Vichy Springs
Photograph: Courtesy Vichy Springs

The 12 best hot springs in California

From hidden deserts to plush spas, take some time to relax at one of these California hot springs

Written by: Clara Hogan
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California is known for a lot of beautiful things, attracting visitors from near and (very) far for its National Parks, hiking trails, hidden camping spots and more. But for an experience you’ll never forget, you’ve got to add its hot springs to your bucket list. 

Here in California you’ll find everything from natural springs and waterfalls in the middle of nowhere to human-made pools and luxury stays. It all varies, but it’s all magical. From Big Sur to Calistoga, here are the best hot springs to visit in the whole of California. Aaand relax. 

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This guide was last updated by Bay Area-based Clara Hogan. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Best hot springs in California

1. Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

The retro neon sign outside of Dr. Wilkinson's along Calistoga's main road has been aglow for more than half a century — the hotel was founded in 1952 by Edy and John “Doc” Wilkinson and quickly became famous for its mud baths and mineral pools. The resort sold in 2019 and recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, its doors now open to travelers looking for respite and reprieve at a retro-chic motel.

Updates include modern guest rooms—equipped with little touches from custom pink Parachute waffle robes to essential oil diffusers—a backyard hang-out spot with hammocks and lounge chairs, and a new restaurant, House of Better.

But it is the main attraction—the three mineral hot spring pools, heated at various temperatures—that keep bringing people back for some R&R.

2. Indian Springs

Set in the quaint, hot springs-soaked town of Calistoga, the historic, upscale Indian Springs 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.

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3. 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 the starry sky above.

4. 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 are allowed, or cool off in a spring-fed swimming pool. Set amidst a 1,800-acre nature preserve, the bathing pools and surrounding decks are screened from the surrounding resort and are clothing optional. 

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5. Orr Hot Springs

Once a former hippie commune, Orr Hot Springs, is open for 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 stargazing. Overnight guests can opt between camping sites, yurts, cottages, or rustic lodge rooms and cabins constructed of local redwood in the 1930s.

6. Wild Willy's

One of the most easily accessible natural hot springs in California, Wild Willy’s is one of many undeveloped, scenic springs found 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. Remember that the hot springs are not maintained, so bring a towel and pack your trash.

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7. Vichy Hot Springs

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 the bucolic countryside of Mendocino County, 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 wander the resort's 700 acres, including a hike to a seasonal waterfall.

8. 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. 

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9. Glen Ivy

You won’t run out of things to do at the garden-like Glen Ivy, a 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.

10. 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 down 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 spring-fed tub and fire pit.

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