Here’s our guide to the best hot springs around Washington State
written by Catie Joyce-Bulay
From pristine wilderness hikes to family-friendly pampering, there’s a hot spring for everyone’s taste in Washington. These five boast some of the most scenic views and are the perfect way to warm body and soul on a chilling winter’s day.
Our favorite Washington hot spring: Sol Duc hot springs
Most Pacific Northwest hot springs were first discovered by Native Americans who valued them as healing and sacred gathering places. In the late 1800s and early 1900s many were booming tourist attractions. Some later were plagued with overuse and unsafe activities. A few surviving resorts have been updated as popular modern-day destinations, while others are returning to their natural beauty. Many hot springs today benefit from restoration efforts by dedicated hotspring-lovers, mostly volunteer and nonprofit, who work to restore the sites and raise awareness of the ecological impact visitors have on these special natural resources.
On the Olympic Peninsula visitors have been coming to the historic Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, located in Olympic National Park, for more than a hundred years. Sol Duc, a Native American term meaning “sparkling waters,” has three mineral soaking pools ranging in temperature from 99 to 104 degrees, as well as a freshwater pool. A typical morning soak finds the pools thick with steam rising off of them that clears by afternoon for stunning views of forest and mountains. Guests can use the pools for the day or stay in the lodge, cabins, RV park or campground. Continue the relaxation with a massage and enjoy Pacific Northwest cuisine at their on-site restaurant.
The family-friendly resort, open from March through October, makes a perfect basecamp for visiting the national park. Sol Duc Falls is a short drive away and worth the trip—what better way to end a day of hiking through the temperate rainforest than with a relaxing hot soak? Bathing suits are required.
Our favorite wilderness hot spring in Washington: Olympic hot springs
For more of a wilderness experience, visit Olympic hot springs, also located in the Olympic National Park. Once the site of a 1920s-era resort, most traces of the old buildings have been removed and the spring now resides in a designated wilderness area. Visitors hike in on an easy 2.5-mile trail from Boulder Creek Trailhead in the Elwha River Valley. A series of small rock and sand pools, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 112 degrees, are found along the trail, while others are more secluded.
Hikers can stay at the backcountry campground at the trailhead with pit toilets and food hangers (or borrow a bear canister from the park). A wilderness use permit is required. The spring is open year-round, although in snowy or wet conditions the hike in will be longer (6.5 miles one way) as the road may be partially closed. Snowshoes are recommended. Nudity is commonplace, but not condoned by the park. The park does not maintain the springs and issues a general warning about the potential for bacteria in the water.
The Appleton Trailhead will also access the hot springs, though the trail is more rugged with much more elevation gain. Experienced hikers can consider taking this route in good weather for an overnight backpacking trip. Contact the park’s wilderness information center for current trail conditions before planning a visit.
Our favorite Washington campsite hot springs: Goldmyer hot springs
In the Cascades, Goldmyer Hot Springs is tucked into the foothills of the North Cascades, about 25 miles east of North Bend. Reach the crystal clear spring after an easy 4.5-mile hike through old-growth forest along Burntboot Creek. The trail can be done on foot or mountain bike. Snowshoes or skis are recommended in the winter.
The hot mineral waters cascade down from a 30-foot-long cave into lower pools, reaching a temperature of 104 in the coolest. You can also soak in the cave—a former mine shaft—where the ambient temperature is around 111 degrees, and in the two open air pools below it. A cold pool nearby is formed by a diverted stream and is perfect to cool off. Pack in supplies and stay overnight at the campsite, supplied with picnic tables, outhouses, and food hanging lines and containers.
The hot spring was first developed in the early 1900s by William Goldmyer, one of the first settlers of Seattle. Currently run by the nonprofit Northwest Wilderness Program and with an onsite caretaker, Goldmyer limits guests to twenty per day to preserve and restore the wilderness qualities of the spring and surrounding ecosystem, which is recovering from years of misuse. Phone reservations are required and recommended two weeks in advance. The clothing-optional hot spring is open year-round, but access is dependent on weather conditions. A Northwest Forest Pass is required, and a high-ground clearance vehicle is recommended to reach the trailhead.
Our favorite historic Washington hot springs: Scenic hot springs
Discovered in the 1880s by railworkers while building the original railway over Stevens Pass is the aptly named Scenic Hot Springs. Like many others, Scenic has seen its share of misuse in the past. Once known as a party scene for local skiers, county law enforcement threatened to shut it down for good. Its current private owner and caretakers have done much to clean and restore the site over the past ten years, and its reputation has turned around.
The 2-mile access trail is uphill the entire way, with an elevation gain of around 1,200 feet. The reward for your efforts is a soak in the cliffside spring overlooking conifer treetops and distant peaks. Water temperatures average between 102 and 109 degrees in the three adjacent circular tubs. Find the hottest temperatures in the driest part of the summer, and the coldest point of winter, when all the nonthermal ground water is frozen. Snowshoes or skis are necessary in the winter, because at 3,500 feet in elevation the area can receive up to 20 feet of snow.
To ensure its pristine condition, a maximum of ten people are allowed daily. Make reservations online at least two days in advance. After reserving a space, visitors will receive an email with directions from the private caretakers. Nighttime soaking or onsite camping is prohibited at this clothing-optional spring. Recommendations for primitive campsites within the Wenatchee National Forest are provided, or stay in the nearby town of Skykomish.
Our favorite resort hot springs in Washington: Carson Hot Springs
Carson Hot Springs, tucked into the moss-drenched forests of the Columbia River Gorge, is perhaps Washington’s most well-known hot spring. This commercial resort offers a traditional soak in its 1930s-era bathhouses. The experience includes twenty-five minutes in an old-fashioned clawfoot tub. A bath attendant then leads you to a bed and swaddles you in hot towels to sweat out more toxins. Once engulfed in this mineral-soaked hug, lie back and relax for another twenty-five minutes, or add a massage. There are separate bathhouses for men and women.
Carson Hot Springs Golf & Spa Resort also includes a soaking pool for day use and overnight guests. Accommodations are found within the original Hotel St. Martin, completed in 1901 by its first owner. Isadore St. Martin discovered the springs in 1876 on a hunting expedition and soon moved to the site with his wife, who found great relief from neuralgia in the healing waters. An additional modern lodge and cabins have since been built. Book a room with a hot tub on the balcony overlooking the Wind River for the ultimate soaking getaway. A golf course and restaurant are also on the premises.
Luxury alternatives to natural hot springs
Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, on Orcas Island, offers heated and covered outdoor soaking pools while soaking in views of the bay. Book a spot in the saltwater spa and sauna for a day or stay at the lodge, cabins or yurts for a longer getaway. Enjoy a massage and then a meal at the garden-sourced café.
Nestled in the woods just outside Mount Rainier National Park sits Wellspring Spa. Two outdoor cedar hot tubs are filled from spring water and heated and bromine-treated. Spend a day soaking and in the sauna, or book a massage and make a weekend of it at the lodge or in the treehouse.