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Rectangular wooden containers filled with water stand amid palm trees and rocks.
The hot springs at Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs.

8 tranquil hot springs in California to heal your weary soul

You can’t beat geothermal heat. That’s what warms the many hot springs in California, which make a disparate yet tempting bunch, from rustic roadside holes in the ground to luxurious Napa Valley retreats.

There are dozens, especially in Calistoga (Napa Valley wine country) and Desert Hot Springs (a Coachella Valley city that has not yet followed Palm Springs and environs into full-blown desert gentrification).

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At any place with overnight accommodations, you can count on lower prices midweek. Whatever the price point, each of the spots listed here offers a chance to retreat from the daily hubbub and steep yourself in hot water. (That water, by the way, shouldn’t be more than 104 degrees, health officials say.)

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With the weather cooling down, here is a look at eight hot spring sites that Times writers and I have tried in recent years.

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Glen Ivy Hot Springs cabana deck and pool.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs cabana deck.
(Glen Ivy Hot Springs)

Glen Ivy Hot Springs

Experience
We know that the word “spa” can sound intimidating. But Glen Ivy isn’t that way. As then-Times travel editor Catharine Hamm wrote after a visit in 2017, “It feels accessible, not exclusive, meaning you can sit back and relax.”

Glen Ivy has 19 pools on 12 acres, including some of the same mineral pools that were the star attraction here in the late 1800s. There’s no hotel. But it has a Grotto (when skin hydration happens) and it has Club Mud, where you may be slathered with red clay. You could alternate between the hot and cold plunge pools, grab a bite at the Ivy Kitchen or try a 50-minute quartz massage (dry heat from warm quartz sand) for $165.

The cost of admission with a Grotto visit is $120 per head; admission plus a HydroMassage, $125. Basic admission (access to the pools and Club Mud) is $94, reservations required. Open to guests age 18 and over.
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Two Bunch Palms

Experience
This adults-only resort between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree goes back to 1940 and got an upgrade in 2018. One of the suites is named for Al Capone, said to have been a good customer under previous management. But the best-known Two Bunch Palms bather might be Tim Robbins’ character in the 1992 film “The Player,” who comes for a mud bath. (Complications ensue.)

The resort includes 65 guest rooms and suites on 240 acres, along with plenty of palm trees. Rooms typically run $325-$525. The spa menu, which includes many CBD treatments, starts with a 60-minute massage at $165.
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A canopy of oak trees, seen from a Sycamore Mineral Springs hot tub.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa

Experience
Sycamore Mineral Springs, set in a shady canyon along a country road between San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach, has 72 hotel rooms and suites, each with a hot tub on its balcony or patio. Rates are typically $264-$514.

The resort also has 24 private outdoor tubs, which are arrayed on a hillside, surrounded by an oak grove. The cost is $22.50-$27.50 per hour per person (and another $3 for towel rental) and you’ll be climbing up to 100 steps to reach your designated tub. (Tubs can accommodate up to eight people.)

Pro tip: If you’d rather combine your soaking with a cabin, tent or RV camping, nearby Avila Hot Springs is also worth a look.

Even if you don’t want a soak, you may want to explore the resort’s Secret Garden. This semi-rustic, kid-friendly, dog-friendly area, which includes a concession stand with beer, wine and snacks, is across a bridge from the main part of the resort. It’s also right next to the path of the Bob Jones Trail, a 3-mile-long walking and cycling route that follow San Luis Obispo Creek and ends at Avila State Beach. I had a tasty salad and wished I’d brought my bike.
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A bearded man in a hat and sunglasses soaks in Travertine Hot springs
Visitor Opie Owens, up to his neck, relaxes at Travertine Hot Springs.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Travertine Hot Springs

Experience
Last fall, on a road trip up Highway 395 through Owens Valley, I made a small detour to check out Travertine Hot Springs. It’s not a resort. It’s not even a building.

It’s a patch of public land at the end of a dirt road, hot water bubbling from the earth, just south of Bridgeport along 395. Free to all. In some of these natural hot tubs, you can adjust the temperature by placing pebbles to divert the incoming hot spring water.

When I arrived, Opie Owens, 32, was unwinding in one of the tubs. He had just attended 13 Phish concerts in 16 days and he was in no hurry.

By the way, locals say the dirt road to these springs gets buried when serious snow comes. I wouldn’t try it in the winter.
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Two women with only their heads sticking out of their mud baths
Mud bath at Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs in Calistoga.
(Mark Compton)

Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

Experience
This sleek spot in Calistoga was born in 1952, which gives it a Midcentury Modern flair to go with its emphasis on alternative wellness. (Design-wise, it’s like a little piece of Palm Springs broke free and ran away to Napa.) It has all the modern conveniences, including 50 guest rooms, restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, spa, seven indoor mineral baths (and two outdoors), mud baths, family rooms and loaner bikes for no extra charge, plus a throwback neon sign and vintage-looking fridges in the guest rooms.

Management likes to call it the Doc — a welcome little bit of irreverence.

Rooms and cottages typically run $277-$679. Spa prices start at $169 for an hourlong whirlpool bath “infused with Epsom sea salts, and a facial mask, steam room and blanket wrap.”
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Steam rises from a pool under blue sky at Indian Springs, Calistoga.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Indian Springs, Calistoga

Experience
This 17-acre haven in the northern Napa Valley is full of Mission Revival buildings that hold 116 guest rooms, bungalows and cottages, along with a restaurant, Sam’s. It has an Olympic-sized mineral pool (built in 1913). There’s croquet, bocce ball, shuffleboard, loaner bikes and a Himalayan salt therapy room. The property also includes four geysers.

Overnight rates typically start at $319-$659. A 60-minute mud bath is $170; a 45-minute mineral bath, $105. And a 100-minute CBD massage is $390 per person.
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Stone-walled baths bubble at Esalen, Big Sur, with cliffs and sea beyond and flowering canna alongside.
(Stephanie Lewis)

Esalen

Monterey County Experience
One of this state’s most storied hot-spring bathing spots since the 1960s, the Esalen Institute educational and retreat center is perched on the cliffs in Big Sur. But Esalen no longer allows public access to its baths between 1 and 3 a.m., as it did for decades.

Citing COVID, Esalen dropped that offer early in the pandemic. To get into the spectacularly sited, clothing-optional mineral baths at Esalen now, guests need to sign up for a multiple-day workshop or self-guided exploration, which includes accommodations and meals.

Prices begin at $540 per person for three days and two nights in a shared sleeping-bag area, or $1,200 ($1,425 for two people) for a queen-bed room. The most affordable accommodations book up fast.
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Gaviota Hot Springs
(Visit Santa Barbara)

Gaviota Hot Springs

Experience
Located on the longest remaining undeveloped coastline in the lower half of the state, Santa Barbara’s 3,000-acre Gaviota State Park has shaded oak woodlands, sculpted wind caves, a beautiful beach framed by a railroad trestle and even a secret shore accessible only by water. After a full day of exploring, visitors can rest their legs and relax their muscles with a soak at the Gaviota Hot Springs.

Park at the dirt lot ($2 fee) and find the trailhead for Gaviota Peak. From there, you can either take a strenuous trip to the summit or a quarter-mile walk under oak and sycamore groves. Turn left at the junction with the Trespass trail, and at the next junction, turn right onto an overgrown trail, full of California blackberry bushes, and follow the creek (and the smell of sulfur) to its source. Here you’ll find two milky blue pools — the larger option is framed by a manmade cement rock wall and comfortably fits five or six people (clothing is optional). Enjoy a foot soak or fully submerge yourself in the warm bubbling water.
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