Hot Springs Tips: The Least Crowded Times To Visit

Sometimes all a person needs is to just sit back and unwind in a relaxing environment. This is why soaking in thermal springs is the choice of many. Apart from their countless medicinal properties that do wonders for our health, they’re always nestled in the most soothing of environments – privatized or not – which in turn does wonders for our minds. 

This is precisely why most well-known hot spring destinations are crowded. Everyone wants to get a piece of this type of tranquility that oftentimes results in an underwhelming experience for visitors. The amount of guests varies depending on many different reasons. Sometimes it’s accessibility, sometimes it’s the rates and sometimes it’s location.

Even though there isn’t a specific answer to how to avoid crowds altogether, there certainly are some tricks and tips that you can follow that’ll make everyone happy and make for the kind of soaking experience that you initially came for.

Avoid Weekends And National Holidays

As absurd as it may sound at first, it is one of the most obvious tips that there is. Even though our corporate responsibilities and endless workload don’t give most of us the privilege of taking a day off work, visiting on weekends and during national celebrations definitely guarantees an underwhelming or rather, overwhelming experience – depending on how you look at it. There will be a lot of kids splashing around in their usual fashion, small or big thermal lagoons packed with people, most of whom prefer soaking nude, which might not be the most pleasant setting for those who are uncomfortable with nudity.

Harbin Hot Springs in California where people love to soak nude.

Some commercial hot springs don’t even operate during national holidays or if they do, they double the day-use as well as the accommodation prices. The same goes for weekends. So yeah, it’s just inconveniences all around and in cases such as these, all we can do is figure out the best option. You can either reserve in advance but pay a higher price for guaranteed solitude, avoid a splurge and opt for soaking in public all-natural springs that may or may not be packed, or just avoid weekend/holiday visits altogether. 

Now this is a matter of personal preference. 

Stick To Off-Season Visits

Surprisingly enough, winter is one of the most crowded times to visit. Considering that most of the all-natural springs are situated in mountainous landscapes that make for breathtaking snowy scenery and that the commercialized springs are always equipped with the necessary amenities to battle the winter cold, there’s no reason why one should avoid visiting in winter months, which means that our favorite thermal delights are just as crowded then as they are in the summertime.

If you visit Bozeman Hot Springs during fall, this is the type of scenery you’ll be nestled into.

This is why visiting during spring and fall is the best option. Not only do they have the most balanced weather in general – not too hot and not too cold – but it also creates a perfect setting for your soaks. The respective sceneries of blossoming spring and fleeting fall are just as beautiful yet highly underrated.

Dawn And Midnight Are Our Best Friends

You might be thinking: ‘Huh’?! and that would be fair. Why would you want to visit hot springs of all places in the dead of night or before dawn when you could be dreaming peacefully, right? But here us out: Sunrise and stargazing!

People usually prefer their beauty sleep over anything else and obviously, we can’t fault them for that, but it also means that there is considerably less likelihood of the springs being crowded at those times. If you’re looking for solitude and relaxation then this is it. If you’re looking for an unusual way to float your worries away, this is also it.

Visiting before dawn and after midnight is a privilege that only all-natural hot springs possess, but the most known exception to this rule is Slates (Esalen) Hot Springs, that allows non-members to soak in their pools from 1 am to 3 am.

The beautiful layout of Slates Hot Springs.

If you visit all-natural springs before dawn, nestled deep into mountains and national forests, you’ll get to witness the most beautiful sunrise. If you opt for coming after midnight, you’ll get to stargaze with your favorite people (or not), far from the city noise and pollution and in the comfort of darkness, without worrying about any unwanted attention.

And believe it or not, this type of serenity and relaxation does wonders for couples looking to get away. It’s literally as romantic as it gets and it’s beautiful.

Wander Around A Bit

This is one of the lesser-known tricks. Yep! Just roam around and you’ll be surprised at how many pools you’ll find in the area that no one knows about. People most of the time are reluctant to leave their comfort zones and when it comes to hot springs, they’re content with soaking in the picturesque main pools. There are plenty of hidden gems in nearby areas that are just as aesthetically pleasing but less crammed and are ready to tend to your relaxation requirements. 

The best example of this one would be Travertine Hot Springs. It is one of the most well-known springs in the state of California, and considering how beautiful it is, combined with its extremely accessible location, it means that Travertine Hot Springs is always crowded! Of course, you can follow the previous tip and test your luck but if you don’t, there are plenty of secluded pools only several feet from the main springs.

The absolutely stunning Travertine Hot Springs

Another great example of this would be Buckeye Hot Springs, which is located very close to Travertine Hot Springs and is an alternative option for many who find the latter crowded. The location of Buckeye isn’t as accessible seeing as it’s tucked deep into nature and requires a steep hike to get to. On top of that, it boasts up to 5 soaking options (or more if we count the unknown, shallower pools scattered around the area) that can comfortably accommodate dozens of visitors.

One of the main pools at Buckeye Hot Springs.

Check Location And Accessibility

Our previous points bring us to this one: The less accessible the spring, the higher the chance of you being able to have it all to yourself. Gamma Hot Springs (WA) for example. It’s nestled so deep into the north cascades that some even consider its existence a myth, but don’t worry, we can attest that this is not the case because people have been there. However, it’s so precious to those who have been there (although not many have), that most of the time they choose to gatekeep its directions. There’s no way to get there without a full-on expedition that usually lasts a few nights.

Northwest part of Gamma Ridge where Gamma Hot Springs is tucked into.

Seasoned campers, hikers, outdoor lovers, and generally those who love an adrenaline rush always prefer springs that are more challenging to get to. They don’t need to be told twice. However, if you’re a newbie looking for a secluded thermal solace, visiting hard-to-access hot springs is worth considering.

Advanced Reservations Make Life Easier

We know how obvious this one is so consider it a reminder rather than a tip. This is a privilege reserved for commercialized and privatized springs. In a way, it also falls under the “luxury” category because the luxury places are all about offering their guests top-notch service which in cases such as this includes the use of hot springs without any other people around. Case in point – Castle Hot Springs (AZ) and Potosi Hot Springs (MT). 

Castle is an all-inclusive luxury hotel offering services that literally border on perfect.

Stunning Castle Hot Springs in Arizona.

While Potosi Hot Springs is not a luxury hotel, it boasts an atmosphere like no other and has the amenities needed to make it a comfortable stay.

Potosi Hot Springs nestled deep into Tobacco Root Mountains in Montana.

So book your soaking time whenever and wherever you can and reserve the earliest hours. This one is also a matter of personal preference but is worth considering nonetheless. 

There’s No Way Without A Little Research

Research is extremely important seeing how much you need to take into account before visiting. Every hot springs destination, even those located in the wilderness, operate by certain rules that everyone needs to follow. 

Weather, road conditions, impending dangers, accessibility, price rates, temperatures, etc. all this needs to be researched while you prep. So through your research, you can always browse the net for less known hot springs that are relatively hidden from media exposure, or the ones where you can make bookings in advance.

Jordan Hot Springs in New Mexico.

Do’s And Don’ts

Every hot spring has its own quirks. Sometimes the place requires nudity at all times, sometimes the opposite. In most cases, you need to check what and who you’re allowed to bring. You don’t want to bring glass containers to some pools nor do you want to show up at a place that doesn’t allow young adults under 21 or wind up at a hot spring destination that isn’t pet-friendly. 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.

The Final Take-Away

There is no universal answer to how we can dodge countless hot springs enthusiasts, but as you can see, there are plenty of tips that you can try out for yourself to test whether they’re sound or not. But as long as you’re respectful towards other people’s boundaries and focus on how to make your experience memorable, your time in the hot springs shouldn’t be too bad. 

First, explore, then sit back, relax, and let your worries float into the steamy void.


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 official hot springs’ web page and/or the relevant state authority page to check conditions, times, and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!

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