A big, rustic geothermal pool, Dirty Socks Hot Spring, can be found only a short drive from Olancha in the stunning Owens Valley. This natural mineral pool contains a run-down concrete swimming area that used to be maintained by the county but is no longer kept up.
In 1917, a well was dug while searching for a new water source, and hot mineral water was discovered. According to folklore, prospectors and miners from the nearby Cero Gordo mine would visit the thermal pool once a year to clean up and take a dip. Despite the myth of bathers losing socks, none have been found in the water. Instead, the smell comes from the volcanic sulfur ground around the pool.
A concrete pool and a few other structures were built in 1927 to serve as the centerpiece of a planned hot springs resort. Ten years later, the plan was scrapped, and the facilities were torn down.
The former Dirty Sock Hot Spring Park
An area of 45 acres, including the hot spring, was designated as Dirty Sock Hot Spring County Park by Inyo County in 1965. Trees were added, the access road was paved, and bathrooms and a recreation area were constructed. The hot spring quickly gained popularity among residents and visitors, but upkeep at the park proved more difficult than county officials had anticipated.
Many of the park’s amenities were challenging to maintain. The vandalism and shooting of trash cans became an epidemic. On October 17, 1978, Inyo County permanently shut down Dirty Sock Hot Spring Park.
Natural Hot Springs
There is still a distinct stench, like old socks, coming from the natural hot spring water. The spring is housed in a large, concrete-lined pool with a diameter of 78 feet, fed from a source deep below the earth. The pool’s water eventually drains into a neighboring pond. It’s accessible at any time of the year.
Soak at your own risk. The water is often covered with algae, and there is no maintenance whatsoever.
Dirty Socks Hot Springs are best described as warm in temperature. Depending on the time of year, highs often hover around 90–94 °F. Pets are allowed at the site, which is also clothing-optional. Broken glass is in the ground and at the bottom of the spring, so it is best to wear shoes before entering.
Overnight camping is not allowed.
Address: Located about 10 miles from Big Pine, California