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11 Top-Rated Hot Springs in California

Written by Freddy Sherman
Jul 30, 2019

There is nothing more soothing to body, soul, and mind than time spent in the healing mineral waters of a natural geothermal hot spring. A perfect hot springs experience might also include a mud bath to cleanse the skin. There are many hot springs resorts and sites located throughout California, providing a wide range of natural, aquatic spa experiences.

Bathers can choose from five-star luxury hotels with their own springs, like the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn near San Francisco, or remote, raw, natural hot springs, like the Sespe Hot Springs near Ojai, accessible only via a 10-mile hike.

From the Napa Valley in the north to the Coachella Valley in the south, check out our list of the best natural hot springs in California.

1. Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs

This Southern California desert oasis resort city is just outside Palm Springs and about two hours east of Los Angeles. There are more than 20 hot spring spa resorts in Desert Hot Springs (the largest collection of warm springs in the US), most welcome both day visitors and overnight guests. A Desert Hot Springs spa day can be a fun activity while visiting Palm Springs, as it's only a 20-minute drive from downtown.

The mineral hot springs in Desert Hot Springs are unique in that they are odorless (some in other places can be a bit stinky due to sulfur content). They're also unique in that the area has both hot and cold springs.

For outdoor activities, the nearby Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is a vast outdoor space with miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. The city is also about 30 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park.

2. Wilbur Hot Springs

Wilbur Hot Springs | Daniel Hartwig / photo modified

Wilbur Hot Springs is a historic, off-grid, solar-powered mineral Northern California hot springs resort, which first opened in the late 19th century. It's in the town of Williams, about 90 minutes from Sacramento (by car) and about two hours from San Francisco. The hot springs are experienced in Japanese-style onsen structures, some of which are clothing-optional. There's also a spring-fed and spring-heated swimming pool and a dry sauna. There's even a geyser on-site.

Aside from the hot springs, there are yoga classes and experiences and guest chef appearances and other foodie events. A range of massage and healing treatments are offered. The resort is a digital-free zone-no mobile phones in the public areas.

Beyond the springs, this is a natural retreat and center for spiritual and personal development. If you prefer to cleanse your soul via hiking (or mountain biking), the area is also part of a 1,800-acre nature preserve.

Official site: https://wilburhotsprings.com/

3. Sycamore Mineral Springs

A spring-fed hot tub at Sycamore Mineral Springs | Photo Source: Sycamore Mineral Springs

The Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is in the Central California town of Avila Beach, about 15 minutes from San Luis Obispo off Highway 101. There are 72 rooms and suites along with a three-bedroom casita. The accommodations all have private hot tubs and balconies or private patios. The resort is a 100-acre estate so there is a lot of green space along with hiking trails.

Sycamore offers 23 outdoor hot tubs with naturally heated mineral water and a spring-fed, lagoon-style pool (with a waterfall). Other wellness activities like yoga and pilates are offered, and the resort has a large spa offering a range of body, beauty, and skin treatments. The Sycamore is home to the Gardens of Avila restaurant, a very popular place to eat with a seasonal, locally sourced (some things from the resort's one-acre chef's garden) menu.

For a diversion, take a drive to nearby San Simeon, the sprawling mountaintop castle-like estate of William Randolph Hearst.

4. Beverly Hot Springs

Beverly Hot Springs | Photo Source: Beverly Hot Springs

Did you know there was a Southern California natural hot spring in the heart of crowded Los Angeles? Beverly Hot Springs is in Koreatown, midway between downtown LA and Beverly Hills. The spring, which was discovered during oil drilling in the early 20th century, has sodium bicarbonate-rich alkaline water at 95 - 105 degrees Fahrenheit (35-41 degrees Celsius). The water has many compounds and minerals, but sodium bicarbonate is the same compound found in antacids, and that's why the water has also been popular to drink for its therapeutic effects.

The day spa is built on top of the spring and opened in the 1980s. There's a natural hot springs pool, a cold plunge pool, a eucalyptus-infused steam room, and a dry sauna. Aside from the waters, Beverly Hot Springs also offers a range of beauty and massage treatments. Go for the bamboo fusion massage, which includes the use of heated bamboo sticks to gently knead away your tension.

Official site: http://beverlyhotsprings.com/

5. Calistoga

Little Old Faithful geyser in Calistoga

Calistoga is a Northern California city of hot springs. It's in the famous Napa Valley, a few hours north of San Francisco and has been a popular hot springs resort near San Francisco since the first hotel opened in 1862. It catered to the wealthy San Francisco residents of the day, many made rich from the recent California Gold Rush.

There are many hot springs around the city, and mud baths are also very popular here. These are "baths" where you immerse yourself in hot, volcanic, mineral-rich muddy soil. You can choose from a range of lodging options, from small hotels, some with their own springs, to five-star luxury resorts. Many Calistoga hot springs are day-use, without overnight accommodations.

The city retains a small-town feel (fast food chains are banned here), and it's a fun place for a getaway. Calistoga even has its own geyser, known as Little Old Faithful or Old Faithful of California, which erupts about every 40 minutes or so.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Napa Valley: Best Areas & Hotels

6. Grover Hot Springs

Pool at Grover Hot Springs | Ken Lund / photo modified

These Northern California hot springs are part of the Grover Springs State Park, located in the High Sierra mountains near Lake Tahoe. The low-sulfur (no rotten egg smell) water comes from six different springs and feeds two concrete pools. One pool is hot at 148 degrees Fahrenheit (64 degrees Celsius), perfect for soaking, and the other is cooler, perfect for swimming.

The state park includes miles of hiking trails and almost 100 campsites. The pools are open year-round but can be hard to access during the winter, as the snowfall in the mountains is heavy. Grover is also a hot springs destination close to Sacramento and Reno.

7. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa | Photo Source: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Sonoma is a beautiful, agricultural city, one valley over from California's Napa Valley. This luxury Bay Area spa resort, about an hour from San Francisco, is unique in that the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn's Willow Spring Spa has its very own ancient thermal mineral spring. The hot spring starts 1,100 feet (335 meters) below the earth's surface. Atop the spring is a vast and luxurious spa and the luxury resort. The springs were used by the local native American tribes for thousands of years and now they feed the resort's hot tubs and all five pools.

Day guests are welcome at the Willow Spring Spa, and access to the spa is free if you are getting most of their massage or beauty treatments (there is a minimum spend required). The spa is known for its European bathing ritual, inspired by traditional bathhouse experiences in many countries. This aquatic adventure starts with an exfoliating shower, followed by a warm therapeutic bath, then a dip in a hot pool with Jacuzzi jets, then a mega shower, a visit to a herbal steam room, time in a traditional dry sauna, and finally a relaxation room.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa also has something called a Watsu pool, where floating massages are done.

8. Sierra Hot Springs

Sierra Hot Springs | Photo Source: Sierra Hot Springs

The Sierra Hot Springs Resort & Retreat Center is a non-profit, spiritual, wellness, and healing-focused resort. It's near Lake Tahoe (a 90-minute drive) or about a four-hour drive from San Francisco.

Accommodations (of course you can also visit just for the day) include a large lodge building with rooms and suites and several camping areas. You can also stay in The Globe Hotel, a historic hotel located a few minutes away in Sierraville.

The mineral pools are open 24 hours a day. There's a large geodesic dome, the Temple Dome, and inside there's a sand-bottomed hot pool and two cold plunges. Outside there's a large warm pool with a big sundeck and dry sauna. Outside is also the warm meditation pool, with faux rock landscaping and a sand bottom. In the European style, the pools are clothing-optional, but the resort is not.

There is a lot of programming here-many well-known spiritual and healing practitioners and lecturers offer sessions and seminars at the resort and there's always a full program of workshops.

Official site: http://www.sierrahotsprings.org/

9. Vichy Springs Resort

Pool at Vichy Springs Resort | Photo Source: Vichy Springs Resort

First opened in the mid-19th century, the historic Vichy Springs Resort combines a country inn boutique hotel with a Northern California hot springs resort. You can stay overnight in the luxurious accommodations (rooms or individual cottages) or just visit for the day. Vichy Springs is in Ukiah, about two hours from San Francisco.

The hot springs here are unique in that they are the only naturally warm and carbonated Vichy-style mineral baths in North America. Vichy is a city in France, famous since Ancient Roman times for its carbonated mineral baths. There are 14 mineral baths at Vichy Springs, four outside and 10 inside. There is a large, spring-fed and spring-heated swimming pool and a non-heated (seasonal) olympic-sized swimming pool. The resort even has a natural cold plunge pool (swimming hole) under a waterfall, a 10-minute hike away through the woods.

There are miles of hiking trails on the 700-acre property. The resort includes a large spa with a range of massage and beauty treatments.

10. Esalen Hot Springs

Esalen Hot Springs in Big Sur | Brad Coy / photo modified

If you want hot springs in Big Sur, this seaside retreat may be known more for The Esalen Institute and its New Age philosophy and self-help experiences, but it's also home to some amazing, cliffside, oceanside hot spring baths. The baths are open to the public only for a unique night bathing experience under the stars. Every night, from 1am to 3am, anyone can book online to experience the baths. At all other times only Esalen retreat guests can use them.

The baths are down the hill from the retreat's lodge and located on several levels. The first level has a large bath along with an outdoor massage deck. There are several large baths, both indoor and outdoor, on the lower level, along with some private, old-fashioned clawfoot tubs for individual use. There are also restrooms, showers, and changing rooms.

There is evidence the mineral-rich hot springs have been used by the local native American people for over 6,000 years for the same reason they're used today-their healing properties.

Official site: https://www.esalen.org/page/esalen-hot-springs

11. Sespe Hot Springs

Sespe Creek

This remote Southern California hot spring site is almost 3,000 feet up in the mountains near Santa Barbara. At 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius), the water in the springs is some of the hottest in California and the country.

Sespe can't be reached by vehicle, only by foot or by horse. The shortest trail is a moderately difficult hike of about eight miles up and down a logging road. The Sespe Hot Springs are part of the Los Padres National Forest, located near Ojai about two hours north of LA.

The hot springs openings are all in a big valley-the water forms a creek which gets cooler the farther downstream you go from the sources. There are many natural pools and swimming areas where you can enjoy the water at a temperature you like.

Spring is the best time to visit, as there can be snow in the winter, and the temperatures soar above 100 degrees in the summer. There are no facilities, but you can backpack in and out, hike, and camp in the area. The geothermal activity in the area means the ground is warm, even though the nights can be cool, making it comfortable for sleeping. There is one 10-mile-long trail to the springs that is open to horses, and several local outfitters offer camping packages.

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