When it comes to hot springs, the United States is bubbling over. While most of these natural thermal pools rise west of the Mississippi, we did find a few stunners in the east. Here are six of our favorites, definitely worth traveling – and enjoying a rejuvenating – dip for.
Travertine Hot Springs, California
A 20-minute drive from the Nevada border, Travertine Hot Springs are, in one word, unique. The springs are free, easily accessible (just a few dirt miles off highway 395) and forewarning: clothing here is optional. The pools are formed by scalding geothermal water that trickles down travertine rock and algae, settling at a comfortable 103 to 105 degrees. Their floors are mud, so smearing yourself and enjoying your own mud bath is all part of the vibe. As are the truly stunning views of the surrounding Sierra Nevadas.
Calistoga Hot Springs, California
Napa is nothing without vineyards and hot springs. The best way to enjoy these thermal wonders is of course at a luxury spa. Among our favorites are Calistoga Hot Springs, where spa and hotel guests have exclusive access to four geothermal springs. And nearby Solage Resort & Spa, an Auberge property is home to an expansive spa with bathhouse, and an invigorating assortment of geothermal pools: jetted mineral (102-104 degrees), jetted saline (100-102), relaxation (98), ambient temperature magnesium-rich and a cold plunge (50-55). Calistoga’s famous mineral-rich muds also featured on the spa treatment menu.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
This romantic 1800s old mining ghost town sits just across the San Juan mountains from Telluride. Meticulously restored, Dunton Springs Resort (the only place in town) features hand-hewn cabins, all exquisitely furnished; there’s a saloon and dance hall and the entire place can be rented out. But the darling here are the 85 to 106F rising-from-the-earth natural hot springs. Long before gold rushers came to town, the Ute Indians sought healing and rejuvenation in these restorative waters – strong in iron and manganese, with a dash of lithium. The springs here are said to open blood vessels, improve circulation, and promote healthy skin (sign us up). Visitors can experience the waters from inside Dunton’s 19th century bathhouse, under the stars at the source, in the pools outside the bathhouse and behind Dunton Store cabin, and even inside the Well House cabin.
Thermopolis Hot Springs Public Bath House, Wyoming
It was the Native Americans who first laid claim to these mystical ‘smoking waters,’ which became accessible to the public after a chief negotiated a treaty and handed them over. Now part of a state park, the most authentic way to soak in the waters, which contain over 20 nutrient-rich minerals and are widely known for their medicinal properties, is at the modest Thermopolis Hot Springs Public Bath House. Here you can enjoy free soaks, in the 104-degree springs, while keeping watch for bison, who regularly pass through here.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Located in the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Arkansas, aka ‘Spa City,’ is awash with natural thermal waters. Most specifically, Bathhouse Row, featuring eight historic bathhouses, constructed between 1892 and 1923. Of those, Buckstaff, its interior reminiscent of the Golden Age of Bathing, remains the only bathhouse still offering a traditional bathing experience. The mineral-rich waters are siphoned in and bathing takes place in original bathtubs using equipment from the 1900s. Nearby Quapaw Baths & Spa offers the same healing waters, with a modern-day vibe.
Chena Hot Springs, Alaska
About 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, Chena Hot Spring is set in its own luxury resort. The 106-degree springs were discovered in 1905 by two gold-mining brothers, in search of a place where one of them could ease his pain of rheumatism. Within six years the brothers had built a stable, bathhouse, and 12 small cabins for visitors around these sulfur-rich mineral waters. Today, locals and travelers come to soak in the healing waters – and try to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Insider tip: the resort is also home to the Aurora Ice Museum (open year-round), crafted from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow, where you can enjoy a winter wonderland experience of sipping an appletini at an ice bar.