Wilderness Hot Springs Hikes
By Mike Boisvert.
Native Americans consider hot springs sacred. Pioneer hucksters claimed they had magic healing powers. Hikers just think they feel awfully good after a long slog. The key, of course, is finding one far from beer-packing partiers. These wilderness springs require sturdy, crowd-discouraging journeys amid stunning scenery.
Bear Valley, ID
Soak up wild Idaho
This mellow 7-mile round-trip leads through meadowlands and tall pine forests in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. You'll follow gushing Bear Valley Creek, which merges with Marsh Creek 10 miles downstream. Step carefully when fording the 60-foot-wide creek [don't cross if it's higher than knee-deep]. At the tree carved with the letters HS, head down a steep slope to a string of rock-lined hot pools that cascade to the creek. The water comes up at 130 degrees farenheit in the source pool, but it cools as it descends. This is a sensitive salmon-spawning area, so as at all springs, pack out all trash and waste, and don't use soap.
THE HOT SPOT
In Stanley, the Bridge Street Burger and Brew's down-home nosh includes sourdough pancakes and a 1-pound woolly mammoth burger.
Drive 20 miles northwest of Stanley on ID 21, then turn west on FR 82/579; after 8 miles, enter the Fir Creek Campground.
Arizona Hot Springs, AZ
Splash in heated waterfalls
Arizona Hot Springs is located in a dramatic slot canyon that joins the river just downstream of Ringbolt Rapids. The spring brook forms several pools that are located about 1,000 feet from the river, where the canyon walls are nearly vertical and about 6 to 9 feet apart. Directly at the source the spring discharges highly mineralized water at a rate of about 30 gallons per minute and a temperature of about 111 degrees Fahrenheit. The spring issues from fractures in Miocene-age volcanic rocks near the intersection of two faults.
White Rock Canyon is a strikingly beautiful volcanic area. There is a wide variety of desert plants to be found, including indigo bush, ground cherry, rush-milkweed, rabbit brush, Mormon tea, desert fir, cheesebush, globemallow, desert tobacco, desert trumpet, rock nettle, rock daisy, and windmills. Rocks encountered during the hike are primarily volcanic, including flow and tuff (ash) deposits, with some granite boulders washed down from the Black Canyon.
Arizona Hot Springs hike is not advised in the summer. If you choose to go, take lots of water and watch out for rattlesnakes. Do not put your hands or feet on ledges, in bushes, or under or around rocks where you cannot see.
For your safety, it is recommended you stay on established trails.
- Length - 6 miles roundtrip
- Time - 5 hours plus time to soak in hot springs
- One-way elevation loss/gain - 800'
- Rated - moderately strenuous
THE HOT SPOT
Got an extra day? Boulder City's Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park has a trail that earned a rare 'epic ride' designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Hike down a spectacular volcanic canyon to the Colorado River below Hoover Dam and relax in a pleasant hot spring in a nearby side canyon.
From the Alan Bible Visitor Center, follow US Hwy 93 east 8.4 miles (4.2 miles past Hoover Dam). A dirt parking area can be seen on your right. Your car is now parked at the head of the White Rock Canyon.
Follow this wash downhill to the river, then follow the river 1/4 mile south over the hill where you will find the hot springs up the side canyon. Warning: A 20' ladder must be climbed to reach the best hot springs. This canyon gets its name from a huge white boulder that was carried down the canyon by a flash flood.
If you are coming from Kingman, Arizona, the trailhead is .2 miles before the mile marker 4.
Conundrum Hot Springs, CO
Hike to America's highest spring
A magical place, the Conundrum Hot Springs in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado is a must-do for Colorado backpackers. Only a few natural hot springs like this one are left undisturbed by man. The reward for your exertion on the 8.5 mile trail is a soak in one of two beautiful hot spring pools with expansive views provided by the treeline location. To the east and west you have high mountain ridges, the east side being the most interesting with Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak towering above you. They are both 14,000 foot peaks, although Conundrum isn't officially on the 14'ers list because it shares a ridgeline with the higher Castle Peak. I would guesstimate the upper pool averages around 95 degrees (F) and the lower pool about 80 degrees, which in the cool Alpine air is just perfect. Clothing is optional at the pools and more people choose to swim in the buff than with swimsuits.
THE HOT SPOT
A fixture since the 1890's, the Hotel Jerome's J-Bar serves the signature Manhaspen [think Manhattan meets Aspen] ~ bourbon mixed with Tuaca, a vanilla and citrus liqueur favored by locals.
The road leading up to the trailhead is called Castle Creek road. There is a roundabout near the Aspen airport, and you enter Castle Creek road from that roundabout. Take the road for 5 miles, then turn right onto Conundrum Road. Take Conundrum Road until it's very end, being careful not to turn onto any private drives. The road turns to dirt and becomes narrow and more difficult the farther you proceed, but most 2 wheel drive vehicles can make it without issues. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, although it does come close to filling up at times.
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