Maintained by locals for locals, the healing, mineral-packed pools at Montezuma Hot Springs (once known as Las Vegas Hot Springs), right alongside the Gallinis River, some 6 miles northwest of Las Vegas, were once the main attraction of the Montezuma Hotel. The hotel closed a while back (see more about that in the Interesting History section), and today, the lithium-sulfur springs are open to the skies as well as to the public, despite being located on private property belonging to the nearby United World College campus. Spread across riverside grassland, you have 9 hot spring tubs to choose from here, varying in size, temperature and views – some are riverside, others are higher up the bank and boast views of Montezuma Castle.
What To Expect
A short walk from the free parking area just off Route 65, the small, quaint Montezuma Hot Springs offers three open-air pool areas to bathe in next to the Gallinas River. Before you get to them, you’ll see an extensive list of “dos and don’ts” on signs and fences around the area, including the need to stay clothed and to refrain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Please respect these, as this is a college-run property that is doing its best to keep these hot springs open to and safe for the public – and this is a great way you can help it to do so!
All the pools are man-made, rock-and-concrete, and are maintained by the students of the college which owns the land.
The first bathing area you’ll come to is a two feet deep, one-person, man-made rock and concrete bathtub, fed by a channel. At 95°F, it’s one of the coolest on-site, being furthest away from the source, and so best enjoyed in summer.
Past the wooden fence nearby, the second hot springs soaking area offers two small pools fed by a larger circular pool, all surrounded by rock and concrete. That top pool, accessed by a ladder, is the deepest on site at 6-foot, and is known as the “lobster pot,” and for very good reason, as temperatures can reach 120°F! Test with your elbow or toes before getting in – in fact, very few people are able to get in, let alone soak in it for more than a minute. Be cautious here!
The 3-person smaller pool it feeds, at around 3 feet deep, is naturally cooler, as is the third in that set, which some compare to bath water in temperature. Coming up to chest-height when seated, it is perfect for relaxing in solo, though people seem just as happy to sit on the edge and soak their feet!
The next bathing area at this Montezuma site is riverside, and can be reached by heading back up to the road and along to a dirt-gravel path and some steps with a handrail, leading down. This hot springs soaking zone is made up of a concrete platform with two holes cut into it – looking much like a toaster – one is a vertical bath, and if you can stand the heat (which is not dissimilar here to the lobster pot), you can immerse yourself by climbing in and holding onto the ladder. The second is more bathtub-like in form.
There is also a comfortable-to-soak-in, four-person 3-foot rectangular pool over near one of the old (now unused) bathhouses, with two other smaller pools nearby in the grass.
As all of these are natural-flowing, untreated hot springs, you should expect some harmless algae in or on the water.
“The water has a high lithium content. You get out of that water and you feel like a million bucks!”– Timoth Paynter, youtuber.
Enjoy the view of the Montezuma Castle (college building) in the distance, its European castle-like roof peeking over the treetops.
Surrounding the open-air tubs is rough grassland and shrubs. The college students do maintain the area, but at times you may find it overgrown. Additionally, though it’s right next to the highway, and so easy to get to, as the paths in and around Montezuma Hot Springs are dirt-gravel, in wet weather they can turn muddy or slippery. Also watch out for algae growing near the pools, which can also affect your grip!
Head there early in the morning or on weekdays if you prefer a quiet soak.
Clothing is required, as this is school property, and for the same reason alcohol, drugs and smoking are prohibited.Hungry? There are restaurants in town to sate your appetite. In Las Vegas, we like Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe, The Skillet, and JC’s New York Pizza Department.
For centuries, native Americans used the mineral waters here to soothe their aches and heal their battle wounds. Then the Europeans came and claimed the land.
The Montezuma Castle which you see on the hill today, is a 90,000-square-foot, 400-room Queen Anne style building which was erected in 1886 as a hotel. It was the third such building built on the site, with its two predecessors built in 1881 and 1885 respectively. They were the first buildings in New Mexico to have electric lighting, and both burned down.
The 1890s hotel guests came especially for the rejuvenating minerals in the riverside pools on Montezuma land, which was advertised as perfect to ease the suffering of people with tuberculosis, chronic rheumatism, gout, biliary, and renal calculi: “Even imaginary ailments give way before forces so potent for good,” they wrote.
Legend has it that Jesse James and Billy the Kid spent an evening or two relaxing here after a card game, while other hotel guests included Theodore Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and John C. Frémont. Even members of European royal families took time to visit, among them Henry Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland, John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll, and his wife, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. “The visitors to the Hot Springs represent every part of the continent of America, and nearly every tourist from abroad who crosses the continent by the southerly route stops there for a time,” it was noted.
In addition to the natural recreation available in Montezuma, the hotel had bowling alleys and billiard rooms on offer.
Today, the former hotel serves as the administration building of the United World College – USA, purchased in 1981 by industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer.
How To Get There
The whole 71.5-mile journey from Santa Fe takes 1 hour 14 minutes. From Santa Fe to Las Vegas, New Mexico, you’ll need to get on the I-25N. Then take Exit 343 at the start of Las Vegas onto State Route 65. Stay on this for around 13 minutes until you get to Montezuma and see signs for the college (UWC), which will be on the right.
Can I Stay There?
The hot springs are on private property, so the answer is no. But in Montezuma itself, and in the nearby Las Vegas, you’ll find both camping and hotel options to suit most tastes.
3.7 miles from Montezuma is the Vegas RV park, offering a simple site with hookups. There’s also the Sunshine Motel, for an easy, clean overnight stop-over, one of several motels in the area.
To up the scale, you’ll need to head to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where you’ll find a Comfort Inn, Super 8 and Days Inn (both ‘by Wyndham’), and a Best Western Plus. You can’t beat the Plaza for classic style, though, which opened in 1882 as “The Belle of the Southwest”!
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
Explore the art and museums of Las Vegas, NM. There are some 900 structures in and around Las Vegas that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and to explore some of them, we particularly like the Historic Walking Tour (including reported ghost sightings!), as well as the Walking Tour Film Guide, detailing where Las Vegas, NM has been used as a film location. Find out more on both of those at the Visitor Center (500 Railroad Ave).
If you want to escape the urban surrounds, head out to the Sabinoso Wilderness, made up of pine- and juniper-covered tall, narrow mesas surrounded by cliff-lined canyons; a great place for hiking, horseback riding and camping. Meanwhile, Storrie Lake State Park offers some great birdwatching and windsurfing opportunities.
If it’s more hot springing you’re looking for, check out our choice of New Mexico’s 17 best hot springs, a list which also features Montezuma!
The 9 pools at Montezuma offer a choice of depths and temperatures to soothe your aches and boost your happy mood. While not big, and being very popular, especially on the weekends, they still make a great stop-n-soak on your exploration of New Mexico, any time of year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Montezuma Hot Springs is 71.5 miles from Santa Fe. The journey will take you around 1 hour, 14 minutes.
The hot springs at Montezuma vary from 95 – 120°F, with the 6-foot deep “Lobster Pot” being the hottest.
The Montezuma Hot Springs are today on Montezuma Castle land. After the native peoples came the Europeans looking for gold, who chose to settle. The Montezuma Castle, a 90,000-square-foot, 400-room Queen Anne style building, was erected in 1886 as a hotel. This was purchased in 1981 by industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer to be converted into a base for United World Colleges-USA.
United World Colleges-USA owns Montezuma Hot Springs, part of the Montezuma Castle property which industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer bought for the international high school network in 1981.
The owners of the property were not involved in the creation of this blog and do not necessarily endorse our promotion of their hot springs. 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!