It’s hard to go wrong with just about anything when it comes to the never ending luxuries Spencer Hot Springs divies up. Not far from the geographic center of Nevada, and about 3ish hours from Reno, the always-perfect, controllable temperature is what makes this spring a slam dunk, even for the newbie-est of soakers. Located in the heart of the expansive Big Smoky Valley, Spencer Hot Springs is comprised of three, sometimes four source pools, which basically guarantees a spot for you to post up for a couple hours of relaxation.
The golden ticket at Spencer? Two of the three sources are cowboy tubs, otherwise known as metal cattle troughs. They’re some of the only lasting metal cattle troughs [other springs are fitted with more modern, plastic cattle troughs] at hot springs in the state which is super cool, but this also tells you that water is being piped into them from the main source. So what does that mean? You have the capability of pushing that thing in and out of the tub, allowing you to choose the temperature that best suits your likin’. Plus, it makes this centrally-located gem seasonless - a grade of perfection that you can always rely on, whether you’re ringing in the new year with single digits or planning on a balmy summer night spent stargazing.
Yet another reason that makes this Loneliest Road hot spring worthy of a soak is the mere fact that it’s located in one of the most beautiful valleys in the west, let alone Nevada. Hot springing aficionados, meet Big Smoky. It goes without saying that there’s some kind of magic that overwhelms any visitor that spends more time here than it takes to pass through it on 50, particularly if you hit it for an afternoon soak at Spencer. If you do, make it a point to watch the sunset here. Face-melting 60-mile vantage points and a sky that will redefine your interpretation of vibrant? Oh, and toss in the extremely charming resident Hickison Burro Herd, and now you’re really talking paradise found.
TravelNevada PRO TIP:
Make your jaunt to Spencer an overnighter, because why not, camping is totally free. Catch the sunset in a tub, and make the 20 minute drive for some unforgettable convo with some of the most incredible locals you’ll ever cross paths with at Zach’s Lucky Spur in Kingston.
2. GOLD STRIKE
Indiana Jonesing your way through a canyon of hot springs sounding as prime time to you as it does to me? Then Gold Strike it is...and there ain’t no temple of doom. Of all the springs mentioned in this rundown, this might be the most intense, adventure-driven hot springing experience you can wrap your arms around in the Silver State. And trust me, you WILL be using them as you navigate your way through an 8-series rope course while working your way down one amazingly beautiful canyon.
Gold Strike is basically the only soakable hot spring in the southern end of the state, located about an hour outside the Strip. I’m not kidding when I say this 2-miler is intense - a handful of people have died here and many more are rescued each year due to extreme temperatures and dehydration. This is not a walk in the park...this one is at least a half day commitment. You have to work a bit for the payoff at Gold Strike, and you’d better be prepared...something IMO that makes it that much more fun.
Gold Strike separates itself from the others on this list in terms of adrenaline, but also by variety of springs. Yeah, totally count on multiple pools dammed up throughout the canyon, but also get down on a few grottos, a steam cave, and even a hot spring waterfall. I’ll let that soak in, because yeah, HOT SPRING WATERFALL. Plus, once you get to the bottom where the Black Canyon meets the Colorado River, you’re in for a super specialized view of the Hoover Dam, a treat that not many will get unless they have special security clearance or pay for a boat tour. That, and there’s some pretty sweet cliff jumping to be had in the area. Hiking, bouldering, hot springing, modern wonders of the world and cliff jumping wrapped up in a shiny silver bow? Yessir, serve me up a side of that.
3. SOLDIER MEADOWS
Fantasizing about dropping off grid and really getting away? Ok, get that sense of serenity framed up in your mind, then double it and add 30 and you’ve got Soldier Meadows nailed. When I say this place is remote, we’re talking REMOTE...an area I’d describe as Nevada’s most secluded, without any hesitation. Out at Soldier Meadows, each minute lasts every bit of 60 seconds, which is something I certainly set as a goal when venturing out in backcountry Nevada. It’s a place where the unavoidable solitude has a way of freeing you unlike any other place, and oddly reminiscent of traveling to another country altogether. And when you throw a hot spring in the mix, now you’re really batting a million.
Park of the Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, [whew, what a mouthful!] exploration up here truly feels like it has no end. The reason? This area, which is managed by the BLM, is comprised of 1.2 MILLION ACRES of national conservation and wilderness areas, making it the largest collection of public lands in the continental U.S. The history around here is almost as rich as the diversity in landscape too, as it was a regular stomping ground for weary pioneers trekking across the Black Rock Desert on the Lassen Applegate Emigrant Trail - a stretch they considered to be the most harrowing on the entire route. And what were they rewarded with? A whole boatload of hot springs…as in actual dozens. Be sure to pay attention to the BLM-provided signs around here, complete with original journal entries of pioneers describing a well-earned soak at Soldier Meadows Hot Springs.
Although your journey may not be as agonizing as it was to the guys who completed this journey 150-ish years ago, the trek up here really is super remote. I promise you this: the journey is well worth it. While you can totally camp at all of the others on this list, Soldier Meadows is the ultimate spot because of one amazing little first come, first served BLM Cabin on site. Plan on setting up shop there, and explore the multitude of springs dammed up into pools along a hot river sorta situation. Plus, the variety of springs here is foolproof, but the stargazing is even better. Swimming in a hot spring under the milky way? Now that’s my kind of heaven.
TravelNevada PRO TIP:
Plan on camping out here, cabin or not. BUT, instead of busting out your camp stove and percolator on the provided picnic tables, your tailgate, or your camp, tote it over to a source pool. Because what’s better than whipping up some eggs and perkin' some roasts, in a hot spring?
4. BLACK ROCK
The Black Rock - a place so legendary and exotic, its reputation precedes itself. This vast desert landscape is so well-known - on a global level - thousands of people from all over the planet come to participate on the hugest party on earth. Regardless of whether or or not you attend Burning Man, the place is definitely a landscape worth experiencing on your own. Out here, it’s totally feasible to take a whack at breaking your own land speed record across the playa, or soaking in a nice little zinger of a hot spring…and all in one sweet little afternoon.
Ever wondered why a stark white, dry lakebed was named Black Rock? Yeah, took a while for me to figure that one out too, that is, until visiting the spring. This crystal clear body of aquamarine hues lies directly under a - get this - black rock formation...DING! Unlike many of the others size up in this list, there is one giant main source pool here about 3-4 feet deep, spanning 100 feet in size. And get this: there’s a sweet little dock in the middle of it. The source comes in about 20 feet from the dock and, like Trego, this one also has a squishy mud natural bottom. You can count on this: Black Rock Hot Springs won’t ever run too cold...if anything, it typically runs super hot, but varies depending on the time of day. This means fall is typically the most ideal season to check out this super remote, largely unvisited spring.
The only way to reach the spring is by driving on the playa itself. No real off-roading setup is required for this, but word to the wise: do NOT even think about trying to cross the playa in any sort of precipitation situation. You WILL get stuck in the very deceiving playa mud, and considering the Black Rock is so remote, it’s likely you’ll wind up in a survival situation. [It's common almost to the point of cliche to hear the Gerlach barflies talk about Jeeps, trucks, and other seemingly powerful vehicles marooned out there for seasons at a time.] That being said, Nevada is the lucky qualifier of the least total rainfall and least number of rainy days in the whole dang country. SO, plan on smashing out to Black Rock in the fall, camp on this amazing BLM land for free, and drink in a bevy of sunsets unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Something that will assuredly qualify as an only-in-Nevada experience you won’t soon forget.
TravelNevada PRO TIP:
Unlike any of the others spelled out here, Black Rock Hot Springs is the only spring that has a sweet little logbook on site. Pretty cool, right? Before taking a dip, spend a few minutes flipping through the logbook, where you can see who else has been there, along notes they left, and maybe even a few pro tips of their own. Find the guestbook enclosed in a little box on a post, similar to the bevy of historic markers found in the area.
5. FISH LAKE VALLEY
Tucked away in a magical little valley near Dyer, the hot spring obsessed will go bonkers over this one. Not kidding here: if there was ever a better meetup than Fish Lake Valley, someone please clue me in. The beauty of it all? If you’re planning on camping, exploring ghost towns, off-roading, bagging the tallest peak in the most mountainous state in the lower 48, or just down for a solid soak, Fish Lake is right on the money.
Once you show up, yeah, you’re definitely far from civilization. If you’re anything like me, that’s something to strive for when chasing a hot spring. Unlike the others on this lineup who are all managed by BLM and are public land, this is the same but different - Esmeralda County is responsible for making this utopia possible. It’s not far from Tonopah [which is the halfway marker from Reno to Vegas] and lies opposite to Mammoth [on the opposite side of the White Mountains]. So, all in all, you’re sitting pretty, right in the middle of several major crossroads...totally ideal for organizing a hot springing excursion with friends from all over the place.
This often-unexplored chunk of Nevada is worth your time, and here’s why. Nevada has more ghost towns than actual populated towns, and some of the coolest remains are right in this exact area. Candelaria, Gold Point, Nivloc, Silver Peak, Blair...they’re all within earshot of FLV and completely worth swinging through. That, and you’re basically working with endless off-roading bliss in these parts, so much in fact, that clubs use FLV as a rendezvous spot for major camp outs during the summer months. Plus, if you're shooting bag Nevada’s five tallest peaks, this location is right at the base of the tallest peak in the state...and a totally perfect place to soak those weary bones after bagging the beast. And the concrete poured, 3-foot deep spring? Aces, friends. Total hot spring Shangri-La.
In hot pursuit of a real deal hot spring party spot for a large crew? Bordering the edge of the illustrious Black Rock playa in northwest Nevada is your spot – Trego Hot Springs. The whole desert sits on BLM land, so camping [and just about anything else] goes in this slice of the state. Aside from having super close proximity to the otherworldly playa landscape, the most impressive thing about Trego is simply the size of the spring. Unlike most other Nevada hot springs, the spring empties into a massive, 400-foot canal of sorts, easily accommodating 100 people [or probably more].
If you’ve never felt the sense of freedom as you watch the needle climb while ripping across the Black Rock, Trego is a good way to ease in slowly. Post up at Trego as your home base ; you can get there via Jungo Road, or jump in with both feet by taking the first entrance to the playa from Gerlach and driving straight across it to the springs.
Interestingly enough, the area was massively depended upon by early pioneers foraging their way west. In fact, the endlessly interesting Lassen Applegate Trail runs adjacent to Trego and right through the Black Rock Desert - wagon ruts remain visible in various locations to this day. Many early explorers and pioneers depended on Trego and other nearby springs for bathing opportunities and a last chance stop for water before making their way across the extremely desolate playa. Later, once the railroad spliced through the area, this exact location was named after the train depot that formerly stood nearby - Trego. Best yet, the canal that you can so easily luxuriate in was originally dug by railroad workers allll the way back in 1860.
This one has a natural mud bottom, so brace for an ooey-gooey feeling between those tootsies when first entering the spring. Don't worry; you’ll get used to it, and will soon find yourself applying au naturele mud masks, Nevada spa-style. Best in fall or spring, there is no doubt about it that Trego is the spot for a relaxing backcountry soak, party crew or not.
Remember, this lineup is a mere intro to the realm of possibility when it comes to natural hot springs in Nevada. With over 300 naturally occurring sources peppered throughout the Silver State, Nevada is the official stomping ground with the most hot springs in the entire nation. The springs described above are those found on public land…places that are foolproof and totally free reign for the masses to enjoy. That means that there are dozens and dozens of other spots NOT mentioned here, and we’re doing our damnedest to keep it that way. Because come on now! We can’t just show you alllll our cards. Besides, the best part about uncovering a spring is the journey, not to mention that some things should only be found by those who put in the effort to seek them out [like the boatload found on private property.] Do your research and respect the hot spring culture happening in Nevada and everywhere else, for that matter. So bust out that atlas and get to work, and embrace the moment your tires leave the pavement, knowing it’s just you and some friends out in a great big valley in search of some hot water.
Editor’s note: if you’re looking for a softer spot to land, click here to get the skinny on hot spring resorts in Nevada.