Five Next-Level Natural Pools

A superior way to get outside

December 7, 2017 9:00 am

You’ve fought the crowds for a spot at Steep Ravine.

And Sykes remains closed for the foreseeable future, according to a just-issued Forest Service advisory.

While Northern California isn’t hurting for great hot springs, finding one with some peace and quiet can get tricky.

To upgrade your hot-spring experience, try these five lesser-known pools.

From natural baths at the edge of the Sierras to the warmest hot springs in the entire state, we think you’ll find your oyster.

Buckeye Hot Spring

Location: Toiyabe National Forest, Bridgeport, CA

Access: Wear hiking shoes for the short, signed path from the parking area to the pools. It’s harder than it looks on the way back thanks to the altitude (7,200 feet).

Vibe: If you prefer calm to crowds, aim to soak in the 140-degree water on weekdays — and avoid during the post-Burning Man rush.

Stay: There’s a free seasonal campground nearby in the national forest. Or settle in for local kitsch at the Walker River Lodge.

Travertine Spring

Location: Bridgeport, CA

Access: Travertine is a five-minute drive from Bridgeport, and easier to reach than Buckeye.

Vibe: Travertine is one of the most popular hot spring in the Sierras, thanks to their mud bottoms (slather it on your skin), 105-ish-degree water and Sierra views.

Stay: How about this luxe camper parked along the short of Bridgeport Reservoir?

Crowley Hot Spring (a.k.a Wild Willy’s)

Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA

Access: After a few miles’ drive from Mammoth Lakes, you’ll follow a boardwalk from the parking area to the pools.

Vibe: The two pools here offer best-in-class views, owing to their location, sandwiched between the Eastern Sierras and the Glass Mountain Ridge.

Stay: Mammoth offers no shortage of private lodging. Just be sure yours has a hot tub.

Sycamore Mineral Springs
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA

Access: By car

Vibe: Though Sierra springs like Travertine are officially open year-round, dead-of-winter trips might be better spent on the warmer Central Coast — for example, here in San Luis Obispo.

Stay: Every guest room at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa has its own hot tub fed with mineral water — at a fraction of the cost of Napa mineral-springs resorts.

Sespe Hot Springs

Location: Sespe Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest, near Ojai

Access: This is a winter weekend trip, as summer temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees. Plan on a 16-mile hike, each way, to the springs from the Piedra Bianca trailhead, along the well-signposted Sespe River Trail.

Vibe: Magical — and as an added bonus, these are the state’s hottest springs. Temperatures decline the farther you get from the spot where the waters emerge.

Stay: In one of the many campgrounds along the trail.


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