For many people the state of Nevada evokes images of surrealistic casino skylines punctuated by roller coasters racing high above eight-lane traffic jams, sunburnt Californians carrying 3-foot-tall souvenir margarita mugs, or bleary hangovers after learning the hard way that the state has no last-call. But to those who have ventured out across the few actual highways that the state does contain, the diversity and impressiveness of Nevada's natural offerings are clearly apparent.
Aside from having the highest amount of gold production and legal brothels in the United States, Nevada also has the most mountain ranges and hot springs (at just over 300 of each). And for those looking to find a natural hot spring to soak or swim in, the state's natural watering holes are as varied as they are dispersed. Below are just a few of the soakable springs lying throughout the state.
Bog Hot Springs: Hot springs surface in different places along a creek in the far northwestern corner of the state, heating areas of the creek to over 100 degrees in some places. Walls have been built to collect some of the warm-but-not-too-hot areas, creating a great spot for a soak in a meandering hot stream.
- Trego Hot Springs: This hot ditch sits at the edge of Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where the playa meets the mountains. Soakers will find small fish lapping at their skin. The whistles from passing trains on the adjacent Union Pacific line are the only noise to break up the vast silence for 51 weeks out of the year; the other week is during the annual Burning Man festival, when this spring will be anything but empty and quiet.
- Kyle Hot Springs: Located off of Interstate 80 in the state's Buena Vista Valley, Kyle is a former resort that is now closed and all but in ruins. Locals have run a pipe from the source into a cattle trough, as is the case with many hot springs in the area. Unfortunately, partiers have taken to leaving broken glass and spent fire pits in the surrounding desert, so it may not be the most pristine of surroundings. What it lacks in ambiance, however, it makes up for with sweeping views across the valley.
- Spencer Hot Springs: Despite lying off of the Loneliest Road in America, this hillside oasis will usually have a crowd of visitors and campers sharing the four tubs that lie spread across the hillside. At an elevation of around 5,700 feet, the hot waters here are a great complement to the cooler mountain temperatures. But if you find the crowds that tend to take up residence at Spencer a little off-putting, consider heading a little further east on Highway 50 to...
- Alkali Hot Spring: Though a couple of rustic hot spring resorts pop up on the seven-hour drive between Las Vegas and Reno, the only two metropolitan areas in the state, Alkali is the only free hot spring soaking opportunity along the drive. A recently paved road has made access no problem, and the 108-degree brick pool makes the perfect break from an otherwise loooooong drive.
- Goldstrike Hot Springs: Goldstrike benefits and suffers from being the nearest soaking opportunity to Las Vegas. The numerous pools lie near the bottom of a canyon where hikers might catch views of desert bighorn sheep, and soakers can jump between hot pools and the cold waters of the Colorado River just downriver of the Hoover Dam. Summer heat and the ridiculous popularity of this spot can detract from Goldstrike, though, which is all the more reason to get out and explore these other springs listed above.
Not quite Nevada, but nearby and awesome!
- Tecopa Mud Baths: Those traveling between Vegas and Southern California who want to get off the 15 and explore some back roads can veer due west of Vegas and into the small community of Tecopa, which lies in a geothermally-rich vein of land near the southern end of Death Valley. The Mud Baths are a large silt-bottomed pool where the custom is to bathe in the fine mud before rinsing off.
- East Fork Carson River Hot Springs: Lying along the Carson River is a large hot pool sitting directly above the edge of a wide river. The only problem with getting to these springs is access. Visitors will either have to make a 5-mile hike over mountainous terrain with no discernible trail or commit to an overnight kayak trip that requires a shuttle between the California put-in and the Nevada take-out. But these logistics are precisely why the springs and adjacent camping spot typically remain empty!
- Arizona Hot Springs: A short drive from Las Vegas and just over the Arizona border, Arizona Hot Springs require a hike into a winding narrow canyon and wash to reach the banks of the Colorado River. From there you'll have to scramble upstream and climb a ladder placed in the middle of a waterfall. The heat down here can be oppressive at the wrong time of year, but the beauty of a hot spring in the center of a crescent canyon easily rivals the sites of the tourist mecca polluting the night skies nearby.
Arizona Hot Springs. Photo by Jesse Weber.
The adventures above represent just a small selection of soaking pools around the state of Nevada. Whether you're planning a visit or even just a drive through, a little research will turn up quite a few more that are definitely worth the detour to visit!