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The best hot springs in California

From Wine Country to Palm Springs, soak in the healing waters of the best hot springs in California

Written by
Garrick Ramirez
&
Sarah Medina
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Hot springs in California lure visitors from far and wide for rest and rejuvenation. With geothermal waters bubbling just below the surface of a number of places to visit in California, it’s easy to find restorative waters throughout the Golden State. For stress-melting, skin-nourishing bliss, check out these steamy pools of mineral-rich water, just as generations of Californians and health-seekers have for decades.

These gorgeous natural hot springs provide far more than a backdrop for Instagram boasting. Sulfur-rich hot springs have been shown to offer healing benefits for skin irritations and infections, arthritic pain, digestive issues and much more. California hot springs include luxurious soaks at upscale hotels in Napa, laid-back dips at clothing-optional havens within California national parks, or hidden swimming holes that require a bit of work before the reward.

Grab your crew and make a weekend of it—you’ll likely be surrounded by both multi-generational families as well as local couples enjoying romantic getaways. Some of these offer far more than a place to soak, allowing visitors to enjoy fine food and drink, spa services, and the other kinds of activities that fuel hours of soaking.

Whatever type of aquatic relaxation you need, here are the best California hot springs for soaking to your heart’s content.

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Best hot springs in California

1. Indian Springs

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.

2. Esalen

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This Big Sur retreat is famed for its 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.

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3. Wilbur Hot Springs

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. Set amidst an 1,800-acre nature preserve, the bathing pools and surrounding decks are screened from the surrounding resort, and are clothing optional. 

4. Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs—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.

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5. Wild Willy's

One of the most easily accessible natural hot springs in California, Wild Willy’s is one of many undeveloped, scenic 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 - but 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.

6. Vichy Hot Springs

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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. Set in Mendocino County’s bucolic countryside, the resort features the only naturally warm, carbonated waters in North America (earning them the nickname "champagne waters"). The water is also exceptionally high in mineral content—almost identical to the famed waters of Vichy, France. Soak in stone tubs, a heated pool or an Olympic-sized swimming pool, or opt to wander the resort's 700 acres, including a hike to a seasonal waterfall.

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7. River Oaks Hot Springs Spa

Located among the rolling vineyards and mature oaks of Paso Robles, 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. 

8. Glen Ivy

You won’t run out of things to do at this garden-like hot springs resort located 57 miles east of L.A. 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.

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9. The Spring Resort & Spa

The Spring Resort & Spa features the same serene landscape and modern architecture as its Palm Springs 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.

10. Beverly Hot Springs Spa

Los Angeles’ only natural hot springs spa, Beverly Hot Springs Spa offers geothermally warmed waters that were accidentally discovered by oil drillers in the 1920s. The geothermal well beneath this spa is 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. 

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11. Harbin Hot Springs

Newly rebuilt after a devastating fire destroyed the property in 2015, this New Age 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.

12. Grover Hot Springs State Park

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The all-ages Grover Hot Springs is a solid option for families. Though the community pool 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).

Explore more of California's first-rate nature

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