Long before hot tubs were a thing, Native Americans took to the earth's naturally heated waters to soak in its healing and restorative effects. Scientists have confirmed hot temps and mineral-rich soaks can soothe everything from achy joints to hangovers, so it's clear our forebears were on to something. As the seasons change, seek refuge from the cold in one of these gorgeous hot springs and spring-fed pools.
Dunton Hot Springs | Colorado
Located in Colorado's San Juan mountains near the town of Telluride, this ghost town-turned-resort has six pools ranging in temps from 85-to-106 degrees. Don't be alarmed by the water's red hue; it's a sign of its mineral-rich (iron, manganese, lithium, calcium bicarbonate) restorative powers. Book one of Dunton's rustic cabins to stay off the grid for the night, or rent out the whole town to host a hot party with your closest 44 friends.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa & Resort | New Mexico
If you can swing a minimum $250 nightly room rate, Ten Thousand Waves is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that is worth the splurge. If you can’t stay, you can still get a taste of total relaxation in its communal hot tubs for $25 a person. Just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, the resort resembles a true Japanese onsen and no detail is overlooked: There are freezing plunge pools to cool you down, oversized robes to keep you cozy between dips and hot teas to soothe your soul.
Chief Shakes Hot Springs | Alaska
You’ll have to canoe and hike through the dense and muddy Tongass National Forest to find Chief Shakes, but the solitude and steamy waters prove worthy. The lot features two tubs–one open and the other screened in for shelter–with not much else around but changing rooms and wooden benches. Even in Alaska’s frigid winters, the water remains warm offering a shock to the system for brave souls. Still, the best time to go is June through August when the air is crisp, but not cold, and deer and moose roam the surrounding fields.
Saratoga Resort & Spa | Wyoming
Before the 1800s, Saratoga's healing waters were neutral ground for dueling Native American tribes that came here to "take the waters." In 1950, the spa opened providing soothing relief for travelers of all walks of life. Now, the high-end resort features a large heated pool, where you can commune with fellow visitors, as well as private pools covered by teepees and available on a first-come basis.
Sespe Hot Springs | California
Located 25 miles from Ojai, Sespe is California's hottest and most-secluded natural spring. The easiest way to get there is on a roughly 19-mile hike through the Piedra Blanca Trailhead. Although other trails may be shorter, Piedra is relatively smooth, has plenty of access to water and even a cabin with bunk beds halfway through. Once at the spring, you'll find a boiler with temps as high as 190 degrees. The heat blends with cool streams from the Sespe River, so you can comfortably enjoy a dip. Keep an eye out for mountain lions, condors and bears that patrol the land.
Lamar Bathhouse in Hot Springs — Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe
Hot Springs | Arkansas
Everyone from Al Capone to President Bill Clinton have retreated to this Arkansas mountain town built on the premise of relaxing in the seven hot springs it sits among. The crown jewel is Bathhouse Row, a series of soaking spas dating back to 1832. Many, like Lamar, closed in the eighties and now function as retail and office space, but others remain. Buckstaff is the oldest that’s still in use and has private tubs that are clothing-optional. Superior, was closed in the eighties and now functions as a brewery with beers made using water from the springs. And the most posh is Quapaw, which recently received a facelift complete with a new spa.
Orvis Hot Springs | Colorado
Eight miles north of Ouray in southwest Colorado, Orvis offers four outdoor pools with grand views of the San Juan Mountains, as well as an indoor pool and private tubs with shelter. The aptly named Lobster Pot is the hottest at around 114 degrees, while the Island Pond is tempered by a waterfall fed by nearby craters. Schedule a treatment in one of the property's massage yurts, or spend the night disconnected from the world in Orvis' hotel rooms, which have no Wi-Fi or TVs.
Travertine Hot Springs | California
Find your ideal temp at one of Travertine’s five swimming holes. The hottest pool starts at 105 degrees and the waters cool down from there as it filter to lower ponds, which are more rustic than the main swimming hole. Due to its accessibility, Sierra views and sulphur-rich mud which is great for the skin, Travertine stays busy so don't expect solitude. To get there find Jack Sawyer Road off Route 395, when the road curves stay straight onto the dirt road and follow it about a mile until you reach a public restroom and the first pool.
Ojo Caliente | New Mexico
Ojo Caliente's waters are the only in the world that carry four types of minerals. The Iron Pool helps with circulation and stands on a cliff for dramatic views. Soda Spring is surrounded by rock walls that create a steam-room effect. The Arsenic Spring has properties that can help with arthritis, and Lithia Spring (set to reopen in 2016) aids with depression. The main pool, Kiva, combines iron and arsenic to give you energy and a glowing complexion. Not bad for rates starting at $16. The owners of Ojo just opened a second spa in Santa Fe called Sunrise Springs.
Boiling River | Montana
One of Yellowstone National Park's best-kept secrets, Boiling River, is where a hot spring meets with the frigid Gardner River making for a pleasant soaking experience. You'll know you found the spot when you see a cloud of steam and a couple dozen fatigued travelers kicking back in the Mammoth Hot Springs area near the park's north gate. Unlike many of the other less-modest springs, skinny dipping is not allowed here so don't forget your swimsuit. The river is open for swimming summer, fall and winter.