While some out-of-staters may overlook central Nevada’s Big Smoky Valley as just another “sea of sagebrush”, veteran hot springs enthusiasts—or super-soakers, as we like to call ‘em— will know that buried in these foothills is one of the most reliable hot spring soaks in Nevada. Here, visitors and locals alike have flocked to Spencer Hot Springs for decades, which has become more popular in recent years due to one little factor: dependability. Of all the natural hot springs found throughout Nevada, Spencer Hot Springs always seems to be perfect—both with delicious water temps and panoramic views—no matter what time of year you hit it.
HISTORIC SPENCER HOT SPRINGS
Many American Indians residing in the area thousands of years ago likely took advantage of these lush springs, which seem to be quite prominent throughout the central Nevada region. While natural hot springs are common in the area, Spencer’s is a cluster of natural springs on public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. While the land is open to the public and accessible for all, some hot spring stewards have made small yet significant improvements to the area throughout the years, majorly intensifying your enjoyment at the springs.
VISITING SPENCER HOT SPRINGS TODAY
With three, sometimes four, bathing spots on this BLM-managed hot spring, most of these baths are made from cattle troughs—or Cowboy Tubs— with irrigated natural hot spring water piped into the tub. This single feature makes Spencer Hot Springs a desirable soak: you can control the temperature by moving the water source in and out of the tub, making a soak here ideal no matter what the season is. Two of the three tubs here are made from metal Cowboy Tubs, while one is a natural, mud bottom. Often times a fourth Cowboy Tub can be accessed, but is significantly cooler than the others. At the source, water temperatures consistently sit around 130 fahrenheit year-round, and right around the low hundreds in the runoff, soaking tubs.
Though Spencer’s restorative delights are worth the trek in itself, you’d be depriving yourself the full experience by skipping surrounding attractions. Nestled in the mountains east of Spencer Hot Springs, take the 30 minute drive to Toquima Cave. Here, ancient Shoshone used this sacred rock shelter 3,000 to 1,500 years ago as a temporary dwelling. Very few artifacts were uncovered, with the exception of a massive amount of pictographs covering the cave walls. More than 300 independent motifs can be spotted, and thanks to the use of all four colors available at the time (red, yellow, black and white) and integrity of this sacred site, Toquima Cave is considered to be the best example of pictographs in North America.
Travel Nevada PRO TIP: While visiting Spencers, keep your eyes and ears peeled for a charming herd of wild burros—the Hickison Burro Herd—who have called Big Smoky home for eons. Please remember your Hot Spring Etiquette and do not park on top of the source, as these springs are a water source for many Great Basin creatures.