California has no shortage of geothermal activity. And because of this, hot springs are quite common in our state. Throughout all of California, you’ll easily find steamy pools of mineral-rich water ranging from natural hot springs in the wild to man-made soaking pools pumping in sulfur-rich water in luxury spas and resorts.
While some hot springs are just way too hot to get into, many of California’s hot springs are just the right temperature for soaking and relaxation!
Today, we want to help you discover a few new hot springs in Northern California! Whether you’re looking for a natural hot spring located out in the middle of nowhere or you want to pair your soak with an upscale massage or mud bath, we’ve got you covered.
This post is broken out into three different sections. The best natural hot springs, hot springs resorts, and luxury hot springs spas in Northern California. So whatever type of hot spring experience you’re looking for, we’ll lay out the details for you so you can choose the one that works best for you.
Without further ado, here are the best California hot springs for soaking and relaxation!
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WHAT EXACTLY ARE HOT SPRINGS?
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard of hot springs, but what are they exactly, and how are they formed?
A hot spring is a naturally occurring flow of water that is hotter than 98 degrees F (36.7 degrees C) when it flows from the ground. Hot springs form when water deep below the Earth’s surface is heated and rises to the Earth’s surface. Very similar to geysers, many of them form near areas of volcanic activity.
Not only is soaking in hot spring waters relaxing but due to the minerals in the water, there could be many benefits for your bodily health, too. Sulfur-rich hot springs have been shown to offer healing benefits for skin irritations, infections, arthritic pain, digestive issues and more. On top of that, it can instantly boost blood circulation, relieve pain, and reduce stress.
In fact, this isn’t something new at all. Hot springs have been used all over the world for thousands of years and have been widely accepted in places like Europe and Japan as a natural treatment option for common ailments.
BEST NATURAL HOT SPRINGS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Let’s kick off our list of the best hot springs in Northern California with a few natural hot springs.
Do note, since these are natural hot springs out in the wild, there are no locker rooms, changing facilities, showers, or convenient trash cans. Be sure to leave no trace and pack out everything you brought in!
1. TRAVERTINE HOT SPRINGS
Travertine Hot Springs, located in the town of Bridgeport, CA, is a very popular collection of hot mineral pools boasting some of the best views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That’s right, at Travertine Hot Springs, the unreal views are as captivating as the hot springs themselves!
There are a few natural pools to choose from, all of which have hot mineral waters that emerge from the ground, flow down rock formations, and finally reach the pools at a comfortable temperature. There are pools of all temperatures, the hottest being the one nearest the parking area.
By far the best time to take a soak in these pools is before/during sunrise and during sunset. The picturesque backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range makes this soak that much more tranquil.
Travertine Hot Springs is located just a few miles from Highway 395 and can be reached by following Jack Sawyer Road for approximately 1 mile. Once you’re on Jack Sawyer Road, take the second left at the fork of the road. This road will turn into a dirt road shortly. Drive slow if you don’t have a 4WD car! Once this road ends, you’ll see a bathroom to indicate that you’ve finally arrived.
After your soak, make a day trip out of it by checking out Mono Lake or even taking a drive down to Mammoth Lakes, CA.
Pro Tip: Before you head to the hot springs, grab some drinks from the general store in Bridgeport. And if you’re looking for a place to stay the night, you can consider camping in the area. Because the land surrounding the thermal springs is Forest Service Land, you can legally camp for free in any of the pullouts along the back roads ( not in the immediate area of the pools).
2. BUCKEYE HOT SPRINGS
Buckeye Hot Springs is located in Bridgeport, CA just of Highway 395 near Travertine Hot Springs. At Buckeye Hot Springs, you’ll find the three pools fed by the constant flow of hot water that pours down from the springs above. When the heat from the springs becomes too much, take a quick hop over the manmade rock walls and take a refreshing plunge in the Buckeye Creek to cool off!
While not as popular as nearby Travertine Hot Springs, the springs do see a fair amount of traffic. The springs can be accessed from hiking down a rocky, steep access trail from a dirt parking area to the creek. Nearby camping is available at Buckeye Campground.
The road to get there is rough in places, but no 4WD is needed.
Directions: From Bridgeport, head west on Highway 395 to Twin Lakes Road. Turn left on Twin Lakes Road and go 4 miles in. Turn right on Buckeye Road and go 3 miles. Buckeye Road will turn into a dirt road, and while the road to get there is rough in some places, but no 4WD is needed.
3. WILD WILLY’S HOT SPRINGS
Crowley Hot Springs, better known as Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, is one of the most popular hot springs in the area, located near Mammoth Lakes in Eastern California. While it might be a tad closer to Los Angeles and other Southern California cities, Wild Willy’s actually isn’t too difficult to get to from Northern California.
The pools here are human-made, but rest assured you’re still going to get to enjoy the rugged outdoors here. There is a main pool that can accommodate up to 15 people, followed by a smaller one shaped like a heart!
One of the best times to go is during the winter or early spring when the mountains are still coated in white. The sights all around you are going to be drop-dead gorgeous! And because it’s one of the most easily accessible natural hot springs in California, you’ll likely be sharing the warm pools with others.
Directions: To reach the springs, you will need to drive down a bumpy gravel road. While a 4WD is not required, you should drive slowly and carefully and avoid the larger bumps in the road. There is a little parking lot once you arrive. You’ll then walk on a boardwalk to get to the hot spring pools.
Just remember to bring some snacks and a towel and lastly, pack your trash out when you leave!
4. BENTON HOT SPRINGS
Benton Hot Springs is another hot spring that’s well off the beaten path, located about 45 minutes from Bishop, CA and Mammoth Lakes, CA.
Each campsite at this campground offers a private hot tub to soak in, paired with unbeatable views of the White Mountains. There are just 11 campsites, and each is fairly private.
The views of the White Mountains are most spectacular at sunrise and sunset! And when the stars come out, you’ll have a front and center seat of the dark night sky with no city lights to ruin the view.
Camping at Benton Hot Springs is a must for outdoor lovers who want to truly get away from it all. And for the non-camper, guest rooms are available at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs, a bed-and-breakfast style inn.
Address: 555137 Hwy 120 Benton, CA 93512
5. SYKES HOT SPRINGS
If you’re an avid backpacker or day hiker, you’ll have no problems getting to Sykes Hot Springs. To get to Sykes, you’ll have to embark on a scenic 20-mile roundtrip hike along the Pine Ridge Trail to get to 3 natural hot springs pools next to the Big Sur River. This one is probably the most remote and difficult to get to, but getting to end a day of hiking with a soak is well worth the effort!
The trek to Sykes Hot Springs is about 10-miles one way along the Pine Ridge Trail. This adventure makes for a great backpacking trip, but can also be done as an out-and-back hike from the campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (if you are used to hiking 20 miles in one day).
During the hike, you’ll have to do two river crossings as well as do some rock scrambling to get to the pools. When you get to the pools don’t expect luxury–these pools are pretty basic. But hey, the journey is just as important as the destination!
If a 20-mile hike doesn’t sound appealing, there are actually three hike-in campgrounds you can actually make camp at–Terrace Creek (about 5 miles in), Barlow Flat (the largest, 7 miles in), and Sykes Campground (right by the springs).
Pro Tip: As the hot springs pools only comfortably seat 4-5 people, we recommend going during the off-season (aka not summer) and to start the hike in as early as possible.
Address of trailhead: 47555 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
BEST HOT SPRING RESORTS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Here are a few of the best hot spring resorts in Northern California. For many of these, you can either choose to use the hot springs and facilities for the day or opt for an overnight stay at the properties.
6. WILBUR HOT SPRINGS
Wilbur Hot Springs is a hot springs resort located about 90 minutes from Sacramento and 2.5 hours from San Francisco. Thanks to naturally occurring lithium and many other minerals, Wilbur Hot Springs has been melting stress away from visitors for centuries (since 1865)!
In fact, Wilbur Hot Springs is touted to have a wider variety of minerals in its water than most hot springs in California. You’ll get to enjoy the Japanese onsen-style ambiance while taking advantage of the therapeutic waters.
Set amidst a 1,800-acre nature preserve, there are three geothermal pools available for soaking including the flumes, a hot water swimming pool, and an outdoor hot mineral flume. If you see people in the nude, that’s totally normal as this is a clothing-optional resort.
To enjoy Wilbur Hot Springs, you can opt for a day-use pass or an overnight stay in a room or campsite. Purchasing a day pass grants you access to all the hot pools, the sauna as well as access to the nature preserve on the property. Do note that reservations are required for both day-use visitors and overnight guests.
Address: 3375 Wilbur Springs Rd, Williams, CA 95987
7. TASSAJARA ZEN CENTER
Tassajara Zen Center, located in a remote part of the Ventana Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mountains, is the oldest Japanese Buddhist Sōtō Zen monastery in the United States. The property also houses a Japanese-style hot springs facility.
While it is primarily a Zen Buddhist monastery in the fall and winter, During the summer from mid-April to September, the property opens its gates to guests for the Summer Guest Season.
Guests are invited to soak in the hot springs, cool off in the creek, explore the trails, savor their renowned gourmet vegetarian cuisine, float in the swimming pool, and even participate in a retreat. Guests are also welcome to join the residents for meditation and chanting every morning and evening.
The hot springs bathhouse has separate areas for men and women. Each area includes a tiled indoor hot pool, an outdoor pool, a steam room, showers, and large decks perfect for sunbathing, stretching, and yoga.
Address: 39171 Tassajara Rd, Carmel Valley, CA 93924
8. SIERRA HOT SPRINGS
Located 25 miles north of Truckee near the town of Sierraville is the wonderful gem that is Sierra Hot Springs. In addition to the clothing-optional hot springs, the resort serves as a non-profit retreat and workshop center. The property offers lodging and camping accommodations, meals, health and wellness workshops, and custom retreats.
If an overnight stay is not your thing, you can opt for a day visit. Day visitors can choose admission for 3 hours or even a full-day visit. While both will allow you to soak in the pools, the full-day pass gives you access to the must-see Temple Dome Pool Area and a Meditation Pool, both of which are very unique venues for soaking and relaxation!
The hot pool at the Temple Dome is kept at temperatures between 105 and 110 degrees and is set in a geodesic dome structure that houses two additional cold plunge pools to cool you off. Head outdoors to access the warm pool, dry sauna, and sundeck, backdropped by scenic views of the alpine valley and the surrounding forest.
Do note a monthly membership is required ($5), even for one-time use. This membership is transferable to their sister retreat, Harbin Hot Springs Resort. More info on rooms and rates here.
Address: 521 Campbell Hot Springs Rd, Sierraville, CA 96126
9. HARBIN HOT SPRINGS
Harbin Hot Springs, just about a 30-minute drive from the Napa Valley region, is one of the oldest hot springs in California. The property is located in Middletown, CA and also serves as a spirit-oriented non-profit retreat center.
Harbin Hot Springs is situated on 1,700 acres of pristine natural beauty. When you’re not busy soaking in the hot spring pools, you can expect to enjoy a tranquil atmosphere and expanse views of meadows, canyons, and endless creeks.
Guests can enjoy clothing-optional sunbathing and soaking in the hot, warm, and cold spring-fed pools. There is also a sauna and massage services, including Watsu® (massage therapy done in warm water).
Address: 18424 Harbin Springs Rd, Middletown, CA 95461
10. ORR HOT SPRINGS RESORT
Orr Hot Springs, once a former hippie community in Ukiah, CA, is a small clothing-optional resort set in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. The resort offers a central bathing area comprised of two communal pools, one heated to a consistent temperature of 107-108°F and the second slightly cooler at 104-105°F.
In addition to the shared pools, the resort features seven, private Victorian porcelain tubs (including two rooftop tubs for epic stargazing opportunities!).
The property is open to both day-use visitors and overnight visits. Overnight guests can choose between camping sites, yurts, cottages, or rustic cabins constructed of local redwood.
Address: 13201 Orr Springs Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482
11. VICHY SPRINGS RESORT
Vichy Springs Resort is the best of both worlds; it’s both a country boutique inn and a hot springs resort! This very unique hot springs resort in Northern California is located in Ukiah, about 2 hours away from San Francisco, CA.
First opened in 1854, Vichy Hot Springs is famously known for providing prominent figures like Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt a place to relax and escape it all for a few days. This resort is especially unique in that it’s the only resort in North America that features natural warm, carbonated waters. Yes, carbonated!
The water is also exceptionally high in mineral content—almost identical to the waters of Vichy, France. For those of you who aren’t as familiar, Vichy, France has been famous since Ancient Roman times for its carbonated mineral baths.
You can choose to soak in stone tubs, a heated pool, or an Olympic-sized swimming pool. There are 14 mineral baths at Vichy Springs, four outside and 10 inside. Unlike a few of the ones mentioned above, swimsuits are required in all areas of Vichy Hot Springs Resort.
And when you’re not soaking, you can spend a few hours on the many trails exploring the resort’s 700 acres, including taking a hike to a seasonal waterfall and swimming hole. The resort also includes a large spa with a range of massage and beauty treatments.
If you’d like to elevate your experience, you can stay overnight in one of the luxurious accommodations.
Address: 2605 Vichy Springs Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482
BEST LUXURY HOT SPRING SPA RESORTS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Last but not least, we have luxury hot springs spas and resorts. These are going to provide you with a more luxurious experience. If you’re looking for a weekend full of soaking, pampering, relaxing, and dining, these are some really great options!
12. CALISTOGA SPA HOT SPRINGS
Calistoga, CA is a hot spring mecca in Northern California. Because it’s situated at the cusp of the Napa Valley wine region, visitors can easily pair their wine weekend with a majestic soak in one of the hot springs resorts in the area.
And not only are hot springs a popular thing to do here, but so are mud baths. So at this point, I’m guessing many of you are wondering what exactly a mud bath is. You wanted hot springs, so how did we get to mud??
A mud bath is a type of spa treatment where you immerse yourself in hot, volcanic, mineral-rich mud. It’s usually located at spas and resort locations. The most famous mud bath experience is located in none other than Calistoga!
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs has been a popular hot springs resort since the hotel first opened many generations ago. The now contemporary-style resort features a spa and fitness center, a mud and mineral bath facility, a large mineral pool known as the Roman Pool, and four smaller geothermal mineral pools.
Address: 1006 Washington St, Calistoga, CA 94515
13. DR. WILKINSON’S BACKYARD RESORT & MINERAL SPRINGS
Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga is another high-end day spa named after chiropractor Dr. Wilkinson. This resort offers wonderfully modern accommodations, geothermal mineral pools, and a variety of spa treatments for unbeatable pampering.
The mineral baths are the main attraction and what people primarily come for! There are separate sections for men and women, featuring mineral steam rooms, mineral water whirlpool tubs, and mud baths.
This place is very cute, despite the name of the resort. It sports a new mid-century inspired design, 50 completely refreshed guest rooms, a brand new restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and a completely re-imagined spa.
Address: 1507 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515
14. INDIAN SPRINGS RESORT
Set in the charming town of Calistoga (there’s definitely no shortage of hot springs here), Indian Springs Resort is an upscale resort experience not to be missed. If you’re looking for a relaxing and therapeutic soak, an iconic mud bath experience, and a truly unique place to call a night, this is it!
For over a century, guests have journeyed to Indian Springs in search of relaxation and well-being. As one of the original spas in California, their thermal mineral waters, mud baths, and special treatments attract those seeking a timeless spa experience.
Indian Springs features natural geyser water in the form of an Olympic-size mineral pool and a few smaller pools to enjoy. The spa next door offers various body treatments including Calistoga’s signature mud baths.
Once you’re done getting pampered, grab some cocktails at Sam’s Social Club and wind down your night at one of the historic cottages, luxurious bungalows, or luxurious 2 to 3 bedroom homes spread out across the property.
Address: 1712 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515
15. FAIRMONT SONOMA MISSION INN & SPA
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s Willow Spring Spa is unique in that it has its very own ancient thermal mineral spring. That’s right, just below this luxury resort and 40,000-square-foot spa sits a hot spring originating 1,100 feet below the earth’s surface.
In fact, these same springs were used by the local native American tribes for thousands of years before now feeding the resort’s hot tubs and pools.
Day guests are welcome at the Willow Spring Spa, and access to the spa is included if you are getting a massage or beauty treatment and meet the minimum spend requirement.
With each treatment purchased, you’ll get to enjoy a complete hydrotherapy session that starts with an exfoliating shower, followed by a warm therapeutic bath, a dip in a Jacuzzi, a visit to an herbal steam room, a dry sauna, and finally a relaxation room. As you can see, it’s a whole ordeal you do not want to miss!
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa also features luxurious accommodations, a Michelin-rated restaurant, and access to a renowned golf course at the nearby Sonoma Golf Club.
Address: 100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma, CA 95476
16. ESALEN HOT SPRINGS
For nearly 60 years, the Esalen Institute has welcomed guests to the picturesque Big Sur coastline. The Esalen Institute is not only where people go to experience New Age philosophy and self-realization workshops, but is also home to postcard-perfect views of rugged coastline along the Pacific Ocean.
During the day, the clothing-optional tubs are reserved for workshop and massage participants. These guests can enjoy the famous hot springs, as well as farm-to-table dining, the bookstore, and art barn.
From the hours of 1-3 am (yes you read that right), the general public can book a reservation for the Esalen hot springs hot tubs. It costs $35 per person and you must book the same day for the evening you wish to visit.
Registration opens at 9am PST and can sell out quickly. Please note, the baths are on private property so registration is a must.
17. SYCAMORE MINERAL SPRINGS RESORT
The Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is located in Central California in the town of Avila Beach (near San Luis Obispo). What’s really cool about this resort is that for each of the 72 rooms and suites, they all have private hot tubs and balconies or private patios.
Sycamore offers an additional 23 outdoor hot tubs with naturally heated mineral water and a spring-fed, lagoon-style pool. The resort also has a large spa offering a range of massages and spa treatments. Other wellness activities like yoga and pilates are offered as well.
Once you’re ready to tear yourself away from the relaxation, enjoy the resort’s 100-acres by taking a hike along its many trails.
And before you head home for the weekend, take a drive to the nearby mountaintop castle of William Randolph Hearst! If you’re passing through, make sure to stop by Pismo Beach’s Splash Cafe to eat some of the creamiest and most delicious clam chowder you’ll ever have in your life.
Address: 1215 Avila Beach Drive, Avila Beach, CA 93405
MAP OF THE BEST HOT SPRINGS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
WHERE ARE THE CLOSEST HOT SPRINGS TO THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA?
These are the closest hot springs from the San Francisco Bay Area:
- Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
- Indian Springs Resort
- Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
- Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort
WHERE TO FIND FREE HOT SPRINGS IN CALIFORNIA?
While many hot springs resorts and spas tend to charge day-use fees and admission fees, all of the natural hot springs found in the wild will be free of charge. These include Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, Benton Hot Springs, Buckeye Hot Springs, Travertine Hot Springs and Sykes Hot Springs.
And that concludes this post! We hope that this post has inspired you to try something new! If you have any questions about the destinations or have your own travel tips to share, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.