Summer may be over and the frosty fall weather is setting in, but if you know where to look, the outdoors are brimming with incredible adventures. We’re not just talking about beautiful fall colors, crispy leaves and fresh mountain air — but hot springs!
They go by many different names: thermal pools, mineral springs, spas, baths, hot springs — or my personal favorite — Mother Nature’s jacuzzi. These steamy soaks are typically a product of geothermal heat or volcanic zones, which means they’re found in some of the most geologically diverse and beautiful terrains in the world. Many of us are familiar with well-known hot spring locations like Iceland’s Blue Lagoon or Pamukkale in Turkey, but those closer to home often fly under the radar. What you likely didn’t know is that the U.S. boasts 1,661 known hot springs, most of which are located in the western part of the country.
Many of these springs are too hot to soak in, but even after you subtract those from the list, there’s still a wealth of steamy pools that are within road trip distance from most major cities across the Pacific Northwest, Colorado Rockies and the Southwest. Some are tucked away in the high desert while others are nestled in the dense forest, only accessible by hiking in. So, that’s where this guide to natural hot springs that are off-the-beaten-path comes in. Covering 71 springs in total, this outlines hot springs that have been left mostly au naturel — because there’s really no better way to “soak up” the magic of nature than to soak in it.
To help make your hot spring quest easier, this guide covers all the important information you need to know like location number of pools, type of access and whether or not each spring is clothing optional. Yes, at some, you can even leave your suit at home! Always remember to leave the springs and their surrounding areas in the state that you found them, or if possible in even better condition than when you found them by picking up trash. Pack out what you pack and leave no trace to help preserve these natural gems for generations to come.
The following maps and locations were provided by CarRentals.com
Arizona is known for some of the most spectacular sites in the U.S. — think Grand Canyon National Park, the Kofa Wildlife Refuge, Antelope Canyon and Havasupai Falls, but did you know that it’s also home to a handful of off-the-grid thermal springs? Most of these aren’t an easy task to reach, but they’re well worth the hike. You can enjoy hot springs in Arizona that sit perched alongside a river, up above the Roosevelt Damn or tucked away inside colorful canyon walls.
The golden state is home to some of the most diverse terrain in the U.S. that will meet the needs of any outdoor enthusiast. From national parks and beach-side camping, to sand dunes and surf to snow accessibility, it might actually be true when Californians say they have it all. But, did you know it also boasts over 300 hot springs? Since hot springs in California span the length and width of the state, these natural gems are a short road trip away from most major cities.
Colorado is internationally renowned for its breathtaking mountain scenery and powdery slopes. Village towns like Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, and Telluride are just a few ski resorts that have put this state on every winter lover’s radar. And just like we hoped, where there are snow-covered slopes, there are hot springs. Colorado is dotted with incredible thermal waters from natural rock pools to resorts surrounded by evergreens. Take a break from a long day of playing in the mountains to dip into some of nature’s best.
For people who’ve never been to Idaho, potatoes might come to mind when they think of this state. This, among other misconceptions, is what helps make Idaho a hidden gem. While farming is prevalent, its geographic diversity and low population density, mean that Idaho is, in many ways, defined by its landscapes. The snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains, millions of acres of protected forest, whitewater rivers and volcanic plains are just a few highlights. Unique geological location also means there is an abundance of Idaho hot springs to enjoy — 232 to be exact, and unlike many other states, almost all of them are safe to take a dip in. There’s really no better way to “soak up” this state’s magic than to soak in it.
Nevada is often defined by its vast expanses of desert, vivid nightlife, 24-hour casinos, and entertainment industry. On the flip side, it makes for some of the best road trips to explore its awe-inspiring landscape and eye-opening destinations, in particular, natural springs, which are sprinkled all over the rich geothermal areas of the state. While some Nevada hot springs are extreme enough to foster a thriving geothermal energy industry, others have been tapped into to create remote and relaxing springs that will leave you craving for more.
Often considered one of America’s best outdoor playgrounds, Oregon is home to glacier-clad volcanoes, vibrant high deserts and icy rivers that keep fisherman, backpackers and whitewater kayakers coming back for more. However, you don’t have to be an outdoor junky to appreciate this state’s natural beauty.
For those simply looking for a breath of fresh air with a stunning backdrop, Oregon delivers. A mix of climates means that you can bask in a steaming pool that sits perched above an icy river, under a canopy of pine trees or enjoy the scenic backdrop of an Oregon hot spring in the open plains.
Utah has no shortage of amazing outdoor activities and is commonly known for its multi-day adventures along remote byways, like the “Mighty Five” national parks. But there’s more to this state than sweeping vistas, arches, alcoves and epic canyons. Chances are, if you’re visiting one of these incredible sites, you’re likely near one of the many hot springs in Utah. Just remember, that while nudity is widely accepted in many thermal pools across the U.S., it’s actually illegal here. Don’t dip without your suit!
There may be fewer hot springs in Washington than most states in the Western U.S. — 30 in total — but its beautiful secluded locations and pine tree forests make up for the quantity. The Pacific Northwest is not only known for its vibrant green outdoors but also its heavy snowfall. With a white blanket covering the state of Washington during the fall and winter, there’s really no better way to defrost than by taking a hot springs road trip — just make sure you come prepared with good tires and chains.
Hot springs have been called the “fountain of youth” for their claimed anti-aging effects that mineral water can have on skin. More commonly, people visit these natural gems to experience nature in its most primitive form and soak up the incredible landscapes around them. However, that doesn’t mean they’re 100 percent safe or sanitary. Even popular springs that have been known for their consistent temperatures, can change without warning. Don’t forget that thermal springs are heated from the energy that comes within earth’s core, so you should test the water and read any warnings before jumping straight in. For many visitors, a hot springs road trip can be a way to relax sore muscles, set off on new adventures or clear away the winter blues. Use our guide to help you plan your road trip and rent a car to see some of the best and off the beaten path soaks on the western side of the U.S.
This version of this guide originally appeared on the CarRentals.com blog