You've made the drive, packed the towels, and deliberated on the suit. As you pad up to your soaking destination, eagerly anticipating a luxurious few hours to yourself loitering in one of nature's finest hot pools, your eyes take in the poached forms of several like-minded individuals who motivated a little earlier than you did. Great minds thinking alike? Maybe so, and maybe you'll meet some wonderful people. Still, the hot spring posse wasn't quite what you had in mind.
Soaking in relative peace and isolation can be a tall order when you're in a state with 39 million people; on the other hand, California is also one of the nation's largest and most geographically diverse states. This means that finding your pool is often just a matter of getting a little farther away, out where the views are expansive and the access is remote. Even then, you'll want to make sure you arrive early or on weekdays to keep the crowds low. Eastern California hosts quite a few of these incredible hot spots, from the Sierra to the Mojave and Death Valley. And while the drive times may preclude a single destination visit, these special pools are essential add-ons to trip itineraries in this majestic portion of the state. We've assembled a list of some of our favorite spots, including a few options for those who prefer a more developed facility. Have a look at the individual adventures for more information regarding access, infrastructure, fees and local etiquette.
The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.