I am fond of going out into nature to reconnect with source, unwind, listen to the wind in the leaves, watch the clouds go by, and notice all the glorious natural wildlife like bees, dragonflies, birds, and more around me. It's a very important healing / grounding activity that I'd like to do at least once a year, but tend to do more like every other year, or every 3 years. In between my major hiking expeditions, since I live in California, my usual go-to place has mostly been Orr Hot Springs outside of Ukiah. I like that one a lot better than Harbin, and Vichy by a loooong shot. Although I've been to many other private hot springs locations in California, such as Tassajara, Grover, and Indian Hot springs, as far as California is concerned, Orr is still my favorite!
Over the years, I've backpacked to a number of beautiful destinations, but nothing beats locations that include a place to soak your sore bones after miles and miles with a backpack. I do prefer planning backpacking trips that include hot springs because of that.
I've been to places that have been closed due to wildfires (aka Sykes Hot Springs in Ventana Wilderness) and lava flows (RIP Ahalanui on the Big Island of HI, I will miss you). Other places are more well known than others and some people would prefer that the best places remain a secret, to ensure they are not so popular that they become too crowded, and/or become unsafe because visitors brink glass bottles that they break (note: EVERYONE should know that cardinal rule of NO GLASS in places where we like to walk with our bare feet! Those who ignore this common sense principle should never get to enjoy these places IMHO and should be dragged out by their ears, but I digress). Conundrum Hot Springs, Maroon Bells - Snow Mass Wilderness, outside of Aspen, CO
Conundrum Hot Springs is really special, and the view is absolutely spectacular. The trip there and back is brutal though, because it's a steep incline to go from the trail base to the campsite at 11,200 feet in elevation. You literally have to hike 8.5 miles over 2,400 feet in elevation. I hadn't backpacked for a few years, so the last few miles are painful going up and they are painful on the way down. If you're not in shape, the trip is going to be difficult, but it is oh so worth it! Despite how challenging the hike is, there were still plenty of visitors. The meadows along the way are full of quaking aspen and wild buttercups, or dandelions, which look beautiful altogether in the wild (I call them wishies). On a side note - when I saw them growing in the wild like that, it seemed silly that people pay for poisons to get rid of them in their lawns. When I got to camp, it was nested between two waterfalls. When I finally got to the spring to soak, I watched a porcupine eating moss on the rocks right by me while the sun set. Super memorable! I also learned the importance of putting sun screen on your part on your head on that trip. My boyfriend at the time didn't do that and burned his part severely, so if you don' have a hat, or bandana to cover up with, be sure to use sunscreen on the part of your head and your ears!
Blayney Hot Springs, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, California
This destination, like Conundrum hot springs in Colorado, also requires a wilderness permit I've been to Blayney Hot Springs twice and would love to go again. I had purchased a wilderness permit and scheduled to go in 2021, but the California wildfires were raging and the air just wasn't healthy to hike in, so I unfortunately had to opt out. It's better to go late in the summer because you have to cross a river to get there and it's easier to cross when the water is lower. I've went at the end of August both times. Although the trails map shows the hike this way. I've always taken the ferry across Florence Lake and cut the trail
distance by almost half. This hot springs is adjacent to a location that has it's own private springs and they will help pack your stuff in with horses if you aren't able to carry your own pack that far. The catch with that is, you are going to spend a lot more money, than if you simply get a wilderness permit to camp out there.
The road to drive to Florence Lake there isn't all that great with rocks and potholes, so it's better if you have an all wheel drive vehicle. I always camped the night before in Jackass meadows, but the pandemic has had that campground closed. It was so perfect because there's this granite slab that is at a the most perfect angle and you can just lay on the warm rock at night and stargaze. It would be the most ideal during meteor showers.
Most people stop at the hot springs temporarily on their way to Mt. Whitney. So although I've socialized with a few hikers that soak at Blayney, I've not really seen many actually camp at this location as it isn't their primary destination, so it's always been less populated than other hot springs (which is why I like it so much). There are a few hot springs away from the largest one. Only, the hottest spring only fits about two people, whereas the largest hot spring is less hot, it can hold a lot more people.
I like the largest one because it's not so hot that I have to get out often and I can stay in it a LOT longer, with dragonflies hovering right in front of my face. If you do get too overheated, there's a lake right next to it, so you can soak and then hop right over to the lake to swim. It's a really wonderful place which I long to share with other friends and loved one's some time again in the future. Although I'm open to suggestions, so do let me know what your favorite (less popular) places are, because I'd love to experience them.