When traveling along the Long Valley Caldera near Mammoth Lakes, California, you’re bound to run across many hot spring pools – including the famous Hilltop Hot Springs, otherwise known as “Pulkey’s Pool.”
This destination is smaller than some of the other adjacent hot spring options along the Long Valley Caldera, but it’s a crowd favorite due to the scenic views and invitingly warm temperatures.
Hot Springs Pool
Pulkey’s Pool is one of the most prevalent manmade soaking spots along the Long Valley Caldera, one of the largest calderas found on earth. It sits above geothermal waters that escape from the ground at a piping hot 130° F. From there, the water travels through a pipe into Pulkey’s Pool at inviting temperatures ranging from 100° F to 110° F
The temperature of Pulkey’s Pool will fluctuate depending on the season you travel to Hilltop Hot Springs. For instance, during the summertime, you will be met with steamier temps and a lovely, panoramic view of meadows and mountains.
The temperature may drop a pinch during winter, but it’s a warm escape from the chilly, snow-covered plains. Soaking during the wintertime welcomes a breathtaking sight of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains, creating a view that looks more like a painting than real life.
Regardless of the season, you attend, you can expect two things: water temperature that can be adjusted by gate valves and a clothing-optional, small-sized tub. That’s right – Pulkey’s Pool is 100% clothing-optional. And in a tub that accommodates up to six people and stands two feet deep, you may find yourself in close quarters with zero privacy.
Nearby Camping and Accommodations
Unfortunately, there is no camping in the area surrounding Hilltop Hot Springs. However, those wishing to camp will find many primitive camping options nearby. Those traveling in RVs or looking for hotel accommodations will appreciate the fact that Mammoth Lakes is just a short 15-minute drive from Hilltop Hot Springs.
Some of the hot spring pools in the Long Valley Caldera require extensive hikes to reach them, but not Hilltop Hot Springs. This pool is located approximately 400 yards from the parking area and can be reached in less than ten minutes, with most people arriving in about five minutes.
The hike is notably “easy” and great for beginners. All you need to do is follow along a gravel trail broken up by a wooden bridge offering a perfect walkway atop soggy marshlands.
Note: The parking area may be closed during winter when heavy snowfall occurs. That doesn’t mean that Pulkey’s Pool is unreachable, though. Simply park along Benton Crossing Road and hike an additional 0.5 miles up to the trail leading to the hot spring pool.
Getting to Hilltop Hot Springs from Mammoth Lakes is a cinch:
- Start by taking the US-395 S
- Take a left onto Benton Crossing Road
- Continue on Benton Crossing Road for 3.5 miles
- Turn left onto a small dirt road that leads to the primitive parking lot
- Park in the parking lot and follow the gravel trail to the hot springs pool
Discover some other hot springs near Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite National Park.
Address: M676+H6, Mammoth Lakes, California