Both Min and I loves hot springs. I am talking about the natural ones, not the hot-mineral-water-in-a-pool kind, but the ones you find flowing constantly in nature. When we make travel plans on the road, we almost ALWAYS keep an eye on any hot springs on our route. We would intentionally plan for a soak after a long day hike or a backpacking trip. Ahh, the natural spring water relaxes our achy joints and muscles and also gives our bodies a nice rinse. I mean, who doesn’t like hot springs?
In the SF Bay Area, we love this local hot spring located only 2 hours drive away in Big Sur, California. Sykes Hot Springs has become very popular and usually filled with people on weekend. It is a 10-mile one way hike (20 miles roundtrip) from the scenic California Highway 1, so it makes an awesome beginner backpacking weekend trip for any level of hikers. We have probably been there at least 5 times over the last few years, bringing friends with us to enjoy this gem every time. But sadly in the last couple of years, SF Bay Area experienced scorching summer forest fire, followed by the heavy winter rain and mudslide. These natural phenomena resulted in trail closure and had been for quite some time now. It looks like the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Spring will still be closed until end of 2018.
So here are a couple we visited on the road!
TRAVERTINE HOT SPRINGS
After a weekend of climbing Matthes Crest at Yosemite National Park, we stopped by Travertine Hot Springs. It is located in Bridgeport, California, on a dirt road off of route 395. Out of all the hot springs we have been to, this one is the easiest to get to because all you need to do is drive to the parking lot, and the hot springs are right in front of you! Because it takes absolutely no effort to get there, Travertine hot springs draw a lot of people on any day. There is even a bathroom at the parking lot. How nice is that?
I remembered it was a hot summer day somewhere in the 80F (25C) degrees, and I questioned if it would even be enjoyable to soak in hot water when it is already so hot. We had visited hot springs in the rain and snow, and let me tell you, there is never a bad experience to soak in a hot spring. Hot weather means you will not feel cold when you come out of the water.
There are a few pools of varying temperatures. Water flows from right to left, so we started at the “coldest” one from the left (the farthest one) and worked our way to the hottest one on the right. They say clothing is optional, but everyone there was wearing something. The bottom of the each pool is mud, if you’d like a mud bath, feel free to rub it over your skin. Some kids were having so much fun rubbing the mud all over their bodies.
The backdrop is a range of Sierra mountain peaks from far away. I could imagine that winter time would make a beautiful scenery. We ate snacks while soaking in all goodnessfor about an hour. Because the air is hot and dry, we dried up pretty fast after leaving the pools.
Now that was only the first days on the road and we got to climb and then a hot spring soak? I think we had set the standard a little too high.
OLYMPIC HOT SPRINGS
Dashing to a month later, we did a backpacking trip in the Olympic National Park. This park is huge and pretty much covers all over the northeastern side in the state of Washington. We backpacked two nights from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center to the Blue Glacier on a face of Mount Olympus. Rain forest and glacier all together in one place is pretty interesting, right? I will save this for another post.
Back to hot springs! Min found the Olympic Hot Springs located in the north side of the park. Comparing to the Travertine hot spring, this one requires a little bit of work. It is two-mile walk from the parking lot to the first pool. The road is paved, making it a very easy walk.
We changed into our swimwear, put on a shirt and shorts, packed our bags with towel and snacks. Yes, we love to have some snacks when we soak in hot springs. The easy, 40-minute walk is great for a good conversation, before we know it, we were already there. There are a few pools right along the trail and a couple more up the hill.
The water in this hot spring is very hot to me. You can see the water bubbling from the bottom of the pool! Min said the ones in Taiwan is even hotter.I have not been before, so I cannot compare but would love to go one day. I slowly adjusted and worked myself into the hot water. The depth of the pool is pretty shallow that the water only went up to my waist when sitting. That was good enough for me as I had to cool down pretty often. The hot spring was turning my skin red! You can definitely smell the sulfur in the water, too.
We chatted with a girl who was sharing the pool with us. She left her car in the Olympics NP in the beginning of the summer, and started her backpacking and hitch-hiking trip down to Yosemite NP and back to pick up her car. I admired her bravery to do this on her own. I know I could have never done anything like that. Nevertheless, it feels great to share the same love for traveling and exploring with people we meet on the road.
More awesome hot springs to come from other states of the country! Stay tuned.