My first experience with hot springs was at Yellowstone National Park. I was in awe of the naturally tiered pools of water filling basins of rainbow stained rock. They looked so inviting, one could just slowly lower themselves into peaceful relaxation. However, this imagined scenario was only the case if one ignored the ominous towers of billowing steam, and the signs speckled throughout warning of potential imminent death. These springs would scald your skin off, literally. When we heard that Salt Lake City had some human-friendly hot springs, we eagerly jumped and landed into three. So if you’re in the area and springing for some non-Salt Lake action, consider adding one of these three hot springs near Salt Lake City to your trip. We’ve organized them from “least rugged” to “most rugged” so there’s something for everyone here.
Crystal Hot Springs, Honeyville, UT
An hour drive north of Salt Lake City.
What do you get when you cross a public community pool with a hot spring? This place. To be honest, this was not what we expected. When someone says “hot spring” the last thing we think is concrete. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the key to traveling sustainably is to be as flexible as possible.
Participation in this spring is set up like a public community pool. Any guest can enjoy all spring access as long as they want, for just seven bucks. For an additional three bucks, you can upgrade to an all access water slide pass. The staff was super friendly, explaining all this, and willingly divulged a number of fun facts and trivia about the spring.
We went around sunset and stayed through nightfall when all the pool lights came on (low lighting – no tripod = no photos, sorry!).
The big draw here is the high mineral content (apparently the highest mineral content of any hot spring in the world?), and purported healing properties of such. Here the springs runneth over, into neatly sequestered sections. These are filled with flowing spring water, and are in a constant state of replenishment. Hygiene-wise, we find this preferable to soaking in chlorinated, stagnating, diaper water – the popular choice for unnaturally filled pools.
The facilities consist of four partitions. There is one large main pool, with three spouts gushing three temperatures, approximately: hot, warm, and lukewarm. If you desire a specific temperature, triangulate your proximity accordingly. There are plenty of spots to sit, as the inner circumference of the pool is an underwater bench as well. The same can be said of the smaller hot tub pool, which has a constant hot tubbin’ temperature that’ll have your cheeks flushed and your pores wide open. Then there’s an Olympic-sized swimming pool, comfortably lukewarm throughout – remarkable, considering no one expects a pool that large to be full of flowing spring water. Finally, there is one small chlorinated, non- spring water pool, apparently for children, (actually, it’s more for playing, so kids end up dominating it, while the springs are for relaxing, thus adults dominate them).
As for the water slide, it’s what you’d expect. To us, it was really extra, as it was wholly unexpected. It was fun, but gets tiresome after a few uses. The lines weren’t too long, but when compared to the time spent sliding, it’s hard to argue spending your time here over lounging in the earthen-sprung waters of relaxation.
Scientifically proven or not, we did feel great afterward. Time well spent, in the company of new friends, and well worth the excursion.
Homestead Crater, Midway, UT
Almost an hour past Park City to Midway.
Now this spring was super cool, if a misnomer. Homestead Crater is not actually a crater created by things crashing from the sky, but rather things bubbling up from the ground. It’s actually a caldera, created by minerals accumulating into a dome-like shape over thousands of years.
The entrance inside extended into what looked like an old mineshaft, albeit one that’s been properly maintained. So think less old and dusty, and more new spangled like before you board a Disneyland ride (never been to Disney World). Inside there’s a small wharf, placing you near the center of the spring.
Maybe a dozen and a half people leisurely swam about, but this group was mostly treading and floating. There were maybe one or two people deep diving (it’s the only warm scuba diving spot in the continental U.S.), but once they entered we couldn’t remember seeing them resurface. This pool goes so deep that you can’t see the bottom, nor would we want to, as the depths looked like the perfect home for a Kraken.
It felt really cool to be in, except for the part about only having 45 minutes at a clip. That was super lame. And for twelve bucks for forty-five minutes, that’s the most expensive spring dip we’ve paid for, minus the onions.
Fifth Water (Diamond Fork) Hot Springs
An hour+ (depending on road conditions/your vehicle) south of Salt Lake City (don’t use Google Maps to get there – it may take you to the wrong place!).
To quote a fellow housesitter, this was a “proper” spring.
After the first two, we must say outright – this is part of a public trail, and there are no established services, besides a pit toilet at the start of the trail. It is the same as hiking out to a lake or stream to relax in.
You traverse typically Utahn terrain through rocky deposits and scraggly trees, with sporadic shelter from the sun, and the ever growing odor of sulfur. Now if this doesn’t excite you, then you may want to reconsider. We love hiking, and this was a solid, sweat breaking one (we only found out about it and had time at early summer – not the ideal time to go to a hot spring, but we were not to be deterred). Not the easiest, and definitely not the hardest. But at the end, you’ll have your well-earned reward: a series of tiered pools, one overflowing into another, with a small waterfall farthest back. This all flows from a spring, and the layout is very inviting.
Over time, people (presumably) have assembled rocks, and shaped the terrain a bit to section off areas. Even with a couple dozen people occupying the varying spring pools, we found spots that were a bit away and to ourselves. It was a hot day, but soon as we emerged, we wanted to go back into the warm pools. There were cool pools too, but the warm were perfectly warm. Also keep in mind there is no shelter from the elements here, including the olfactory ones. The spring water is odoriferous, to put it somewhat mildly, and may be unpleasant for some. I think it’s safe to say, if you’re not into the outdoors beyond a screened porch, you may find the pools a bit…unadulterated. Rocks can be a bit slimy, and covered in green algae, but we found the au naturalle setting refreshing.
Now considering you don’t have to pay, there’s no time limit, and it truly feels like you’re outdoors, this was the big winner for us. This spring is best utilized in the late winter (probably inaccessible during most of the winter) and for autumn, as the springs are very warm, and on a hot summer day, will unlikely cool you off. Outdoor blogger Kristen at Bearfoot Theory has a great informative post on when to go and how to get there.
All in all, another few solid romps through the Utahn outback, and we were pleasantly surprised by what this land has to offer, yet again.
What amazing hot springs have you been to?
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