20 Nevada Hot Springs
22 Nevada Hot Springs
We got out of the car, excited to see a small pool of water in the place that we had hoped to see one. The last dozen or so miles of the drive was down a rutted dirt road, and after hitting more than a couple jarring holes without enough time to bring the car’s speed down, we did the long drive slowly, checking the trip odometer judiciously as the setting sun left its glow across a wide plain of sagebrush with few discernible landmarks to use as reference points.
Nevada’s natural hot springs are remarkable because the state has more of them than anywhere else in the country – over 300 – with some exceeding 200˚F in temperature. And while a very small number of them lie in populated areas (there are really only a couple areas in the state that could be referred to as such) and have been turned into varying degrees of “resorts”, most of them lie amongst the state’s mountains, the majority of which are nowhere near a highway, quite often not even near a paved road.
The desolation and slow drives over rutted roads, or hikes into sun-kissed Great Basin valleys required to access these springs makes visiting them an adventure in and of itself. Combine that with the ghost town remains, the bighorn-populated canyons, the waterfalls passed – and occasionally even traversed – and the howls of coyotes and oceans of stars gracing a nighttime visit, each of which factor into some of these hot springs, and you have an experience that touches on each of the senses in a unique and distant way.
Being near dark as we drove up, the headlights illumined a wispy cover of steam floating into an otherwise level landscape. The night was freezing, and after undressing in the car, we ran quickly across the silty mud banks and lowered ourselves into the natural pool – 103 degree water was hot to the touch, but a better alternative than the bitingly frigid wind out here.
Just as often, I’ve driven hours only to find a cold tub, where internet notes had not mentioned that Nevada’s geothermal impulsiveness had changed and the water no longer flowed hot from the ground. I had found springs only to see that an angry landowner had literally taken dynamite to the bathing pools or a shotgun to the trough that someone had hauled miles up a sketchy double track to put there. There were times I had driven and not found anything at all – unsure if it was bad directions, bad navigation or just bad luck – before settling on the realization that there wouldn’t be any soaking going on this time.
There were no lights aside from the moon reflecting through nighttime clouds, just enough light to make the nearby visible and the far-away disappear. Aside from our voices and our movements through the water, it was silent.
But other times, you arrive and you find it. Hot enough, secluded enough, tiny enough amidst a desert of sage and clear night skies that you decide maybe you will just stay awake all night, drinking in the sounds and sensations of a naturally hot stream of spring water.
What follows are a few of hot springs throughout the state. Many of these were initially found using info in out-of-print books, though a little searching online has made the hunt significantly easier over the years. Status and accessibility often change. There are a lot more not listed here, where a visit and a soak may require a little more creativity, not to mention clearance on your car. Nevada is often thought of as barren, desolate, and empty, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a place that requires some effort before it makes visible its adventures. The hot springs listed here make a good start…
1.Twelve Mile Hot Spring (near Wells, Nevada)
A long pool beside Bishop Creek, once the water source of the ghost town of Metropolis until a lawsuit revealed that the town’s founders had never legally secured water rights, which soon contributed to the abandonment of the town. Today a short hike up a canyon leads to the manmade pool which varies in temperature from warm to hot and provides a scenic soak.
2. Three Mile Hot Spring (near Wells, Nevada)
An extremely sulfurous soak in a cloudy turquoise pool. Water flows from a crack at the bottom of the cliff face, filling the pool before flowing out into a small valley. Views abound across the valley that is a mix of agriculture and sage plains.
3. Ruby Valley Hot Springs (near Wells, Nevada)
A collection of pools spread across the edge of the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge varying is size and temperature, but all within view of the scenic Ruby Mountains. The largest pool is about 30 feet in diameter and offers near perfect swimming temperatures in emerald water. The challenge here is accessing the springs, which are down rough and often saturated dirt roads and an unpopulated part of the state. Though well worth the effort to reach them.
4. Dry Suzie Hot Springs (near Carlin, Nevada)
Dry Suzie’s condition is constantly questionable, as past visitors seem to have frequently used the tubs and troughs for target practice. Hot water surfaces from a reed marsh and flows down a creek before being piped into whatever tub may be there at the moment. Even with collection from the cooling flow, a soak may still require cutting off flow and allowing the tub to cool off significantly before it is safe for entry.
5. Dyke Hot Springs (near Winnemucca, Nevada)
Hot water flows into two tubs near the northeast edge of the Black Rock Desert. It may take some adjustment to find a suitable soaking temperature, and despite its off-the-beaten-path location, it doesn’t seem to be uncommon to run into others at Dyke. The reclining position of the tubs make for a perfect way to take in a view of Nevada’s clear starry night skies.
6. Paradise Valley Hot Spring (near Winnemucca, Nevada)
The hot springs near Paradise Valley lie miles down a graded gravel road in an agricultural valley north of Winnemucca. The source of the spring surfaces at scalding temperatures into a travertine crater formation before running into an adjacent creek – a portion of the flow is caught and piped into a trough set beside the creek. And from this low vantage point all signs of settlement disappear and all that is perceptible is the sound of the creek and wind blowing through brush beside the pool.
7. Hand-Me-Down Creek Hot Spring (near Crescent Valley, Nevada)
A spring emerges from a low mountainside and is diverted into a trough, where it cools before falling into a second tub (a heart-shaped jacuzzi tub on this visit) where it is cool enough to soak in. Views stretch across this sparsely-populated area of the state. Though recently mine development has led to the placement of a 5 foot tall pipeline across the access road, forcing visitors to climb over the pipeline and walk the final half mile.
8. Virgin Valley Hot Spring (near Denio, Nevada)
Located in the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge, the warm springs swimming hole is a natural pond with a few developments, including a step ladder and a bathhouse containing showers using a constant flow of warm water pumped from the spring. The wildlife refuge lies away from any main through-highways and has no gas stations nearby, so crowds are one of the last things that you’re likely to find here.
9. Bog Hot Springs (near Denio, Nevada)
A series of hot springs surfacing into a creek that has been widened and dammed in areas to catch the warm water flow into pools of varying temperatures. Located in a little-traveled corner of the state, just outside of the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge, Bog is long enough that on the off chance that there are other visitors, it is possible to stake out your own private hot pool in the creek.
10. Trego Hot Spring (near Gerlach, Nevada)
A hot ditch located not far from the edge of the Black Rock Desert, Trego is lined with a silty bottom that is frequently smeared across visitors’ faces and skin. Don’t be surprised to feel the small fish population nibbling on your skin, and be careful for hot bursts from different areas of the pool floor at sporadic and unpredictable times.
11. Walker Warm Spring (near Hawthorne, Nevada)
A beautiful stone pool that stays about 100 degrees located in a secluded valley along the Walker River. The catch here is accessing the area in the first place, which requires driving about 30 miles down progressively rougher dirt roads and then hiking down over 1000 feet in elevation loss into the river valley. Although the hard part isn’t the hike down, it’s leaving a relaxing soaking tub and then having to begin the hike back up!
12. Kyle Hot Springs (near Unionville, Nevada)
Miles away from anything, down a gravel road in Nevada’s Dixie Valley, sits Kyle Hot Springs. Today only a few stone foundations mark the resort that once stood here, though the hot water continues to surface and flows through pipes into a pools and troughs. The views across the valley are unmatched as well!
13. Spencer Hot Springs (near Austin, Nevada)
Arguably rural Nevada’s most popular natural hot springs destination, it is very common to encounter others here. Luckily there are several pools, and it may take leaving the easily-driven dirt roads and exploring on foot to find a couple of the pools that few venture to.
14. Diana’s Punchbowl (near Austin, Nevada)
An amazing and unique geothermal feature lying not too far from the geographic center of the state, Diana’s Punchbowl, also called the Devil’s Cauldron, is a crater-like formation where water in excess of 140 degrees bubbles into an emerald pool at the bottom. Water flows from here into a creek where shallow pools have been created to allow for a soaking.
15. Potts Ranch Hot Spring (near Austin, Nevada)
Located near a small ghost town, Potts Ranch makes for a great excursion off of the already lonely roads, and out to a trough that sits in the center of scenic Monitor Valley. Fairly well known, it’s always a gamble as to whether you’ll run into others out here or not, but then again, Nevada is a gambling state…
16. Smith Creek Valley Hot Spring (near Austin, Nevada)
From the Loneliest Road, take an even lonelier bypass to a dirt road to a quiet valley near the center of the state. Here lies one of Nevada’s cowboy tubs, a cattle trough re-purposed as a soaking pool for anyone willing to make the drive and dare the muddy roads to the spring.
17. Bartine Hot Springs (near Eureka, Nevada)
A heart-shaped stone tub! Great care has been put into building and maintaining tub out here, where only the occasional passing of a car on a distant highway may break the silence. This may be as good a place as any to mention that places like this only exist for the care and maintenance that visitors put into them. Don’t hesitate to make use of the drains and brushes here and scrub it down after your visit!
18. Fish Lake Valley Hot Spring (near Tonopah, Nevada)
A concrete pool where hot water flows, located at what has all the appearances of a rest stop, if not for the fact that it lies a dozen miles down a dirt road in a little-visited corner of the state. The ponds beside the pool are also a good place for a swim if the desert air is too hot for a jump in the pool.
19. Alkali Hot Springs (near Tonopah, Nevada)
Maybe one of the only springs here lying in any vicinity of a well-travelled road, though as if to make up for the recent paving of the road past the springs, a collection of brand new Private Property signs along with grading that may discourage passenger vehicles from attempting to drive to the springs are now in place to balance out that accessibility. We don’t make any claims that visiting these springs are without effort or risk. Good luck…
20. Big Warm Springs (near Eureka, Nevada)
Lying on the Duckwater Shoshone Indian Reservation, Big Warm Springs is an idyllic meadow with a large emerald pool suitable for a cool swim on a hot day, or a warm soak on a cool night. The water’s clarity, with views to the deep source near the pool’s center is astounding.
21. Panaca Warm Spring (near Panaca, Nevada)
An olympic pool-sized warm pond, where crabs and fish scurry around beneath the clear surface, and the skies stretch on for days. The warm spring is much more fitted for a warm-weather swim rather than a cold-season soak. But it will be a swimming experience unlike most others.
22. Goldstrike Hot Springs (near Boulder City, Nevada)
The only hot spring here within any proximity to the state’s most populated city, Las Vegas, Goldstrike makes up for that accessibility with a couple serious caveats – the first being the severe safety risks involved with taking on the 6 mile roundtrip hike down to the Colorado River’s edge in the hotter months where temperatures can edge up toward 120. The second being the ridiculous crowds present here. My personal advice would be to plan on beginning the hike here at the crack of dawn to avoid the heat and reach the pools before the more well-slept crowds begin to show up and flood the canyon with hikers.
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