Road Trip: Hot Spring Havens

When it comes to winter road trips, you could go one of two ways. Either embrace the snow and head to mountain slopes or flee to warmer waters. But why not combine the two with a soak in a natural hot spring?

These gems boast steamy, mineral-enriched waters to soothe your muscles and snowy views to feed your soul. Best of all, you don't need an expensive membership with an exclusive spa to enjoy them. The only choice you need to make now? Which to choose.*

Mammoth Lakes, California

man relaxes in hot springs

Mammoth Lakes, California; Source | Robson Hatsukami Morgan/Unsplash

Mammoth Lakes owes its network of natural hot springs to its volcanic past. Once upon nearly 800,000 years ago, a volcanic explosion laid the foundation for the network of hot springs that stretches from Bridgeport to Mammoth Lakes. Today, several commercial hot springs in the area are open to the public, including Benton and Keough. Plenty of undeveloped hot springs exist as well, like Travertine and Buckeye, but finding them will take a little legwork. Some of these sites are threatened with overuse, and not all of them are safe for dipping. So talk to locals and stop in at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center for the full skinny.


Glenwood Springs, Colorado


Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Source | iStock

The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is fed by the Yampah spring — one of the hottest natural hot springs in the world. The water from the spring is so hot (122° F to be exact) that it has to be cooled down for bathers. The 1-million-gallon main pool is kept at a balmy 90° F, and is perfect for the entire family. Adults looking for peace and quiet may want to retreat to the "smaller" 100-ft by 400-ft hot tub, which is cooled to a pleasant 104° F. Book an overnight stay at the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort or purchase admission to splash around for the day.


Bagby Hot Springs, Oregon

undefinedBagby Hot Springs, Oregon; Source | Indigo Fairy/

Nestled in Oregon's Late Successional Reserve Forest, Bagby Hot Springs is a rustic escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Pay a small fee to park and then hike a 1.5-mile trail over river footbridges and beneath old-growth forest to the primitive cabins. Inside you'll find a number of whiskey-barrel style tubs and 8-ft-long, hollowed out cedar logs. The water is hot; the soak is free; the view is...primordial.


Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming


Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming; Source | Jonathan Green/

Tour Hot Springs State Park and take in the steam-and snow-drenched landscape. Wonder at the majestic, free-roaming herd of buffalo. Traverse the swinging bridge across the Bighorn River. Then (thanks to a treaty signed with the Shoshone and Arapaho in 1896), you can also partake in the park's namesake. The hot springs' bath house is free and open five days a week, barring winter holidays. The soaking pool is maintained at an optimal 104° F.


Jefferson Pools, Virginia


Jefferson Pools, Virginia; Source |iStock

If you're looking to soak in hot water and more than two centuries of American history, then few hot springs can best the Jefferson Pools. Owned and operated by the nearby Omni Homestead Resort, the pools were named after Thomas Jefferson, who raved about the springs during his visit in 1818. The octagonal Gentlemen's Pool House was built in 1761 and looks it. But the 40,000-gallon pool features crystal-clear, untreated spring water so rich in mineral content that bathers nearly float. The Ladies' Pool House was added later and allows for separate bathing. Combined family soaks are also available during scheduled times.


Chena Hot Springs, Alaska


Chena Hot Springs, Alaska; Source |Punk Toad/Flickr

Imagine soaking in three-thousand-year-old, geothermal waters while gazing up at the northern lights. That's what you'll find at Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks, Alaska. For a daily fee, the outdoor Rock Lake features unadulterated hot spring waters at a consistent 106° F. Visitors also have access to indoor hot tubs and a heated pool. Having too much fun to leave? Book a yurt (or a room if you're more inclined) at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, which includes unlimited swim passes during your stay.

*For all locations, call ahead to confirm availability and access with winter conditions.

Have you visited a natural hot spring we didn't mention? Share your experience with us.

Last updated November 11, 2021