The hot bath has long been used as treatment for releasing stress and promoting better health. This isn't an old wives' tale, especially when it comes to natural hot springs; their use dates back to prehistoric times, and such mineral-rich springs have since been used to relax muscles, promote sleep, boost circulation and even help curb skin problems. There's a reason why such a bath feels so good—it lets you unwind completely and offers nothing but benefits.
Our list of must-visit hot springs reaches from the wilds of Alaska to the country's east and west coasts; there's even a Colorado ghost town mentioned here. These hot springs are found in remote flatlands, at luxurious resorts, at historic bathing facilities (one was visited by Thomas Jefferson) and at the end of a hike. Whatever the mode of discovery, a soothing experience awaits—but always exercise caution and test the waters before dipping in any natural hot spring.
Its unique name a draw in itself, the aptly-monikered Thermopolis has the world's largest mineral hot springs formation. Housed within Hot Springs State Park, these therapeutic waters have been visited throughout the years by dinosaurs, prehistoric peoples, Native American tribes and Western settlers. Although the water flows out of the springs at a scorching 135 degrees Fahrenheit, visitors can take a dip in the park's free bathhouse, which is maintained at 104 degrees.
Fish Valley Hot Springs, Nevada
About six miles from Tonopah, Fish Valley is easily accessible, but still has that rugged feel that draws visitors to Nevada's hot springs. According to the Bureau of Land Management, more than 300 hot springs—the most in the country—naturally occur in Nevada. Fish Valley offers the best of Nevada's wide-open spaces with panoramic mountain views on all sides. The concrete soaking tub is enclosed by cinder blocks and the water is a balmy 105 degrees. The water from the tub flows into a series of small ponds; the largest stays warm all year round, the others are cool except in summertime. As its name suggests, these outlying ponds are ideal for anglers.
Chena Hot Springs, Alaska
It began as a site for weary gold miners to soothe their aching bodies. Today, Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks welcomes local Alaskans, as well as visitors from the lower 48 states, who are drawn to the geothermal waters that have been compared to those in what was formerly Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). Chena features an indoor pool with chlorinated geothermal water, similar to a swimming pool but set to a temperature of 90 degrees, but the natural rock lake is an ideal way to take in the gorgeous scenery of Alaska; its temperature averages 106 degrees and depth averages four feet, depending on the activity of the springs feeding it.
Buckstaff Baths, Arkansas
Built in grand Edwardian style, Buckstaff Baths is the oldest and best preserved such facility in Hot Springs National Park's Bathhouse Row; it's been in continuous operation since 1912 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior of the three story, 27,000-square-foot structure is decorated in Colorado marble, with hexagon tiles on various patterns on its floors. The bathhouse offers mineral baths, hot packs, sitz baths, steam cabinets and Swedish massages; reservations are not necessary.
McCauley Warm Springs, New Mexico
A little milder at a constant temperature of 92 degrees, the McCauley Warm Springs lie on a shelf above the east fork of New Mexico's Jemez River. The main attraction here is the large, secluded, oval pool, but the outflow from this pool seeps into a series of smaller, cozy pools. It is easily accessible on a short hike from two different trailheads in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
Nestled deep into the Colorado Rockies not far from Telluride, Dunton Hot Springs is an alpine ghost town that was once a mining camp, established in 1885. It is, however, one of the most luxurious sites on our list, a hotspot for glamping and spa treatments, the latter of which take advantage of the area's natural hot springs. The resort features 12 unique log cabins and one posh tent; there are six separate areas—both indoors and out—for relaxing in the hot springs, which range in temperature from 85 to 106 degrees.
Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park
The point where a large hot spring converges with the Gardner River, Yellowstone National Park's Boiling River is a natural hot tub. One of only two places where swimming is legal at Yellowstone (the other is Firehole River, cooler still), this point where hot and cool waters mix has been known to create the unique sensation of feeling both warm and cold on different points of your body. Be ready for crowds at this popular swimming hole.
Burgdorf Hot Springs, Idaho
The rustic Burgdorf Hot Springs is one of the star attractions on the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, in which riders wind through alpine villages, mountain towns and countrysides full of pristine streams. Burgdorf's large swimming pool is maintained at a constant 100 degrees; those who like it hot can test out the smaller 113-degree pools (but be careful, as water is considered scalding at 120 degrees). There's even a shallow pool partitioned off for the kiddies. All are fed by natural hot spring water.
Willow Creek Hot Springs, Oregon
Accessible from a well-maintained gravel road, Oregon's remote high desert is where you'll find Willow Creek Hot Springs. The side-by-side, natural pools are divided by concrete and are deep and wide; the temperature ranges from 102-104 degrees in the smaller pool and from 85-95 degrees in the larger pool. The point at which the springs feed into the mud-bottomed pools can reach up to 110 degrees.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Washington
Located within the Olympic National Park & Forest, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort beckons with three mineral pools of varying sizes, poolside massages and the dramatic scenery of Washington's Olympic peninsula. In the pools, spring water seeps through cracks in the sedimentary rock, mingling with gases from cooling volcanic rocks, which then rises to the surface. They range in temperature from 99-104 degrees. The smallest pool is the deepest at approximately 6-8 feet.
Ruby Valley Hot Springs, Nevada
A gem of a soak site, Ruby Valley Hot Springs features a series of emerald-colored pools, the coolest of which is 99 degrees; since some can reach 120 degrees are more, testing them before your soak is a must. They lie at the culmination point of the 36 mile-long Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail, but you can also access from the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure you have an idea of where you're going before trekking out to the pools as no services are available here.
Omni Homestead, Virginia
Considered the crème de la créme of Virgina hot springs, the Jefferson Pools at Omni Homestead are so named for Thomas Jefferson, who spent a three-week vacation at the resort in 1818 and proclaimed the natural spring waters to be "of the first merit." Two major tributaries from the Allegheny Mountains flow into two separately housed areas, one for men and one for women. You can partake in an hour-long "Jefferson Soak" for a mere $17; the temperature is a balmy 98 degrees.
Ahalanui Warm Pond, Hawaii
A pond that's the warmest when the tide is low, the Ahalanui Warm Pond's maximum temperature is around 95 degrees, and is a spring-fed pool right next to the ocean; a small inlet allows ocean water to flow in and out. Pualaa County built a 1.3-acre park around the pond in 1993; the facilities include picnic tables, barbecues and lifeguards on staff.
Travertine Hot Springs, California
One of the easiest to reach in California, Travertine Hot Springs' waters travel down rock formations to pools below, cooling in the process to to a pleasant 103 degrees. In addition the mineral water, the pool floors are lined in gray mud, also said to have restorative properties. The pools afford dramatic views of the Eastern Sierra mountains.