It doesn't get much better than summertime in the mountains, whether you're hiking or enjoying some flowy singletrack. But nothing beats playing outside all day and then diving into a mountain lake or relaxing in a hot spring. And lucky for us, the mountains from Mammoth to Stowe are chock-full of natural hot springs, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers ideal for a dip (some of these spots are great for winter visits, too). Only interested in hot springs? Don't miss our round up of the 15 best hot springs in ski country.Read More
The Best Places to Swim in Ski Towns, Mapped
From lakes to hot springs, here's where to swim this summer
1. Scandinave Spa Whistler
Specializing in hydrotherapy (aka contrasting water temperatures, said to rev up circulation and “produce the effect of increased wellness and intense relaxation.”), this place is a gorgeous spot to unwind. Besides an adorable little eco-spa and other out-buildings that look like they’re from Middle Earth, there are woodsy, manicured grounds and sparkling pools. The Scandinavian Bath experience includes a eucalyptus steam room, traditional wood-burning Finnish sauna, hot baths, cold plunges, and a thermal waterfall.
2. Alta Lake
BC V0N, Canada
One of a handful of alpine lakes in the region, Alta provides a peaceful respite from the Whistler crowds. There are several parks around its border; you can bike to Rainbow Park, via the Valley Trail bike path. There’s also a nearby dog park, Barking Bay. If straight-up swimming isn’t your jam, rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP; there are also onsite bbq’s for a post-sesh picnic.
3. Burgdorf Hot Springs
McCall, ID 83638
If the Old West is your thing, you’ll love this 1870s retreat near historic Warren in Idaho. The property is on the National Register of Historic Places, and accordingly, all 15 cabins have wood stoves, oil lamps, firewood, and beds, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding. More important, the lithium-rich springs surrounded by evergreen-forested hills will soothe what ails you. If you’re looking for a more family-friendly spot, Zims Hot Springs has public pools just outside of McCall, while laid-back Gold Fork Hot Springs in Donnelly offers hot and cold pools and hydromassage.
4. Hilltop Hot Tub
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
This stark, high-desert pool, fed by a natural hot spring on the volcanic valley floor, is what man-made hot tubs aspire to be should be. It’s more groovy than skanky (we prefer our tubs free of algae and discarded undergarments, thanks), and the 360-degrees views of the Sierras are practically in your face. Visit in winter (it’s close to Highway 395) for an even more surreal experience. Nearby Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is a killer spot if you prefer soaking in a natural spring; both are approximately 30 minutes from the town of Mammoth. Note that while many visitors go au naturel, it’s technically not allowed.
5. Squaw Valley's High Camp Pool & Hot Tub
Hop Squaw Valley's Aerial Tram up to this swanky, perennially partying rooftop spot located at 8,200 feet. Besides the ginormous, free-form pool and 25-foot diameter hot tub, there are panoramic deck views and a casual watering hole, The Umbrella Bar. Lockers, showers, changing rooms and towels provided; purchase tickets online to save a few bucks. Opens for summer on June 17.
6. Emerald Bay State Park
This loveliest of state parks/swim spots is a deep water bay the color of its namesake. It’s an easy, one-mile walk down from the parking lot on the side of Highway 89. At the bottom, take a tour of Vikingsholm, a castle built as a private home in 1929. Alternatively, you can paddle or take a private boat to Emerald Bay; there are lakefront campsites, as well as buoys. Scuba diving is also a popular activity, because of the water clarity and boat wrecks in the bay. If nothing else, do a bit of cliff jumping from tiny Fannette Island in the middle of the bay. This is summer, done right.
7. Diamond Fork Hot Springs
Spanish Fork, UT 84660
Also known as Fifth Water Hot Spring, these four man-made pools are perched alongside Fifth Water Creek in the Wasatch Front. You’ll need to hike in 2.5 miles through dense forest, so cool off in the small upstream waterfall before sinking into the pools, which vary in temperate from roughly 97 to 108 degrees. Do keep your clothes on, or risk the wrath of the local authorities.
8. Homestead Crater
Midway, UT 84049
Although it’s located at a resort, don’t let that put you off. The 10,000-year-old crater, formed from snowmelt, harbors a geothermal spring within its 55-foot-high limestone walls. Swim, scuba dive, snorkel, take an SUP yoga class, or simply float on your back in the mineral-rich waters, taking in the freaky rock formation above.
9. Ouray Hot Springs
Yes, this popular spot is comprised of family-friendly public pools, but its location in one of the most historic, beautiful little mining towns in the Rockies is unbeatable. Ouray’s Main Street is registered as a National Historic District, and it’s narrow, river valley setting (50 jaw-droppingly gorgeous miles from Telluride) makes it geographically distinctive. Hit the pools, then take a gander at the waterfall off of Main Street, (site of the famous Ice Park and Ice Festival in winter) before checking into the Beaumont Hotel or pitching your tent at the lovely mountainside Ampitheatre Campground just above town.
10. Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
One of our favorite spots to swim in Steamboat, Strawberry Park has a loyal following. Rustic cabins, covered wagons, summer campsites, a tipi…after soaking in these tiered mineral spring pools, getting a massage in a private hut, or watsu in the private pool, you’ll most likely want to slip into slumber. Should you prefer to stay in town, there are shuttle companies providing transportation (check the hot springs website for details), as it’s a steep road that can be daunting in winter.
11. Yampa River, Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
If river floats are your thing, try the Yampa River in Steamboat. Rent some tubes (try Backdoor Sports, Ltd, Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, or One Stop Ski Shop), and put-in at the 5th Street Bridge downtown, and float/ride the light rapids/spin around the rock features all the way to Fletcher Park. Note that the upper section above the bridge is reserved for fishing.
12. Penny Hot Springs
Soak in this natural pool in the Crystal River, just off Highway 133 not too far from Aspen. You’re likely to have some company, but the location on McClure Pass is tough to beat in terms of pure Colorado beauty.
13. Ruedi Reservoir
Located 15 miles from sleepy Basalt (near Aspen), this stunning reservoir is a favorite getaway for residents of the Roaring Fork Valley- the riverside drive up-valley on Frying Pan River Road, past hematite cliffs, meadows, ranches, and aspen groves is worth a trip in its own right. Camp on the beach (there are four campgrounds with 81 sites), surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. There’s game fishing, hunting, and motorized boating and sailing, and paddle sports. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife such as elk, fox, and bighorn sheep.
14. Conundrum Hot Springs
Aspen, CO 81611
One of the Aspen area’s most popular backpacking routes, this 8.5-mile trail into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is doubly rewarding, because of the two natural springs with 14er views at trail's end. You won’t have the place to yourself in summer (avoid weekends and holidays), but with a location like this, does it matter? There are 16 campsites (fires not permitted) near the springs, but they fill up fast, so get your hike on early (you should anyway, to avoid thunderstorms). The “Camp Fire Sites” en route to the springs also serve as overflow; technically, camping isn’t allowed in non-designated areas. Shy types should note that most visitors like to soak au naturel.
15. San Miguel River, Telluride
There are some popular spots for a dip just off of Telluride's Town Park Campground, and off the San Miguel River Trail, adjacent to the post office. A far more popular pastime for locals, however, is tubing (rent them at Timberline Ace Hardware, on Colorado Ave.). Drop in at Town Park; a good place to take-out is just after the Ah Haa School for the Arts, at the Viking Condominiums, or at Carhenge, the large outdoor parking lot off of West Pacific Ave, by the base of Lift 7.
16. Manby Hot Springs
Taos, NM 87571
While not the most scenic of hot springs in New Mexico, this spot- also known as Stagecoach Hot Springs because they’re located on the ruins of a former coach stop- is just 30 minutes from Taos, west of the town of Arroyo Hondo. A 15-minute walk down a dirt path will bring you to two sandy, rock-lined pools on the banks of the Rio Grande. Like to get nekkid? By all means.
17. Bingham Falls
Stowe, VT 05672
Fifty minutes from Stowe is a series of stunning cascades on the West Branch of the Waterbury River. Located within a gorge, the final pool is reached via a 30-foot plunge. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, probably nothing will, but the mossy grotto walls and lush forest are the proverbial icing on the cake.