Natural hot springs invoke a special kind of magic found nowhere else—they are a balm for the soul in a hectic world of buzzing cell phones, honking horns, and constant demands for attention. While we don’t have room to include every worthy hot spring in the United States, these selections are some of the best in the western U.S. So relax and take a soak at one of these memorable natural pools.
1. Goldbug (Elk Bend) Hot Springs, Salmon, Idaho
Once considered the secret spot by the locals, Goldbug’s remote location on the eastern side of central Idaho means that it’s not overrun on a daily basis. The strenuous, sage-lined, two-mile hike leads to a series of about six crystal-clear, waterfall-fed pools that overlook the majestic peaks of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. It’s breath-taking in every way, and going sans-clothing is A-OK in this remote spot.
2. Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Spend the day on the slopes or hiking the aspen-covered mountains and get rewarded with a unique soak at Strawberry Park. While it’s a developed private hot spring, every effort has been made to retain primitive naturalness. For a different kind of camping adventure, check out the 1890s railroad caboose or the covered wagon available for rent. You also can book a massage on-site for some legit pampering. Due to the mountain location and often rough road conditions, a shuttle from Steamboat to the hot springs is available daily.
3. Riverbend Hot Springs, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
The Riverbend Hot Springs is a peaceful oasis alongside the iconic Rio Grande River. Impeccably maintained with a meditative vibe, the springs offer a tremendous view of Turtleback Mountain just across the river. If tranquility is what you’re after, all pool areas are designated “whisper-only” areas, and children under 12 are not allowed in the common pools. Clothing is required in the common areas and is optional in the private pools.
4. Dunton Hot Springs, Dunton, Colorado
The historic Old West meets modern luxury at Dunton Hot Springs, and if your pocketbook can manage it, this five-star resort hot spring experience is truly one-of-a-kind. The former 1800s ghost town sits in the jaw-dropping San Juan Mountains in Colorado. There are six ways to soak scattered around the property, enough to suit any style of bathers. Grab a day pass to take in the atmosphere for a few hours, or stay at the resort and enjoy the state-of-the-art spa and fine dining.
5. Kirkham Hot Springs, Lowman, Idaho
The Kirkham Hot Springs is easy to get to and spectacular—it’s hard to ask for much more from an undeveloped hot spring. Nestled on the shore of the South Fork of the Payette River, the springs are accessed right off of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. A short, steep hike takes soakers to a magical hot waterfall cascading into one of the larger pools. This is a well-known spot favored by locals, making it rare to have alone time here. But there’s always room for everyone, and the scenery can’t be beaten.
6. Homestead Crater, Midway, Utah
How about an underground adventure? Visitors to the Homestead Crater reach the hot springs via a 110-foot tunnel through a rock wall. The unique natural phenomenon features a high-domed ceiling over the turquoise waters of the thermal spring. The top has a hole that lets in natural light (it used to be the only way to access the pool before the tunnel was constructed) and helps you from overheating or feeling claustrophobic. Reservations are required, and this place shouldn’t be missed, so book in advance.
7. Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs, Blue River, Oregon
Located in the Willamette National Forest near Eugene, Cougar Hot Springs is an easy-to-reach delight. Start with a casual quarter-mile walk through lush forest to reach the cascading thermal pools, and you’ll soon spot the spectacular Rider Creek Waterfall. With six picturesque, rocky soaking pools laid out in steps down a ravine, there is room for everyone. Temperatures range from 85 degrees in the lower pool to 112 degrees in the upper pool, and most have a view of Cougar Reservoir.
8. Fifth Water Hot Springs, Diamond Fork Canyon, Utah
The brilliant blue waters could be right out of a fairy tale at this popular spot, which is only about an hour from Salt Lake City. You will need to complete a 2.5-mile hike to reach this waterfall and several tiered soaking pools. The turquoise water is due to the hydrogen sulfide content of the water, and that’s also the cause of the sulfurous odor that visitors may at times notice. The hot spring is particularly charming in the winter with snow-covered banks all around.
9. Goldmyer Hot Springs, North Bend, Washington
Intimate and rustic is the name of the game at Goldmyer Hot Springs, where guests need to pack in everything they need down the 4.5-mile hike from the trailhead. Tucked into the wilderness of the stunning Cascade Mountains, the 20-acre complex is run by a nonprofit who maintains a 20-person per day limit. The crystal-clear geothermal pool is a perfect escape from hectic daily life with nothing but the birds, deers, and a handful of other guests to break the silence.
10. Goldstrike Canyon Hot Springs, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
A technical challenge and the perfect soak are what await you at the Goldstrike Canyon Hot Springs. It’s surprising to find such serenity only about an hour from the Las Vegas strip. Not for novices (or children), the hike is a difficult 6-mile round-trip through a stunning slot canyon with some rocky scrambles that have rope assistance in a few critical spots. Once there, the oasis of pools and bubbling waterfalls are well worth the effort. Hike another 30 minutes from the hot springs to take a cool dip in the Colorado River. Please note this hike is closed from May 15 to Sept 30 due to the extreme heat of the region.
With great power comes great responsibility. Now that these thermal gems are on the radar, please always be sure to follow the “pack-in, pack-out” philosophy when visiting to keep these natural gems available for generations to come. Now grab a towel and get soaking.
Written by Lisa Collard for Matcha in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by jesswoodhouse.com