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10 Must-Visit Hot Springs in the West

12.05.18

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10 Must-Visit Hot Springs in the West

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Team

There's really no better way to relax your muscles after a long day of adventure than by taking a dip in a natural hot spring. But hot springs are good for more than just relaxing. The minerals found in natural hot springs can stimulate blood circulation and oxygen flow, help reduce stress, and mineral-rich hot spring water can help naturally relieve certain skin conditions. For these very reasons, the Ute Indians actually named a hot spring in Colorado Yampah, which means big medicine, as they believed it was a holy healing site. Today Yampah is known as Glenwood Hot Springs, and it is one of the largest hot springs pool in the world. 

So why are there all these amazing minerals in hot springs anyway? Water is either heated underground or because of its proximity to a volcanic area. When water is heated underground at high pressure, it becomes hot enough to dissolve minerals in the surrounding rock. Once the water finds it way to the surface and cools, the minerals become solid again and are deposited along the water's edge. The water in hot springs could start as rain or snowmelt and find it's way underground by seeping through porous sedimentary rocks. Eventually the water is heated and flows to a large thrust fault or crack. Water that fills behind it is eventually pushed upwards along a fault line until it finds its way to the surface in the form of a hot spring. 

Did you know there are over 1,600 hot springs in the United States? Nevada leads the way with 312 naturally occurring springs, and California follows closely behind with 304 hot springs. Here are the counts for the top 12 states:

  1. Nevada: 312
  2. California: 304
  3. Idaho: 232
  4. Wyoming: 173
  5. Oregon: 126
  6. Utah: 116
  7. Alaska: 108
  8. New Mexico: 77
  9. Montana: 61
  10. Arizona: 60
  11. Colorado: 47
  12. Washington: 30

*Numbers from the U.S. Hot Springs Database.

Just because there are over 1,600 hot springs doesn't mean they are all suitable for soaking. Many of the hot springs in the U.S. are located on private property and are not open to the public. Some land owners have given access to the public for a small fee or simply allow the locals to enter under the assumption they will respect the area. You will not find any hot springs located on private land on Outdoor Project. Another reason that some hot springs may be off limits is due to water temperatures that are too hot and will scald skin. Be sure you check the current conditions and test water temperatures before jumping in. 

Below you will find 10 hot springs with amazing views or unique features that you should definitely visit at some point in your life. It's important to remember to always leave a place better than you found it when visiting natural areas. That means packing out everything you brought with you and maybe even picking up what others may have left behind.

Happy soaking!

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