10 Heart-Warming Hot Springs to Get You Through Winter
Don't pack those bathing suits away just yet: a hot spring or thermal pool can make for a relaxing, toasty end to a November hike or mountain-bike ride. And with upwards of 1661 hot springs splashed throughout the U.S. and countless more around the world, you’re basically spoiled for choice when it comes to picking your perfect soaking spot for fall and winter.
Here are just a few natural warm-up locales you can venture to in the coming months (some of which are even easy-access enough for us "indoor kids," too):
1. WILLETT HOT SPRINGS // VENTURA COUNTY, CALIF.
If you’ve got the energy it takes to trek the 11 miles through Los Padres National Forest to reach Willett Hot Springs (outside of Ojai, Calif.), a very warm welcome will await you in the form of a large, man-made basin filled with naturally hot spring water. You can also check out Sespe Hot Springs about three miles away—they’re rumored to be the hottest in the whole country (so be very careful before sinking in).
2. TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M.
The town of Truth or Consequences, N.M. was called Hot Springs until, in 1950, it took on a TV show’s title as its own name (thus earning the right to host the filming of said show). These days, the spa-filled hamlet still runneth over with naturally thermal bodies of water. Visitors can enjoy the restorative powers of free-flowing hot springs and well-drawn, mineral-rich water in a number of spas and hotels alongside the Rio Grande. Unfortunately for travelers on a budget, the small town relies on its prime resource (and the tourists it draws) in order to survive, so this is one soak that you can’t have for free.
3. HOT SPRINGS STATE PARK // THERMOPOLIS, WYO.
Founded in 1897 as Big Horn Hot Springs State Reserve, Hot Springs is Wyoming’s oldest state park, and—as the name implies—is famous for its network of thermal springs and pools. More than 8000 gallons of 135-degree-water pour through every day, and special cooling pools ensure the temperature of the park’s large bath house basin stays at a more comfortable 104.
4. BOILING RIVER // YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYO.
Take a trip to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone and you’ll find yourself plunging into an entire network of thermal pools, springs, and rivers. Only two sites are open for swimming, however: the Firehole Canyon swimming hole (which, despite its name, isn’t warm) and Boiling River, which is open to dippers in the fall, winter, and late summer (despite its name, the temperature is safe for submersion).
5. SYKES HOT SPRINGS // BIG SUR, CALIF.
If you've been surfing the chilly waves or simply admiring the dramatic view at Big Sur and want a warmup, Sykes Hot Springs and campground are a 10-mile hike inland, and a popular spot for nature fans. If you don't mind shelling out for privately maintained hot springs, you can also get your warm-water fix in the area at the Esalen Institute (where Hunter S. Thompson briefly worked) or the Tassajara Zen Center.
6. ANTELOPE HOT SPRINGS // PLUSH, OREG.
Antelope (Hart Mountain) Hot Springs, located in a meadow "near the head of Rock Creek," according to Trails.com, can accommodate about six people. What’s more, there’s free camping nearby in this Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge nook, giving you ample opportunity to see the area’s four-legged residents. While you’re in the state, you can also check out any of the natural jacuzzis listed on SoakOregon.com.
7. VALLEY VIEW HOT SPRINGS // CRESTONE, COLO.
If skiing in Colorado this winter leaves you feeling a bit frosted-over, a side trip to Valley View Hot Springs could provide the thawing out you’re looking for. The springs (plus 2200 other acres) are managed and protected by the non-profit Orient Land Trust, which offers free wildlife tours, nature education programs, and both camping and thermal pool access for modest fees.
8. JIGOKUDANI ONSEN // NAGANO PREFECTURE, JAPAN
If you have time for the two-hour train ride from Tokyo into Nagano prefecture when you’re in the area (or, if you’re lucky enough to live on mainland Japan, on your next free weekend), there are scores of onsen to visit for a warm, relaxing day—a good number of which are patronized by Japanese macaques, too, including this Jigokudani spot.
9. UUNARTOQ QEQERTAQ, GREENLAND
If your travels take you pretty far north this winter (or, really, any time of year), you might do well to pay a visit to the “arctic phenomenon” of three naturally-heated pools on the island of Uunartoq in South Greenland. Take in a breathtaking vista complete with snowy mountains and icebergs—from a safely toasty middle-distance.
10. TERMAS GEOMETRICAS // PANGUIPULLI, CHILE
Last but decidedly not least, this soaking spot may be the Holy Grail (or at least one of several) for die-hard hot springs enthusiasts. Historically called Cajón Negro, this lush network of 17 slate-lined thermal pools is open year-round, allowing guests to spend hours stepping in and out of hot and warm bathing spots along an enthrallingly steamy wooden walkway.