Being home to one of the highest numbers of natural hot springs (many of which aren’t even soakable), narrowing down the number of the best free hot springs in Nevada was a challenge to say the least. Yet, it means that once you visit the state, you’ll be greeted with some of the best thermal lagoons in the country and be able to explore them to your heart’s content.
True, you’ll encounter dirt roads to last you a lifetime, terrains that get rougher with each pick and more of a need for a high-clearance car than you might think, but it also means that you’ll walk into some of the most serene environments with absolutely breathtaking landscapes that come with the bonus of thermal soaking opportunities which honestly make all of these inconveniences worth it.
Spencer Hot Springs
Huddled at the base of the Toiyabe Mountain Range, 19 miles from Austin, is what locals consider to be one of the best hot springs of the state, otherwise known as Spencer Hot Springs. This is a place enveloped by snow-capped mountains with endless stretches of wide open valleys gracing the scene.
Spencer Hot Springs consists of 2 (what people usually refer to as) cowboy tubs or cattle troughs, if you will, and one natural, rock-walled pool filled with a solid 130°F of thermal water. The temperature is adjustable so don’t worry about the heat.
Note that the last 6 miles of your journey will be rough as it’s on an unpaved road, so it’s recommended to travel with a 4WD. Always check the weather conditions during your prep. If you’re lucky and the weather is right, you’ll have four soaking options instead of three.
12-Mile Hot Springs
Located 12 miles from Wells, Nevada – hence the name of the springs – you will find some of the clearest thermal waters bubbling up into the spacious natural pool, curled up along the Humboldt River, Bishop Creek Canyon, and large hills.
The crystal blue hues of 12-Mile Hot Springs paired with the large pale hills and riverbanks create an absolutely stunning and spiritually recharging atmosphere for visitors to either relax, self-reflect or just have fun. The water is knee-deep with a temperature around 102°F.
The destination is just like a dream. However, the road to get there? An absolute nightmare.
The road is unpaved, full of bumps, dirt and watery potholes. It’s easy to get lost and seeing as cell service in the area is patchy, it’s highly recommended to do lots of research before heading out. 4WD is required. In case of an emergency, let someone know where you will be beforehand.
Soldier Meadows Hot Springs
Soldier Meadows Hot Springs offers its visitors a reprieve from the outside responsibilities just the way it did during the Gold Rush Era when it first gained popularity.
Located over 2 hours from Gerlach, Nevada, this secluded collection of 6 thermal pools is sure to give you a chance to relax as well as a suitable space to spend some quality time self-reflecting and connecting with the beautiful nature of The Black Rock Desert. Stargazing and watching the sunrise at Soldier Meadows Hot Springs are equally breathtaking and present almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. The desert scenery is gorgeously blended with the views of the Nevada highlands.
Here you’ll find the water temperature varying between 90°F and 110°F depending not only on the season but also on the time of day. The dam’s water streams and fills these shallow pools, but unlike most Nevada hot springs that receive their water through pipes, Soldier Meadows Springs is filled up by its natural source.
A campground is also available for those who are interested.
Be sure to wear proper shoes because there have been numerous reports stating that the shards of glass have been found on the spring bottom. And naturally, always check weather conditions before heading out and make sure that your journey with a high clearance car is safe.
Black Rock Hot Springs
While we’re near Gerlach, let’s explore another spring located in the area.
Black Rock Hot Springs is one of many oases in the Black Rock Desert (not to be confused with the Black Rock HS in New Mexico). Being named in honor of the rock formation that happens to have a black tinge, this collection of several shallow pools could be the perfect apres-adventuring destination and a reprieve for all your troubles.
Black Rock Hot Springs are as remote and secluded as they come and is an actual desert oasis located 3 hours from Gerlach, Nevada and positioned close to the aforementioned rock formation. The views are your typical and characteristic desert playa, offering its visitors a majestic environment for soaking. It’s a pool big enough to be mistaken for a decent-sized lake. The water temperature varies with seasons but on average, it hovers around 105°F. However, the water temp can get hella-hot in summer months (especially that of the smallest pool, which is not soakable no matter the season), so if you happen to be visiting during this time, just dip a toe in before jumping into the pool, will ya. That’s why the best time to visit is winter. Nights can be cold so dress accordingly.
There’s a lot to take into account in terms of safety, road conditions and well, having a good time, because you don’t want to head out there only to be forced back due to conditions that aren’t within the control of us mere mortals. Extensive research needs to be done before visiting. There’s no cell-service or any amenities for that matter. The road to get there is extremely rough and requires a 4WD. Black Rock is situated on a playa, make sure that the weather is dry as well as the playa itself because they’re impossible to cross if wet.
Fish Lake Valley Hot Springs
Fish Lake Valley Hot Springs and Black Rock share much of the same qualities. Just like the thermal gem described above, this too is a perfect destination to end your outdoor explorations with. It’s blissfully remote and surrounded by numerous ghost towns in character with the state of Nevada. It is located only an hour from Tonopah and managed by Esmeralda County.
Though the appearance of this thermal pool resembles a commercialized one – with its man-made concrete tub, a ladder to help you get in and a vault toilet present – it’s totally free and provides guests with an authentic soaking experience among open valleys and the most scenic of views. The water of 105°F streams through the concrete tub and flows into two shallow marsh-like lakes offering the opportunity to alternate between hot ‘n cold soaks if the heat gets too much to handle.
Fish Lake Valley HS is accessible via dirt roads (no surprises there) from almost every direction, so be sure to travel with an appropriate vehicle and be prepared to hike a little if necessary.
Gold Strike Hot Springs
We saved the best one till last. When you look up Gold Strikes Hot Springs, you’ll get more results about the Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail than about the springs themselves, and we’d say that it’s only because this one is, in a way, more about the journey than the destination.
A journey to Gold Strike Hot Springs that bubbles up at the heart of Gold Strike Canyon and the Colorado River promises the ultimate adventure that includes a challenging hike, a little bit of dehydration, and a 600-feet-descent but the heap of geothermal activity in forms of thermal pools, little waterfalls and patina-covered grotto/cave-like soaking areas all cocooned into the Gold Strike Canyon make it worth it. The water temperature hovers between 98°F-110°F.
Naturally, this journey is not for the inexperienced because it requires tremendous skill with wilderness navigation and proper gear! If you’re not up for this semi-expedition, you can kayak through Black Canyon and then onto the Colorado river, which will take you straight to your destination.
The Do’s And Don’ts
Every hot spring has its own quirks. They all have a set of rules that visitors need to follow regardless of what kind of spring you’re visiting. Visitors need to be extra conscious of their time in free and natural hot springs destinations seeing as they get no constant maintenance the way hot springs resorts do.
For more general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you take a moment to check out our carefully compiled easy-to-read list of “dos and don’ts” here. And always, always respect our nature – pack out what you pack in and LEAVE NO TRACE.
To Wrap Up
Whether or not you were looking for endless bumps and dirt roads in the deserts of Nevada, we think that all of us can collectively agree that the rough semi-expeditions are worth all the blood, sweat and (potential) tears for the ultimate relaxation and self-reflection time that can be acquired nowhere but in The Silver State. Just note that due to the somewhat inconvenient locations of all these springs, you have to be prepared and stocked up accordingly with drinks, food, proper clothing and all the other conveniences that you think you might need. Safety is our best friend and in this case quantity may actually equal quality.
Use this article as your starting guideline and follow all the necessary instructions for your journey. And once you make it, you can reward yourself with a raw and natural spa treatment in the best hot springs in Nevada.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about these hot springs sites, life happens, weather happens, and property owners happen. We always recommend you go to the state web pages covering the hot springs to check for conditions, times, recommendations and closures (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!