What could be better than slipping into a clean, natural hot water pool with fresh geothermal waters bubbling up from the ground? Where better to do so than in the heart of a forest, beside a roaring river, or on the edge of a golden desert? If you’re planning on exploring any or all of the many hot springs on offer, take a look at this useful guide first – covering not only “Hot Springs Etiquette,” but also everything you need to know to make your experience safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. We also include tips on noise and nudity, so that not only do you get 100% out of your visit, but so that those who come after you do too.
- Follow the “Leave No Trace” principle. When visiting hot springs, it’s important to remember to leave the area as you found it (or even better than you found it, if you have a mind to pick up after others too). Pack out all your trash, including any leftover food or beverage containers and cigarette ends.
- Respect other visitors. It’s important to remember that hot springs are shared spaces. Be respectful of others, of their privacy and personal space. This includes when you take out your camera for selfies- some people may not want to be in that shot behind you! And don’t smoke in the pool – most visitors will want to be breathing in the surrounding nature, not your cigarette smoke!
- Test the water before getting in. Water temperatures vary from one hot spring to another. Always test the water with your elbow before getting in to avoid accidental burns.
- Bring plenty of water to drink. Hot water can dehydrate you as much as sitting on a sun lounger can, so be mindful and have plenty of drinking water to hand.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Some hot springs terrain can be rocky and uneven. Protect your feet by wearing the right footwear, such as water sandals with good traction. If you’re choosing to go barefoot, watch where you step. Check for glass or other hazards that may have been left by previous visitors. If you see it and are able to safely pack it out, please do so.
- Be mindful of wildlife. Many hot springs are located in remote natural areas and wildlife will be present. Keep a safe distance and never feed or approach any wild animals. Also expect bugs, and prepare yourself as needed!
- Wash before you get in the pool. We should keep these pools as clean and safe as possible, so if you can at least rinse off before you get in, please do so.
- Use the bathroom before getting into the water. Should a call of nature come while you’re soaking and there are no nearby amenities, go do your business out of range of the hot springs so as not to contaminate the water in any way.
- Leave your dogs at home / in the RV / on a comfortable leash while you’re soaking. Aside from the risk of them getting burned in super hot waters, unwatched animals may defecate near the hot springs, contaminating the water and making the surroundings unpleasant for other visitors. Also remember that dogs, however friendly, are not everyone’s best friend, and out of respect to other hot springs visitors, they should be kept away from the pools.
- Keep the noise down. Be kind, respectful, and considerate to others, and note the vibe when you arrive. If it’s a calm, quiet place, try to keep it that way – don’t start blasting out music or chatting loudly.
- Welcome the next bathers. You might have got there first, but nature’s pools belong to all, so welcome, make space, and give everyone their turn.
- Use soap or shampoo in the hot springs. These products can harm the delicate balance of minerals in the pool. Plus, hot springs don’t always have a way to drain, so what ends up in there, stays in there.
- Drink alcohol. Alcohol can increase the risk of dehydration, which is especially dangerous when soaking in hot water. It can also impair judgment and lead to unsafe behavior.
- Bring glass containers. Glass containers can easily break and pose a safety hazard to visitors and wildlife. Opt for plastic or metal containers instead, and always pack them out when you leave.
- Remove rocks or other natural materials. Leave the natural surroundings of the hot springs untouched. Removing rocks or other materials can damage the ecosystem and disrupt the area’s natural balance. Some riverside pools have rocks you can move to let cool water in. If you move any rocks while soaking, put them back where you found them before you leave.
- Stay too long in the pool. Pay attention to your body. Sitting in a geothermal pool can cause extreme sweating and increase your heart rate and your chances of becoming dehydrated. Aside from that, pay attention to the number of visitors. If it’s getting crowded and the pools are small, perhaps aim for a 30-minute soak and then let someone else take a turn.
- Dunk your head in the water. At any hot springs, there is always a risk of the presence of Naegleria Fowleri, which thrive in hot temperatures. Naegleria Fowleri is a lethal brain-eating, parasitic amoeba common in hot springs. Never get water in your nose or dunk your head in the water.
- Light a fire during fire season, and in an unsafe area or out of a designated fire pit. Any lit fires should be very carefully put out before you leave.
- Venture off-trail. Heading off into the woods can lead to the risk of injury, getting lost, or an unpleasant encounter with a wild animal. Stay safe, and stay on the trail.
Nudity at Hot Springs
Some of the more remote hot springs are “clothing optional”. If it’s something you’re looking for or something that might bother you, it’s best to do some research before you go. Note that in some states it is illegal to go nude.
If you’re at a “clothing optional” hot spring, the same etiquette applies as above – being respectful to others coming in at No.1! If you’re nude, be modest about it, and don’t show it all off to those who choose to wear swimsuits. Likewise, if you are dressed, don’t be rude toward those who are in their “birthday suits”.
Our world’s natural hot springs are there for all to enjoy. It’s our job to keep them clean, safe, and beautiful. Remember- what goes in the springs, stays in the springs, so take home your trash, don’t pee in the pool, and don’t allow your pets to dirty up the pools or surroundings. Also remember that nature is a place most people go to unwind, and the wildlife got there first, so be quiet and respectful while enjoying your visit.