7 Best Natural Hot Springs in California for a Relaxing Soak
Looking for the perfect place to relax and unwind? Consider California's stunning natural hot springs.
"In volcanic areas, water may come into contact with very hot rock heated by magma," the NPS shares on its website. It notes that hot springs in active volcanic zones may produce superheated water, meaning taking a dip in them could result in injury or even death. "In non-volcanic areas, the temperature of rocks within the Earth also increases with depth — this temperature increase is known as the Geothermal Gradient. If water percolates deeply enough into the crust, it comes into contact with hot rocks and can circulate to the surface to form hot springs."
California is home to dozens of hot springs, which you can view on this handy map from the National Centers for Environmental Information, but if you want to check out the best of the best, we're here to help. Here are seven of the best California hot springs to visit for a soothing soak.
Wild Willy's, Mammoth Lakes
Feeling rugged? Make your way up to Mammoth to hunt down Wild Willy's, one of the state's most beloved hot springs. You can get close to Wild Willy's via car, but will have to get out and walk a short distance to get in. But the best thing about this spot is that it's completely free. That said, it can be a rather crowded destination, especially after a day of skiing at nearby Mammoth Mountain. Still, it's well worth waiting out the crowds so you can hop in for a soak under the stars. Just make sure to take out any trash to keep this place as pretty as you found it.
Vichy Springs Resort, Ukiah
Take a dip at a truly historic spa in Ukiah, California. Located just two hours outside of San Francisco, Vichy Springs Resort offers visitors the chance to soak in warm, naturally carbonated mineral baths. According to the resort's website, "The CO2 and water dramatically relax and penetrate the skin and rapidly dilate one's capillaries, giving an incredible feeling of calm, warmth, peace, and tranquility. The waters have magical powers that realign one's natural magnetic field, which induces a very relaxed state." Guests staying at the resort can take a dip in the baths, soaking pool, or even the Olympic-size swimming pool (available seasonally). When not in the water, visitors are invited to walk around the resort's 700-plus private acres.
Wilbur Hot Springs, Williams
Another Northern California retreat, Wilbur Hot Springs originally opened its doors in the late 19-century and remains a rather old-school resort to this day. That's because its health sanctuary is an off-grid, solar-powered oasis amid an 1,800-acre nature preserve. The resort notes that its hot springs are clothing-optional, making it a wonderful spot to fully immerse. Guests can also head out for a hiking or biking adventure on the miles of trails around the resort, or even book a healing arts session, which includes acupuncture, massages, and more.
Beverly Hot Springs, Los Angeles
Get your soak on right in the middle of the city at Beverly Hot Springs. As the site explains, "The spa is fed from a strong flow of 96- to 105-degree water from the artesian well that Richard S. Grant found when he bought the land — then a wheat field — to subdivide for a housing development in 1910." While drilling for oil, Grant found another treasure: a 2,200-foot well. First, the water was bottled and sold, and, according to the site, was "especially popular among red-eyed men who found the sodium bicarbonate and other minerals it contains soothing on Monday mornings." Now, you, too, can soak away a hangover or simply go for a healing dip in its coed pool, adding on a massage or body treatment for a bonus.
Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, Calistoga
Have an Instagram-worthy getaway at Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort, which has been in operation since 1952 and maintains much of its mid-century charms. That includes colorful murals, vintage cars, and clean-lined furnishings that make for an excellent photo backdrop. Of course, there's plenty of relaxation to be had as well, including in its hot springs, mud baths, and plentiful spa treatments that will most certainly make your weary muscles feel brand-new.
Orr Hot Springs Resort, Ukiah
For a more intimate experience, head to Orr Hot Springs Resort, a tiny property that packs a major punch when it comes to wellness. Its accommodations include a small lodge and a few cabins that were constructed in the early 1930s, all made using locally milled redwood. Guests can also camp on the property for an even deeper natural experience. The hot springs here are clothing-optional and require advance reservations for both day or overnight use.
Esalen, Big Sur
Make your next hot springs soak a luxurious one by booking a stay at Esalen, one of the most breathtaking properties along the California coast. Located on a cliffside in Big Sur, Esalen bills itself as an "intentional community" that's on a mission to help its guests transform into their best selves. This includes soaking away all worries in its hot springs. It also offers a clothing-optional getaway, which can be paired with healing treatments like massages and acupuncture. Guests can participate in workshops like meditation and mindfulness, too.