Baby, it’s cold outside—but the water’s great!
Hot springs attract us in so many ways. First off, they are warm and make us feel good. Consider them shelter from the storm of life. Hot water, combined with natural minerals, has long been heralded for health and therapeutic benefits. Second, they are generally not too expensive.
In fact, if you’re willing to walk a mile or two, many are absolutely free.
Others, which have been developed into more civilized spaces complete with showers, snack shops and even slides, cost about the price of a movie. And finally, they are lots of fun—it’s rare to see someone in a hot spring that is not smiling and having a good time. And did we forget to mention the views?
Hot springs are where mountains and plains meet big sky and stars. You may want to close your eyes and sink up to your ears in the soothing water, but it is impossible not to look around and appreciate the beauty of nature.
We’ve never really understood visiting hot springs in the middle of July, but offer us a soak in a thermal pool in the depths of winter and we’ll be there, suit and towel in hand. While the U.S. doesn’t have the rich public bath tradition of Japan and other Asian countries, we definitely love hanging out in hot water with friends and family.
Here are some of the top developed hot springs in the US. Stay tuned for our list of backcountry ones that require you to hike, ski, snowshoe (or even snowmobile) to reach them.
Your chance to get into hot water in Native American Country.
This is an old-school resort on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon just about halfway between Mt. Hood and Bend on Highway 97. Hotel rooms are inexpensive, so plan on a weekend trip—after soaking in the hot pool you’ll feel more like heading to the restaurant than driving back to Bend or Portland.
The road to the resort takes only about a half hour, but it’s a trip back in time to a more slow-paced lifestyle. Don’t expect a new, 5-star resort—this place is more old school (think Ma and Pa rather than Hilton).
The Warm Springs Reservation runs the resort, so the people who work there are locals. If the weather is right, ask about renting horses for a morning ride before your afternoon swim. There are two waterslides, and the pool is huge. The hot swimming pool is open year-round, as is the Wanapine Spa.
Note: This hot pool is only open Friday through Sunday—so plan a weekend trip. It’s open to the public; adults cost $15; youth $10.
Welcome to the Old West.
Anaconda made a name for itself in the 1880s with its big open pit copper mine and front-and-center role in the Copper Wars. But nowadays, the town is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
Anaconda should be on everyone’s Top Ten Small Town’s list—the scenery is beautiful, and offers a quiet getaway for people who love to hike, bike and fish. One jewel of this small town is the Fairmont Hot Springs. This property is at the base of the pristine Pinter Mountain range, about half way between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
There are four pools (two indoors and two out) and a 350-foot, five story waterslide. You can buy a day pass for the pools, or book a room at the first-rate lodge.
Big mountains and red rocks.
Just a few minutes off I-70, this beautiful historic resort houses the world’s largest hot springs pool. This has been the site of public soaking since 1888 and they’ve gotten very good at pleasing guests.
For about $20 per adult you can hang out all day (and have your hand stamped if you want to take a break from relaxation and head into the quaint downtown Glenwood Springs for some down-home shopping.
The views from the pool are gorgeous—green trees, big steep hills and burnt-red rocks. If you live in the area, buy a year’s pass—you’ll use it! Towels are $2.50, a bargain as you don’t have to tote a wet one home.
There are two waterslides, a mini golf course (seasonal) and pretty good food. Stay in the Glenwood Springs Resort for a fun-filled historic hotel experience.
Ski and swim.
There are eight pools here, with water from the Heart Spring which pumps about 220 gallons a minute—sort of like an artesian well. The facility is open year round, although the pools are closed when temps drop below -10 degrees—something we heartily applaud as no one should be in a bathing suit in that type of weather.
The vibe is laid-back and local. Plus there’s a gym, restaurant and child care. You can ski Steamboat’s A-list ski runs all day and then relax outdoors in piping hot water while the sun sets over the surrounding mountains….what more could you ask for?
World’s most beautiful hot pool.
OK, we don’t need a history lesson. Iceland is definitely not in the US, but if you are flying from any US city to Europe or Scandinavia, take Icelandair and schedule a layover in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon is a world-class resort that was developed from the runoff from a nearby geo-thermal plant. The pool is huge and there’s even a bar in the middle where they give you mud masks and fun drinks. Icelandair will let you stay in Iceland for up to two weeks, with no additional airline charge.
If you’re in a hurry, we recommend the 24-hour stay….you can take a cab from the airport into the scenic village of Keflavik, then grab a free shuttle for the 10 minute drive to the Blue Lagoon. There’s a couple neat museums in Keflavik (the Museum of Rock and Roll and the Viking Museum), and some fantastic restaurants, so there’s plenty to keep you busy for 24-hours—or longer!
Schedule an in-water massage at the Blue Lagoon and stay for lunch. The scenery is stark and beautiful, and you can spend the whole day relaxing and watching the sky, snow and clouds.