California, a state famous for its diverse ecosystems ranging from the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the low basins of Death Valley, features a huge number of naturally occurring hot springs. These springs, which are located throughout the entire state, are a wonderful, relaxing respite from today’s busy world.
This selection, carefully chosen to demonstrate the best qualities of California’s diverse array of hot springs, is sure to include a location fit for any type of adventurer or traveler. Whether you’re looking for large, luxurious hot spring resorts or an undeveloped, primitive pool in the wilderness, California has something for everyone!
Here are among the top hot springs in California, in no particular order:
The Esalen Institute, one of California’s most famous hot spring resorts, is a spiritual retreat center situated directly on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, California. Widely known for its array of seaside pools, Esalen offers guests the unparalleled opportunity to soak in geothermally heated mineral water high above the Pacific Ocean.
One of Esalen’s primary draws is moon bathing, which occurs nightly from 1 AM to 3 AM. During this popular time, bathers are met with the experience of a lifetime produced by a culmination of the Moon, ocean, and naturally invigorating mineral water.
Besides the appeal of the pools and tubs, the Esalen Institute also features a large variety of luxurious lodging accommodations, including some that overlook the ocean. The guest rooms do not include televisions or any cell reception, so visitors are forced to disconnect and enjoy their experience wholeheartedly.
Visitors are provided with three hearty, gluten-free meals per day, and much of the food comes from the large garden facilities. When you’re not eating or soaking in the healing water, participate in art or yoga classes, or book a seaside massage.
Ultimately, the sustainable food, luxurious accommodations, and beautiful soaking opportunities place the Esalen Institute on this list of California’s greatest hot springs.
Wilbur Hot Springs
Set on a large, 1,800-acre nature preserve only 2.5 hours from San Francisco, Wilbur Hot Springs is an expansive hot spring resort characterized by contemplative hot spring pools and simple accommodations. To facilitate introspection, there is no WiFi or cell reception on the property, so guests have the rare opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with themselves.
The resort contains soaking tubs in two areas: a silent, relaxing area known as the Silent Contemplation Flumes and a typical area where conversations are permitted. This distinction highlights the resort’s intentional promotion of reflection. This is also seen in the variety of massage sessions and yoga classes that are offered.
Wilbur Hot Springs provides a multitude of massage techniques, but reservations must be made in advance.
The resort’s introspective atmosphere is additionally reflected in its simple accommodations. Guests may choose to stay in the Solar Lodge Bunk Room with up to five other individuals, or they can rent small, private cabins that feature a kitchen, living area, and deck. There is no food on-site, but all guests are welcome to use the resort’s gourmet kitchen to prepare meals.
While Wilbur Hot Springs may be simple, its atmospheric focus on introspection that is echoed throughout the large property makes it a top California hot spring resort.
Mono Hot Springs
Mono Hot Springs is the ideal spot for those searching for a historic hot spring resort in the remarkable area between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks. Set amid the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mono Hot Springs is a picturesque wilderness hot spring resort featuring both natural and man-made pools, historic accommodations, and world-class outdoor opportunities.
The primary draw of Mono Hot Springs is the large bathhouse. Here, geothermally heated mineral water that maintains a temperature of between 100 and 104° F is distributed to a variety of soaking tubs and relaxing showers. Right outside the bathhouse is a large spa that provides stunning views of the nearby mountains in the John Muir Wilderness.
Additionally, the resort contains over a dozen primitive hot spring pools for those hoping for a more natural experience.
The lodging at Mono Hot Springs is tasteful but simple. There are one and two-bedroom historical cabins for rent as well as smaller canvas tents. Across the nearby San Joaquin River is a popular California Land Management campground.
The position of Mono Hot Springs grants visitors the ultimate opportunity for outdoor adventure. There are countless beautiful hikes nearby and the hundreds of lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for world-class trout fishing.
Mono Hot Springs’ abundance of natural and man-made hot spring pools, combined with the huge opportunity for outdoor adventure in the mountains, makes it a must-see California resort!
Keough’s Hot Springs
Keough’s Hot Springs offers the largest hot spring pool in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. This famous site, which has a rich history dating back to 1919, has continually provided guests with clean, relaxing, mineral water pools for over a century.
As is expected, the primary draw of Keough’s Hot Springs is the two large pools. The first, which measures 100 feet by 40 feet, maintains an average temperature of 90° F. The other pool, known as the Hot Pool, sits at around 104°F and is meant primarily for soaking and resting.
Besides the two beautiful pools, Keough’s Hot Springs also offers accommodations in the form of small furnished canvas tents and ten campsites featuring RV hookups.
Keough’s Hot Springs may not be the most expansive or luxurious resort in California, but its long history of providing healing mineral water in a huge pool is perfect for those who are searching for a more simple hot springs experience.
Mercey Hot Springs
Mercey Hot Springs, an isolated resort sixty miles from Fresno, California, earns a spot on this list of the best California Hot Springs thanks to its large selection of pools and tubs and its unique set of accommodations. Guests are free to roam the large 144-acre property, where opportunities for introspection in nature abound.
Mercey Hot Springs has private hot tubs and a large bathhouse where hot, healing mineral water provides the ultimate in relaxation. Besides this, the resort features a traditional, chlorine-treated pool as well as a dry sauna. The water in these areas is maintained at around 104° F and is rich in a variety of healing minerals.
The real allure of Mercey Hot Springs is the wide choice of eclectic accommodations. Besides campsites catering to both tents and RVs, the resort has two fully furnished Airstream trailers. These include sizeable kitchens, bathrooms, and even a small deck. Additionally, Mercey Hot Springs also offers rustic cabins and a large two-bedroom group house.
When guests aren’t soaking in the numerous tubs around the resort property, they can enjoy the 9-hole disc golf course, explore the nearby Bureau of Land Management area, or take advantage of the lack of sky-pollution for an exhilarating night of star-gazing.
Wild Willy’s (Crowley) Hot Springs
Stunning Sierra Nevada Mountain views just outside of Mammoth Lakes has made Wild Willy’s Hot Springs a popular place to visit for many years. Also known as Crowley Hot Springs, this set of two natural hot spring pools is perfect for free, unrestricted relaxation on beautiful public lands.
Geothermally heated mineral water emerges from the nearby source and fills two sizeable pools with approximately 100° F water, an inviting temperature that’s perfect for extended soaks. The smaller pool is warmer, and it can easily fit two or three people. The main appeal of Crowley Hot Springs is the larger pool, though.
This huge, mostly natural pool can provide groups of up to twenty people with a fantastic soak amid spectacular mountain views.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring is situated on the Bureau of Land Management’s property, so free camping is available almost anywhere. However, there are no facilities, so soakers and campers alike must be prepared to be self-sustained, and all trash must be packed out.
Due to the unique, twenty-four-hour access to the springs, visitors can easily escape the crowds by staying overnight and soaking in the early morning or late evening. This isolated experience, especially when combined with the healing mineral waters definitely makes Wild Willy’s Hot Springs a must-see California hot spring!
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
Calistoga Hot Springs’ location in the heart of California Wine Country, along with its wide array of hot spring pools and spas, make it one of the top hot spring resorts that California has to offer. With stunning views of nearby vineyards and wineries within walking distance of the town of Calistoga, this resort is perfect for a weekend of relaxation in the Napa Valley.
The most impressive feature of the resort is its four mineral water pools and tubs. Calistoga Spa Hot Springs has a hot whirlpool, a cooler soaking tub, and a multi-lane lap pool for exercise, all of which are naturally heated by hot spring water pumped in from a nearby source. Besides this, the resort even has a wading pool that’s perfect for kids.
Additionally, Calistoga Hot Springs offers elegant accommodations in the form of king and queen guestrooms that include a small kitchenette. Another draw of the resort is the comprehensive massage and spa facility. Guests are invited to try the Volcanic Ash Mud Bath, which involves a lovely, invigorating soak in ash from two nearby volcanoes.
Ultimately, Calistoga Hot Springs’ perfect location, stunning facilities, and tasteful accommodations make it one of the top hot springs resorts in the area!
Travertine Hot Springs
Four mud-lined, natural pools characterize the primitive nature of Travertine Hot Springs. Set outside Bridgeport, California, the geothermal pools that comprise Travertine Hot Springs are a beautiful, calm respite that provides stunning views of the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains.
Unlike most of the concrete hot spring pools in California, Travertine Hot Springs‘ four pools are lined with mud. While this may not seem as appealing as a sturdy, concrete wall, the value comes in the mud’s natural healing powers. Many visitors choose to coat themselves in this mud while soaking to promote healing and relieve tension in the body.
Water emerges from the source at nearly 180°F, but it is sufficiently cooled thanks to man-made water channels by the time it reaches the four pools. There is no camping allowed in the immediate vicinity of the springs, but adventurous visitors can choose to camp on any of the pull-outs on the road leading to the pools.
Similar to most of these secluded spots, there are no facilities, so campers should pack out all their belongings and be prepared with what they need.
Thanks to its accessible nature, the springs can sometimes be crowded, but visiting early or late in the day on weekdays helps to avoid the crowds. Though it may be popular, a visit to Travertine Hot Springs is almost worth it for the views alone, not to mention the four relaxing pools!