open dirt road
Miles End in the morning
Diana's Punchbowl from the road

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Hot dog in Diana's Punchbowl

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Diana's Punchbowl

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Stone Path up to Toquima Cave

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Toquima Cave From the distance
interior of Toquima cave, vivid pictographs

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Toquima Cave

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Spencer Hot Springs at Sunset with Sydney

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Practice Safe Hot Springing, Just Dont Forget the Condiments

By SYDNEY MARTINEZ | August 2014
Updated: April 2019

Practice Safe Hot Springing, Just Dont Forget the Condiments | SYDNEY MARTINEZ

What to do with an entire day in Central Nevada, you ask? Do yourself a solid by booking the most restorative lodging on the planet, meander through some spectacular backcountry road less traveled, and pony up for one of the most eccentrically prepped grub you’ve indulged in. Next, realign your chi with some heavy spiritual relaxation, and cap it all off with the tastiest hot springs you’ve ever indulged in. Yep, it’s going to be a good day.

Maybe it’s the way John and Ann Miles make you feel, maybe it’s the idyllic location, or maybe the secret sauce is in that wood fired hot tub, but I totally found my zen at Miles End Bed and Breakfast. I had spent a few days in Kingston to attend the 2014 World Championship Land Sailing event, and after discovering all the hotels in Austin were sold out, I initially dragged my feet about driving the extra 45 minutes south. A mere 15 minutes on the property, and I was whistling a different tune.

Nestled in the serenely remote burb of Kingston, I will personally guarantee you that you’ll be given some of the best home cooked meals you’ve had the delight in chowing down on, and will be far, far away from counting any sheep. In fact, you’ll be so deliriously carefree, you won't even know what a sheep is and will be out like a light before your head hits the pillow. Undoubtedly, one of the best kept secrets in Nevada. A no-brainer, really.

Don’t Forget the Mustard 

With a day off the playa to do what I please, I was after another one of Nevada’s abounding signature facets: supremely delicious hot springs, my friends. The mysteriousness of Diana’s Punchbowl had enchanted me for months, and now, being in the same neck of the woods I could finally get my hands around this mystifying phenomenon first rate. Taking my time, I linked back up on Highway 50 and dropped over the next pass and into the majestic Monitor Valley. 

On the same route as the Geographic Center of Nevada, this super well-maintained dirt road carried me through each bend with no one else in sight, except for a few wild burros. [Double score, as they just so happen to be my favorite animal…] A friend advised me that it would almost appear camouflaged from afar, and when I spotted it, to get out of my car at its base and walk up the side myself. From the brief research I conducted, I was fully aware that I couldn’t bathe in its bewitching waters as it was 12 degrees shy of the boiling point. So yeah, the last thing I was going to do was nosedive my vehicle into this sizzling springs.

He was right, from afar it appeared to be a measly mound of dirt. Throwing it in park, I army crawled under the barbed wire fence [private property, just respect it and leave it as you found it people] proceeding to hike the 100ish feet to the mouth of the beauty. My impression changed instantaneously—it was almost this lava rock sort of surface…like nothing I’d set foot on. It was hollow, my footsteps sounding like a methodic beat, drumming up more suspense on my trek to the top.

I peered over the 30 foot edge of the 90 degree cylindrical hole and was shocked to see it looking so peaceful and untouched, not to mention ravishingly beautiful. Its chartreuse hues cast a spell of tranquility over me and were oddly reminiscent of the Caribbean’s Blue Holes. As a gust of wind made me find my footing, I’m not going to lie, my life flashed before me. You would most definitely die a miserable death if you fell into this bad boy; even if you survived the scorching water temperature, you would most likely not be able to scale the smooth, flush walls. 

The question is, what am I doing here, and how do I enjoy something I can’t go in or near? Eat lunch, that’s what. That’s right, I came prepared with my fishing pole and hot dogs and was going to have myself a nice little lunch. With the heftiest hook in my tackle, I speared and lowered the hot dog into the off-limits water until I heard a distinctive ka-splunk. It was hard to ignore this perfect Nevada day as my fare cooked 30 feet below: textbook fluffy thunderheads on perfect azure skies. It was magic. Peering over the edge, hoping my lunch was bubbling to perfection my imagination got the best of me and I secretly hoped a colossal prehistoric megalodon would come rearing up out of the obscure blue depths, snatching my hot dog in one fell swoop. Shark Week in Nevada? Now we're talking.

Settling on the fact that I was about to treat myself with a Nevada-style hot dog, I reeled it up and slathered on the ‘kraut, just the way I like it. Case and point: that's how you do lunch in the rurals.

Fingerpainting With A Smidge More Gusto

Pretty proud to have slayed such a wacky venture, I headed back toward home base at the Miles End. This time, I was en route to Pete’s Summit in attempt to go over it, instead of around it.  The reason for this added time: the enigmatic Toquima Cave. The perfect amount of digestion time had elapsed and now I was ready to burn it off with a short hike to 3,000 year old Native American pictographs…some of the most exemplary in North America.

From afar, the cave balanced atop some gnarled cliffs and was identifiable by a gigantic steel gate to protect this sacred site from vandals. [Only takes one person to ruin it for everyone, I guess.] Parking at the Toquima Campsite I began on my half-mile trek to this wondrous beauty. In no time at all, I had reached the cave and was lucky enough to experience its enshrined artistry in the flesh. It was lovely and exuded an obvious presence, sort of the same feeling if you were to attend a church service. 

Although the gate restricted me from entering the cave, the bars were wide enough to allow for some clutch photo ops. The liveliness of the 300+ pictographs was astonishing, the red, white and yellow drawings sprung to life right before me. It was difficult to grasp, knowing these motifs had remained so here so long, essentially managing to withstand time. Glancing up to the top of the opening to the cave, it appeared there was a dreamcatcher of sorts swaying in the mellow summer breeze. I don’t have the historical know-how to identify just how old this specific artifact was, but it was special to see, regardless. 

As you lose your self, cascading deeper and deeper into tremendously powerful history Toquima Cave dishes up, don’t forget you’re on a summit, and do yourself a favor and turn around. With one glimpse at what lies below, it’s simple to understand why the Western Shoshone treat this as a sacred place: its remoteness and scenic beautify is the perfect place for some soul-searching.

Serious Springin'

Now that I’d gotten the crazy out of my system, was well-nourished, and had reawakened my inner peace, I needed to kick up my boots and toast to this unbelievable day. [Seriously, how do people not know about this stuff?!] Like the stars were aligning, how appropriate that one of the best hot springs in the state were on the excursion home. Descending down the opposite side of Pete’s Summit, I was in the grandiose Big Smoky Valley again with Miles End in sight. Veering left at the fork, the sunset was just about to pop as I frantically Supermanned into my swimsuit. Not being able to partake in Diana’s waters, I was ALLLL over [or in] Spencer Hot Springs…an area that I knew was safe to indulge in. Slinking in one limb at a time, the view was aces, just aces. And they say we’re a flyover state.


With such a mind-blowing number of things to do in one state, use these tools and resources to help you prepare for an absolutely killer Nevada experience.


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