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A pool with people in it
Photograph: Flickr/Ty Walker

The 13 best California hot springs

From Wine Country swimming holes to coastal tubs, soak in the healing waters of the best California hot springs

By Garrick Ramirez

California is bubbling over with natural hot springs. Thanks to a plethora of places to visit in California with geothermal waters percolating just below the surface, you’ll discover restorative waters throughout the Golden State. Slink into a steamy pool of mineral-rich H2O, and you’ll experience a stress-melting, skin-nourishing bliss enjoyed for generations of Californians. Choose from luxurious soaks at upscale hotels in Napa, laid-back dips at clothing-optional havens in (some within California national parks), or hidden swimming holes that must be sought out. Whether you’re seeking a soothing supplement to your juice cleanse or to simply enjoy nature at its most relaxing, here’s are the best California hot springs to relax and enjoy. 

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Best California hot springs

The historical marker for Vichy
Photograph: Flickr/jennifer yin/Creative Commons

1. Vichy Hot Springs

What is it? Set in Mendocino County’s bucolic countryside, this historic hot springs features the only naturally warm carbonated waters in North America.

Why go? First opened in 1854, Vichy Hot Springs has provided a soothing escape for a long-list of famous figures including Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt. Its tubs feature naturally carbonated waters exceptionally high in mineral content—almost identical to the famed waters of Vichy, France—and a natural carbonation that’s earned them the title champagne waters. There’s also a heated soaking pool, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and 700 acres to wander including a hike to a seasonal waterfall. 

A pool with people in it
Photograph: Flickr/Ty Walker

2. Indian Springs

What is it? A chic soak in California’s Wine Country.

Why go? Set in the quaint, hot springs-soaked town of Calistoga, this historic upscale resort sits on natural geysers that fill an Olympic-size mineral pool and a more intimate adults-only pool (both require bathing suits). An adjacent spa offers body treatments including signature mud baths fashioned from nutrient-rich volcanic ash. Sip apres-soak cocktails at the stylish Sam’s Social Club, and bed down in one of the luxe, Mission Revival-style bungalows strewn about the palm tree-filled property.

Photograph: Flickr/Amy Lenzo/Creative Commons

3. Esalen

What is it? Stunning waterfront tubs overlooking the Pacific in Big Sur.

Why go? Founded in 1962, this Big Sur retreat is famed for self-realization workshops, massage treatments, and spring-fed hot tubs perched above a rugged beach cove. During the day, the clothing-optional tubs are reserved for workshop and massage participants, but the general public can book a reservation each night between 1–3am. Choose between quiet and silent tubs, and bliss out to the sound of crashing waves below and starry sky above.

A gate with a W on it
Photograph: Flickr/Daniel Hartwig/Creative Commons

4. Wilbur Hot Springs

What is it? Go off-the-grid at this peaceful resort with exceptionally soothing waters.

Why go? Set amidst an 1,800-acre nature preserve roughly 60 miles north of Calistoga, this solar-powered resort offers solitude and seemingly magical waters. Thanks to naturally occurring lithium, Wilbur’s stress-melting waters are legendary. Visitors can dip into three flumes housed within the silent, open-air Fluminarium, an outdoor mineral pool where quiet conversations is allowed, or cool off in a spring-fed swimming pool. The bathing pools and surrounding decks are screened from the surrounding resort, and are clothing optional.

Orr Hot Springs
Photograph: Flickr/jennconspiracy/Creative Commons

5. Orr Hot Springs

What is it? Rustic clothing-optional resort with vintage California vibes.

Why go? Set in rolling hills roughly 30 miles inland from the rugged Mendocino coast, this secluded hidden gem—once a former hippie commune—offers daytime and overnight visits. In addition to two communal pools naturally heated to a toasty 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the resort features seven, private Victorian porcelain tubs including two rooftop tubs for stellar star gazing. Overnight guests can opt between camping sites, yurts, cottages, or rustic lodge rooms and cabins constructed of local redwood in the 1930s.

Photograph: Flickr/Steven Harper/Creative Commons

6. Tassajara

What is it? Pristine, off-the-grid zen sanctuary situated in Big Sur remote, mountainous wilderness.

Why go? Each summer, the West’s first zen monastery opens its doors to the public for daytime and overnight visits to experience its hot springs, gourmet vegetarian food, and serene way of life in natural—and cell phone-free—environs. A Japanese-style bathhouse features gender-segregated indoor and outdoor hot pools, steam room, and sundeck (women can access the men’s facilities after 8:30pm). Guests are invited to participate in workshops and daily meditations, and enjoy Tassajara’s renowned meals in a creekside dining room.

A pool with a tan tent over it
Photograph: Flickr/Luiza Leite/Creative Commons

7. Harbin Hot Springs

What is it? A beloved New Age refuge that offers communal soaks, body treatments, and kindred spirits.

Why go? Newly rebuilt after a devastating fire destroyed the property in 2015, this wellness retreat features new structures and spiffed up pools throughout its 1,700-acre, nature-filled property. Most visitors sport their birthday suits, sunning or soaking in spring-fed pools in a variety of temperatures. Nab a day pass, or stretch out in a cottage or fully-equipped travel trailer. There’s complimentary yoga most days, and the Dancing Bear Cafe keeps the good vibes flowing with organic, veggie-friendly fare.

A river rushing into a pool
Photograph: Flickr/Ken Lund/Creative Commons

8. Grover Hot Springs State Park

What is it? Alpine County state park features bare-bones, family-friendly pools surrounded by nature.

Why go? The all-ages Grover hot springs offer a solid option for families. Though the community pool-style area is more utilitarian than scenic, the facility itself sits amidst an expansive alpine meadow ringed by forested peaks. During the summer, set up camp at the 75-site campground and follow the Burnside Lake Trail to its namesake lake. When snow blankets the region, Hot Springs Valley provides an exceptional spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing followed by a warming soak (contact the park for varying hot springs hours during the off-season).

Wild Willy's Hot Spring
Photograph: Flickr/Mountains of Moss

9. Wild Willy's

What is it? One of the most easily accessible natural hot springs hidden in the Eastern Sierra.

Why go? Wild Willy’s is one of many undeveloped, scenic hot springs strewn throughout the Mammoth Lakes region. Here, warm water bubbles up into two human-made pools including one shaped like a small heart. It’s a rewarding discovery, yet despite its remote locale, you’ll likely be sharing the waters with others. To reach the springs, follow Highway 395 toward Benton Crossing Road, and turn east at a little green church. After the second cattle guard, turn right at the first road, and continue to veer left until you reach a small parking lot with a boardwalk that leads to the springs. Just remember that the hot springs are not maintained, so bring a towel and pack your trash.

People in hot springs pools
Photograph: Flickr/Janice Temple Tour Organizer/Creative Commons

10. River Oaks Hot Springs Spa

What is it? Soak and sip at this upscale spa in Paso Robles’ gorgeous wine country.

Why go? Situated amidst rolling vineyards and mature oaks, River Oaks offers serious R&R in exceptionally scenic environs. Experience the resort’s mineral-rich waters via private sauna-style tubs overlooking the picturesque surroundings. Double down on the relaxation with body treatments including massages, wraps, and facials. Better yet, you can pack a picnic basket full of nibbles, or order from a menu of wine, cheese, and desserts.

Palm lined street
Photograph: Flickr/Armin Rodler/Creative Commons

11. Beverly Hot Springs Spa

What is it? Los Angeles’ only natural hot springs spa offers geothermally warmed waters amidst whisper quiet facilities.

Why go? Accidentally discovered by oil drillers in the 1920s, the geothermal well beneath this spa supplies waters so rich in minerals it was once bottled and sold as Wonder Water. Today, you can enjoy the waters via a hot pool and cold plunge—women and men enjoy their own pools, dry sauna and steam room—complemented by massages and body scrubs. Just keep the whispers to a minimum as silence is golden.

Glen Ivy Spa
Photograph: Flickr/AmandaB3/Creative Commons

12. Glen Ivy

What is it? From mineral soaks to smoothies, this SoCal retreat has thought of everything.

Why go? You won’t run out of things to do at this garden-like, hot springs resort located 57 miles east of Los Angeles. The popular retreat brims with offerings including daily classes, private cabanas, and a whopping 19 pools. Customize your visit with spa treatments such as detoxifying red-clay mud baths at Club Mud and hydrating body-painting in the lush, subterranean Grotto. Book a spa treatment on your birthday and enjoy free admission.

Spring Resort
Photograph: Flickr/Dave the Haligonian/Creative Commons

13. The Spring Resort & Spa

What is it? A sleek desert resort with day spa, overnight villas, and mineral-rich waters.

Why go? Situated twelve miles from Palm Springs, this pampering oasis features the same serene landscape and modern architecture as its neighbor but with the added benefit of rejuvenating, spring-fed mineral pools. Lay out by the central, 88-degree swimming pool, or retreat to warmer waters in the peaceful gazebo. Day spa guests can hit the restart button with revitalizing body treatments and sound baths, while overnight guests can stretch out in rooms with private outdoor decks featuring a personal spring-fed tub and fire pit.

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