Sierra Hot Springs – A Peaceful, Clothing Optional Soak In The Lap Of Nature

A safe soaking space awaits at Sierra Hot Springs (also known as Campbell Hot Springs). Soak natural or go clothed – everyone is welcome here, even little ones, with both staff and guests showing the kind of modesty and respect that promotes a wholesome and meditative environment for all. Come and soak in silky-smooth sulfur water, and reflect peacefully in this beautiful forested, natural setting.

What To Expect

Sierra Hot Springs, just over a mile south of Sierraville and sister to Harbin Hot Springs, is a non-profit retreat surrounded by equal parts enchanted forest and beautiful green alpine valley used for cattle grazing. Body acceptance is a key component of Sierra Hot Springs, and all of their pools are clothing optional. They welcome overnighters and day-use guests, and tend to get very busy on weekends, so keep this in mind if you prefer to avoid the crowds.

The view over the resort from the meadow. Source: Management
Address521 Campbell Hot Springs Road, Sierraville, California
LocationSierraville, California
Open10:30am – 5:30pm
ClothingRequired around the site, Optional at the pools
Road AccessEasy
Water Temperature85-110°F
Admission$35 – $40/adult

There are a few totally natural and unregulated sulfur pools to try out there, clothed or unclothed (though around 80% of the clientele choose the latter), and a dry sauna. Note that while you are welcome to strip off at the pools and in your own accommodation, clothing is required while walking around the site. It goes without saying that you should always be respectful of others’ choices and the rules of the resort

There is a unisex changing area with cubby holes (not lockers) for your clothes – leave your valuables in your accommodation or car – and bathrooms. You are asked to shower before you enter the pools.

The Temple Dome Area houses the main pool- a rectangular, warm outdoor float pool of 98-100°F and up to 5 feet deep, surrounded by decking and chairs, with awnings to provide some shade, and boasting brilliant views of the land and sky. This pool is open to well-behaved children between 11am and 6pm, and well-behaved adults a full 24/7. While in it, you’ll find the heat comes in pockets, so if you get cold in your spot, try shifting to another area of the pool.

The Temple Dome and main pool on a cleaning day (Monday/Tuesday). Photo by Pglejm

Next to this pool is the sandy-bottomed, 10-person Hot Pool (105-110°F) inside a funky copper-covered geodesic dome with stained glass. There are also two cold plunges here for a real body-shocking experience and to wake up your circulation and positive energy. Note that inside the dome it is a “Silent” area.

The Hot Pool. Photo by Pglejm

Near the warm pool there is a dry sauna.

The faux natural, shallow Meditation Pool, a 98-100°F, is outdoors, set a little away from the others in the lap of nature, and is surrounded by rock tile. If you’re there on a quiet day, you might get a full three-hour soak all to yourself! It’s also the perfect place to go to at night to enjoy the blanket of stars above you.

The Meditation Pool. Photo by Bimartinez

The Phoenix Baths, near the changing area, are kept at around 85-90°F, and are private tubs which are scrubbed and refilled with fresh water between each guest. These are first come, first serve, and take about 30 minutes to fill.

One of the two Phoenix Baths. Photo by Pglejm

You can also get a highly recommended massage during your time here (definitely go for a Watsu!). Appointments are available Thursday – Sunday.

Important Notes

  • Day use guests MUST call in advance, and can visit Thursdays – Sundays, 10:30am – 5:30pm. Information and Reservations: 530-994-3773. The day use fee is the same regardless of what time you arrive. If you fancy dinner at the Philosophy Cafe after your soak, ask the Front Desk to provide you with a dining pass, but note that the dining pass won’t give you extra soaking time!
  • No pets (not even to stay in your car) except service dogs.
  • No alcohol or drugs (not even medicinal marijuana). 
  • Children under 15 are not allowed in the Meditation Pool, Temple Dome Hot Pool or Sauna, which are adult-only areas. 
  • All pools are closed on Monday and Tuesday for deep cleaning.
  • You can buy day ($5), annual ($30) or lifetime ($300) membership in the main office on arrival. At least one person in your group must have a current membership to enter. Membership fees do not include use of the pools.

Admission Rates – Day Use

Soaking is included in the cost of an overnight stay. Prices may be subject to change. Call ahead to check.

Thursday & FridaySaturday, Sunday & Holidays

Hungry? The Philosophy Cafe in the Lodge offers seasonal, fresh and organic dinners using locally grown ingredients whenever possible. Vegetarian/vegan options are available. We particularly adore their “build your own salads”. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 5.30pm – 8pm.

Alternatively, there are restaurants in nearby Sierraville which tend to work until 8pm. We like Smithneck Farms, which is great all day through, including breakfast, and Los Dos Hermanos for those into Mexican fare.

If you’re camping, bring your own food and cook it in the communal kitchens at the Lodge or Globe hotel, which have pots, pans and cooking utensils (though you’ll need to bring your own plates, bowls, silverware and cups). The gas station in Sierraville offers a selection of grocery items, while the nearest health food stores are Feather River Food Co-op in Portola and New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee.

Interesting History

For centuries, Native Americans have revered the land at Sierra, and its hot waters, as a sacred healing place. In June 1850, former miners on the search for gold, A. P. Chapman, George F. Kent, and William E. Jones discovered Sierra Valley. By 1865, six families had moved into the mountainous plain, and the two native tribes that had lived there had been run out.

In 1853, Corel Howk and his wife Ordelle took on a ranch on the southern fringe. We know that the hot springs were discovered soon after, with this tale appearing in the Mountain Messenger in 1863: “… they were first discovered by a gentleman from Pike, who, while crossing the plains, chanced to find one of these springs boiling and smoking away like a steam engine. For a moment he gazed in blank horror, and then, turning, he ran back to his train, shouting as he ran, ‘Turn back, for God’s sake, boys, hell isn’t a half mile from here!’”

The Howk Ranch hot springs soon became widely known for their therapeutic value, and Corel Howk developed them, welcoming visitors from far and wide, who traveled weeks over the mountains to get there, seeking to ease their ague, rheumatism, and bursitis.

A Sunday outing at Campbell’s Hot Springs circa 1890. Source: Sierra County Historical Society

Corel Howk sold the 160-acre property to David Fenstermaker for $2000 in 1861, who then developed it further. In 1874, Jack Campbell, Sierra County’s Republican Sheriff, bought the ranch and named it after himself. During the seven years that Campbell owned and developed the spa, it grew in popularity and began to attract the more affluent classes of northern California. 

Several owners on, in 1976, Leonard Orr, a pioneer of the new-age movement, bought the resort and made it the HQ of his self-improvement organization. It continues in this vein to this day. 

How To Get There

From the south – Take the CA-89 N from Truckee for 23.3 miles (27 minutes) to Lemon Canyon Road (Hwy 650) in Sierraville. Take a right and follow this road for some 5 minutes and take another right at the Dearwater airstrip onto Campbell Hot Springs Road. The Sierra Hot Springs resort is a few minutes up this road.

From the north – Take the CA-70 E / CA-89 S until it joins the CA-49 just outside Sattley. Stay on this road until Sierraville, when it becomes Lemon Canyon Road (Hwy 650). Take a right at the Dearwater airstrip onto Campbell Hot Springs Road. The Sierra Hot Springs resort is a few minutes up this road..

Can I Stay There?

The Main Lodge. Source: Management

Yes. Pick a comfortable room in the charming Lodge, the in-town Globe Hotel, or opt to primitive camp in the wooded area near the hot pools facility. 

Accommodation includes 24/7 access to the Sierra Hot Springs pools and sauna from 2pm on the day you arrive to 2pm on the day you leave.

The communal area in the Main Lodge. Photo by Rose I.

The rustic Main Lodge, built in the 1870s, has five beautifully decorated rooms with a shared bathroom available for two- to three-night stays ($160 – $200/night for two people). Don’t expect glamor, as this is a historic building, and that comes with thin walls and creaky floorboards. We warned you! Downstairs is the communal living area with a view and a piano and guitar to play on, comfy couches and a wood stove; the equipped-for-cooking, concrete-counter communal kitchen (with cubbies and refrigerators that all guests can store their food in); the massage room; the main office; a small store selling essentials, and The Philosophy Café.

A Lodge room. Source: Management

The Lodge is close to the pools and has a grassy seating area and porch to enjoy. Wifi is great inside the rooms and out.

Note – There are cats living in the Lodge, so if you’re allergic, give it a pass.  

Check in: 4pm

Check out: 10am

A Globe Hotel room. Source: Management

The Globe Hotel ($200 – $240/night for two people) is located one mile from the resort, in Sierraville. Rooms are smart and simple, and you’ll have to pick up your keys at the Sierra Hot Springs resort (Main Lodge). The bathroom is shared. There’s a large living area packed with antiques, a communal kitchen and a massage room. Outside, you get a large sundeck and there is great wifi throughout the property. Note that there are limited sockets in the rooms and you’re not guaranteed a desk – remote workers ask ahead of time!

Check in: 4pm

Check out: 10am

One part of the campsite. Photo by Laurie K

You can camp at Sierra Hot Springs, November through April, from one up to five nights (Wednesday through Sunday). If you are happy to camp, be aware these are primitive spots, most with shade but some without, and some sites are walk-in only. 

The toilets are clean Porta Potties, and the showers are the ones near the pools. 

No campfires or camp stoves are allowed –  there is an equipped-for-cooking concrete-counter communal kitchen in the Main Lodge (you’ll need your own dining ware – plates, forks, etc.). Keep your food in a cubby there or in the refrigerators, so woodland critters don’t steal from you!

Camping Rates

Wednesday & Thursday Friday – Sunday & Holidays

Important Notes

  • No pets are allowed at Sierra Hot Springs.
  • Bring your own towels – there are none to rent on site and none are provided at the lodge or hotel.
  • Sierra Hot Springs is a quiet, relaxation zone, so generators are not allowed. 
  • Also note that cattle graze nearby, so bring earplugs if you’re a sensitive sleeper and their lowing might disturb you! 
  • Aim to arrive and settle in daylight, and bring a flashlight as the area and paths are unlit and can be hazardous in wet or icy conditions. 
  • RVs and car campers are welcome, though there are no hookups.
  • We recommend you call prior to your arrival to check conditions if you are planning on tent camping.

What Else Can I Do In The Area?

Go Snowshoeing in Tahoe. Source: Scenic Snowshoe Adventure

The Sierra Hot Springs owns some 700 acres bordering National Forest land, meaning there are plenty of hiking and biking opportunities for you to explore. In winter snow, try cross-country skiing nearby. And if you like skiing, know that Sierra Hot Springs is less than an hour from major Tahoe ski resorts.

If it’s hot springing you love, then our list of hot springs to visit in California will be the next place for you to click. We have both commercial and free, natural hot spring listings for you too, as we like to cater to every taste in our search for the best free time activities!

The Takeaway

Sierra Hot Springs is a clothing optional world away from the hustle and bustle – a place where you can get back to nature and let it all hang out. The key here is being informed what to expect before you go and respecting others’ lifestyles and boundaries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Sierra Hot Springs in CA?

Sierra Hot Springs is one mile outside of the small town of Sierraville, some 30 minutes north of Truckee.

What to bring to Sierra Hot Springs?

Shoes with grip for the walk to the pools from the carpark, a flashlight, flip flops and a robe for the pool, towels, sun protection, bug spray, and (if camping), all camping gear and eating supplies – you can cook in the communal kitchen using their pots.

How to get membership at Sierra Hot Springs?

You can buy day, annual or lifetime membership in the main office on arrival. At least one person in your group must have a current membership to enter. Membership fees do not include use of the pools.


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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