Saline Valley Hot Spring is a 0.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Big Pine, CA that features hot springs and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from April until October.
This is the best of the best. 50 miles dirt road adventure to get into this oasis in Death Valley. Not a trip for the weak. Plan on spending at least a week there. 5 hot springs there.
Having visited hot springs throughout the world, these are indeed most dear and special to me. Although the water contains a large number of minerals, unlike many hot springs, these do not contain sulfur. The springs seep up from underground at a few locations. Most notably are the two areas that have been lovingly developed and cared for by volunteers over the years. The lower spring has two concrete soaking pools, a well maintained and manicured lawn and is more socially oriented than the upper, less developed Palm Spring. In the 1960s, the hot springs in the valley became popular among hippies and free-thinkers, and were eventually improved by volunteer labor, to include concrete tubs, a shower, a sink, and three outhouses (which the Park Service later replaced with concrete-lined latrines). For improved access, two airstrips were built, the "Chicken Strip" and "Tail-Dragger Strip" (the latter is now closed).
The Saline Valley Warm Springs, as they are called, have become controversial in recent years. The improvements would have violated Park Service policy if they had taken place today, and nudity is against park regulations. There has been compromise so far; a park host is always on duty, visitors are limited to 30 days per year, and the springs do not appear on any official NPS map. A "clothing optional" policy is still permitted at the springs, but nudity is frowned upon elsewhere at the site. The Timbisha Indian tribe, which was displaced from the area in 1933, says it objects to the nudity at the springs, and will shut them down if it ever regains ownership of the valley. I often wonder if they were ever fully clothed when they, in ancient times, enjoyed the waters?
There are 3 sections of springs, the upper, middle and lower springs. The middle and lower springs have been developed with concrete soaking tubs and showers are present. The upper spring is in an undeveloped natural state and surrounded by a chain link fence in order to keep the foraging "wild" burros out. In late 2005, seismic activity disturbed the flow of water to the lower springs. The only functional section remaining after that was the middle springs. However, the flow appears to be returning to the lower springs, and is increasing, making both springs functional.