Nag, Nag, Nag. Why Do Hot Springs Have So Many Rules?

Rules, rules, rules. Everywhere you turn these days there is someone or something dictating what we should or shouldn’t do, say or wear. But as much as our inner teen wants to rebel, the vast majority of these rules are in place for a very good reason and came from the experience of something going (sometimes tragically) wrong. Little Johnny slipped and bumped his head? “No running by the pool!” Poor Bobby died because of a brain-eating amoeba? “No dunking your head in the water!” Toddling Tommy cut his foot on glass? “No littering!” Aunt Sally fainted because a fellow bather dropped his swim shorts? “No nudity.”

Funny rules sign at Meadow Hot Springs

Every rule has a basis in experience, and it is our job as responsible and respectful hot springers to respect the rules. Granted, if you’re opting for natural hot springs in the wilderness, there’s unlikely to be any authorities around to check you – then it’s all about your Jiminy Cricket conscience telling you what is best and right. In commercial hot springs, however, there will be staff, surveillance cameras, and irate moms and neighbors watching!

Let’s have a look at some of the rules you might come across while heading for a hot springs soak.

Halfway River Hot Springs Rules.

Common Non-Commercial Hot Springs Rules

Signs at Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot springs.

Limit Your Bathing Time

The general recommendation for soaking in hot springs is 10-15 minutes. Trust us, if the water is warm, you’ll feel the effects! Your heart may pick up speed, leading to light-headedness, and you will likely begin to dehydrate. Sit, enjoy, soak up some minerals, then get out, cool off in colder water, then when you feel strong, get back in for another 10 minutes. Be mindful of the messages your body is giving out – it will know when enough is enough!

Within this topic comes the recommendation to pregnant women and those with heart conditions or the tendency to pass out NOT to go hot-springing, especially alone. Just don’t risk it!

No Dogs Or Pets

This is a rare one for non-commercial hot springs, as they are usually not in urban areas. In most cases, they say “Keep pets on a leash.” Whichever it is, those choosing to take their pets with them need to keep some important things in mind. 

Doggy doos (and wees) can contaminate the water when done within 100 feet of a pool, and in any case, are not pleasant for other bathers to encounter while visiting – clean up after your pet! 

Hot springs water can be hot! Don’t let your fur baby run into the water without checking the temperature with your elbow first!

While you love your splashy, playful pet, other soakers might not, so be respectful and keep pets away from other bathers.

Miracle Hot Springs rules.

Don’t Put Your Head In The Water

Natural spring water can be home to a multitude of different microorganisms, some of which we can live with, others that can lead to infections, skin rash, gastrointestinal illness, or death. Our strong advice is to keep it “shin to chin” – don’t get water in your nose or mouth, and if you do, irrigate with clean, sterilized water immediately. When you’re done soaking, rinse your entire body off with clean water.

No Glass

This is a logical one, we think, but we’ll lay it out for you anyway. Glass breaks, shards cut. Some soakers like to go barefoot, and so do kids, and that means that any glass you bring in which breaks can end up causing serious injury. 

There is bacteria in hot springs water, so cuts can quickly become infected, and there may not be clean water or emergency services nearby to deal with it. 

Take your drinks in a thermos or in recyclable plastic bottles or tins- and pack out what you pack in. Don’t leave any waste behind as it can damage nature (not to mention make it look ugly), and kill any wildlife that decides to crunch on it.

No Drinks, Food, Soap, Or Shampoo In The Pools

Hot Springs tend to be packed full of mineral goodness – beneficial for your skin, muscles, bones, and mood. If you add some spilled beer, chip crumbs, shampoo, or soap bubbles, then those minerals are not going to be as effective (and, come on guys – it’s just dirty!). Some pools don’t drain themselves, so what you take in there, stays there!

No Alcohol Or Drugs

Yes, it makes for a nice “cherry on top” of an afternoon or evening out with friends to loosen things up with a few drinks or smoke – but not at hot springs, please! This is not only sometimes a state law, but also one for safety and respect. We at Traxplorio have heard one too many tales of people being found drowned in hot spring pools because they drank (or smoked drugs), got drowsy in the heat, and fell asleep. Because hot springs can dehydrate you, the effects of alcohol can be heightened.

It’s also not nice for other soakers wanting some calm and quiet when they have to suffer a group of rowdy party-makers.

Boiling River Rules.

No Campfires

Another logical one. If the wind picks up or you don’t put out your fire properly, it can spread, catching on trees and quickly devastating the surrounding forest, grassland, and wildlife habitats (not to mention putting lives in danger!). We at Traxplorio have heard of hot spring destinations being shut down for months if not years on end because a wildfire has damaged the location.

Campfire advice:

  • Check the local fire restrictions before you go (it may be illegal to light a fire at all!).
  • Get a campfire permit if required. 
  • Choose a safe location – if there are ready-made fire rings or pits, use them.
  • Clear at least 10 feet around your intended fire – remove twigs, leaves, and dry grass.
  • Dig a pit and/or build a one-foot wall around your firewood using rocks or sand.
  • Keep your fire small – it will be easier to control!
  • Don’t leave your fire unattended – flying embers can catch on nearby trees and grass. Have water to hand to put out rogue fires.
  • When you’re done, put it out with the “SOAK, STIR, SOAK” method – douse the fire with water, stir the damp ashes around, add more water, and then check the heat of the ashes (hold your hand over them). Any warmth and they can reignite, so douse again until they have cooled right down!

Also, take special care if you bring candles to the hot springs – don’t light them near other flammable material, don’t let the wax drip, and take the remains out with you when you leave.

Goldmeyer Hot Springs Rules.

No Nudity

Some states prohibit going naked in public, even at hot springs in the middle of the woods. Others are free and easy about it. Whichever side your chosen hot spring is on, there will always be those who choose to break the rules, and we say it’s a matter of respect all around. 

Hot springs designated as “clothing required” will likely have families with kids visiting, or the super shy, religious, or simply just those who don’t want to see it all hangin’ out. 

If you’re the kind of hot-springer who likes soaking in your birthday suit, choose other visitors’ preferences over your own – rules are rules! Or just be sure your hot springs destination is “Clothing optional”!

No Camping Near Hot Springs

This rule is one designed for cleanliness and respect for both people and nature. Besides, who wants to have their morning lay-in disturbed by a sunrise soaker? Likewise, who wants to have their early night prevented by a group of night-time bathers? 

Pitch your tent at least 100 feet away from any water source. The plant life near water is especially fragile, so avoid damaging it. 

Flooding is also a consideration here, especially with hot springs which are formed on riverbanks. 

Stay clear, stay safe, and keep the area around your tent clean!

Common Commercial Hot Springs Rules

Spa Hot Springs Motel.

This is where it gets fussy, personalized, and sometimes too extreme. The Traxplorio team recommends you check on the Policies and FAQs pages of the website of the resort you’re planning to head to and message the site owners to check anything you’re not clear about BEFORE you go. The better you understand their requirements and expectations, the easier, safer, and more comfortable your stay will be.

Typical rules might include some of the above, such as on alcohol, food and drink, and nudity (some resorts may forbid nudity, or may have designated clothing-optional areas), so we won’t repeat those. Scroll down to see what else we’ve found on our hot springs exploration.

No Diving

This is a no-brainer. If the water is too shallow, you could get hurt. And if it is occupied by peace-seeking hot springers, you’ll be disturbing them with your splashing.

Children Must Be Supervised

This counts anytime, anywhere, but especially near bodies of water – it only takes a second for disaster to strike, so don’t give it a chance to. Watch your child as they swim and play. 

Encourage them to wear water sandals and not to run on wet surfaces so as to avoid slipping.

Also, teach your little hot-springers to be mindful of other soakers and to keep the noise down and splashing to an absolute minimum.

Rules at Deep Creek Hot Springs.

Pool Toys

In our experience, small toys like pool noodles and small floating aids are permitted in commercial pools, but larger inflatables (such as airbeds) are not. 

Time Limits

As with any service you have to pay for, soaking in a commercial pool may come with a time limit. Respect this so as to give 1) other visitors their turn, 2) give the staff the chance to clean the pools.

Within this topic, also be sure to check the commercial website for opening times, closures, cleaning days, and any other reason you might not be able to soak at any given time!

Murrieta Hot Springs Rules.

Accommodation Rules

This can be anything from the number of cars/guests allowed, the check-in/out times and overnight parking, to pet allowance (including post-stay cleaning charges), night-time quiet times (forbidding the use of generators/music or loud conversations), and how/where you can cook – including campfires and barbecues. Again, check on their website before you go!

Hot Springs Canyon Trail Rules.

The Takeaway

Every hot springs has its own quirks. For more general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you take a moment to read our carefully compiled list of “dos and don’ts at hot springs” here

You might also enjoy our “Pros and Cons of Hot Springs” article.

For the morbid among you, have a read of our “Death and Murder at Hot Springs” article – a collection of tales to pay heed to, then click on over to our popular “Why You Should Be Planning A Hot Springs Soak This Weekend” to get re-inspired!

Happy soaking!

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