10 Great Hot Spring Soaks of California

Those who know me know I love bodies of water - especially hot ones! Fortunately, California is filled with some awesome natural and man-made hot springs. Here are a few of my favorites as well as my bucket list spots:

1. Travertine Hot Springs - I have written about this one before in this post about Mt. Whitney, and that's because Travertine is an awesome stop on a number of adventures. It's right outside of the Eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park (which I have written about different adventures here and here). It's near Mono Lake, an attraction in and of itself, and is on the road if you are headed to Mammoth to ski or Mt. Whitney to hike. The last 2 miles to the hot springs are unpaved so prepare yourself for the bumps. There is a port-a-potty at the site but otherwise this is a completely natural hot spring. It is clothing optional, with amazing views of the Sierras rising starkly out of the landscape to the west (pictured on the cover of this post).

2. Harbin Hot Springs - Unfortunately, Harbin burned to the ground in the fall of 2015 during the Valley Fire of 2015. With support from the community though, Harbin has been slowly rebuilding. You can follow progress on their Facebook page. I was fortunate enough to spend a relaxing weekend on my own at Harbin before this horrible fire, and it was one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had. I stayed in an AirBnB nearby in Middletown, though you can camp or stay on the resort premises as well. There were hot pools of a variety of degrees, nestled against the mountainside, as well as cold dip pools, sauna, steam room, and regular swimming pool. In their lodge, they had a library, cafe, and reading room. They also had a beautiful yoga space as well as cabins for massages. Definitely check this place out once they open their doors to the public again! Clothing optional.

3. Sierra Hot Springs - Sierra is a sister resort to Harbin nestled in the foothills of the Sierras, close to North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. I have visited Sierra more than once but on my most recent visit, stayed in their dorms, which were lovely. They have a variety of accommodation options as well as camping available. What's nice about this place is that even though it is man-made pools (fed by natural hot springs), the fact that you have to walk a bit in the woods to access the pools adds a more natural feel to it. Like Harbin, there are lounge areas, a cafe, and massage options available. Clothing optional.

4. Onsen SF - Onsen is a nice refuge in San Francisco proper, though it is small. There is a small onsen tub, sauna, and steam room, as well as cold shower. The decor is perfect and they have a fancy Japanese restaurant on the front side of the spa. I found when I went the onsen was quite social and loud, so if you are looking for a more zen experience, consider going at an off hour. Pay attention to the male/female reservation system. Coed days are clothing required, gender specific days are clothing optional.

5. Bucket list - Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur - To get to Sykes hot springs, you have to hike 10 miles each way on the Pine Ridge Trail. Because of this, many people camp at the hot springs itself. Unfortunately, because this is a purely natural hot spring, the amount of water in the spring and the temperature is quite variable given the season. It is currently inaccessible due to the recent mudslides in Big Sur, but will hopefully be available again soon! Clothing optional.

6. Bucket list - Esalen Resort Hot Springs - Esalen is a wellness institute in Big Sur, and if you stay the weekend  at the resort, you have complete access to the springs. The hot springs at Esalen are impressive as they sit on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. However, for those of us on a budget, you might be better off trying to go to the public access hours. You can try and reserve a spot for the 1am-3am (yeah, you read that right) bathing hours for the public. Reservations become available daily at 9am for that evening. Even though this is a pretty tricky hot spring to get to, I'm grateful they have started an online reservation system. Clothing optional.

7. Bucket list - Vichy Springs Resort - well known as a place of rest and relaxation by the likes of Jack London and Mark Twain, this resort in Ukiah has a swimming pool, in ground hot pool, and carbonated baths. This would be fun on a trip back from Mendocino county. Clothing required.

8. Bucket list - Wild Willy's Hot Springs - Wild Willy's, like Travertine, is a completely natural hot spring in the Eastern Sierras, though further south and closer to Mt. Whitney. It boasts excellent views of the mountains. Clothing optional.

9. Bucket list - Kabuki Hot Springs - this Japanese hot spring center can be found in San Francisco's Japantown. Pay attention to the male/female/all gender days on the calendar before booking a soak. At this facility, they have hot and cold pools as well as a sauna and steam room. They also offer with admission complimentary bath products, sea salts, chilled face cloths, and teas. Clothing optional on gender specific days, clothing required on mix gender days.

10. Bucket list - Archimedes Banya - this is another San Francisco based hot spring center, that emulates Russian, Greek, and Turkish bath styles. There is a roof deck, food, and alcohol available. This spa has more of a social scene component to it than others, and can be mixed gender, clothing optional.

A map of the above mentioned hot springs can be found here. 

Clearly I have a lot of work to do to knock so many of these hot springs off my list. Did I miss any other awesome hot springs? Comment below!