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These geothermal treats emerge near earth’s tectonic plate boundaries, which means the country’s hot springs are largely clustered out west. But even the East Coast has a sprinkling of its own geothermal splendor. Here are the best hikes to sulphur pools in the United States. Keep in mind that the ever-changing Covid-19 pandemic and wildfires may cause closures; consult this guide to planning a hike during fire season before heading out.
1. Radium Hot Springs, Colorado
The Colorado River is one of the West’s best adventure hubs, and the toasty Radium Hot Springs offer an ideal spot to soak post-outing. Located some 100 miles west of Denver, this primitive spring-fed pool sits on the banks of the river, with water that hovers around 80 degrees. Reaching it requires a one-mile hike or a quick paddle from the Mugrage Campground, which makes for a good overnight spot for those seeking a sunrise soak.
2. Fifth Water Hot Springs, Utah
A sizzling soak in bright-blue water isn’t the only treat at the end of central Utah’s Fifth Water Hot Springs Trail. This 4.5-mile out-and-back trail leads to three cascading waterfalls that feed their own pools. Start at Three Forks Trailhead in Diamond Fork Canyon, then weave through Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest before reaching the springs. The pools appear around mile 2.5; it’s worth hiking farther along the stream to find your soak du jour.
3. Goldmyer Hot Springs, Washington
Reaching Goldmyer Hot Springs is a delightful journey. The 24-mile round-trip hike starts at the Pratt Connector Trail parking lot, then winds through fern-filled forests, with multiple Snoqualmie River crossings along the way. You can avoid them by taking the ten-mile Dingford Trailhead, which connects to a closed road out to the springs. Either way, the routes lead to the same place: rock-bottomed pools nestled in the mossy foothills of the Cascade Range. One important note: These hot springs are on private land and require a reservation.
4. Jordan Hot Springs, New Mexico
The Little Bear Canyon Trail to Jordan Hot Springs is not for the faint of heart—you’ll make up to 27 river crossings. It’s roughly 12 miles round-trip through the Gila National Forest, with the trail starting at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center. Those who are up for the journey will reap scenic rewards, from colorful bluffs and rock spires to slot canyons. The final attraction is a welcome sight: a cerulean 95-degree pool shrouded in trees.
5. Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Idaho
For a soak among cedars, bookmark Idaho’s Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. This patchwork of scenic springs lies on the eastern slope of Clearwater National Forest’s Bitterroot Mountains. They are accessible via a one-mile hike from Warm Springs Trailhead #49. It’s technically located in Idaho, but the closest town is Missoula, Montana. You’ll have your pick of three soaking pools here, with waterfalls, mountain peaks, and, if you’re lucky, moose sightings as your backdrop.
6. Conundrum Hot Springs, Colorado
Ready to work for your soak? Head to Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen. The 17-mile round-trip trail leads through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness before reaching a series of high-elevation pools at 11,200 feet. You’ll gain 2,400 feet on your journey from the trailhead, with multiple creek crossings, including some that are particularly tricky with seasonal runoff. Snow makes the tough hike even trickier; if you plan to camp (which most people do) make sure to get a permit.
7. Wall Creek Springs, Oregon
For a quick outing that doesn’t skimp on scenery, try Oregon’s Wall Creek Warm Springs, located 50 miles outside Eugene. The half-mile path twists through old-growth Willamette National Forest and leads to a sand-, gravel-, and rock-bottomed pool, known as Meditation Pool, which simmers around 95 degrees. The Warm Springs Trail starts just off the National Forest Development Road. (Note: It was temporarily closed due to wildfires in summer 2021 and remained so as of December 2021.)
8. Deep Creek Hot Springs, California
Half a dozen hot springs fill the desert foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, each hovering around 100 to 105 degrees. The Mojave River feeds this thermal retreat, known collectively as Deep Creek Hot Springs. The area’s unspoiled nature allures hikers via the two-mile one-way trail from Bowen Ranch; expect an entry fee of around $10 per person. The springs are also a welcome indulgence for those attempting the Pacific Crest Trail. Upon arrival, you’ll see a variety of soak options, from smaller pools that fit one to two hikers, to the largest pool that provides ample room for swimming.
9. Boquillas Hot Springs, Texas
Hike to healing waters at Big Bend National Park’s Boquillas Hot Springs, one of Texas’s most peaceful natural resources. This desert-fringed pool has welcomed soakers for millennia, with rock art decorating the craggy limestone cliffs and a primitive bathing experience with 105-degree water. Reach it via a one-mile loop that starts at the parking lot off the gravel Hot Springs Road.
10. Olympic Hot Springs, Washington
To truly soak up Olympic National Park’s beauty, head to hot springs haven Elwha Valley, where some of the park’s most soothing landscapes await. Here, a 2.5-mile stroll from the Boulder Creek Trailhead leads to pools that heat up to 118 degrees. The pool’s lush forest backdrop is as calming as the steamy, fern-flanked waters. (Note: The road to the Olympic Hot Springs Trailhead is closed due to flood damage. In the meantime, you can reach the pools by hiking or biking about eight miles to the trailhead from the Madison Falls parking area.)
11. San Antonio Hot Springs, New Mexico
If a hot dip on a mountainside perch sounds enticing, add San Antonio Hot Springs to your bucket list. This geothermal area near Los Alamos features four pools of varying temperatures, all naturally carved into the Santa Fe National Forest. The hike is about one mile from the hot springs parking lot. Once you’ve arrived, prepare to be spellbound: the smattering of crystal-clear, rock-flanked pools are like a playground for springs enthusiasts.
12. Weir Creek Hot Springs, Idaho
This geothermal hot spot is several miles past the Jerry Johnson pools (see number five, above) along US-12. The pool typically attracts fewer crowds despite its toasty 100-degree waters. You can access them via the half-mile Weir Hot Spring Trail along Weir Creek; trailhead parking is right off US-12. Expect a rock-bottomed pool that fits around ten people, with the Clearwater National Forest as your woodland backdrop.
13. Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs, Nevada
The Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs feel a world away from the glitz and glam of the Vegas Strip, but in reality, they’re only 45 minutes away. The six-mile trail to the springs involves scrambling across boulders and rappelling down ropes, with the state’s signature red rocks lining the way. Several hot springs pop up along the route, with a warm waterfall at the route’s end. You can access it from October to early May, with summer closure necessary given the extreme heat.
14. Rainbow Hot Springs, Colorado
The Colorado town of Pagosa Springs is famous for its aquifer—one of the world’s deepest at more than 1,000 feet—but just north of this is a more rustic yet equally pristine option: Rainbow Hot Springs. It’s a nine-mile round-trip hike from the West Fork Trailhead to reach the pools, but this trek through the Weminuche Wilderness Area is as stunning as the pools it leads to. The surroundings alternate from trickling streams to pine-dotted hills, with two steaming mineral-rich pools ranging from 95 to 105 degrees as the grand finale.
15. Sykes Hot Springs, California
The trail to Sykes Hot Springs is no joke. It’s a 20-mile out-and-back path along the Pine Ridge Trail, one of the Big Sur’s most beloved treks. Be ready for stream crossings (which can be impassable during winter’s heavy snows), downed trees, and an elevation gain of 1,000-plus feet. Add an overnight trip to your journey via Sykes Camp so you can wake up and enjoy this geothermal wonder sans crowds.
16. Montecito Hot Springs, California
Santa Barbara is home to numerous hike-to hot springs, but few beat the grandeur of the sapphire-blue pools at Hot Springs Canyon, which also goes by the name Montecito. These were once part of an 1800s-era hot springs resort. Stone ruins are among the only remnants from the hotel’s heyday. The roughly four-mile round-trip hike starts just off Mountain Drive (look for the Montecito Trails Foundation sign), traverses through Los Padres National Forest, and hits multiple 112-degree pools.
17. Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho
The hike to Goldbug Hot Springs will keep you on your toes. It’s a hilly jaunt through cactus-studded desert valleys, with an ultrasteep last half-mile. It starts just outside Salmon, Idaho, and reaches six mountain-view pools, all fed by waterfalls. For a wake-up-and-soak experience, spend a night camping just below the Goldbug Hot Springs (at least 500 feet from water).
18. Verde Hot Springs, Arizona
These Cococino National Forest springs are remnants of a 1920s resort; rumor has it Al Capone used the hotel as a hideout. While a fire in the 1960s ultimately led to the resort’s demise, the pools remain open for those willing to make the journey. The 2.5-mile hike, which starts at Childs Dispersed Camping Area, sometimes requires wading across the Verde River during the summer monsoon season. (Note: Due to the Backbone Fire, the Forest Service has closed the area as of December 2021.)
19. Remington Hot Springs, California
Located in the southern Sierra, Remington Hot Springs promises easy-to-reach tranquility via a quick quarter-mile hike. The springs’ three man-made tubs hover at around 100 degrees and are surrounded by boulders. Catch the trail to Remington Hot Springs via the parking lot just off Kern Canyon Road. The earlier you can get here, the better; the springs can get crowded around midday.
20. Paulina Lake Hot Springs, Oregon
Just 25 miles south of Bend is Paulina Lake Hot Springs, a series of primitive man-made pools. Water temperatures in this Deschutes National Forest hideaway hang around 95 degrees. The lake itself is located within the Newberry Volcano caldera. It’s fed by rain, snowmelt, and hot springs. Access these pools via a marked spur from the 7.5-mile Paulina Lakeshore Loop Trail, which starts at the Paulina Lake Campground.
21. Chena Hot Springs, Alaska
One of North America’s most jaw-dropping hot spring destinations is also accessible via hiking: Chena Hot Springs. These restful, steamy waters in Fairbanks are far from primitive—they have their own posh resort with an onsite ice museum. But you can still work for that soak via the Chena River State Recreation Area’s Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs hiking trail. It’s a challenging eight-mile route with 2,000 feet of elevation gain from the Angel Rocks Trailhead to the springs. If you’re coming in the fall through spring, keep your eyes up for a potential mid-soak aurora show.
22. Hot Springs Resort and Spa, North Carolina
The Appalachian Trail passes right through downtown Hot Springs, a small outpost 36 miles from Asheville, North Carolina. Reaching the town’s tranquil waters doesn’t require a hike—there’s a parking lot right next to the facility. That said, it’s worth heading into the woods first. For a quick trek, take the AT from Hot Springs to Lovers Leap for two miles, then end back at the town’s Hot Springs Resort and Spa, where mineral baths help reduce stress and increase circulation.
23. Warm Mineral Springs Park, Florida
Warm Mineral Springs Park isn’t necessarily a hiking destination, but it’s home to one of the East Coast’s best—and one of the world’s largest—hot springs, with numerous trail options in neighboring parks. This toasty 85-degree pool near Sarasota is the state’s only hot spring open to the public. To recreate the West Coast’s hike-to-hot-spring magic, start at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, seven miles north of the springs, and hit one of the site’s oak-shaded hiking paths before driving down to the park.
24. Baranof Warm Springs, Alaska
It takes 16 strenuous miles to reach Baranof Warm Springs, but the waterfall-view pools make it a can’t-beat experience. You’ll find these springs in southeast Alaska along the multiday Baranof Cross Island Trail. Start in Sitka, and be ready for ice fields, soaring peaks, and wildlife, from bears to bald eagles. The route requires an average of three days before you’ll reach the boardwalk to Baranof Warm Springs, where nine pools of up to 124 degrees overlook the glacier-fed Baranof River.
25. Gaviota Hot Springs, California
It only takes half a mile to reach California coast’s Gaviota Hot Springs, just outside Santa Barbara. The trail to get here, off Highway 101, is designed for access to the 2,548-foot Gaviota Peak, but the teal pools about a half-mile in are equally popular. From the trailhead on Gaviota Park Boundary Road, walk the main fire road up to Trespass Trail, and then hike until you reach the creek, which you’ll follow to a clear-blue geothermal pool.