The Best Natural Hot Springs in the U.S.

By Cristian Campanile

Imagine relaxing in a warm, natural pool, surrounded by lush vegetation and breathtaking views. The U.S. is full of these wonderful pools, many of which you may not be familiar with. I remember my very first time in a hot spring. The moment I stepped into the water I was amazed by how hot it actually was. It had such a soothing effect, which made me relax immediately. No more thoughts about tomorrow—just me, the hot spring, and nature in all its magnificence.

Here’s a list of the best hot springs, including their specific locations to help you navigate to them. Never been to a hot spring? Don’t worry, there’s a first time for everything!

Umpqua, Oregon

Fee: $5
Hike: 0.3 miles
Water Temperature: 108°F
Location: 43°17’42.13″ N -122°21’57.14″ W

The Umpqua Hot Springs is one of the most photogenic spots in Oregon. Although it’s about a two-hour drive from Eugene and Bend, the beautiful location and easy access make it an absolute must for adventure lovers. To reach it, head towards Umpqua National Forest and take Forest Road 3401. After about 0.7 miles, you’ll arrive at the parking lot, where you have to pay a fee of $5 per vehicle. Be aware that it’s quite a bumpy ride. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll find a series of cascading pools along the North Umpqua River, overlooking the forest. While there, don’t forget to visit the nearby Toketee Falls.

Umpqua, Oregon

Fee: Free
Hike: 0.7 or 5.7 miles
Water Temperature: 105°F
Location: 35°56’17.0” N – 106°38’46-0” W

About a two-hour drive from Albuquerque lies the Santa Fe National Forest. Along a steep mountainside, amid the forest, are a series of natural pools: the San Antonio Hot Springs. The road to reach the pools, Forest Service Road 376, is not in the best condition. Make sure to travel there with a good four-wheel drive. The road is closed to vehicles during the winter, from December 31 to April 15, but it remains open to foot traffic. So, you can still reach the hot springs, but it adds another 5 miles to the hike.

Jerry Johnson, Idaho

Fee: Free
Hike: 1.3 miles
Water Temperature: 100-115°F
Location: 46°27’45.12” N – 114°52’24.19” W

In the Clearwater National Forest in central Idaho, just 1.5 hours from Missoula, you will find the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, a true mecca for relaxation. There are three different sources, resulting in pools with different shapes, sizes, and water temperatures. The first and hottest pools, called the waterfall pools, are fed by a hot waterfall. Moving along, you’ll see the riverside pools, which are generally shallow. Finally, the last pool, featuring beautiful mountain views, is the deepest and widest one. To reach the hot springs, head to the Warm Springs Trailhead parking lot, which is located along U.S. Highway 12. After crossing the wooden bridge, you’ll see the beginning of the 1.3-mile, well-marked path. Keep in mind that the pools are only open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Boiling River, Wyoming

Fee: $35 (Yellowstone National Park entrance)
Hike: 0.5 miles
Water Temperature: 100-140°F
Location: 44°59’06.06” N – 110°41’21.47” W

The Boiling River is one of the few hot springs located in the Yellowstone National Park that can be legally accessed. It’s a unique place where the hot water of the geysers and cold water of the river come together, resulting in a large natural pool. After entering the park and paying the fee, a short, half-mile hike will take you to the hot spring. Keep in mind that bathing and swimming are prohibited in most other areas of Yellowstone, because of extreme temperatures and the fragile nature of the springs. Be sure to check their website for seasonal hours and closures prior to planning your trip.

Remington, California

Fee: Free
Hike: 0.4 miles
Water Temperature: 100-106°F
Location: 35°34’34.35” N -118°33’10.37” W

Remington Hot Springs, located along the Kern River, downstream from Isabella Lake, features three rustic, manmade swimming pools, which were built using local stones. Situated precisely between the towns of Bakersfield and Ridgecrest, they are an excellent place to relax and watch the stars at night. Keep in mind, however, that clothing is optional. To reach them, head toward Hobo Campground and, from there, continue on foot for 0.4 miles.

What Should You Pack to a Hot Spring?

Once you’ve decided which hot spring to visit, it’s a good idea to think about your gear. What items should you bring with you to enjoy your relaxation to the fullest? Make sure to include the following:

  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks
  • Sun protection/Hat
  • Garbage bag
  • Water shoes
  • Towel
  • Swimwear
  • Light source (flashlight or headlamp)
  • Waterproof backpack

Best Practices of Soaking

Visiting a hot spring is an amazing experience, where you can relax and enjoy nature at the same time. Many of these natural pools have millions of visitors every year, so it’s up to us to protect them. Here’s what you can do to make sure the hot springs remain enjoyable for you, other visitors, and future generations:

  • Leave the area cleaner than you found it
  • Plan for the weather
  • Keep the noise down
  • Skip the soap and shampoo
  • Don’t urinate in the pools
  • Don’t bring glass
  • Don’t have a party
  • Don’t bring alcohol
  • Be friendly to other visitors
  • Learn about the history
  • Don’t camp when not allowed

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your swimwear and plan your next adventure to one of these great spots!