WANDER GUIDE: NATURAL HOT SPRINGS, THE SEARCH FOR SERENITY
THE SEARCH FOR SERENITY:
A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR FINDING NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
If you've never experienced the relaxation and beauty of a natural hot spring, and have no idea where to start, this post is dedicated to you, future adventurer. Please respect the land you visit, doing your best to keep it beautiful and pack out your garbage.
Disclaimer: If you’re reading this post expecting a list of my secret spots, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you so early on.
These places are much better when kept secret and sacred, and stumbled upon in an instance of fate!
Part of the fun is their “hidden gem” status which makes them, ya know, not entirely swarmed with people, and of course, the satisfaction of finding them yourself!
Glass half full though, readers! Look at it this way: I’m not giving you potentially irrelevant information here, rather I’m providing you with a LIFE SKILL! YAY!
I hope you understand & enjoy my tips for finding good hot springs on your own!
One of my obsessions when traveling is finding beautiful natural hot springs.
They’re incredible, completely off-the-grid hot tubs in the middle of a scenic valley or dense forest.
After I went to my first one on a trip to Colorado, my mind was blown and my soul was hooked!
Their naturally steamy waters are usually enriched with minerals, like sulfur, that are said to heal you—body and soul—as you soak.
Many of these natural tubs have been used for hundreds of years, for both physical and spiritual healing.
Native American tribes believed hot springs were sacred, and after experiencing many of them myself, I have to agree.
So, how do you find them…
Well, you could google it.
But…honestly, that isn’t a good method if you’re looking for ones off the beaten path.
Some people like the resort style springs, where water from natural springs is redirected into man-made pools, and there are locker rooms and showers and towel warmers.
This is not the experience I am usually looking for.
I prefer my relaxation with a side of adventure (even though it usually ends up as adventure with a small side of relaxation!).
Plus, nothing ruins a sacred, healing experience like pulling out your Visa to pay some corporate jerk who decided to redirect nature for profit.
Fees for the sake of conservation are one thing, but for the sake of capitalism?! As I’m trying to disconnect from society?! NO THANKS!
I like to hike into the middle of nowhere and earn my soak with sweat, not money.
That being said there are some very good resort style springs out there, that like to keep it at least partially au natural, but there is usually little to no hiking involved.
If thats your style, google away, and by all means book a massage too!
Don't get me wrong, you CAN google natural hot springs, but the best ones are a little harder to find!
Worry not, though! I am here to help!
For the more adventurous hot spring seekers:
1. Instagram. Lots of adventurers post cool spots, and once the breadcrumbs hit the ground, you can usually sniff out the final destination with a little effort, even if they don't tag where they are.
I'll creep their surrounding posts to find a general location, scour comments for hints, and use google maps to pinpoint the exact location. If I'm really lucky I'll find specific coordinates, or maybe even a name!!!
There are also some awesome Instagram accounts centered around hot springs, and most of their features are completely natural ones—and the best part is, they feature springs from ALL OVER! US, Canada, Italy, Japan, the list goes on!
Instagram really is a great freakin tool, and guess what? I’m about to reference it, AGAIN.
2. Hashtags. You can now follow them.
I follow the hashtags #hotsprings #wildhotsprings and #naturalhotsprings, and yeah, sometimes weird stuff comes up, like dude-butts (ew), but they’re mostly dude-butts soaking in natural hot springs, so its kind of for the greater good, I guess… and anyways, I mostly find the preferable butt-free hidden gems to pursue on my travels.
The other great thing is that IG users that hashtag usually also use IG’s location tags…another beautiful feature, mwhahaha.
These people don’t even know they’re helping me as I silently stalk their soaks, but I hope they can somehow feel my appreciation!
3. Aside from the media part of social media, have you noticed that being social - human interaction - is the trend here?
Other people know more than you sometimes, simply because they live or extensively explore in the places you’re going to.
Talk to them. Locals. Travelers.
I always like to tell people the story of how my best friend and I found our absolute favorite springs, out in Colorado:
We were on a ladies trip, just the two of us, and got into Boulder late after a long hike.
Exhausted, starving, and too tired to be creative or picky, we consulted Yelp for nearby restaurant suggestions, and ended up at Foolish Craig’s, a little place with amazing crepes, featured as a stop on Guy Fieri’s show ‘Diner’s, Drive In’s and Dives.’)
We sat down at the bar, and the bartender comes over, over-ambitiously promising we can have ANYTHING we want.
We both ordered our drinks, and, as it turns out, we wanted the same thing as everyone else, because he had just run out of that. Oops.
We had a laugh with him about it, ordered some caffeine, which was a much better compliment to our crepes, and started sipping while we conversed about how he definitely owed us for the previously mentioned false hope he instilled in us at first.
Like true New Yorkers do, we made it known that we were visiting from New York, as if our order of two "cawfees" wasn't already a dead giveaway.
I think he half expected our plans to be lame, like those people who come all the way to Colorado just to sit around Denver smoking weed and never stepping foot into nature.
Spoiler alert: our plans were awesome. And about to get awesome-er.
We mentioned we were heading to Great Sand Dunes National Park early the next morning, and told him of our plans to head to Mount Princeton Hot Springs for a soak after our hike (don’t get too excited, although a beautiful place featuring some natural pools, this is a resort).
He immediately stopped us and changed the course of both our trip, and, in a way, our lives.
“You have to go to V***** V***.”
We looked at each other, trying to telepathically gauge the level of trust we should put into this man, which we decided was 100%, then, we looked back at him,
“It’s unreal. It’s a vortex to another dimension. There are eastern grey squirrels there. EASTERN. GREY. SQUIRRELS. Do you guys even know what that means?!?!”
“So you just follow the aliens to the end, to highway ____ and look for the shoes….”
And we found them.
The shoes, the springs, the magic. (also a little bit of fear because the shoes were a bit creepy, followed by a little bit of courage to press on and finally find that other stuff.)
Ok, so this one is technically a "resort", but it is super tucked away with all the benefits of maintenance, but absolutely no commercialized feel or obstruction of that beautiful view. Remember my earlier comment about not minding a fee if its for conservation sake? It's a nature preserve and sanctuary, so your money goes to protecting and maintaining the land, and that's a worthwhile investment!
There are enough hints here that I might as well just tell you, right?!
I know what you’re wondering most, so you win, here it is.
The answer is no.
We did not see any eastern grey squirrels.
But, really, you do not know bliss until you’re soaking with your person in 100 degree waters, overlooking an icy mountain valley, during a February sunset.
And you do not know cold until you need to get out of 100 degree waters, overlooking an icy mountain valley, after a February sunset.
(Remembering a towel will help with that, this is the one I bring on all my wanders!)
The moral of the story? The best method in finding under the radar hot springs is to be outgoing and friendly, the limited content of the internet can only give you so much.
Genuine human interaction is truly where it’s at for the most accurate information and otherwise unattainable insider tips!
I’ve never once regretted trying to pick a local or fellow traveler’s brain for secret adventure spots.
And hey, maybe the next person you ask in passing on a trail in Oregon, or in a dive bar in Colorado will be me!
Very important info for nature-seeking-soakers:
Unlike at a resort, natural or wild hot springs are often rarely maintained and the water quality is NOT monitored regularly, if at all.
Poor water quality, usually caused by human activity and lack of adequate maintenance, can put soakers at risk for exposure to bacteria, parasites and infection. Bacteria, like e-coli can lead to septic shock or worse.
Don't soak with any open wounds, new tattoos or piercings.
Some springs are also very popular party spots, and you'll sadly find them littered with beer bottles and cans (this contributes to bacteria levels).
We all want to enjoy a beer when soaking, its the perfect combo, but please do not be an asshole.
It's simple really, if you want to use the springs, then it is your responsibility to help keep them beautiful and clean. Pack out any trash you may create (and even the trash you didn't create).
I wish I was stating the obvious, but sadly a lot of people are careless and disrespectful. But I know you won't be like that, because you know better and don't want to step on broken glass or die from a bacterial infection!
I don't mean to scare or discourage you at all, you probably won't die - I never have, but it's important to be fully aware of the risks and realities!