Nevada Hot Spring Etiquette Guide: 10 Things to Know Before You Soak
Although beliefs vary and rules remain largely unwritten, we’ve embraced the most widely accepted wisdom from the hot spring community and created an etiquette guide for handy reference. Read up and you’ll be ready to respect the springs, preserve this pastime for all of us, and get yourself into only the right kind of hot water.
1. Google Maps Ain’t Gonna Cut It
In backcountry Nevada, web-based mapping apps—and even GPS—can be wonky, unreliable, and sometimes flat-out wrong. Get yourself topographical maps of the areas you plan to visit (and travel through—not just your final destinations). Or do yourself a favor and spring for super-detailed, recently updated statewide atlases. We’re big fans of Benchmark and DeLorme.
2. Dress for “Soak-cess”
Where there are natural hot springs, there’s also dirt, mud, or boggy soil. Our advice? Leave your “good” shoes in the car and slip into a pair of “soak shoes”—rain boots, Crocs, Chacos, anything you prefer—that you don’t mind getting a little messy.
Bring something cozy to wear for the walk to and from the hot springs, too. Just like with the “soak shoes,” you’ll be glad you’ve got an extra layer between being wet and getting back in the car, especially in the colder months. Plus, showing up to some off-grid cowboy tub in a swanky, plush robe just makes you look—and feel—like a true super soaker.
3. Grab the Right Gear
As with any outdoor activity, don’t leave home without the proper gear. At a bare minimum, we suggest:
- Water, water, and more water (the drinkable kind, not the soaking kind)
- Food and snacks, just in case
- Spare tire (plus the tools and knowledge required to change it)
- Headlamps and extra batteries
- The adventure gear and attire we talked about in earlier tips
Brush up on packing advice and other backcountry wisdom with Nevada’s trusty Dirt Road Code, too.
4. Live by the Buddy System
Adventure bound? It’s always a good idea to bring friends or family along with you—for safety, but also for company—when you’re exploring the unknown.
That said, sometimes solo sojourns are just what your soul is seeking. In that case, be sure to let someone know:
- Your primary destination and planned route
- The closest town or community to where you’re going
- Your Plan B adventure if Plan A doesn’t work out—which is always a good thing to have and sometimes half the fun, too. And don’t forget to let them know when you get home safe.
5. Think Before You Dip
Many classic Nevada soaks are in a hand-dug pool, old bathtub, or even a cattle trough with water piped into it from a much hotter source nearby. Things can change fast out here, including thermal activity—so always check the hot springs temperature before hopping in.
A hot tub thermometer or an instant-read temperature gun are handy tools to have, as well as the knowledge of what water temperatures you’re comfortable with. [Hint: Maximum temps at hotel hot tubs are generally 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit—and your body actually starts getting colder in anything less than 98 degrees Fahrenheit.]
Safely soak-able springs can sometimes have extremely hot source pools nearby. Keep a close eye on any furry friends adventuring with you, especially if you’re camping overnight. It’s not a bad idea to keep a close eye on human friends, either.
We recommend keeping your head above water, too, as these geothermal soak sources are also enjoyed by wildlife (microscopic and otherwise). If you do decide to dunk, pinching your nose shut is the go-to move.
6. Prime It for the Next Soakers
If there’s a control valve to adjust flow, be sure to leave a little bit of water trickling into the tub when you leave—NOT full flow. While it doesn’t usually take long to heat up a cold tub, it can take hours or days to cool down a scalding hot tub. During colder months, a small trickle also prevents pipes from freezing, just like your sink at home.
7. Be a Good Spring Steward
Take care of the land that’s so good to us. Show good stewardship by:
- Always packing out anything you pack in (and bring extra trash bags to clean up after anyone who wasn’t as courteous as you will be)
- Parking or camping far enough away from the hot spring that you don’t hog the view, hijack the ambiance, or scare off wildlife that relies on the water source
- Respecting private property boundaries
- Leaving gates how you found them
8. What Dress Code?
It’s normal to rock up to a spring and find everyone in suits—of the swim or birthday variety. While there’s no set rule, respect and courtesy go a long way.
If you find a tub full of bare-it-all bathers, no one will make you “follow suit.” If you show up “underdressed” to a clothed convention, it’s fair to ask politely or slip in discreetly. Anyone familiar with the hot spring scene should be OK with you stripping down, as that’s how it’s always been for millennia.
9. Pass on Glass
A sip when you dip is one of life’s true joys, but keep it to cans, camp cups, and other unbreakable vessels ONLY. Broken glass in or around natural hot springs is a bad time for everyone (including wildlife), and getting injured is sure to put a stop to your enjoyable experience. Plus, it could contribute to a soak spot getting shut down or becoming unusable in the future.
10. Geotag Responsibly
So, you visited a sweet hot spring and want to show it off to all your friends and followers. Totally understandable—Nevada’s beauty is too impressive not to share.
Some soakers geotag their photos when posting on Instagram and elsewhere, but we encourage keeping locations off the social map. Internet popularity can contribute to natural hot springs getting overrun, trashed, and closed, and that’s the last thing any of us want. Half the fun of hot springing is finding those hidden wonders, so help preserve the thrill of the hunt.
While there are hundreds of Nevada hot springs, the only ones you’ll hear us talk about are located on public land or at private resorts—ones that have been long loved by travelers and promoted by our local community partners. Do your part and help protect these beloved waters for us and future generations. Happy soaking!