Buckeye Hot Springs is one of the many treasures of California, and is one of the most frequented Hot Springs in Eastern Cali. Even though it’s not as well known as other hot springs in the area, such as Travertine Hot Springs, it’s still pretty popular among locals and rightly so.
Once you complete the short hike down the hill and get to this rustic natural delight, you’ll be greeted with a few pools, all within walking distance of the main hot spring – a grotto and cave-like lagoon with a water curtain trickling into it.
With its majestic views, 6 pools of varying beauty and temperatures, many opportunities for different types of soaks and nearby camping sites, this place makes for one amazing experience. So if you haven’t visited yet or are just stalling on planning and preparation, we got you. And if we plan cleverly enough, we may even be able to help you make sure you have the place all to yourself!
Here’s a comprehensive guide on all you need to know about Buckeye Hot Springs.
|Location:||Along the Buckeye Creek, in Eastern Sierras in California, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.|
|Fees:||$20/night, $6/night for extra vehicle|
|Open:||All year-round (but be mindful of the weather and road conditions in the winter. Roads may be closed because of the snow)|
Why You Should Visit Buckeye Hot Springs
Buckeye Hot Springs has absolutely stunning scenery. Though witnessing that scenery is only possible through a 10-minute-hike – the trail of which starts directly from the parking area (to know more about the hiking tips and directions, scroll down).
You’ll encounter two smaller natural tubs – AKA The Upper Pools – at the beginning of the hike that overlook the Buckeye Creek and Eastern Sierras, offering a chance to take in the fascinating landscape of the mountain range.
A little bit further down the steep terrain, you’ll get to the main hot spring pools. Their source is a little waterfall that flows down a calcium-rich hill, over a cliff, and straight into the most beautiful pool of the springs – the one built into a small cave, which makes for an image straight out of a fantasy book.
In this video you can see how the source flows down a hillside straight into the pool
All the pools combined can easily accommodate up to 30 people.
Buckeye Hot Springs are open all-year round – each season offering its characteristic appeal to the visitors: whether you want to enjoy hot summer days, fall colors, winter melancholia or spring blossom is up to you. No matter which time you visit, the surrounding rustic backdrop will not leave you disappointed.
However, still keep in mind that because of its local popularity, the springs are almost always crowded. If you plan ahead carefully and make sure you visit before sunrise, especially in the winter, the likelihood of having the pools all to yourself will be higher. You’ll enjoy the solitude as well as the majestic sunrise, and if you bring your partner with you, you may even have a fabulous romantic getaway.
The pool temperatures vary, but that of the main pool ranges between 100-110F (38-43C).
In this video by @/gabriella_viola you can see how hot and steamy the main pool is and keep it mind, it’s winter.
The water is the hottest at the source but it gets cooler as you go down into the other four pools. You can also slightly regulate the water temperature by rearranging rocks that surround the pools, controlling how much cold water you want to allow in from the creek or… just have a quick, cold plunge. For what it’s worth, it is extremely good for your body.
If you still find it hot, don’t worry! There are four more semi-natural pools for your enjoyment that are relatively cooler and just as fascinating.
How To Get To Buckeye Hot Springs
From Mammoth lakes take Highway 395. Drive through Bridgeport and then take a left on Twin Lakes Road. Drive for about 7 miles through the farmland and then take a right onto Buckeye Road, which is a dirt road. Then drive for about 2.5 miles and take a right. Drive until you see a parking area, which, again, is a dirt parking. Well… you can’t escape the dirt but some things are worth getting muddy for.
Some people recommend high clearance 4 wheel drives but some people don’t, but either way, the drive’s bumpy with quite a few potholes. It gets harder to get to the location during winter. So if you plan on making a winter visit, we still recommend a high clearance car.
Note: Always check the weather conditions while planning. Especially in the winter because the roads may be closed because of the snow.
Once you get to the parking lot, you’ll notice a trail. You’ll see The Upper Pools of the Buckeye Hot Springs almost right away. Once you get there, take a left. After a 10-minute-walk, you’ll see the first main hot spring if you’re looking down at the creek.
Even though the hike is a short one, the terrain is pretty steep. It’s recommended to wear water sandals or proper hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy.
The nearest accommodation you can find is in Bridgeport. Even though Bridgeport is a small town with only 550 residents, it offers a good selection of places to stay at and all of them have excellent reviews.
If you are a camping lover or just want to try an alternative to Bridgeports B&Bs and other types of accommodation, Buckeye Campground is there to offer you its services. Managed by the National Forest Service and located in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest with a very close proximity to the hot springs, Buckeye Campground provides you with 68 camping sites and other amenities such as camping trailers, picnic tables and restrooms.
No reservation is needed since it’s a first-come, first-served type of place, which is open seasonally from May through September.
The cost is $20 per night.
There are one flush and three vault toilets.
No drinking water is available.
For more information, click here.
What To Take With You
Considering that Buckeye Hot Springs is a bit hard to access, you need to be prepared and in this case, one can never be over prepared.
Here’s a list of items that’s suggested to take along:
- Lots and lots of water. Definitely a lot more than you think you’re going to need. One gallon per person is recommended. You’re very likely to get dehydrated because of the heat and the 6,890ft (2,100m) elevation
- A swimsuit if you’re not comfortable with going nude around other people
- A towel
- A change of clothes (in winter months, make sure that they’re properly warm. Wear a hat no matter the season)
- Bring a jacket because it may get windy
- Flip flops or sandals to change into after the hike. Keep in mind, they’ll most probably get muddy so maybe don’t bring your favorites
- Sun screen is a must! Again, because of the heat and elevation. Please, make sure that your sunscreen is eco-friendly and reef-safe. Otherwise, it’ll do considerable damage to the pools and the surrounding environment
- Bring snacks or food because there are no stores in the area
- A garbage bag to clean up any trash. There’s no cleaning maintenance at Buckeye Hot Springs. Therefore, keeping it clean and enjoyable for newcomers is up to us
- A camera! Or even better – a film camera! So you can capture the beautiful images of Buckeye Hot Springs and its campground with style and character
Etiquette Tips and Important Information To take Into Consideration
Whether you’re a newcomer or not, there are a few essential things to take into account. A lot of them are based on courtesy.
- Expect nudity. As we already mentioned above, Buckeye Hot Springs is clothing optional, but a lot of people prefer to soak nude. We mean a lot. Even though most of them are extremely respectful, you may still find some exceptions. If you think that you may be one of those exceptions, we ask you to be mindful and respect other people’s privacy.
- Respect nature. Always clean up after yourself and even other people, if necessary. There are no cleaning services at the hot springs. Bring however many garbage bags you think you’ll need and leave the place the way you found it upon your arrival. Same request goes for the Buckeye campground that strongly follows the Leave No Trace policy. To learn more about the policy, click here (https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/).
- Do not bring any glass containers! Glass is the hardest thing to clean up in places like this. It will most likely break, leave little invisible shards that will result in someone getting injured. If you want to bring any beverages please use reusable bottles or cans.
- Expect a lot of bugs in the summer. Especially at sunset. Use a plant-based option instead of a chemical one in your little battle with bugs, considering that chemical repellents will pollute the water.
- Note that snakes have been spotted a couple times. There’s no way to know when they’ll show up again or if, but if that is an issue for you, try not to visit in the summer months when the likelihood of encountering our slithery little friends is bigger.
- There is no cell reception! Be prepared with offline maps! Considering that all of the Buckeye area is popular amongst campers, there are always people around who’d love to help you out if anything happens. Hopefully this offers you peace of mind.
- If you’re not used to high elevation, you’ll experience shortness of breath. Though getting High Elevation Sickness is unlikely since it only happens when you’re above 6,890ft (2,500m). Don’t worry about that. Yes, the hike to the springs is pretty short but you don’t have to rush it. If you experience some breathing difficulties, which again, is normal in these cases, you can take little breaks in between and get to the springs all refreshed and ready!
You may think that there are a lot of things to consider etiquette-wise and you’d be right. However, you’ll come to realize that:
- It applies to every natural resource and thermal bath in the world. So it’s kind of inescapable
- It’s not that bad and is easier than it sounds
- It’s a collective contribution to a good cause that’s long overdue
We need to take care of natural habitats because otherwise places such as Buckeye Hot Springs wouldn’t have the ability to offer so much.
So, plan ahead, follow our guidelines, bring your friends, family or partners and enjoy the magnificence that is Buckeye Hot Springs.