On the outskirts of Monroe Utah and along the foothills of 11,277-foot Monroe Mountain sits a surprising find: Mystic Hot Springs. In stark contrast to the conservative, rural Utah farming community that surrounds it, Mystic Hot Springs is promoted as a mystical hippie paradise and a step back in time to the '60s and '70s. Visitors to the hot springs seem to come away with highly polarized views, calling it either overpriced and dirty or sublime and enlightening. If you are adventurous, connected to your inner child, and tolerant of things not-quite-immaculate, you'll likely count yourself among the majority who fall in love with the eclectic charm of Mystic.
The hot water is supplied by a mineral-rich spring that issues at 200 gallons per minute from a surface trace of the Sevier fault, which runs 300 miles from the Grand Canyon to central Utah. The water is 168 degrees Fahrenheit at the source, but it cools to a range roughly between 95 and 110 degrees as it flows along manmade canals into the soaking pools. Several of the pools are surrounded by, or embedded in, red-orange travertine terraces that have formed through mineral deposits over the years. According to the Utah Geological Survey, the most prominent minerals in the water are "nitrate sulfate (813 mg/L), chloride (645 mg/L), sodium (599 mg/L), bicarbonate (425 mg/L), calcium (255 mg/L), potassium (69 mg/L), and silica (54 mg/L)". If nothing else, this is a geologically fascinating location.
The first use of the springs for therapeutic soaking by settlers is recorded in 1882 when Thomas Cooper homesteaded the land and built the first pool. During the subsequent years there have been numerous iterations of a touristic soaking destination. In its current form the hot spring resort leans heavily Bohemian. There are two large soaking pools and several individual (or intimate) pools in vintage bath tubs. The property uses the warm water for several additional features, such as green houses and tropical fish ponds. Onsite lodging is offered in the form of partially restored pioneer cabins or converted decommissioned buses. Strewn about the property are various partially complete structures, piles of rusting iron fixtures and pioneer era artifacts. Whether these are an eyesore or a perfect extension of the free-spirited ambiance depends entirely on your mindset.
Throughout the year Mystic Hot Springs hosts music events. The largest is held over Pioneer Day (July 24) weekend, and it includes art, workshops, meditation, live music and fireworks. Details can be found at the festival website.