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Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail

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  • How your adventure will likely start.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Devil's Postpile is a quick side trip.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The Ansel Adams Wilderness hosts the first stretch.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Just above Rainbow Falls.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Rainbow Falls.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Keep left for Fish Creek.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Sierra gooseberry (ribes roezli).- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Landscape decades after the Rainbow Fire.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The John Muir Wilderness starts at Crater Creek.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Crater Creek plunges toward the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Meadow Goldenrod in a meadow.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Trailside ferns and aster.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Interesting geology near the midpoint of the hike.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The descent into Fish Creek Canyon.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Crossing over Fish Creek.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Fish Creek.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The hillside meadows at Iva Belle.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The lowest pool.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • A closer look at the lowest pool.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Geothermal features in the Iva Belle area.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The lower pool of the middle three.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Upper and middle pools of the middle three.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • Uphill of the middle three pools. - Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • The view from the upper pool. - Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • One of several campsites in the area.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
  • A seculded pool near the lowest pool.- Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Wilderness setting. Close to John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. Several pools.
Cons: 
Permit needed. Parking logistics.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Access: 
Hike-in
Congestion: 
Moderate
Distance: 
12.00 mi (19.31 km)
Number of pools: 
6
Parking Pass: 
Shuttle Fee
Current Local Weather:
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Hot Spring Description

Hot Spring Description

Contributor

This trek to Iva Bell Hot Springs combines classic Sierra Nevada granitescapes with the volcanic wonderland that is the Mammoth Mountain area. It's very easy to combine this adventure with a visit to Devil's Postpile National Monument, the hot springs of the Long Valley Caldera and Mammoth Mountain itself. Iva Bell Hot Springs exists at the southern end of the Mono-Inyo Volcanic Chain, which includes Mammoth Mountain and extends north to Mono Lake.

Your adventure will likely start at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center to pick up your wilderness permit. You can reserve a permit on the Reservation.gov system, and a limited amount of walk-in permits are also available at the welcome center. Next, enjoy a $7 shuttle ride from Mammoth Mountain's main lodge into Reds Meadow. Check with local authorities on shuttle start and end dates (mandatory shuttle use usually ends after Labor Day, with overnight parking available until October 15). Once in Reds Meadow, you can get on and off the shuttle as much as you like to see the various sights, including Devil's Postpile.

The hike to Iva Bell begins at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. Follow the multitude of day hikers just a little over 1 mile south to find a sign leading you several hundred feet to Rainbow Falls. This short diversion back into Devil's Postpile National Monument is well worth the time. After visiting the falls, continue south in the Ansel Adams Wilderness toward Fish Creek. This first leg of the hike is within the burn scar of the 1992 Rainbow Fire. With the addition of a huge tree blowdown in 2012, views are wide-open and sun protection is recommended.

After about 4 miles into the hike you'll enter the John Muir Wilderness and enjoy big granite vistas of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. Interspersed in this section are groves of quaking aspen and Jeffery pine with fern, asters, goldenrod, lupine and gooseberry acting as groundcover. The most strenuous (and driest) stretch of this hike comes about 7 miles in where you lose 800 feet in 1.5 miles while you descend toward Fish Creek. The final third of the hike is mostly forested and features several notably large incense cedar trees.

Cross Sharktooth Creek (a slightly higher-than-comfortable log crossing) and you will be at the lower end of Iva Bell's grassy hillside meadows. Bear left after the creek crossing to find several good campsites as well as the easiest access to the first pool. There are trails on either side of the grassy area that lead you up the hillside to higher pools. You'll have to add on several hundred feet of elevation gain to reach the highest pools. Try to minimize travel within the grassy areas to reduce your impact and to keep dry.

  • Lowest Pool: Approximately 97 degrees Fahrenheit. This pool has good clarity and a nice view of the surrounding granite cliffs.
  • Second Pool: Approximately 96 degrees Fahrenheit. This pool is tucked away in a wooded area near one of the campsites. Moderately good clarity.
  • The Middle Three: From lower to upper — approximately 90, 95 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest of the three pools has the best clarity and warmest temperature of this bunch. Good canyon views from all the pools.
  • Upper Pool: Approximately 102 degrees Fahrenheit. This pool is the warmest pool at Iva Bell and also commands the best view. Moderately good clarity.

Only several miles away (but a very steep descent) from the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail, these hot springs are a popular side-trip for thru-hikers. If you have several days, you can extend your hike on to the PCT to explore the Duck Pass area.

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