best natural hot springs in northern California

10 Best Natural Hot Springs in Northern And Southern California (2024)

Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by Nicole

North America is blessed with lots of natural hot springs. However, some of the best hot springs can be found in California. Most are located north of San Luis Obispo in Northern California, an easy drive from San Fransisco or near Mammoth Lakes. Still, there are some beautiful natural hot pools and tubs in Southern California. Regardless of where they are located, most are clothing optional, free or nearly free, and surrounded by spectacular scenery below mountains or nestled in forests or by rivers. Others are more exclusive, offered in resorts with spa treatments and other luxuries available. There is something for everyone. Here are 10 best hot springs in California.

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Other Fantastic US Destinations In During The Year

Not sure when or where you might want to travel? Here is a list of fun and beautiful places to visit in North America, also recommended by travel bloggers.

For outdoor destinations, please see:

For the best cities, towns, national or state parks in each month, please see:

For a list of some of the best US cities with tips for when to go or avoid, hotels, and other recommendations, check out 20 Best Cities To Visit In The USA.

For warm beach destinations in the United States in winter, please see 50 Best US Beach Destinations For A Warm Winter Getaway. If you love the snow and long for outdoor adventures in the snow, please see 24 Best Snowy Winter Wonderlands To Visit In The USA. Many of the natural hot springs below that are located in the mountains are equally amazing to visit in the winter.

Alternatively, for destinations in summer that offer pleasant temperatures, please see 20 Best US Destinations To Escape The Sizzling Summer Heat.

Best Hot Springs in Northern And Southern California

I asked some of the best travel bloggers for their recommendations for the best natural hot springs and hot tubs in Southern and Northern California. Below, you will find where they are located, how best to get there, tips to enjoy the hot springs, what else to do nearby, and accommodation recommendations.

best natural hot springs in northern California
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Jessica from The Uprooted Traveler)

Wild Willy’s Hot Springs

By Jessica from The Uprooted Traveler

Wild Willy’s Hot Springs offers the visitor the best opportunity to experience that the most natural hot springs in Mammoth Lakes in Northern California. While the town is famous for its hot mineral pools, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is the only one you can enjoy in the area in natural hot tubs (as opposed to concrete or stone man-made pools).

The natural hot springs are located on Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) property, so the road leading to the parking lot area can be badly washboarded or potholed. If you can swing it, it would be best to take a high-clearance vehicle.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Once you reach the parking area, you’ll need to take a short walk down a 0.25 mile gravel and dirt path. Remember to glance up and enjoy the spectacular views of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains! When you reach the hot springs themselves, you’ll see there are two places to soak. A hot creek with a couple different tiers in which bathers can sit or, about 50 yards away, a heart-shaped blue pool.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

If you’re looking for a tranquil environment, show up to Wild Willy’s Hot Springs early in the morning. There’s no better place to see Mammoth’s spectacular sunrise!

Alternatively, given that the springs are the only ones in town that can accommodate larger groups, Wild Willy’s tends to get more and more boisterous as the day goes on. So, if you’re in the mood to make new friends, check out the natural hot tubs in the afternoon.

The springs would also be a perfect apres-ski treat to soak your aching muscles after a day on the slopes at one of Mammoth’s world class ski resorts, like Mammoth Mountain.

Accommodation Recommendation

Jessica says, “Given that Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is on BLM land, there are tons of options to camp for free nearby. If you’re looking for more formal guest rooms, consider leaning into Mammoth’s “ski lodge” vibe. Stay at the more rustic Tamarack Lodge or, for a more upscale option, the Westin Monache Resort.”

Wilbur Hot Springs

By Nicole from Go Far Grow Close

Wilbur Hot Springs is a health sanctuary with geothermal pools. It offers natural and medicinal hot mineral pools in an 1800-acre nature preserve. It is located in Northern California, approximately 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco.

When not soaking, enjoy the healing powers of the nature preserve with long walks, hiking, running, mountain biking, bird-watching, and stunning stargazing at night.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

The hot mineral pools are clothing optional and open day and night for registered guests with an overnight stay. They offer a quiet and serene experience. Other than the natural hot tubs, the only additional spa treatment available are massages.

For members of the general public, day use is allowed for a set fee regardless of the amount of time that you actually spend at Wilbur Hot Springs. However, unregistered guests must leave by 5:00 pm.

There is no wifi or cellular coverage at the hot springs resort.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

It is best to avoid weekends and holidays to steer clear of traffic in and out of San Francisco. For cheaper rates and more privacy, come mid-week and in shoulder season.

Accommodation Recommendation

Nicole says, “To keep your experience authentic and all encompassing, book at Wilbur Hot Springs. You get the advantage of 24 hours access to the hot tubs filled with natural hot springs and full run of the nature preserve.”

best hot springs in California
Deep Creek Hot Springs

Deep Creek Hot Springs

By Nicole from Go Far Grow Close

Deep Creek Hot Springs are natural hot springs situated in the northern Mojave Desert inside the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California. It is approximately 2 hours from Los Angeles.

The easiest way to access the natural hot springs is through Bowen Ranch Road, which takes you through private land, entry for which is charged. The trail descends steeply for 2 1/2 miles to the springs. There are alternate routes around the ranch on dirt roads managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These are slower and best with off road vehicles. Alternatively, you can hike roughly six miles on the Pacific Crest Trail east from Arrowhead Lake Road.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

There are around 6 geothermal pools at Deep Creek Hot Springs. The 5 primary hot tubs typically range in temperature from 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The uppermost pool is perfectly sized for one or two people and offers the warmest temperature.

As for larger pools, the most popular hot pool supplies enough space for around 10. If you are interested in socializing during your visit, this is the spot to be. It is actually big enough to be a swimming pool.

Further along, there are a few other geothermal pools, all slightly varying in temperature. The water temperature of the majority of the hot tubs averages over 100 degrees.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, like most hot springs in northern and Southern California, is clothing optional. However, clothing is required on the trail.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

This is one of the more popular hot springs in Southern California. Accordingly, it is best to avoid weekends and holidays. It is closed from sunset to sunrise. There are no campfires, stoves or glass allowed.

June, July and August can get very hot in San Bernardino. Accordingly, it would be best to avoid Deep Creek Hot Springs if you are not a fan of extreme heat.

Accommodation Recommendation

Nicole says, “Camping is not allowed near Deep Creek Hot Springs. The easiest option is Bowen Ranch. It is popular, so make sure to pay for your campsite before heading to the hot springs. There are lots more camping options in the San Bernardino National Forest.”

best natural hot tubs in Northern California
Calistoga Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Allison from California Crossroads)

Calistoga Hot Springs

By Allison from California Crossroads

One of the premier places to enjoy hot springs in California is in the beautiful Napa Valley town of Calistoga. Calistoga is the furthest northern California town in the Napa Valley, around 1 1/2 hours from San Francisco. There are lots of fun things to do in Calistoga as it is home to a charming historic downtown, great hikes, and dozens of incredible wineries.

But best of all, Calistoga is full of natural hot springs which are connected to resorts. A handful of the most popular include: Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Indian Springs Resort, and Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs. Definitely enjoy mud baths, as it’s what the town is known for!

Besides enjoying natural hot springs and mud baths, be sure to sip Cabernet at Vincent Arroyo Winery and explore the galleries along Calistoga’s Main Street.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Many of the popular hot spring resorts in Calistoga offer mud baths and treatments. They combine the water from the natural hot springs with the volcanic ash rich mud easily found in the area from prior eruptions of Mount Saint Helena.

If you enjoy soaking in multiple hot tubs with different temperatures, head to Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. It offers four outdoor geothermal mineral pools. It ranges from an 80 degrees warm pool to a steamy 104 degrees in the whirlpool.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

It’s best to go to Calistoga in the winter, fall, and spring — summers are insanely hot in the Napa Valley. Weekends can be busy with traffic from San Francisco to Napa Valley, so be wary if you are driving. Note that prices for a spa treatment and hotel rooms may be more expensive on weekends.

Accommodation Recommendation

Allison says, “For an overnight stay, I’d suggest Indian Springs Resort where you can enjoy your very own hot spring experience right in the heart of downtown Calistoga.”
best hot tubs in california
Travertine Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Alisha from Travel Today Work Tomorrow)

Travertine Hot Springs

By Alisha from Travel Today Work Tomorrow

Discover the unique and natural wonder of Travertine Hot Springs, one of the best hot springs in California. This geothermal hot spring is tucked away in the small and historic northern California town of Bridgeport.

The Travertine Hot Springs are easy to reach, popular among Northern California locals and travelers alike, and best of all, free!

To locate the hot springs, you must drive down a one-mile dirt road to the parking area. From there, you take a short 3-5 min walk along a trail that will lead you to a group of natural hot tubs under the rugged travertine limestone.

Another must thing to do is a visit to Mono Lake. An ancient saline lake, only a 45-minute drive from the hot springs. Mono Lake is unlike anything you have ever seen before. It is famously known for its hypersaline water and rugged tufa columns that sprout from the surface of the cobalt blue lake.

Travertine Hot Springs is a unique and one-of-a-kind location. You will not regret visiting this gorgeous natural hot spring in the heart of the Eastern Sierras.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Springs themselves are impressive. However, it’s the moment you look up and see they are framed in a stunning backdrop that really takes your breath away. What gives them such a commanding and sunning vista is that they sit in an open valley with unobstructed panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains. Gazing at the snowcapped mountains while soaking in the ancient hot springs is an experience you will not soon forget.

Please note that each hot pool offers different temperatures depending on the source, and all are clothing optional.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

The natural pools are small, so it is best to plan your trip early in the morning or during the week to avoid crowds.

Accommodation Recommendation

Alisha says, “If you plan on staying in Bridgeport, Walker River Lodge is a cozy hotel nearby along the main strip in town.”
best hot springs in northern California
Sierra Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Meg from Fox In The Forest)

Sierra Hot Springs

By Meg from Fox In The Forest

If you’re looking for one of the best hot springs in the Golden State then be sure to visit Sierra Hot Springs in Sierraville. After all, this amazing place is only about an hour’s drive from Lake Tahoe. It is quietly tucked away in the stunning Sierra Valley, just at the edge of Tahoe National Forest. 

It’s also a fun and friendly facility that is a great place to go after completing some of the best hikes in lake Tahoe. It features a wide variety of amenities for you to enjoy after a luxurious soak in their clothing-optional, mineral-rich hot springs. 

After picking up some wild flower honey at Sierra Mountains Honey and enjoying some awesome Mexican fare at Los Dos Hermanos, stop by Sierra Hot Springs to enjoy upscale lodging, camping, meals, workshops, a spa treatment and wellness retreats. 

In fact, they have an on-site spa where you can have a massage or enjoy their Watsu services. Feel free to spend the night or just visit anytime between 3-hours and a full-day. 

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Regardless of the length of your stay, all guests can use a meditation pool near the main lodge and the Temple Dome Pool Area, which is situated in the forest at the end of a local trail. 

Both hot springs include water with temperatures that hover between 105 and 110 degrees. They also sit inside stunning, geodesic domes that include cold pools in which to cool down. 

Afterwards, make use of their on-site sauna, sun deck, and shower room.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

Try and visit later in the evening to avoid crowds since this hot spring is open to the public until 12:00 am daily.

Sierra Hot Springs is 3 1/2 hours from San Francisco and one hour from Reno, Nevada. Accordingly, if you are planning a road trip or day trip, try to avoid weekends or holidays.

Accommodation Recommendation

Keep everything convenient and relaxing and stay for a few nights at Sierra Hot Springs Resort & Retreat Center.
best natural hot springs in southern california
Desert Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Desert Hot Springs

By Nicole from Go Far Grow Close

Desert Hot Springs in Southern California is a city overlooking Palm Springs, around a two hour’s drive from Los Angeles. The city offers a number of hot spring resorts for an overnight stay to enjoy some of the best hot springs in California. In addition, there are lots of day spa services for those who only have a day or part of a day to indulge in hot mineral pools, mud baths, massages, dry sauna, steam room, and countless other spa treatments.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Not only can you soak in hot tubs filled with hot mineral water in Desert Hot Springs, you can drink it too. The natural springs below the city supply pure cold and hot water. In fact, the municipal drinking water has won several awards in international water competitions.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

If taking a day trip from Los Angeles, it is best to avoid weekends and holidays because of traffic. Desert Hot Springs is exceptionally hot from June – September (temperatures can easily reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). The best time of year to visit is from October – April.

Accommodation Recommendation

Nicole says, “There are around 10 hot spring resorts that offer their own hot tubs with hot mineral water and spa services. A few of the nicest are the Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort, El Morocco Inn, and Two Bunch Palms Resort. However, there are many from which to choose in different price ranges.
best hot tubs in northern california
Rock Tub Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Trijit from Budget Travel Buff)

Rock Tub Hot Springs

By Trijit from Budget Travel Buff

One of the best hot springs near Mammoth Lakes in Northern California is Rock Tub Hot Springs. It is located in the Long Valley Caldera region of California, just 15 minutes drive from Mammoth Lakes.

This small primitive geothermally heated hot pool can accommodate 4-5 people comfortably. It offers spectacular panoramic views of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The hot spring water comes through a pipe and the temperature remains at approximately 100°F. This is far cooler than other hot springs in Mammoth Lakes.

If you are planning to visit this hot pool with your kids, you should remember that clothing is optional and there are no restrooms in the area. Nevertheless, even if you don’t want to take a dip in the water, it’s worth visiting because of the stunning scenery.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

Watching the sunrise over the distant mountains while enjoying the warm water is an amazing experience. You can also visit at sunset but it might be crowded at that time. This is one of the more popular hot springs in the area, so you can expect to share it with others.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

You can visit Rock Tub Hot Springs at any time of the year. However, the tub is not extremely hot, so spring and fall is the best time to go.

Accommodation Recommendation

Trijit says, “Long Valley Caldera region is an ideal place for campers. Although dispersed parking is popular in this region, there are many campgrounds (Brown’s Owens River Campground) and RV parks (Mammoth Mountain RV Park) where you will be offered tent sites and RV sites with hook-ups, showers, and toilets. If camping is not your thing, you can check BnBs and resorts in the city of Mammoth Lakes which is just 15 minutes away.”
best natural hot springs in northern and southern california
Sykes Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Voyageur Tripper)

Sykes Hot Springs

By Mikaela from Voyageur Tripper

Sykes Hot Springs is located around 16 miles southeast from the town of Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean. It is also 24 miles northeast from the Esalen Institute. It is one of the more remote and difficult hot springs to reach in northern California, but it is worth it!

To reach the natural hot springs, hike 9 miles along the Pine Ridge Trail from the Big Sur coastline as it meanders through the mountains of the Ventana Wilderness toward Big Sur Creek. Thermal activity below ground causes hot water to flow from the riverbank down into Big Sur Creek. Here lies Sykes Hot Springs, dark blue and steaming, ready to welcome tired hikers into its embrace.

When not in the hot springs, you can enjoy the surrounding trails, take a (chilly) dip in Big Sur Creek or cook a meal over your camp stove. All this makes Sykes Hot Springs an incredible destination to visit.

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

The number and size of pools can vary a little, but there are usually three spread down the bank and each of them can seat 2-4 people.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

The level of effort required to reach Sykes Hot Springs means they usually aren’t too busy. If you want to have the place more or less to yourselves, head out on a weekday and avoid long weekends in the summer.

Accommodation Recommendation

Mikaela says, “Another benefit to the out-of-the-way location is that there’s a campground – Sykes Camp – adjacent to the campground where backpackers can camp for free. While the area doesn’t offer any fancy amenities, it does have flat spaces to pitch your tent and offers the quiet solitude of the forest.”

best natural hot tubs in southern and northern California
Crab Cooker Hot Springs (Photo courtesy of Jessica from The Uprooted Traveler)

Crab Cooker Hot Springs

By Jessica from The Uprooted Traveler

While Mammoth Lakes has several gorgeous geothermal springs, Crab Cooker Hot Springs may offer the most picturesque views of them all.

The hot spring is located at the base of a bowl, completely surrounded by rolling green hills. Beyond is the snow-capped eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, which provides a breathtaking vista of the alpine landscape.

Given Crab Cooker’s panoramic views of the mountains, perhaps it’s no surprise that the nearby town of Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area is an outdoor playground. For example, Inyo National Forest is less than an hour away, featuring countless epic hikes and backpacking opportunities. This includes several trails to the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. 

Best Way To Experience The Natural Hot Springs

While Crab Cooker is publicly accessible, it’s located on property owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power- meaning the road leading to the springs is poorly maintained. It is stronglt recommended to take a high clearance vehicle.

Best Time To Go Or Avoid

Crab Cooker consists of a man-made rock tub with hot water piped in from a geothermal source and is quite small, comfortably fitting about five people. As such, this is a good place to show up early in the morning or on a weekday if you want to be sure to snag a spot. Otherwise, you should expect to wait your turn to soak.

Accommodation Recommendation

Jessica says, “If you’re looking for a place to stay during your time in Mammoth, there’s plenty of places to camp. While you’re not allowed to pitch a tent by Crab Cooker itself, most of the surrounding land is Bureau of Land Management property offering free dispersed camping. If you’d like something more luxurious, consider the romantic Juniper Springs Resort, with two heated swimming pools and incredible mountain views.”

Last Word

Both Northern and Southern California have been blessed with lots of natural hot springs. Whether you feel adventurous and wish to enjoy one that you discover on your own, or are in the mood to be pampered at a resort, there is something for everyone.

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