The two greatest pleasures in this life might be lying in the sun on a beach in a bikini and sipping a soda michelada, and sitting in a steaming hot springs pool in the mountains while there’s snow on the ground. With a few added variables, thankfully the latter is very easy to achieve in the great outdoors of North America, as there are a number of magical hot springs in the US.
There are a few different types of hot springs — probably some scientific designations, too, but for our purposes, we’ll leave it as this — hot springs you should go in and hot springs you shouldn’t. For instance, Yellowstone National Park, home to some of the most famous hot springs and geysers, mostly features hot springs so hot they’ll cause serious injury.
Thankfully, probably knowing that we earthlings need the sulfur and silica-rich hot spring water to rejuvenate our skin and souls, the terrain here in the US provides plenty of hot springs of the second type for us to enjoy. Here are some crowd favorites.
1. Strawberry Park, Colorado
If you love hot springs, you pretty much need to move to the great state of Colorado, because with such a long list of amazing hot springs, it’s impossible to pick the “best.” However, Strawberry Park just outside Steamboat Springs is a quaint woodland getaway with an authentic, uncontrived feel. Surrounded by forest and hiking trails, it offers lodging, full amenities, and a spa atmosphere.
2. Riverbend Hot Springs, New Mexico
“The only hot springs spa on the banks of the Rio Grande,” Riverbend Hot Springs near Truth or Consequences, NM, offers full amenities in a clean Southwestern setting and the windswept calm that only the desert can bring. There’s something about being in the desert that brings you peace with your place in the world and allows you come to terms with your humanity — imagine adding that experience to steaming pools of water and crisp high desert air. Yes.
3. Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, AK
When compiling a list of natural retreats, it’d be a huge mistake to overlook the wonderful and giant state of Alaska. Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks calls itself “the most developed hot springs in Alaska,” which probably isn’t saying much. But what could be more ideal than ingesting the lush tundra of central Alaska and crisp, early night sky while poaching your outer layer in hot water from the more fiery internal regions of the earth? They offer shuttles from Fairbanks, and full amenities.
4. Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon
In line with Oregon’s (and Portlandia’s) crunchy granola reputation in the Pacific Northwest, Breitenbush Hot Springs is a holistic retreat, conference center, and intentional community located on about 150 acres of wildlife sanctuary near Detroit, Oregon. Words like “balance,” “energy,” and “clothing optional” grace their website. They don’t serve coffee, request that you don’t eat meat products in the dining room, and encourage you to leave your electronics at home. It’s more than a relaxing vacation oasis in the forest — it’s a place to actively practice mindfulness, reset, and start over.
5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Heading East usually means more debris of human history in natural places, and Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas is no different. Located in the middle of town, Hot Spring NP is the oldest federal reserve in US history. It boasts pools enclosed by stone walls and evidence that people beginning with Native Americans, explorers, and settlers have been following the draw of the soothing hot pools for who knows how many years. Make sure to check out the historic bathhouse buildings located on Central Avenue.
6. Ahalanui Park, Hawaii
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Ahalanui Park has a unique relationship with volcanic activity. Unlike other hot springs, it’s actually a pool of springwater that’s heated by nearby volcanic activity from Kilauea Crater, which has been actively erupting since the 1980s. It’s surrounded by constructed stone walls and neighbors the Pacific Ocean — though not a beach where you’d want to do any swimming. It can be a bit crowded, but the 90-degree water is calming enough to pacify any minor frustration.