Soak Away Pandemic Stress: Seven Unique Western Hot Springs Resorts
Soaking in hot springs has been scientifically proven to be good for your health: not only are the minerals in the water good for your skin, but the hot water relieves stress and sore muscles and leads to better sleep. With COVID finally on the wane in the U.S., a visit to a hot springsresortthis summer might be a perfect way to relieve pandemic stress and begin to ease back into the post-pandemic world.
Hot springs are concentrated in the American West, so there are hundreds of possibilities, ranging from undeveloped pools in the woods to the height of spa luxury. Read on for seven unique hot springs resorts in western states, from the heart of wine country to the high desert. Then plan your own geothermally inspired journey!
If you’re Zoomed out (and who isn’t these days?), a weekend off the grid at the solar-powered Wilbur Hot Springsin Northern California’s Colusa County might be just what you need to recharge and rest your bleary eyes. Billing itself as an opportunity to “slow down, quiet the mind, and relax into nature’s embrace,” Wilbur offers several ways to enjoy its therapeutic mineral waters. Choose your preferred temperature of the three rectangular bathing pools in the Japanese onsen-style “Fluminarium”; you can opt for a “silent contemplation” flume or a “conversation” flume, depending on your level of sociability at the moment. Enjoy a dry sauna or swim in the spring-fed swimming pool (chlorinated and cool in summer, non-chlorinated and geothermally heated in winter). Clothing is optional in any of the bathing areas. Once you’re done soaking, you can get a massage or hike/bike through the resort’s 1560-acre nature preserve. And thanks to Wilbur’s remote location, at night you’ll have breathtaking views of the stars.
For those with more epicurean leanings, Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection takes dual advantage of its Napa Valley location and the area’s bubbling natural hot springs to offer an immersive, luxury wellness experience. Get a massage or one of the spa’s signature Mudslide treatments: an essential oil-enhanced, full-body mineral mud mask, followed by a soak in a private mineral springs hot tub (you can make this the centerpiece of your visit with the spa’s “Pour Some Mud on Me” package). Guests can soak in five different pools, including two jetted pools and a large relaxation pool. The spa’s restaurant, Solbar, features craft cocktails and local vintages, along with an array of fresh, seasonal, locally sourced food. (A new, more casual poolside restaurant, Picobar, is opening soon.) And, of course, the location in the middle of wine country makes it easy to slip away for some tastings – or just to drink in the beauty of the green rolling vineyards on one of the many hiking and biking trails in the area.
Located in the boulder-strewn Clark Fork River valley with the Rockies towering above, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort features seven developed hot springs pools. Five of these are filled with natural hot mineral springs water, ranging in temperature from 100-106° (and a 55° cold-plunge pool). Another two are salt treated, and maintained at a temperature of 90-100° for swimming.
The resort offers 83 accommodations featuring two lodges and river-view, canyon, and mountainside cabins, with rooms ranging from $199-349. (Note: Quinn’s is popular, so book early!) Eat at the resort’s award-winning Harwood House Restaurant if you prefer fine dining – or, for something more casual, get a burger and a beer at Quinn’s Tavern. Children are welcome and, although some accommodations are for adults only, there are some cabins that are family friendly.
Despite online conspiracy theories claiming that Idaho doesn’t exist, it is in fact a state that boasts a huge variety of (real) natural landscapes, from the barren Craters of the Moon to cool, deep lakes and mountain forests – not to mention a lot of natural hot springs, thanks to its location on the geothermally active Yellowstone Plate. Set your mind at ease about the existence of this mysterious state with a journey to the rustically beautiful Burgdorf Hot Springs, tucked away in the mountains of the Payette National Forest, 32 miles from the resort town of McCall. The drive is worth it for Burgdorf’s hot springs pools, which are magnificent – a swimming-pool-sized main pool, two smaller, hotter pools, and a partitioned shallow pool for the little ones. However, be prepared – you can rent unique, historical cabins, but they are without running water and electricity; so you’ll need your own bedding, lights, and cooking supplies.
While all hot springs resorts have an implicit focus on wellness, the Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa takes it to the next level, attending to all dimensions of the individual: physical, mental, spiritual, communal, and creative. Maybe it has to do with geography; the website claims that Joyful Journey’s location in Colorado’s stunning San Luis Valley is one of the most sacred and energetically active places in America. Along with weekly classes on yoga and art, Joyful Journey offers frequent retreats on wellness-related topics. (June’s week-long “Joyful Retreat,” aimed at caregivers and health-care workers, is titled “The Art of Well-Being.”) The spa features three spring-fed pools at different temperatures. The water is loaded with healing minerals, and every pool has views of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo mountains. You can also treat yourself to a massage, a facial, and detoxifying herbal wraps. Joyful Journey offers a variety of unique housing options, including a more traditional lodge, a little family-friendly “casita,” yurts, tipis, and areas for camping and RV parking. It aims to be inclusive, pet-friendly, and LGBTQ-friendly.
For a truly wild experience, take the ferry to theDoe Bay Resort & Retreat, located on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. 84 of the 175 named islands are National Wildlife Refuges, and favorite island activities are wildlife-centric: depending on the time of year, you can go on a whale-watching tour, rent a sea kayak (where you might spot porpoises, otters, seals, and sea lions), or look for sea and terrestrial birds on one of the many island trails. Orcas, the (other) “Emerald Isle,” is the largest and most populous of the San Juan Islands, which means arts, culture, and shopping; though with pristine lakes and 38 miles of hiking trails, it’s still very peaceful. For a good workout, hike up to the lookout at Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. Then come back and soak at the Doe Bay spa, which features a sauna and three large covered hot soaking tubs in a serene woodland setting with a view of the bay. (OK, technically the hot water at Doe Bay is electrically rather than geothermally heated…but few could disagree with the de-stressing effects of its remote natural location and focus on wellness.) The resort currently offers takeout and limited patio table service from its “seed-to-table” Doe Bay Cafe, where much of the produce comes from Doe Bay’s own organic garden. Expect a very seasonal menu, with an emphasis on freshly made pastas, locally caught fish, and in-season greens. Note: Covid protocols still strictly apply at Doe Bay and throughout the San Juans, so be sure to read the Procedures page when you book your stay.
Modeled after traditional hot spring Japanese onsen, Ten Thousand Waves has the most soaking options of the seven resorts listed here. From the Grand Bath’s giant outdoor tile hot pool featuring cold plunges, showers, and saunas to seven other unique pools (one has a waterfall, another an underwater recliner built for two!), Ten Thousand Waves is a hot spring aficionado’s dream. Due to Covid restrictions, each of the seven hot tubs must be privately reserved, and all have their own sauna, private changing room, and showers. Located ten minutes from downtown Santa Fe but on twenty acres of pinyon-juniper forest, Ten Thousand Waves also has Japan-themed lodging; you can stay in a Zen room if you prefer things “basic and beautiful” or choose from increasingly deluxe options. The spa’s restaurant, Izanami, serves upscale small plates made from organic and locally sourced ingredients – if you’re not vegetarian, you’d do well to try the wagyu – claimed by the site to be “possibly the most delicious meat you will ever eat.” (But not to worry – there are typically around 20 vegetarian menu options.)