Home to the country’s first spa, Berkeley Springs State Park, Berkeley Springs has also been voted “Best Historic Small Town” numerous times. The local Berkley Springs State Park is famous for its warm springs, which stayed naturally heated to 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
With world-class dining, a multitude of shopping opportunities, full-service spas, and countless places to stay the night, it’s no wonder this West Virginia town is so popular. Both the Main and Old Roman bathhouses provide plenty of options for those looking to relax. Use the sauna, get a massage, soak in the bath, and other traditional spa services.
History of Berkley Springs, WV
Situated within the Appalachian Mountains, and located an hour and a half from Baltimore, Maryland, Berkeley Springs is a beautiful place to visit year-round. This unique location has a profound history dating back to the Native Americans, who discovered, explored, and studied the local hot springs, understanding their widespread use and power in the realm of health.
First settlers arrived in 1730 and were immediately enthralled by the hot springs. Native Americans taught them the use and value of the springs, and word quickly spread amongst dwellers in the area. Once a prime location for the Natives, these mineral-rich springs were “discovered” in 1747 by Thomas Jefferson’s father and named the “Medicine Springs” on the maps he created.
It quickly garnered the attention of George Washington, whom in 1748, visited the spa for the first time at age 16 and was so captivated by the hot springs that he became a regular visitor. Twenty years later, with the help of family and friends, they bought and incorporated the nearby town of Bath, where Berkeley Springs is located, into a health resort.
By the time 1776 came about, Lord Fairfax decided to convey the property to the Colony of Virginia, at which point it was offered for public sale. George Washing and other influential historical figures, including signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, decided to purchase the springs – which instantaneously gave it a hefty boost in popularity.
From there, the town of Bath was formed (changed to Berkeley Springs in 1801), and steamboat inventor James Rumsey was instructed to build five bathhouses and other buildings on the property. The “resort” was born.
In 1948, a new spring was found while excavating the grounds for an addition, bringing the total number of springs to 5 springs. Because of its long, fascinating history, the Berkeley Springs State Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a site on the Washington Heritage Trail.
The Mineral Spring Baths
Flowing at a constant temperature of 74.3°F, the mineral spring water emerges from the Oriskany sandstone of Warm Springs Ridge. Containing a significant amount of minerals, the healing water is known to help with skin issues, digestive disorders, and a variety of other health ailments.
Praised for the stress-reducing effects that come from soaking in the waters, it has also been accredited with helping relieve gout, arthritis, epilepsy, and neurological issues.
The healing water flows at 750 to 2,000 gallons per minute. At this rate, the water is pristine, crystal clear, and mineral-rich. There are 9 individual bathing rooms within the bathhouse, holding a total of 750 gallons of natural spring water. The water is heated to 102°F to maximize soaking pleasure and increase the absorption of the healing minerals.
The spring water also serves as the source of the municipal water supply and flows from every tap in town. It is also bottled and sold commercially, spreading the healing mineral water far and wide.
The Main Bathhouse offers choices of a relaxing whirlpool or soothing Roman Bath. There’s a private, walk-in Roman Bath, with 750 gallons of mineral springs heated to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Heated to the same temp, the Whirlpool holds 150-gallon and has jets for rejuvenation.
The private baths hold up to 4 people and are typically reserved for 30 minutes. Add a 20 minute session in the sauna to any of the baths or massages.
While visiting Berkeley Springs, you can take part in several extra services. Sauna use, massages, and bath treatments are all available year-round, and reservations are recommended. Some of the massage services offered include:
- Therapeutic massage
- Prenatal massage
- Hot stone massage
- Watsu massage
- Couples massage
Museum of the Berkeley Springs
Additionally, the Museum of the Berkeley Springs is located within the bathhouse, on the second floor. Open since 1984, you can find many historical items that are rich in cultural significance. Visit exciting exhibits and view historical items related to the founding of this location. There is also a small gift shop where you can purchase refreshments and souvenirs.
While there is no camping at the park or official lodging, those looking to spend the night can look at nearby campgrounds, cabins, lodges, and unique stays.
Berkeley Springs State Park in West Virginia is undeniably one of the most beautiful hot springs locations steeped in history. Known as “America’s First Spa,” this state park should be on every hot spring lover’s bucket list.
Address: 2 S. Washington St., Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411
Season: Year-round | Day-use only