Wilbur Hot Springs Resort & Nature Sanctuary is a clothing optional, off-grid sanctuary on a 1800-acre nature preserve on the banks of Sulfur Creek, at the base of the Mendocino Mountains in Colusa County, California. Those heading there seek a healing refuge from the speed and noise of the modern world; the chance to slow down, quieten their minds, and listen to the natural world around them, and ultimately reconnect with what matters most.
What To Expect
The star of Wilbur’s clothing optional bathing area is the Fluminarium: an open-air but roofed Japanese “onsen,” with three long pools of hot mineral, strongly sulfur-scented water surrounded by decking and designated a “conversation-free” zone. Temperatures here are 100°F, 105°F, and 109°F respectively, with the water naturally cooled, through channeling, from the 143°F source. The water is 100% natural: undiluted, untreated, and geothermally heated. There is also a sauna, a creek-fed cold plunge, a small soak pool, a swimming pool, a changing area, and showers. A 15-minute walk away from the main bathing area, in the depths of the nature preserve and right by the “Fountain of Life” geyser is “Pool #6” – this one we’ll let you discover for yourselves.
|Address||3375 Wilbur Springs Rd, Williams, CA|
|Location||2.5 hours north of San Francisco|
|Open||10am – 5pm|
|Water Temperature||100 – 128°F|
|Admission||$59 – $65/person/day (Over 13s only)|
The swimming pool is also spring-fed and is comfortably cool in summer, when it is chlorinated for hygiene under the warmth of the sun. In winter, it is heated with only geothermal water and, as it is not chlorinated, you can expect it to appear a little green with natural and perfectly safe algae.
Boasting 16 minerals, the hot spring waters at Wilbur are high in chloride, sodium, carbonic acid, potassium and sulfates. Back in the day, these minerals were touted as a “cure all” – today, we recognize their limitations but also appreciate what each mineral is good for when absorbed through the skin during your soak.
There are plenty of seats and benches spread around the wooden decking that connects the pools, giving guests ample opportunity to enjoy the nighttime starscape, daytime views of the surrounding hills, and to soak in not only the minerals in the water, but bird song, the babbling creek and perhaps the distant calls of other wildlife living in the meadows and woodland of the preserve. You’ll not hear a phone ring, and the only online meeting will be what management are up to in their office: for guests, it’s all about escape and a natural digital detox.
This is a place that people come to to disconnect from the world and unwind – there is NO INTERNET OR CELL SERVICE. Add to that the fact most guests opt to soak unclothed, and you have two “strikes” that make it a “not for everyone” resort. A lot of the negative reviews we’ve read online reflect this – and we advise you to go to Wilbur’s prepared to unplug and get back to basics in warm, relaxed, friendly and respectful environs. Read on for some great tips about what to expect before you book your spot!
Beyond bathing, there is a small well-stocked library, billiards, ping-pong, board games, a piano, musical instruments, bicycles to ride, miles of nature to explore (with some local destination treats), yoga facilities, and the offer of therapeutic massages from experienced and very talented therapists.
Book your 75-minute session in a private creekside cabin for some Acupuncture, Esalen, Trager, Reiki, CranioSacral Therapy, Myofascial Release, Thai, Swedish, Sports and Deep Tissue massages. Sessions are available most days between 9am and 7pm and cost $180.
Wilbur’s Community Kitchen is a tradition well-loved by those who keep coming back year after year. Guests bring their own food and drinks, which they can store in an assigned refrigerator and cupboards. Cooking alongside others makes for a great opportunity to socialize and enjoy the creative process in making a meal, before enjoying it in the cool, enclosed dining area or on the wide verandah. Note: Guests are also responsible for cleaning up after themselves!
As Wilbur’s Hot Springs is solar-powered, there are no electrical appliances in the kitchen (not even a microwave!) and you cannot bring your own.
The owners say:
“True Sanctuary provides safety, health, healing and kindness. This land and its healing waters offer a unique opportunity to slow down, quiet the mind, and listen deeply. There is little to distract you from the basic tasks of soaking, resting, reflecting, and exploring nature.”
Expect to be staying at Wilbur’s alongside (as one reviewer put it) “boomers and younger people with tattoos, singles, couples, gays, straights and siblings.” The vibe is relaxing, respectful and not at all sexual, with staff that are welcoming, responsive, kind and competently responsible for their guests’ comfort.
There is a store on-site selling light snacks, coconut water and organic bath crystals taken from the Fountain of Life geyser located in the nature preserve – a great souvenir to take home with you.
Soaking Day Rates
Wilbur’s Hot Springs is open to day guests from 10am – 5pm and the fee is fixed no matter what time you arrive or leave. Overnight guests have free 24/7 access to the waters. Only young people aged 13 and older are permitted.
|Weekdays / person||$59|
|Weekends and holidays / person||$65|
Important To Know
- The bathing area is clothing-optional, but guests should be dressed elsewhere on site – at the very least, bring a robe!
- Protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- The water is heavy in salts and minerals, so you may find it drying. Bring gentle lotions to apply after soaking – and always wash lotions off before re-entering the flumes or pools.
- Bring long sleeves and bug spray or the no see ums will come a-biting!
- The property is powered by solar panels and geothermal energy, so lights are low and sockets limited! You cannot bring electrical appliances to use in the kitchen.
- There are no laundry facilities on the property. Bring your own towel and robe. If you forget, you can buy some at the on-site store.
- Hot tap water is available in the kitchen, but guest rooms and bathroom taps run cold water only.
- There is no cell phone reception or internet access. Calls can be made at the Wilbur telephone booth, where an “Honor Phone” is available 24/7 for use by donation.
- The nearest grocery store is 23 miles from Wilbur, in Williams. Coffee and some light snacks are available for purchase in the on-site store.
- No pets allowed on site except service dogs.
- You can bring alcohol, but drink in moderation and not while bathing. No alcohol is sold on the property.
- Accommodations have no AC, no door locks and no sockets – this is an isolated resort that operates on trust and respect. If you are worried about your property, lock valuables in your car (or leave them at home!).
Check with the official site for the latest rates, policies and for possible closures.
Before European settlers came to what is now known as Colusa County, the mineral hot springs were revered by the Patwin, Pomo, Wintun and Colusi tribes of Native Americans. Legend has it that these natives took congressman General John Bidwell (in the area looking for gold) to the springs in 1863 when one of his men became critically ill. The man was “miraculously cured.” Soon after, Ezekial Wilbur and Edwin Howell purchased 640 acres of land there for $1500, intending to mine copper along Sulfur Creek. While this (and their partnership) failed, Wilbur’s business acumen did not: he built a wooden hotel and opened Wilbur Hot Sulphur Springs in 1865.
The waters became renowned for their healing capabilities and saw guests traveling there on an arduous 4-hour stagecoach trip. The property has changed hands many times since then.
In 1915, J.W. Cuthbert built the existing concrete hotel. Then, in the 1970s, Dr. Richard Louis Miller relocated his practice there to develop “a consciousness-raising community.” For nine successful years, he ran the Cokenders Alcohol and Drug program, closing the hotel for one week a month to hold a pioneering, non-institutional treatment program. In all, Dr. Miller is said to have detoxified 1,500 addicts using Wilbur’s natural ambience and hot spring waters.
On March 29, 2014, a fire destroyed 21 bedrooms on the top two floors of Wilbur’s historic hotel. No-one was injured in the fire.
In July 2019, space scientists Robbie and Jessy Kate Schingler, along with Creon Levit and Will Marshall, fell in love with the hot springs and jointly bought the property from Dr. Miller with the promise to continue its story of healing.
How To Get There
From San Francisco (122 miles, 2 hours 15 minutes), take the I-80 E and I-505 N to CA-16 W in Yolo County. Take exit 21 from I-505 N at the 77 mile mark. 500 feet on, turn right onto Bear Valley Road (CA-16 W). After 44 miles (1 hour), turn left onto Wilbur Springs Road. The sanctuary will be on your right, one mile on.
From Reno, Nevada, it will take 3.5 hours to drive the 181 miles to Wilbur Hot Springs. Take the I-80 W, and get off at Exit 160 toward Yuba Gap. Join the CA-20W / Hwy 20 W and stay on it through Yuba City and Williams until, at 176 miles, you’ll see the turn for Bear Valley Road on your right. After 4 miles, turn left onto Wilbur Springs Road. The sanctuary will be on your right, one mile on.
Note: Due to unpredictable weather conditions, as well as maintenance, some highways can be closed without warning.
Also note: Wilbur is 23 miles from the nearest town with services (Williams), so gas up/charge your car before you come!
When you arrive, you must park in a temporary parking lot to check in, after which you’ll be directed to the guest lot. You can walk or bike into the accommodation and bathing area from there.
Can I Stay There?
Yes. There is plenty of accommodation on site: reservations only, no walk-ins. Bottom sheets and pillows are provided, but guests should bring their own comforter or sleeping bag.
A great pick for a rejuvenating stay is one of Wilbur’s small, clean, Scandinavian-style cabins on the hill. All cabins feature a queen bed and a small ensuite bathroom (no shower – these are in the bathing area). Cabins 9 & 10 are ADA Accessible.
- Double Occupancy: Weekdays $232, Weekends: $290, Holidays: $300.
Next up on the comfort list is The Cabin Suite, featuring a queen bed and small ensuite bathroom (still no shower), with a separate kitchen and living area and a deck with a view.
- Double Occupancy: Weekdays $304, Weekends $380, Holidays: $390 (extra person $125).
Other overnight options include two rooms in the Historic Hotel which each have a corner sink and queen bed. The pro is that they are closer to the bathing area and share a half-bath in the hotel, the con is that they are right by the communal areas which may get noisy.
- Double Occupancy: Weekdays $208, Weekends $260, Holidays $270
The Solar Lodge has 8 private rooms which share two half bathrooms. Each room has two full or twin beds (the second in a loft, accessible by ladder).
- Double Occupancy: Weekdays $196, Weekends $245, Holidays $255 (extra person $125)
From April-October, Wilbur has six separate tent campsites (no RVs or vehicle camping allowed) on 12’x16′ platforms. You’ll have to bring your own gear and carry it uphill. You’ll get full use of all indoor spaces and the waters. Fires and cook stoves are strictly prohibited – all food has to be stored in the hotel kitchen.
- Tent camping: $75 per person, per night.
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
The beautiful grounds of Wilbur Hot Springs Resort & Nature Sanctuary offer miles and miles of hiking trails, including oak woodland, peaceful valleys, panoramic ridges, and wildflower meadows. While walking, keep your eyes skyward for the chance to see golden eagles, bald eagles, great blue herons, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, goldfinches, bluebirds and more. You might also be lucky enough to see deer, squirrels, coyotes, badgers, jackrabbits, foxes and wild pigs. Please don’t feed them and don’t disturb them.
Treats of the property include:
- The Fountain of Life, a small carbon dioxide geyser that goes off every 45 minutes, and the small hot springs covered pool nearby;
- The Wishing Tree, where you can write your wishes, dreams, hopes and prayers on colored tags and tie them to the branches. On New Year’s Eve, the staff remove each wish to release them during the annual New Year’s Eve bonfire;
- The Aquarian Labyrinth, for mindful steps;
- The Memorial Wind Chime Park, a place to remember and honor loved ones with a wind chime (bring or make your own, or buy one in the store).
Beyond the borders of the Nature Preserve is plenty of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to explore.
In Williams, some 20 miles away, we recommend a visit to the Sacramento Valley Museum, located in an old high school, displaying 19th century photos, railroad memorabilia, home furnishings, textiles, and medications from the local area.
We think this quote from Sussu L.’s Yelp review pretty much sums up what Wilbur’s is all about: “If you’re looking for a “normal” resort experience, you’ll walk away from Wilbur disappointed. Luckily, you have many other choices! Wilbur is rustic and simple and the water is really full of minerals, which means smelly. If you have the courage to spend time in silence and approach whatever “sacred” means to you, while your body works out what it needs to work out; if you’re thrilled by nature and meeting kind souls from different walks of life; if gazing deep into your soul with no phones, no camera, while naked and smelling like Satan’s backside sounds like it’s your thing, then you’re one of the chosen ones.”
The Dos And Don’ts Of Visiting Hot Springs
Every hot springs has its own quirks. Visitors to Wilbur Hot Springs should be ready for a lot of nudity, a serious cut-off from the outside world, and plenty of chances for calm introspection. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
While used by Native American tribes for centuries before the European settlers came, Ezekial Wilbur opened the commercial Wilbur Hot Sulphur Springs in 1865.
Wilbur Hot Springs is 2.5 hours north of San Francisco, 23 miles west of the town of Williams, California.
Wilbur Hot Springs is a bring-your-own resort. Bring sun protection, moisturising lotion, a water bottle, flashlight, bug spray, flip flops, a towel, a robe, a sweater for cool nights and early mornings, hiking shoes, a sleeping bag, all your own camping gear if you’re camping, and for all overnighters- bring all your own food and drink!
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!