Both a party destination and ideal for serene soaking, Wild Willy’s (also known as Crowley) is an easy-access, primitive hot spring. It makes for a perfect time-passer in the middle of stunning nature- with a selection of sulfur pools in a sand-and-sagebrush plain in the Long Valley Caldera, south of Mammoth Lakes.
What To Expect
You’ll see the steam rising up from the dry desert way before you get to your soaking destination. The first pool you’ll reach at Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is around 10 feet wide and 3 feet deep, good for around 15 people and just deep enough to be able to sit in as you enjoy the 95°F mineral-rich soak and unbeatable views of the Sierra Nevadas and Glass Mountain Range. There’s another pool along the way, fed via a stream from the first, near the rock, that is both deeper and hotter, at around 105°F, as well as a small, very shallow two-person pool. The second of the pools is a romantic heart shape and is part natural grass and dirt edged, and part rock with reinforcement.
The dirt and gravel access road is level and easy enough to navigate when dry. From the small parking lot, take a short 7-10-minute walk along a level wood boardwalk / gravel path to the springs. Please don’t wander away from this boardwalk (other than at the hot springs site) so as to protect the fragile desert plain ecosystem. The ground on either side is sand, with a few rocks and tufts of desert bush. You’ll likely spot a fair few cows grazing too- so we’ll slip in a warning here that the cows may have got in the pools before you – keep your eyes open for patties!
|Address||Hwy 395 Benton Crossing Rd Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546|
|Location||Long Valley Caldera, south of Mammoth Lakes, California|
|Road Access||Unpaved road – caution needed|
|Water Temperature||95 – 105°F|
Clothing is optional. There are no facilities at all here – no restrooms, no changing rooms and no drinking water. Bring plenty of water and snacks with you, and always pack out what you pack in!
Skip weekends, evenings and holidays if you want to avoid the crowds.
Mammoth Lakes is on the edge of the Long Valley Caldera, a 20-mile wide extinct supervolcano that erupted around 750,000 years ago (an eruption that is estimated to have put out 500 times more volcanic material than Mount St. Helens did in 1980 – its volcanic ash is said to have traveled as far as Nebraska and Kansas!)
Thousands of years back, the Mono tribe was the first to settle in the Mammoth Lakes area. The Europeans turned up at the end of the 19th century, with four prospectors staking a claim on Mineral Hill and setting up the Mammoth Mining Company – leading to a gold rush that lasted from 1878 to 1880. Those left in the town of Mammoth Lakes after the company closed turned to tourism to survive. The nearby area counts a number of great Western movies to its name, as well as an impressive list of sports people who have made achievements in marathons and the Olympics – they run fast here!
How To Get There
From Reno, it will take you 3 hours 17 minutes to drive the 176 miles to the Wild Willy’s Hot Springs parking lot. Follow the US-395 S. Before reaching Lake Crowley, and just past Mammoth Yosemite airfield, turn left onto Benton Crossing Road. Look out for the second cow grate and take a right after this onto a dirt road leading to the parking area.
From Bishop, head north on Highway 395, and take a right at Benton Crossing Road before the Mammoth Yosemite airport. Three miles in, past two cow grates, turn right onto a dirt road. This road will take you 1.5 miles to the hot springs’ parking lot. All in all, it takes just 45 minutes to get there from Bishop.
Can I Stay There?
While this is BLM land, as a matter of respect for other soakers and nature, camping is not allowed near the hot springs pools. You can, however, set up a small spot for yourself in the parking lot for free. Alternatively, head to Rock Hot Tub on Whitmore Tubs Road, Whitmore Tubs Road Dispersed Camping, or somewhere on the Hot Creek Hatchery Spur Road. Note that most of the hot springs in the area are located on BLM land, but there are a few pockets of land owned by other entities, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – double check before you set up your home-for-the-night here: (760) 872-5000.
If a more established campsite suits you better, we recommend McGee Creek RV Park & Campground, which offers RV sites with and without hookups, hot showers, plenty of shade, and some trout lakes to fish in.
Other options for places to stay while you enjoy Wild Willy’s and explore the area are Tamarack Lodge, a historic and rustic accommodation at 163 Twin Lakes Road (Mammoth Lakes), which offers a lakeside restaurant, lodge rooms and cabins with kitchens, and the pet-friendly Mammoth Mountain Inn.
There are also plenty of other great hotels and lodges in the area.
What Else Can I Do In The Area?
Mammoth Lakes has a ton of activities available. In winter you can ski and snowboard, in summer soak, fish, hike, ride, golf and explore. This is the gateway to the Devils Postpile National Monument, the 101-foot Rainbow Falls and Yosemite National Park.
High on our list of recommendations is a walk in Hot Creek Geologic Site, only a 25-minute drive away from Wild Willy’s, a hot springs wonderland of flowing creek and natural bubbling pools within a beautiful gorge. Follow the trail to appreciate the magic of volcanic nature. Note: These ever-changing springs are not for bathing in as they can reach temperatures of up to 200°F! If
it’s more hot springs soaking that you’re after, there are numerous options throughout California and in neighboring Nevada. Our favorites are the primitive Travertine Hot Springs (California), and Spencer Hot Springs (Nevada), and for a more luxury soak – Harbin Hot Springs in California and Carson Hot Springs in Nevada.
The spectacular surroundings of Wild Willy’s Hot Springs make this a great place to have on your list while exploring the larger area. Enjoy warm water, breathtaking views and some time appreciating the power of nature. And that title we chose? It came from a fellow traveler on Tripadvisor – believer in God or not, we feel the sentiment is there with this must-have soak experience!
The Dos And Don’ts Of Visiting Hot Springs
Every hot springs has its own quirks. Visitors to Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, for example, should be ready to soak in wide-open nature – there are no facilities and a lot of cows! For general and very important “hot springs etiquette,” we highly recommend you check out our 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
You can find Wild Willy’s Hot Springs near the city of Mammoth Lakes, 176 miles south of Reno and 45-minutes north of Bishop, California.
The pools at Wild Willy’s Hot Springs tend to sit at around the 95-105°F mark.
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is on BLM land. In fact, most of the hot springs in the area are located on BLM land, but there are a few pockets owned by other entities, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – double check before you set up your home-for-the-night here: (760) 872-5000.
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!