Long known to have restorative effects, Northern California hot springs draw people from all over the area for medicinal and relaxation purposes. Early in the state’s history, the springs became resorts for the wealthy. Today, the benefits of hot springs attract those looking for a more holistic and natural method of health care.
Livestrong.com, one of the most recognized online sources for medical information, explains the Benefits of Hot Spring Spas by citing factors such as improved circulation and stress relief. Combining the health benefits of a dip in the springs with the comfort of a quality resort, and guests leave feeling invigorated and healthy. From rustic to modern in appearance, guests find comfort in the style of setting they prefer.
Not to be confused with hot tubs, a natural hot spring occurs when mineral-rich water bubbles to the surface after being geothermally heated to a temperature of 98 degrees or more. Mineral content of the water varies from spring to spring. Soaking in the springs helps relieve pain and allow the body to absorb minerals that have a calming and therapeutic effect.
Each spa listed here invites guests to experience its hot spring in a setting designed specifically for them. To say one lays claim to being the best only limits the view of this diverse industry. Online booking makes arranging a visit easy for any visitor.
1. Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa and Resort - Calistoga, CA
Summary: Located in Napa Valley Wine Country, this resort has special spa and room packages starting at $135 per person per night. Private hot spring treatments are available in some rooms. Outdoor activities include swimming and biking with a picnic area and bocce courts.
Focusing on the hot spring experience for adults, Golden Haven offers three types of lodging and a customized menu of spa treatments. Standard, Superior and Hot Spring Jacuzzi rooms include complimentary WiFi, refrigerator, bottled water, and HBO TV. Themed more for specialty groups and couples, a hot spring pool, bocce court, and picnic area extend the experience outdoors while biking can be arranged. Spa treatments run the gamut of massage and herbal facials to mineral-rich mud baths. Spa packages start at $135 per person per night. The resort specializes in girlfriend weekends, singles getaways and last minute bookings.
Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa and Resort | Address: 1713 Lake Street, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California 94515 | Phone: (707) 942-8000
2. Orr Hot Spring Resort - Ukiah, CA
Summary: Located in a historically significant part of Northern California, the 27-acre resort property border natural reserve land for a forested setting. The 80-year-old lodge and cabins have been updated but other types of accommodations such as Yurts and campsites provide a clothing-optional place for nature lovers to experience its hot springs and surroundings. Costs vary by lodging type.
A rural escape with few of the comforts of home (no WiFi, cell service, or TV), Orr Hot Springs welcomes guests who are looking for a no-frills, clothing-optional choice for a natural retreat. Not recommended for children or pets, several lodging options give guests a choice when booking a stay. Communal bathhouse and walk-in camping balance the cozy rooms of the redwood lodge. Each option is listed on the website and includes a description and photos. Along with the springs, the grounds remain as they have been for decades. No food or drink is available, but guests have cooking privileges in the large communal kitchen. Cottage rooms have small private kitchens Adjacent to the Montgomery State Reserve, guests hike and participate in quiet activities. Frequently sold out even for day trips, reservations are recommended.
Orr Hot Springs Resort | Address: 13201 Orr Springs Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482 | Phone: (707) 462-6277 | Email: email@example.com
3. Mono Hot Springs Resort - Lakeshore, CA
Summary: This seasonal Sierra Nevada mountain location has stone cabins and casual dining for the traveler looking for a modestly priced hot springs experience. Nearby lakes provide boating and fishing recreation. Lodging varies from tent camping with outdoor cooking to cozy rooms with full kitchens and fireplaces. Small bathhouse with hot tub spa and massage give access to the springs. Costs vary by lodging option.
A rustic and secluded location, this colonial-California style resort welcomes families and pets into a place that reminds guests of the past. Open only between May 15 and November 1 each year, the resort has its own general store and post office. An on-site restaurant serves American cuisine in a casual dining experience. Outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing keep the active guest busy while the less active traveler takes advantage of the spa and massage treatments. One and two-bedroom historic cabins include comfortable furnishings and fireplaces. Kitchens are available with gas stoves. Chosen by the guest who desires a sheltered, but outdoorsy experience, tent cabins provide a canvas room enclosure with cooking and picnic areas. A Community bathhouse supplies showers, flush toilets, and running water. Costs vary by experience.
Mono Hot Springs Resort | Address: 62804 Huntington Lake Rd, Lakeshore, CA 93634 | Phone: (559) 325-1710
4. Wilbur Hot Springs - Williams, CA
Summary: More hostel than hotel, this dormitory style resort finds its charm in the remote location and vintage experience. Located on an 1800-acre natural preserve, the facility dates back to 1865. Solar-powered and off-grid, guests have access to a natural hot spring and geyser. Massage, yoga, and meditation sessions allow both day and overnight guests to experience hours of relaxation. Costs vary by service.
Located within an 1800-acre nature preserve in Northern California. A clothing-optional resort welcomes day-trippers and overnight guests. Lodging varies from camping and dorms to cabins with kitchenettes. The springs are accessible through a Japanese-style bathhouse and sauna. Travelers participate in self-guided activities such as hiking and biking while yoga and meditation classes occur seasonally for the group. Guests typically prepare their own food but a guest Chef shows off his/her culinary skills on weekends. Served to guests, these catered meals embody health foods that appeal to the taste buds. A minimum two-night stay is required. Costs vary by date and lodging type. Massage and spa treatments are extra.
Wilbur Hot Springs | Address: 3375 Wilbur Springs Rd, Williams, CA 95987 | Phone: (530) 473-2306
5. Sierra Hot Springs - Serraville, CA
Summary: Rustic locations takes the guest back to 1879 when the lodge and resort first opened. With only 5 rooms and small dormitory, guests enjoy seclusion while on a 700-acre tract of land along the edge of Tahoe National Forests. Offering more amenities than some locations, those who stay here have access to TV, WiFi and other modern conveniences.
A unique mix of modern convenience and vintage charm, this resort includes the 1870s lodge with 5 individually decorated rooms, a small 5-bed dormitory, and restaurant. Access to a common kitchen gives guests on specific diets the freedom to prepare their own meals. The 700-acre grounds border the Tahoe National Forest. The campus includes the lodge, parking area, and massage room. The springs feed the Indoor and outdoor pools for guest use. Between trips to the pool, massage and spa treatments keep the guest feeling relaxed. Special events and workshops round out the event calendar. Modern conveniences such as TV, WiFi and housekeeping attract the person who wants old-world feel with current access to technology. Costs vary by date and room type. Spa services are extra.
Sierra Hot Springs | Address: 521 Campbell Hot Springs Rd, Sierraville, CA 96126 | Phone: (530) 994-3773
6. Harbin Hot Springs - Middletown, CA
Summary: A not-for-profit resort named after pioneer Matthew Harbin, this wellness and retreat center focuses on healing through the use of its hot springs. Education comes into play through its workshop program Day and overnight guest take advantage of the simple camping style accommodations. Largely destroyed by a wildfire in 2015, the center has just reopened for spiritual and healing experiences.
Presently in a rebuilding phase, this spiritual and healing retreat center experienced a massive wildfire in 2015. Recently reopened, the operation leans toward more simple options than it once provided. One of the oldest of California’s hot springs, the retreat sits on 1700 acres of land. The grounds include hot, warm and cold spring-fed pools with views of scenery and wildlife making its return to the area. Just 30 minutes north of San Francisco, fifteen new cottages and tent camping accommodate guests for the first time in three years. Temporary trailers provide food, health services, and event facilities. Day trips cost $25 per person and annual memberships are available. Overnight camping starts at $40 dollars a night. Nightly rates for 2 person cottages run $180+. Activities include scheduled dances and movies for those who wish to socialize and hiking and yoga for those interested in a fitness routine. Food is available on-site. Currently, all services require advance reservations.
Harbin Hot Springs | Address: 18424 Harbin Springs Rd, Middletown, CA 95461 | Phone: (707) 987-2477
7. Surprise Valley Hot Springs - Cedarville, CA
Summary: More centrally located than others, this resort experience complements the local shopping and dining scene. Located just of Highway 299, the individually decorated rooms and suites charm the visitor. Indoor whirlpool tubs and spa treatments encourage guests to relax.
A family-owned business, this resort cultivates the private spa image. With an individual hot spring-fed tub with each room, guests have privacy and the soothing experience of a hot spring treatment in the comfort of their own room. Included in each room, a kitchenette provides options for meal preparation or just a way to enjoy a healthy snack. Suites and deluxe rooms have living areas and additional bedrooms. Five dog-friendly rooms suit avid pet owners, but cats are discouraged. Guests can dine off-site at any of several local eateries. Those interested in shopping find many options with a short drive. Children ages 16 and older are permitted, but the location caters more to adults. Because of its convenient location, those who stay can explore activities such as hiking and fishing as well as sightseeing and cultural events while in the area. Skiing is available in season. Rates depend on room type and other added services.
Surprise Valley Hotsprings | Address: 67254 CA-299, Cedarville, CA 96104 | Phone: (530) 279-2040
Hot Springs Etiquette
Unlike a swimming pool with chemically treated water and filtration, natural hot springs rely on the ecosystem to clean the water. As such, rules of usage apply to safeguard the natural spring and those who use it. Unless the resort pumps water into an internal network of tubs and pools - and some do - guests should follow these guidelines when visiting one of nature’s healthiest water features.
Come Clean - With no pun intended here, polite visitors bathe before soaking in the waters of a hot spring. Soaps, lotions and everyday dirt react poorly with the high temperature and alkaline water. These compounds potentially clog pores and reduce the effectiveness of the experience.
Breakables Banned - Glass bottle or cups present a danger to users. Leave such items behind and enjoy the experience.
Expect a Let-Down - Those who have never traveled to a hot spring before may come with visions of “Old Faithful” geysers and bubbling pools. In a resort setting, this may not be the experience that greets you. Public health standards apply and running off half dressed to soak in a steaming puddle are likely to be more fantasy than reality.
Forget the Food - Save the snack time for afterward. Neither attractive nor sanitary, floating food particles detracts from the experience, to say the least.
Share - Many resorts have policies to keep guests from monopolizing the springs. Keep in mind, though, that the size of the spring determines the number of people who can comfortably participate.
Respect Personal Space - Not all visitors invite others to go toe-to-toe or shoulder-to-shoulder in a setting such as this. Guage the group through facial expressions to remain respectful of other’s personal space.
Dress Appropriately - Some resorts listed here do entertain guests in a clothing-optional environment. However, not all of them extend that courtesy to guests. Check the posted dress code before heading to the spa to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.
Now armed with a list of resorts and a quick checklist of dos and don’ts, the time to book a trip has come. All of the resorts listed here accept online reservations through their own website or companion websites such as bookings.com or tripadvisor.com. Go for it!