Native, Nature’s Nurturing … Hot Springs
For thousands of years, mineral waters and hot springs have been treasured for their therapeutic and restorative powers. These natural oases, bubbling up from the earth’s own hydrothermal energy, were once humble bathhouses and towns centered around their healing waters.
Now the ancient practice of soaking in these geothermal springs has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry, as modern wellness resorts integrate the traditional medicinal uses of hot springs with innovative spa treatments and luxurious amenities.
However, the core principle remains the same – immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters to soak away stress and emerge revitalized in body, mind, and spirit. From historic baths to five-star retreats, hot spring spas offer the ultimate environment for relaxation and rejuvenation.
From Sacred to Serene: The Evolution of Hot Springs Then Hot Spring Spas
- Native Americans believed hot springs were a sacred gift from the Great Spirit with special healing powers. They considered them “Big Medicine Fountains” and neutral territory for warring tribes.
- Hot springs are naturally heated underground when hot rocks and minerals trap hot water that rises bubbly to the surface. The water must be over 100°F to be considered a hot spring.
- In the U.S., hot springs developed in three stages: used first by Native Americans, then by early European settlers emulating European spas, and finally as relaxation and fitness destinations.
- Native Americans guarded the locations of hot springs and fought battles against settlers to preserve access.
- Early Spanish explorers like Ponce de León sought mythical “Fountains of Youth,” likely inspired by legends of hot springs’ healing properties.
- In modern times, hot springs are popular for relaxation and fitness. But the core appeal remains the natural heat and mineral content unlocked from the earth itself.
- From historic baths to luxury five-star retreats, hot spring resorts and hot spring spas allow guests to soak in the therapeutic thermal waters.
Hot Spots: A Guide to Geothermal Springs in the U.S.
- There are over 115 major geothermal spas in the USA and many smaller ones along with thousands of hot springs.
- Saratoga Springs, NY had around 18 springs and hot wells discharging mineral water. Used by Mohawk and Iroquois tribes during hunting trips.
- Warm Springs, GA also had mineral springs used by Native Americans. Became a resort area and was known for polio treatment from the 1920s to 1960s. Promoted by President FDR who had polio.
- Hot Springs, AR was a popular commercial spa area modeled after European spas. 47 springs producing 4 million liters of water daily. Used by humans for over 10,000 years.
- Calistoga, CA springs area settled by Pomo and Mayacmas Indians for 4000+ years. People came to use hot springs, fumaroles, and heated mud. Built sweat houses. Main attraction since the 1860s.
- Harbin Hot Springs, CA – where Watsu water therapy originated. Remote springs over 2000 acres.
- Hot springs come in various colors depending on sunlight, temperature, and microbes present. Microbes create color and thrive in different temperatures.
The Healing Embrace of Nature’s Hot Springs
- Soaking in hot springs gradually warms the body, killing harmful germs and viruses.
- Thermal bathing increases blood flow and oxygen, dissolving toxins and boosting circulation.
- Hot spring bathing sends oxygen-rich blood through the body, nourishing organs and tissues.
- Bathing increases metabolism, stimulating digestion and organ function.
- Repeated hot spring bathing can normalize endocrine and nervous system functions.
- Minerals like carbon dioxide and lithium are absorbed, stimulating immunity and relaxation.
- Mineral springs contain negative ions that promote physical and mental well-being.
- Sulfur-rich thermal waters can treat skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and infections.
- Some mineral waters aid wound and injury healing.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Soaking in hot water increases heart rate while lowering blood pressure, providing benefits similar to exercise with less strain on the heart.
- Sleep Better: Soaking 1-2 hours before bed in ~103°F water for <15 minutes can help reduce insomnia by easing the transition into a deeper, more restful sleep.
- Improve Joint Mobility: The warmth and buoyancy of water relieves muscle tension and reduces stress on joints, increasing range of motion. This allows safer exercise for arthritis sufferers.
- Eliminate Toxins: Hot baths stimulate sweating to increase the elimination of toxins. Adding Epsom salts aids arthritis/rheumatism, and sea salt promotes healing and reduces inflammation.
The Hot Springs Mineral Contents & Their Benefits
|Relieves depression aids digestion
|Benefits blood and immune system
|Promotes tranquility, relieves digestive problems
|Assists with plasma and tissue growth, is used for foot bathing, believed to improve skin conditions, arthritis, and gastric ulcers
|Builds muscle mass, increases brain activity, strengthens bones
|Converts blood sugar to energy, promotes healthy skin
|Normalizes heart rhythms, reduces high blood pressure, eliminates body toxins, promotes healthy skin
|Assists in alleviating arthritic symptoms, stimulates the body’s lymphatic system
|Assists in cleansing through the skin (high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium)
|Addresses skin infections, respiratory problems, and skin inflammations
|Prescribed for liver and gastrointestinal conditions, and respiratory conditions with inhalation therapy
|Beneficial for rheumatic conditions, arthritis, central nervous system conditions, posttraumatic and postoperative disorders, orthopedic, and gynecological disease
|Associated benefits with bicarbonate hot springs, classification in Spain based on free carbon gas content
Hot Springs … Who should not sweat it
Contraindications to Hot Water Natural Mineral Springs Therapy:
- Conditions involving high fevers
- Extreme Hypertension
- Malignant tumors and cancerous conditions ( internal )
- Liver, kidney, or circulation disorders
- Conditions presenting the risk of hemorrhaging
- Anemic Conditions
- Congestive heart failure, recent stroke, or recent heart attack
- Bathing under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Having certain health conditions does not mean you cannot benefit from mineral waters, but you should take precautions. Soaking in very hot water can be risky if you have an underlying medical issue.
Check with your doctor first. If you have any concerns, contact your physician. A tepid or warm bath around 95-99°F is generally safe, similar to bathing at home.
Take care and consult a professional if you are unsure about using hot springs with a pre-existing condition. The benefits may outweigh the risks in some cases, but proceed cautiously.
Top Hot Springs Spas Around USA~
Arkansas Hot Spring Spas
Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR
- Quapaw Bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park has reopened after major renovations, with a 55-year lease from the National Park Service
- Quapaw offers communal bathing pools with natural hot springs water, along with private baths, massages, and facials
- The historic Fordyce Bathhouse nearby is now the park’s Visitor Center
- Quapaw bathhouse, originally built in 1922, has 24,000 square feet over two floors
- The communal bathing area has multiple hot springs pools at floor level and upper tier, up to 4 feet deep
- The second floor has treatment rooms for various massages and facials
- Hot springs water is untreated other than ozonization disinfection
- Guests can stay at nearby hotels like Embassy Suites or Arlington Hotel and access Quapaw for spa services
California Hot Spring Spas
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
- Luxury spa with multiple mineral springs pools and jacuzzis
- Signature “Bathing Ritual” experience included with spa access
- Co-ed bathing, swimsuits required
- Recommended bathing routine:
- Exfoliating thermal mineral shower
- 96-98° warm mineral bath
- 102° hot mineral bath with jets
- Rehydrating water break
- Cool shower
- Herbal steam room
- Rehydrating water break
- Cool shower
- Finish by relaxing in the lounge as your body renews
Solage Calistoga Resort
- 89-room Solage Calistoga resort with 20,000 sq ft spa facility
- Co-ed geothermal pool
- Separate men’s and women’s hot therapy pools
- Cold plunge pools
- Spa treatments blend mud baths with hot spring water
- Mud bar to start 3-part Mudslide circuit: The Mud, The Waters, The Rest
- Enjoy a mud bath privately, with the group, or a romantic shared experience
- Luxury soaking tubs with geothermal spring waters
- Water therapy for couples, families, and friends in a rural yet modern setting
- Sound chairs for zero-gravity relaxation
- Mud mojitos and lavender mud tires to soothe and relax
- Contemporary claw-foot tubs filled with geothermal water
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
- Best choice if you have several hours to lounge around
- “The Works” – 2-hour treatment marathon including mud bath, whirlpool, steam, wrap & massage
- $5 for all-day pool access with any treatment booking
- 4 outdoor mineral pools:
- 80°F – 82.5′ x 24′ L-shaped swimming pool (64 laps/mile)
- 100°F – 40′ x 20′ soaking pool with bench
- 104°F – 24′ diameter covered octagonal jet pool with jets
- 90°F – 20′ x 13′ wading pool with fountains
- Also offer mud baths, mineral baths, steam rooms, blanket wraps, massages
- Some of the best bath facilities in Calistoga
- Historic spa since 1862 with active geyser heating Olympic-size mineral pool
- Asian gardens surround the pool with lounges for relaxation
- Rooms and cottages with fine linens and amenities
- Charming 1930s-style bathhouse with mineral and volcanic ash baths
Volcanic Ash “The Mud”:
- The natural supply of volcanic ash from nearby Mt. Konocti & Mt. Lincoln
- Ash mined onsite and hand-sifted before use in mud baths
- Unique for using 100% pure volcanic ash
- Geologic activity heats water to 230°F at 4,000 ft depth
- Surfaces in 4 geysers through ancient seabeds
- Rich, highly mineralized water fed to pool, spa, steam rooms
- One of few sites nationally with comparable natural hot springs
- Guests can soak up the benefits of wonderful water year-round
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa
- Sacred hot springs were enjoyed first by Native Americans and later by Spaniards
- By the 1890s became a popular health retreat
- Today, guests book nearby hotels and visit Glen Ivy spa
- Free entry on your birthday
- Club Mud – cover yourself in red clay
- Grotto for hydrating body masque
- Massages and facials
- Healthy café with local ingredients
- Natural springs flow from Coldwater Canyon, Temescal Valley
- Native Americans enjoyed the blend of cool and hot mineral waters
- Waters promoted relaxation and health benefits
- Today’s mineral baths at 104° F
- Minerals absorb through the skin, providing healing warmth
- Check with a doctor if health concerns, limit to 10 mins if pregnant
Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa
Desert Hot Springs, CA
- Historic hot springs resort that Al Capone visited in the 1930s
- Oasis of peace and percolating mineral springs
- Waters nurture the body, heart, and soul
- Mineral springs rich in mood-stabilizing lithium
- Lithium is absorbed through the skin while soaking
- Temperature-controlled grotto with 2 carved pool areas
- 104°F and larger 99°F pools
- One of few sulfur-free mineral springs, a woodsy scent
- Canopy of trees open to moonlight and stars
- Romantic midnight soaking under the stars
- 256-acre spa attracts celebrities
- Luxury casitas for quiet nights
- Treatments include guided meditation, Reiki
- No high-tech gym, part of the mystique
- Historic hot spring pool preserved
- The security guard at the entry gate
- Easy to float by a celebrity
Harbin Hot Springs
Harbin Hot Springs History:
- Oldest and most beautiful hot springs in California
- Now a non-profit retreat and workshop center
- Practices like Watsu (water shiatsu) developed here
- 50,000+ gallons flow daily from natural mineral springs
- Water masters maintain pipe, filter, and tank system
- Water tested regularly for purity and quality
Pool Water Treatment:
- Arrives untreated and then filtered with ozone/UV system
- Additional treatment for safe drinking water
- No chlorine – uses filters, peroxide, ozone, UV light
- 250+ gallons/minute purified and replaced hourly
- Peroxide and ozone used to safely oxidize organics
- Cloudy water = oxygen bubbles cleaning the water
- Cutting-edge systems exceed health standards
- Rustic cottages and campgrounds on 2,000 acres
- Treatments like Watsu, cranial sacral, energy work
Glenwood Hot Springs
Glenwood Springs, CO
- Glenwood Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, CO has the world’s largest outdoor geothermal pool – over 3 blocks long
- Captures hot springs bubbling up at 5,760 feet
- Used by Yampah Indians who called it “big medicine”
- Mineral-rich waters cooled from 122 to 104 degrees for soaking year-round
- A new 17,000 sq ft spa facility opened in 2008 with affordable treatments
- Historic lodge built in 1890, modern lodging now available
- New Spa of the Rockies opening Sept 2008 in original 1888 bathhouse
- Will offer massage, body treatments, facials, hydrotherapy, manicures, pedicures
- 8 massage rooms, 5 soaking tubs, 1 hydrotherapy room, 2 manicure & 2 pedicure stations
- Focused on wellness and natural health practices
Colorado Hot Spring Spas
Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings
- The Wiesbaden is an intimate natural hot springs spa and lodge in Ouray, Colorado
- Known for its peaceful atmosphere, elegance, and European flair
- Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains
- Hot springs pools range 102-108 degrees, continuously flowing untreated water
- Water has medicinal/healing qualities due to purity
- The Vaporcave is located in the mountain below the lodge
- Vaporcave has a 107-109 degree soaking pool fed by natural springs
- Outdoor pool 99-102 degrees, fed by mineral hot springs
- Outdoor pool open 8 am-9:45 pm daily, extended hours for lodge guests
- Lodge guests get unlimited use of Vaporcave and outdoor pool
- Outside guests can use it for an hourly fee
- The Lorelei is a private soaking pool fed by a hot springs waterfall
Indiana Hot Spring Spas
French Lick Springs Resort
French Lick, IN
Historic Hotel and Spa:
- Opened in 1902 during Indiana’s Gilded Age
- Originally called “Eighth Wonder of the World”
- Renovated in 2007, now a National Historic Landmark
- Dedicated to health and wellness
The Mineral Water:
- The hotel is known for its famous mineral water
- Original “natatorium” bathing area
- Exhibits show early 20th-century exercise equipment
New 27,000 Sq Ft Spa:
- Part of a $34 million renovation by billionaire William Cook
- 24 treatment rooms
- Full-body “capsules” filled with mineral water
- Gilded Age meets Modern Age wellness
- Hot Springs Nature’s vacation prescription
New Mexico Hot Spring Spas
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
Ojo Caliente, NM
- A sacred site to Native Americans for thousands of years
- Gathering place and source of healing
- 1,100 acres with 10 mineral pools
- Historic hotel, restaurant, full spa
- Massages from $80 per 50 mins (book ahead)
Unique Mineral Waters:
- Only spa globally with 4 distinct mineral waters
- Lithium, iron, soda, arsenic
- 10 pools from 80-109°F
- Lithia Spring: relieves depression, aids digestion
- Iron Spring: benefits blood and immune health
- Soda Spring: calms and relieves digestion
- Arsenic Spring: relieves arthritis, skin conditions
Ideal Spa Experience:
- Combine mineral soak with spa service
- Also offer yoga, mountain biking, skin treatments
- Signature wrap detoxifies after a mineral soak
- Increases core temp then toxin release
- Native American flute music
Nevada Hot Spring Spas
Unique Mineral Waters:
- From volcanic origin with true natural healing properties
- High in heat (200-220°F at the surface) and minerals
- Contains rare minerals not found elsewhere in the US
- Super-heated 300°F steam was produced too
Water Supply System:
- Stored then piped to soaking tubs and steam room
- All water supplied is mineral water straight from the springs
- Sulfate minerals from weathering sulfur deposits
- Includes silica, magnesium, soda, lithia, potassium
- Some minerals are extremely rare, and not seen before in the US
Holistic Healing Approach:
- Combine hydrotherapy, color and light therapy, massage
- Incorporate the latest techniques for rejuvenation
- Established wellness destination focused on integrated health
New York Hot Spring Spas
Gidion Putnum Hotel Resort & Spa
Saratoga Springs, NY
- Roosevelt Bathhouse is owned by the U.S. government
- Part of Saratoga Spa State Park’s 2,200 acres
- Adjacent to the 1935 Georgian-style Gideon Putnam Hotel
- Hot springs comparable to great European spas
- Stays shorter than traditional “cure” of 3 weeks
- Water combined with hot tap water kept at 97°F
- Retains peak carbonation for physical and mental benefits
- Full menu – massages, facials, wraps, waxing, etc.
- Baths and treatments inspired by European spas
- Classic ambiance with horse & carriage at the entrance
- Leaves guests feeling revitalized and refreshed
Virginia Hot Spring Spas
Hot Springs, VA
- This spa focuses on mud wraps and mineral baths infused with floral scents
- The Homestead has a history of Southern hospitality dating back to Thomas Jefferson in 1818
- Jefferson bathed in the Hot Springs, Virginia mineral springs three times daily during his 3-week stay
- The springs Jefferson bathed in were later named the Jefferson Pools in his honor
- Today guests can take a dip in the Jefferson Pools for $15 and borrow a vintage swimming suit
- The Homestead Spa also offers 20-25 minute “Signature Mineral Baths” in 104-degree water
West Virginia Hot Spring Spas
White Sulphur Springs, WV
- Listed on the National Historic Register, The Greenbrier is a historic resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
- Situated on 6,500 acres in the Allegheny Mountains, the resort features beautiful landscapes and classic Greek revival architecture
- The elegant interior has gilded chandeliers, marble floors, and Dorothy Draper’s signature style
- Ideal for romantic and family getaways with cottages, activities for kids, and programs for teens
- Renovated with $50 million, amenities include a world-class spa and fine dining
- The spa utilizes the resort’s mineral and sulfur waters in treatments like Waterworks and Sulphur Soak
- Operating for 229 years, The Greenbrier honors traditional European spa customs
The natural hot springs found throughout the United States offer an incredible way to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect with nature. As historic spas are restored and reopened, we have the opportunity to experience these one-of-a-kind destinations right in our own backyard.
Even if there isn’t a hot spring near you, seek out spas that offer hydrotherapy or balneotherapy treatments. Submerging in mineral-enriched heated water activates the body’s natural healing abilities. By stimulating circulation, relaxing muscles, and nourishing tissues, hot spring soaks and mineral baths promote overall well-being.
Make it a priority to locate a restorative spa experience close to home. The healing powers of water await us all.