Utah is known as a state with many greats. But what gets lost among all these greats is the fact that there are also some phenomenal natural hot springs, both free and paid.
From the unique topography in its national parks to ski slopes located just outside the capital, the ‘great’ outdoors of Utah should be on your bucket list. Utah’s ‘Great’ Salt Lake, with a salinity content so high your blood pressure will rise just from reading this paragraph, is a picturesque landscape you have to see to believe.
With a geometrical shape akin to a rejected Tetris piece, Utah’s hot spring activity generally follows a top to bottom course, closely tied to the majestic Rocky Mountains that form the majority of its western half. We’re now going to take a closer look at those hidden gems dotted amongst the alpine landscape and how they can best be visited.
Here are among the top hot springs in Utah, in no particular order:
Crystal Hot Springs – Honeyville
Let’s literally start at the top. Approximately 70 miles north of Salt Lake City, and not far from Idaho’s border, lies the Crystal Hot Springs, whose proprietors fiercely maintain that their hot spring mineral pool contains the highest mineral content in the world.
Although this spot was well known to Native American tribes, this location has been in business since the early 1900s. Additionally, during World War II, busloads of wounded soldiers sent here to aid in their recovery. These days, instead of soldiers, it is tourists who arrive here to soak in the mineral-rich waters for a little recovery of their own.
Onsite, there is an Olympic size swimming pool, several hot tubs, a campground, and a pair of waterslides. The hot spring, fed from depths of 8,000 feet, ranges in temperature from 120 degrees F to a whopping 134 degrees F. Just 50 feet away, which makes these the second-closest hot and cold springs in the world, a naturally-fed cold spring offers temperatures between 65 – 75 degrees F. Between the two, all pools are fed from these natural sources.
A day-pass for adults will run $12, with children over age 2 paying $10. The springs are open all year long, though hours of operation vary by season. Given its proximity to Utah’s population centers you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by other guests, but, at 134 degrees F and with a cauldron of minerals enveloping you, it’s hardly likely that you’ll care.
Homestead Crater Hot Springs – Midway
Slightly to the south and east of Salt Lake City is Homestead Crater Hot Springs, known locally as “the crater” for obvious reasons. What sets this soaking spot apart is its access for scuba divers, who often come to dive in its warm waters.
Once a local relaxation spot, the crater eventually passed into private hands. The new owners went to work to build a 110-foot tunnel, allowing easier access for visitors who don’t come with their own rappelling equipment.
With a beehive shape, complete with a hole at the top, visitors are consistently met with air and water temperatures in the mid-90’s all year round. The pool boasts crystal clear waters richly endowed with minerals courtesy of the Earth’s crust.
Hours of operation and entry fees vary depending on the day of the week you arrive, and a midweek soak will start at $13, with divers paying $22 per hour. Snorkelers and divers can also rent equipment there if you find that the limpid waters beg for further exploration.
Restrooms & changing stalls are also available nearby. For a more dedicated stay in the area, the onsite Homestead Resort offers packages that allow for the leisurely enjoyment of their biggest attraction.
Inlet Park Hot Springs – Saratoga Springs
South of Salt Lake City, and along the northern shore of Lake Utah, is Inlet Park Hot Springs, alternately known as Saratoga Hot Springs. Access to the springs is free, and the park is run by a communal effort of volunteers and law enforcement.
The main pool is approximately 50-feet-across and 40-feet-wide with an average depth of 3 feet. Temperatures generally run around 110 degrees F but that can vary. The main pool feeds to other smaller pools, all of which have mud bottoms. These pools are sought after due to their real and imagined curative properties.
The park is for day use only, having both a playground and restroom on site. To enjoy the pools, you’ll have to keep your dogs on a leash and remain clothed at all times, since clothing-optional bathing is not allowed. Given its location at the edge of the suburbs, this is a popular spot for locals. Regardless, tranquility can still be found, especially if you allow your eyes to drift up to the stunning snowcapped mountains that serve as a backdrop to this lovely location.
Fifth Water Hot Springs (Diamond Fork) – Springville
With a name like Springville, there’s every reason to believe there’d be some hot spring activity in the area. While this is a completely natural experience, without any man-made amenities like road access or restrooms to take the edge off getting there, the gorgeous setting more than offsets an inconvenience.
The aforementioned inconvenience is also what makes Fifth Water Hot Springs, also known as Diamond Fork, such a natural experience. After traversing a well-maintained dirt road, soakers will then hike 2.5 miles on a relatively flat trail ahead of them. The payoff is a secluded wonderland of boulders, waterfalls, and hot springs.
Meadow Hot Springs – Fillmore
Heading south down Interstate 15, just outside the town of Fillmore, guests have good reason to get off the highway and enjoy a dip in what some consider one of Utah’s finest soaking destinations. Getting there means taking a driven detour and a half-mile walk from the parking area. Despite being located on private property, access to the pools is free year-round, as long as you respect the posted guidelines enforced by the owners.
Among those guidelines are prohibitions on pets in the water, bathing without swimsuits, and an appeal to carry out any trash that you’ve brought in.
What strikes visitors immediately when visiting Meadow Hot Springs is the clarity of the water. There are three pools in total, some deeper, some shallower, but all in the neighborhood of 100 degrees F. Surrounded by open grasslands, with the snowcapped peaks of the nearby mountains in the background, both your mind and body will be induced to relax in such a panoramic setting. In view of the absence of any facilities on site, it’s recommended that you bring your own drinking water to ensure that you stay hydrated while visiting.
Mystic Hot Springs – Monroe
If you find yourself in the general area of Central Utah, no fan of hot springs should miss a visit, perhaps even overnight stay, to Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe, just a slight detour off of Interstate 70. Once frequented by the Native American Ute tribe, the springs are a private enterprise that offers guests more than just the chance to soak in its mineral-rich waters.
Comprised of two large pools; a shallow one with a depth of two feet and boasting a short waterfall, and a deeper one with a depth of four feet, with more room to maneuver. This site also offers five outdoor bathtubs scattered about with great views of the surrounding scenery. Come evening, guests will often have the choice of watching a live band, or gazing up at the starry expanse of the Milky Way. In either case, there’s no lack of nightly entertainment.
Unlike its remote natural counterparts, Mystic Hot Springs requires reservations to go along with a $25 soaking pass that will allow you access to its multiple pools and tubs – with temperatures ranging between 99 degrees F to 110 degrees F, for a period of two hours.
If you wish to extend your stay overnight, besides the usual camping and RV facilities, guests may choose to spend the night in one of over 30 authentic pioneer cabins going back to the late 1800s. While the cabins do have some modern amenities, such as electricity and a heater, the authentic pioneer experience comes with an absence of running water, requiring guests to use the communal facilities located nearby.
If your idea of ‘authentic’ and ‘vintage’ extends back to the ’60s and ’70s, you’ll enjoy spending the night in one of a line of converted ‘hippie’ school buses. Each comes with its own unique décor and communal bathhouse. All accommodations allow guests access to trails leading to some great canyon scenery.