These seven California hot springs all have camping on-site or nearby.
Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is all the rage, and ecotherapy has benefits for the body and mind. But pairing the two—taking in nature’s beauty while soaking away your cares in a steamy spring—is definitely the best of both worlds. From desert sands to Sierra summits, California is literally bubbling with gorgeous sites, in five-star resorts and remote forest lands. Find your bliss off the beaten paths and take those grams … but leave no trace. Below are a few of our favorites. Find your own and tell us about it! (Or, keep it to yourself.)
Before You Visit Hot Springs in California
Our natural resources are precious and fragile, and hot springs are no exception. Bring a few trash bags and pick up any refuse left by less courteous visitors. Even bio soaps and shampoos don’t break down and can pollute, so save the suds for an area with commercial plumbing. Soaking is super, but bathing is illegal on most public lands and wilderness areas.
Make sure that you’re properly prepared for camping as weather can shift dramatically in the Bear State, especially at elevation. And don’t bring glass—beverages should be enjoyed from aluminum or plastic containers that are packed out when you leave. In many places, you require an advance permit to build a fire. If you’re heading to a popular area, be sure to book campgrounds well in advance. Now enjoy!
A Camper’s Guide to California Hot Springs
1. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Location: From U.S. 395 near Mammoth Lakes, take Benton Crossing Road (also known as Green Church Road). Travel east about 2.5 miles until you cross two cattle guards. Turn right just past the second cattle guard and follow the road, always taking the left fork whenever there’s a choice. About a mile down, you’ll reach a parking area where there’s a sign and wooden boardwalk that leads about 200 yards away to the pools. This is a dirt road, so take it slow and careful!
Hot Springs Fee: Free
You’ll lose your heart over these sagebrush-scented soaks, one of which is shaped like a heart and all with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Wild Willy’s is an Instagram favorite and fairly easily accessible, so consider visiting during non-peak times, as summer weekends can become crowded.
Camping is free at Wild Willy’s, but be sure you are on BLM land (no fires allowed without a permit, all waste including human must be packed out). Five miles away is Brown Owen’s River Campground. The cost is $30 per site per night, cash only. There are heated showers, fire pits, and a general store serving 75 sites. The Old Shady Rest Campground is about 13 miles away. There are 45 sites ($22/night) and flush toilets, campfire rings, and picnic tables. There are showers near the campground. Bear-proof lockers and firewood are also available on-site.
2. Deep Creek Hot Springs
Location: Outside Apple Valley. The easiest access is via Bowen Ranch Road, which accesses the site through private land (a $10 per person fee is charged). An alternative route is to hike the Pacific Crest Trail east from Arrowhead Lake Road, roughly a six-mile hike.
Type: Public land
Hot Springs Fee: Free Access Fee: $10 per person
You’ll earn your ahhhs after finding this wild out-of-the-way oasis located in the Mojave Desert of Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest. There’s a great diversity of wildlife, including the endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad. The 100+ degree pools are clothing optional, and a high level of fitness and preparedness are a must. Bring sturdy shoes, hats, sunscreen and plenty of water and snacks. Don’t drink or submerge your head in the springs, just enjoy the rewards of this challenging trek.
Deep Creek Springs is strictly day-use only, no camping allowed. Nearby Hesperia Lake Park offers camping for $35 per group of four, with potable water, showers, a picnic table, and a fire ring at each site. Fishing is available for an extra fee.
3. Carson River Hot Springs
Location: Outside Markleeville, Carson River Springs can be accessed by a moderate 10.3-mile trail starting at the end of Diamond Valley Road, high-clearance 4WD, raft or horseback.
Type: Public land
Hot Springs Fee: Free
A backpacker’s delight, these riverine pools lie just to the east of the Carson River, and soaking is a comfortable 92 degrees. One six-to-eight person tub is lined with a tarp. Camp on the beach or in the forest, and venture up and down the river for other pools (some warmer) including one with a natural hot springs waterfall. The secluded location is perfect for a magical view of the galaxy above.
If you don’t want to camp onsite, there are other options within a 1.5-hour drive. Carson River Resort offers cabins, tent sites, RV hookups and a convenience store. Between Woodsfords and Markleesville, Indian Creek Campground has 30 sites for tents and RVs, flush toilets and hot showers.
4. Vichy Hot Springs
Location: In Ukiah, 7.9 miles from Lake Mendocino
Hot Springs Fee: $35 for up to 2 hours $70 full day
Fancy a fizzy soak in waters as bubbly as champagne? Naturally carbonated like the mineral waters in Vichy, France, these hot springs are the only of their kind found in North America. This rustic 160-year-old resort has 14 individual soaking tubs, a communal hot pool and (in-season) a large swimming pool for cooling off. Chemisal Falls are a 30-minute hike. Note: no pets are allowed at Vichy Hot Springs at any time.
Rooms, suites, and cottages with mountain or creekside views are available from $185 to $455, which includes a full buffet breakfast. For camping, head to Lake Mendocino and pitch your tent at Chekaka Recreation Area. The lakeside accommodations have picnic shelters, grills, pit toilets, drinking water and a playground for kids.
5. Jacumba Hot Springs Resort
Location: San Diego county
Hot Springs Fee: Varies depending on pool
If you’re seeking an easily accessible soak just moments from the border, Jacumba Hot Springs Resort is for you. This rustic resort offers day passes and a variety of mineral pools high in the mountains of eastern San Diego County. The property is ADA accessible—an easy hourish drive from San Diego. There are spa offerings and a bar and restaurant.
Rooms begin at $99 per night. Campers may want to pitch a tent at Boulevard/Cleveland National Forest KOA, where sites start at around $40 per night. The campground has 160 tree-lined acres, a pool, and allows pets.
6. Agua Caliente Hot Springs
Location: Julian, CA
Hot Springs Fee: Free for campers, $3 per person for day use pool entry and $3 for parking.
A budget favorite among Southern California hot springs, this Agua Caliente County Park has three naturally fed springs on-site and is open from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Miles of trails cross 910 acres of desert beauty with ample opportunities to earn your soak. Campers enjoy 140 tent and 30 RV sites. Locker rooms, private changing rooms, and hot showers are available.
7. Buckeye Hot Springs
Location: Bridgeport, Route 395, gravel road
Hot Springs Fee: Free
With grand views of the Sierra Nevadas, this site is popular with locals and visitors on their way to Yosemite National Park who relish the easy accessibility and the laid-back, clothing-optional vibe. Limited camping is available nearby, but not in the vicinity of the pools. One pool has been improved with cement and is ADA accessible.
Nearby, Buckeye Campground has its own springs, along with camping ($20 per night) with toilets and a picnic area.