back a bit. In the summertime, the water’s around 98 to 120 degrees – so nice! And the best part? They’re not even hard to get to! Just a quick 15-minute drive outside of Bridgeport and the dirt road is totally doable even in a car or small RV. And did I mention the mountain views? So epic! Oh, and by the way, it’s all totally free and on state land. Enjoy!

ItemsTo Bring With You To A Hot Springs

Preparing for a soak in the springs is almost just as important as knowing where they are. Here’s a list of items to that I love to take with me whether it be backpacking in, visiting in different conditions such as snow, or for you have a relaxing and enjoyable experience:

Water and Electrolytes: Hot springs can be dehydrating, so bring extra water to stay hydrated during your soak. I recommend popping some electrolyte tablets into your water bottle before hitting the springs so you feel great after your soak. 

Sunscreen/Sun Protection: Even on overcast days, you’re exposed to the sun. Protect yourself from potential sun damage, especially since people tend to stay in hot springs for extended periods.

Sandals/Water Shoes: Opt for sandals with backs to avoid the mushy and unpleasant feeling on the hot spring floor. Flip-flops are not recommended unless you want to risk losing a shoe. I recommend either a strappy sandal from Teva or Chacos with a little bit of grip on the sole. 

Towels/Blankets: Bring a towel for drying off and reserving your spot, especially in crowded hot springs. Quick-dry towels are excellent for travel because they are lightweight, pack down easily, and, as the name suggests, dry quickly. You can wring them out a few times, and you’re done. If it’s cold outside, I also like to take a changing poncho so I can change back into dry clothes after I finish with my soak, and even a travel blanket to stay warm. 

Chair – This might sound weird, but we saw some people pull out beach chairs for the springs, and not going to lie, it looked like maxo comfort. 

Trash Bags: While you’re responsible for your own waste, carrying a trash bag helps maintain cleanliness and allows you to dispose of any litter left by others. You can get something like this and attach it to your bag so you always have them with you. If carrying waste grosses you out, you can also grab a trash dry sack, which will properly contain the trash, preventing it from getting on any of your other belongings.

Headlight: Time can slip away in the soothing warmth of hot springs. Be prepared for unexpected darkness by keeping a headlight in your bag, and a few extra batteries in case your light is dim. It’s better to be prepared.

Dry Bag: Dry bags are great for storing wet clothes after your soak. You may want to carry a few lightweight dry bags with you as well so that you can keep your valuables inside, preventing them from getting wet while you are soaking. I typically like to have my towel close to the springs so I can grab it quickly, especially in the winter, but I don’t want to leave it on the ground exposed to the elements, so stuffing it in one of these is the way to go.

Cooler: If you’re like me, then no hot spring trip is complete without a few refreshing cold drinks or brews in the hot spring for an added layer of relaxation. I’ve been loving having my backpack cooler with us on trips, just for this reason. It’s easy to carry and can hold quite a lot of beverages.

Microspikes: If you’re venturing to hot springs in winter, especially locations like Fifth Water Hot Springs, microspikes are essential. Trails may be slippery due to a mix of cold snow and steam from the springs. Don’t forget to pack your microspikes and hiking poles to help you get to the springs safely. 

While these are definitely not the only hot springs in California, they are some of my favorites and ones that you should add to your to-do list if you are driving through California! 

If you are interested in finding more natural hot springs in California, visit my Google Map of California.

This should go without saying, but remember to be respectful of the springs. Too many people are leaving behind trash, empty beer bottles, clothes, shoes, and whatever else. While there are not typically trash cans, you are in charge of your belongings. Please carry out all of your trash and try to leave it better than you found it. 



PrettylilCalifornia - Downloadable Google Map

What You'll Find Inside

PrettylilCalifornia is my downloadable Google map of the coolest places to visit around the beautiful state of California!

Let’s be honest, no one has the time to spend reading blog after blog and scrolling through Instagram to land of these locations. Skip the scrolling and start living. Once you download my PrettylilCalifornia map or any of my other Google Maps, you’ll add the freedom to just get in your car and go.

Get access to the best hikes (like Big Pine lakes in Central California), soak in hidden hot springs, find some unique Airbnbs, explore my favorite photography spots, and escape to the places never even knew existed right at your fingertips. Travel through all nine of California’s National Parks with pre-pinned campgrounds, trails, and more.

I’ve spent countless hours researching and tracking all of my stops around California. I’ve vetted the best destinations and most instagrammable photo opts for you to take with you on your travels. These are the maps that I use for all of my road trip planning.

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