Imagine yourself walking through a mix of red rock canyons and forest, on a path covered in white snow with a river winding its way along the side of the path. The destination is unreal blue and turquoise colored steaming hot pools to relax in.
Does that sound appealing to you as we approach springtime? It did to me! I’m all about taking part in unique experiences, and this sounded like something out of the ordinary. There are hot springs in the Salt Lake region, but most of them are very developed or man-made. This one is mostly in its natural state.
If you’re heading down from Salt Lake City, take I-15 South through Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley until you reach Spanish Fork. Take the exit for US-6 East (exit 257). Drive for approximately 11 miles until you reach Diamond Fork Road. From there, turn left. As a warning, it’s on a curve, and there’s no major signs to signal the turn so keep an eye out as you’re approaching the turn. Follow Diamond Fork Road until you reach the “Road Closed” sign or if you’re adventuring when the road is open, continue on the road until you approach the trailhead which will be marked, on the lefthand side.
Quick Trail Stats
Distance: Approximately 11-13 miles, roundtrip (if winter gate is closed) or 5 miles, roundtrip (if winter gate is open)
Total Hiking Time: 4-6 hours, depending on your hiking pace (winter) or 1-3 hours
Time from Salt Lake City: 1.5 hours drive-time
Elevation Gain: 700 ft (once on the trail). The road portion of the hike during winter is fairly flat, and the snow was packed down when we went.
Rating: Easy (trail-portion only). During the winter, it’s moderate due to the distance of the hike.
Dogs: Yes, we saw a few. Not a watershed area.
Fees: None 🙂
Note: Since we chose to take this hike during the winter, we knew the hike would be longer than usual because the US Forest Service closes the gate. For more information, call (801) 798-3571 for the current road conditions. I also researched on Facebook, AllTrails.com, and the Outbound for current comments of others that had done it recently to find out if it was open. While I did not find a definite answer, I did figure it was safe to assume the road was closed.
Our hike began at the Road Closed sign. We walked along the road (open during warmer months) which passes many campsites on both sides of the road. The road is mostly flat, multi-use trail. We saw some cross-country skiers, a couple snowmobiles, and many hikers going to the trailhead. I didn’t measure the distance, but it was between 3-4 miles (based on our pace per mile). I should mention that the road was more scenic on the way back since the sun had come out and you could see more of the red rock canyons surrounding the road at that point.
Once on the trail, the real fun starts! There is a small footbridge at the trailhead area… Don’t take this! Follow the trail that is on the north side of the creek. The elevation gain for this hike is not too challenging with approximately 700 feet over the course of the 2.5 mile trail to the springs. We saw people of all ages making their way up the trail. I liked this trail because it was a mix of ascending and descending trail. There is another footbridge that appears about a mile into the hike. We had a lovely view of the sun coming out on our way back.
Previous hikers have also warned, “Nudists will be shot!!,” carved into the side of the bridge. We did not see any nudists on this particular trip, but all of the sources I read prior to coming mentioned that this is commonplace at the springs. Nudity is technically illegal here, but don’t be surprised if it happens on your visit!
When you’re close to the springs, you’ll start to smell sulfur, and you may notice the steam rising off of the water of the river next to the trail.
Next thing you’ll know, the springs will appear for you in all of their jewel-toned glory. They’re turquoise, cobalt blue, aquamarine, and sky blue– and everything in between!
How Do the Hot Springs Occur?
The heat for the hot springs is produced geothermally with heat that rises up from the Earth’s mantel. Since heated water can hold more dissolved solids than cold water, hot and warm springs tend to have a high mineral content. The high mineral content can be a mixture of minerals, from calcium to lithium. The minerals cause the springs to have a milky look to them.
Come prepared for a hike and a swim! Remember that this a hike! Wear boots, socks, and light quick-drying layers. At one point, I was only wearing a tank top since I had to shed my top layers. If you plan on soaking, either bring or wear a bathing suit. I suggest wearing it under your clothes and bringing some underwear to change into. Don’t forget your towel!
Bring sandals or water shoes to wear as you’re moving around the springs and soaking. I brought and wore my Chacos, and they were perfect! I was happy that I didn’t have to worry about my feet potentially getting scraped on the rocky bottom of the pools. I also moved to another pool to relax in, and I had something with traction to prevent me from slipping in the (VERY COLD) mud. I made the mistake of taking them off when I was finished soaking and walked in the cold mud, and my feet were little icicles. Good thing the hot springs warmed them up quick!
Wear traction devices on your hiking boots and bring trekking poles. We wore these YakTrax and each had one trekking pole from this set (we split a pair since we only have one set). They helped us feel a little more steady and balanced in the few icy parts of the trail, and kept our momentum going up slushy and deeper parts.Bring a plastic bag or garbage bag to place muddy, wet clothing in. I put my clean underwear and bra in it for the hike there, and placed everything wet/muddy/gross in there on the way back. It worked out really well!
If you want privacy, plan to get there early in the day. When we arrived, not many people were there but as the day progressed, many people were still heading into the springs. We arrived at the starting point at 10:00am, and were at the springs by 12:30pm.