Adventurous Taste Required—8 Nevada Hot Springs Pairings

Adventurous Taste Required—8 Nevada Hot Springs Pairings

Whatever you’re doing in this soak-rich state, there’s probably going to be a hot spring waiting for you afterwards… or even at the same time.

Some things just hit better when they’re paired up with something else. Because, let’s face it: what’s an Oreo without milk? Or a biscuit without gravy? Or—here in the Silver State—a classic only-in-Nevada experience washed down with a mesmerizing hot spring soak?

If that last duo sounds like a winning combo, you’re in luck, because there are plenty of places to find it all over the state. To get you started, we whipped up this handy list of some of our favorite, go-to hot spring pairings that are sure to take your Nevada trip from already epic to seriously soak-tacular.

There are oodles of Nevada hot springs that are NOT mentioned here, and that’s no accident. In fact, the only ones you’ll ever hear us mention are well-known, classic soaks located on public land or at private resorts — ones which have been long loved by travelers and promoted by locals. Before you venture out to any hot spring, do the responsible thing and acquaint yourself with Travel Nevada’s Hot Springing Etiquette, featuring things like no geotagging, no glass, and other tips on how not to ruin these precious places for everyone else (yourself included).

1. Sunset Soaks & Big Smoky Valley Vistas

Find ’em along the Loneliest Road in America Nevada road trip

  • Spencer Hot Springs
  • Lucky Spur Saloon
  • Closest Civilization: Kingston or Austin
  • Adventure Level: Easy

There’s a reason Spencer Hot Springs is one of the most popular soaks in the Silver State. Watching the sun set over the towering Toiyabe Range from one of Spencer’s three pools (one natural-bottomed, two “cowboy tubs”) is a rite of passage when road-tripping the historic Loneliest Road in America, AKA US-50. (Bonus points for earning it after visiting Toquima Cave, site of some of the oldest and most complete pictographs in the nation.)

And so is posting up with the locals at the Lucky Spur Saloon in Kingston (population: 60-ish)—a Sagebrush Saloon so classic that Men’s Health once dubbed it the “Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere.” The picture window behind the backbar promises panoramic Big Smoky Valley vistas that make a stiff cocktail, cold beer, or notorious Bloody Mary taste just that much smoother. Camp and fish a few minutes up Kingston Canyon or head 30 minutes back to Austin, NV to score turquoise gems and take in some historic mining-era architecture.

2. A Steamboat in the Desert 

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

  • Steamboat Hot Springs Healing Center & Spa
  • Historic Virginia City
  • Closest Civilization: Reno / Virginia City
  • Adventure Level: Easy

In the late 1800s, South Reno’s natural geysers rivaled sights you might only imagine seeing in Yellowstone. In 1857 Steamboat Hot Springs—which Mark Twain named for the thermal features’ rumbling sounds that reminded him of actual river-going paddlewheelers—became Nevada’s very first hot spring resort. The hot, exceptionally mineral-rich waters here—which provided relief to weary travelers, miners, and Mark Twain himself—now soothe wellness-conscious visitors at what is now Steamboat Hot Springs Healing Center & Spa.

More of Twain’s stomping grounds (the place Samuel Clemens adopted the famous nom de plume, in fact) lie just 15 miles up the hill in the famous silver boomtown of Virginia City. The place is so special that the entire town is a National Historic Landmark. After a day spent strolling VC’s boardwalk-lined streets, past numerous Old West saloons, museums, and charming shops, a rejuvenating dip at Steamboat is a perfect way to literally soak in some fascinating Nevada history.

3. SPA DAY: Nevada-Style! 

Find it along the Burner Byway road trip

  • Black Rock Hot Springs
  • Black Rock Mud
  • Closest Civilization: Gerlach
  • Adventure Level: Advanced

Don’t get us wrong – Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe are home to some of the most luxurious five-star spa experiences on Earth. And we love those. But if you’re looking for something a little more au naturale, the solitude you’ll find in the massive, majestic slice of paradise that is the Black Rock Desert Playa promises a different kind of you-time—especially if it’s under the stars in Black Rock Hot Springs. The wide-open pool’s natural bottom is nice and soft, because it’s made of the kind of mineral-packed mud that fancy-schmancy spas around the world pay (and charge) big bucks for, especially when it comes to facials.

In fact, there’s a family that offers exactly that. Get your hands on some simply and perfectly named Black Rock Mud, a “buttery, odorless, pure gift from Mother Nature,” hand-harvested from their own private hot spring on the outskirts of funky, nearby Gerlach. Soak it up, slather it on, take it home, and treat yourself to the elite Nevada hot springs package.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Caution! Getting to Black Rock Hot Springs requires a reliable vehicle and solid navigational skills to travel across open, roadless, unsigned playa. Any time of year, even the smallest bit of precipitation can soak the soft earth, making travel across the playa dangerously impossible. Before venturing out in any season, consult Friends of Black Rock – High Rock for the latest conditions.

4. Modern Luxury in Old Nevada

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

  • David Walley’s Resort
  • Genoa Bar & Saloon
  • Closest Civilization: Genoa
  • Adventure Level: Easy

Nestled in the foothills of Genoa—Nevada’s oldest settlement—is a mineral bath that has attracted luxury-seekers since 1862 in resort form, and plenty of millennia before Anglo development. Like Steamboat, David Walley’s Resort is a place you can follow in the wet footprints of Mark Twain, who once made the post-soak remark, “I now leave without crutch or cane, entirely well, not only relieved from pain but gained in spirit.” Now the site of hotel rooms and private villas (plus an upscale restaurant and bar), David Walley’s invites today’s overnighters to indulge in the opulence of several hot spring-fed tubs and pools at the foot of the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains, just over the pass from South Lake Tahoe.

Many of the folks who soaked it up at Walley’s back in the day (from Pony Express riders to presidents) undoubtedly made the 0.3-mile trek (or, let’s be real: the stumble) down to the 1853-established Genoa Bar & Saloon—AKA “Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor”—and you probably should, too. If you want to “drink in” some history, it’s hard to find a better place to do it than in a joint with a bar and diamond dust mirror that were shipped “around the horn” from Glasgow, Scotland, original paintings, and all manner of 19th-century ephemera adorning every wall—including a wanted poster for Abe Lincoln’s then-unknown assassin.

5. Plop Down Like the Pioneers 

Find it off the Burner Byway road trip

  • Soldier Meadows Hot Springs
  • High Rock Canyon
  • Closest Civilization: Gerlach
  • Adventure Level: Advanced

Venturing this far north into the Black Rock Desert Wilderness is an accomplishment for off-grid adventurers today. It was even more of one for the wagon-weary westward pioneers following the Applegate-Lassen trail—a spur of the California Trail that ran through Idaho, Nevada, California and Oregon—back in the 1840s and 1850s. Luckily, the same reward still awaits: a hot creek flowing through a surprisingly lush landscape called Soldier Meadows. Here, terraced soaking pools still offer travelers glorious respite—now just steps away from a primitive BLM-managed campground (and not far from a first come, first served public-use one-room cabin.

For a modern take on the full pioneer experience, trade wagons for a reliable truck or SUV and continue west through endlessly breathtaking High Rock Canyon, a gnarly-but-doable (if supremely slow-going) 14-mile 4×4 track through narrow canyons, bighorn sheep and raptor habitat, ghost town remnants, and gotta-see-it-to-believe-it topography. Watch for “pioneer graffiti,” old wagon ruts, oxen bones, and placards attached to pieces of old train rails featuring journal entries from those who made the arduous journey way back when.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

This is one of the most remote slices of the Silver State—if not the entire Lower 48. Do NOT attempt this one without a proper vehicle and the skills to drive (and, if necessary, fix) it. Travel prepared by brushing up on Travel Nevada’s Dirt Road Code long before leaving the pavement and always checking on terrain and weather conditions ahead of time. (Our pals at Friends of Black Rock – High Rock can usually help you with the latter bits.)

6. Striking Gold in Black Canyon 

Find it on the Neon to Nature road trip

  • Gold Strike Hot Springs
  • Black Canyon Water Trail
  • Closest Civilization: Boulder City
  • Adventure Level: Moderate to Advanced

You know it’s going to be good when your two options for accessing a Colorado River-front hot spring are either hiking down several miles via eight different fixed ropes or kayaking in from Hoover Dam. The winter months are best to visit Gold Strike Hot Springs, located just beyond Boulder City (it’s straight-up too hot in the summer and closes to hikers). Whether you decide to swing in Tarzan-style through the canyon hike or rent from Black Canyon River Adventures for a guided or paddle-your-own-way excursion, this is one every Nevada spring-o-phile has gotta tick off the list.

If you opt for the river adventure, the views of Hoover Dam are a face-melter. Plus, river access means you can also check out the Sauna Cave, a few other springs along the Arizona side, and a place called Emerald Cave, which really does live up to its name. All together, this is one adventure sure to FOMO-fy your feeds in a matter of hours.

7. Sip, Savor, Soak, Repeat 

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

  • Carson Hot Springs
  • Shoe Tree Brewing Co. + Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint
  • Closest Civilization: Carson City
  • Adventure Level: Easy

It’s time for three-fer madness, folks. While the source beneath this part of what is now Carson City has been around for eons, today’s trifecta of Carson Hot Springs, Shoe Tree Brewing Company, and Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint makes for a modern-day soaker’s dream-come-true day trip.

At the hot springs, choose from a large warm swimming pool or three spacious hot tubs—including one with the fabled, muscle-tenderizing water feature known as “The Hammer.” Or spring for one of private spa rooms for some all-to-yourself indoor indulgence.

Then go for the gold(en ale) with a little mission we like to call “The Triathlon”—pairing your hot pool party with a visit to the tasty restaurant and brewery, both of which share the property with the resort, making a visit to both unavoidable and absolutely appropriate for this hot springing junket. Indulge in a juicy burger or seafood mac; wash it down with a Wicked Shifty, Cherry Godmother, or even Shoe Tree Root Beer; then say a prayer of gratitude for this mighty fine triple-pairing from the spring gods that be.

8. Kirch Warm Springs and the “Whipple Whopper” 

Find ’em on detours off of the Loneliest Road in America and Great Basin Highway road trips

  • Kirch Hot Springs
  • Whipple Country Store
  • Closest Civilizations: Lund
  • Adventure Level: Moderate

Lake Tahoe has some of the most pristine, crystal-clear water on the planet. So does this place—except it’s warm.* Located along scenic, lesser-trafficked SR-318 about 90 minutes south of Ely (and about the same distance north of Alamo), the far-flung Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area beckons fishermen, campers, and pronghorn antelope-loving wildlife watchers, but it’s the warm spring we are here to discuss. Two Caribbean-hued, sandy-bottomed pools connect via a small channel with a slight, relaxing current that makes for perfect back-floatin’ with wide-open mountain views.

If you’re heading to or from Ely, there are 45 minutes between this sweet soak and some sizzling small-town snacks at the Whipple Family Country Store, in the 89-person farming community of Lund, NV. While the unassuming grill in the back of this cute little mom-and-pop market serves up wings, melts, and fried munchies, the star of the show is what’s known as the “Whipple Whopper.” If you’re here, you need one. And if you’ve never tasted a piccadilly, trust us: get ’em on the side.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Although some may call it Kirch “Hot” Springs, by “warm,” we definitely mean “not hot.” Whereas many hot spring soaks require a balancing act of moving and removing rocks or a feeder pipe to regulate a tub’s temperature (thanks to their scalding source pools nearby), this all-natural flowing spring tends to top out in the 80s and 90s (°F), which makes it an ideal soak in warmer months — but definitely not when it’s cold, when this water will actually make your 98°F-on-average body colder.

There’s more where that came from. Discover all your outdoor recreation opportunities across the Silver State.