The Southern Wasatch Towering over Spanish Fork — Photo courtesy of .Larry Page
Winter brings cold temperatures and copious snow to Utah, rendering the Wasatch Mountains a world-class playground for skiers and snowboarders. But no matter how great the alpine conditions may be, you'll inevitably need to mix it up a little – and take off your boots for a day. But skipping a day of skiing doesn't mean you must stay inside. Instead, consider taking a day trip to Fifth Water Hot Springs, located in Diamond Fork Canyon.
Standing about an hour's drive south of Salt Lake City (and just east of Spanish Fork), Fifth Water Hot Springs presents a perfect option for a routine-breaking, winter day trip in the Wasatch Mountains. Showcasing the slightly different scenery of the southern Wasatch, Diamond Fork Canyon provides you with the chance to explore the Utah wilderness outside of Salt Lake City and Park City's ski area boundaries.
The naturally heated pools of the Fifth Water Hot Springs sit and at the terminus of a 2.5-mile trail, waiting as a soothing reward for tired legs. Though the walk isn't excessively long, it contains a good amount of climbing – priming your calves and thighs for a satisfying dip in the springs. Not only does the mandatory approach walk (and its steepness) make the soak more rewarding, but it also greatly reduce the crowding at the hot springs.
Though the most popular seasons to visit Diamond Fork are spring and fall, winter is an extra special time to explore the canyon – whose slopes are coated in snow, and hot springs seem, by contrast, even more cozy and inviting. Though the hiking path itself stretches just 2.5 miles each direction, you must come prepared for a much longer trek if visiting in winter. During months of snow cover, the Diamond Fork Road closes about 4 miles short of the trail head, extending the day's total walking distance from 5 to 13 miles -quite a step up! But don't let this fact dissuade you; this increased hiking distance reduces the crowding at the springs even further. Moreover, the road itself its almost completely flat, making these additional miles rather casual.
If you decide to visit Fifth Water Hot Springs during the winter, keep in mind that shortened daylight hours will require an early start and relatively speedy walking. To give yourself some extra padding, time-wise, pack a headlamp – or try to line up your trip with the full moon. If it's snowed recently, plan to wear snowshoes for the hike. And consider bringing a spare set of dry clothes for the hike down; though you'll hopefully bathe in a swimsuit, your original set of clothes will assuredly be wet from the approach hike.
Regardless of the season of your visit, be sure to bring plenty of water. Not only will the hiking render you thirsty, but the dehydrating effects of the hot springs will leave you even more parched. Because of this, if you decided to bring along any alcohol, it would be savvy to designate a sober driver – one that will not be intoxicated or drowsy after a solid day of hiking and bathing. And finally, don't forget a towel!
For a map of the trail head location, visit this link.