As those of us who have felt earthquakes in northern Nevada know, the Reno area is geologically active. One of the more pleasant and useful manifestations of this activity is hot water - specifically that found in numerous hot springs around the region. While some are hot enough to foster a thriving geothermal energy industry, several others have been tapped to provide soothing soaking pools and health spas for humans to enjoy.
Grover Hot Springs State Park
California's Grover Hot Springs State Park is a short drive from Minden / Gardnerville, Nevada. It is located in Alpine County, California, four miles west of the little town of Markleeville. In the 1800s, the site sported a popular resort. Today, the hot springs are used to fill a pool that is open to the public for soaking. There is an adjacent cool pool for those who like to take a bracing plunge after s spell in the hot water. There are men's and women's dressing rooms and restrooms. The pool area is surrounded by a fence and open to the sky.
The 700 acre park is at nearly 6000' elevation in Hot Springs Valley. It is in the forest and surrounded by lofty Sierra peaks. Summers are pleasant, but it is snowy and quite cold in the winter.
The hot springs are open every day from June through August. From September through May, the pools are closed on Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The pools are closed for facility and pool maintenance during two weeks in September. Operating times and dates may vary, so call (530) 694-2249 for current information before making the drive. Pool admission is $7 per person.
For more information, you can download the Grover Hot Springs State Park brochure.
Steamboat Hot Springs Healing Center and Spa
Steamboat Hot Springs Healing Center and Spa is just south of Reno on old highway 395. This hot spring has been around for a long time and is a Nevada state registered historic landmark. In addition to the hot mineral water soaking tubs, Steamboat Hot Springs features alternative health treatments like aroma therapy, massages, facials, tetoxifying mud wraps, light therapy, energetic healing, and more.
The fee for the private mineral baths is $20 per person for an hour, $15 per person for half an hour. Refer to the service menu and prices for other available treatments and services.
Steamboat Hot Springs is south of the Mt. Rose Highway, on the east side of old U.S. 395. The address is 16010 S. Virginia Street. You will see a sign and the old buildings on the left if you are coming from Reno. Be careful of oncoming traffic when making the turn into the facility.
1862 David Walley's Hot Springs Resort
If you want a more upscale place to soak, 1862 David Walley's Hot Springs Resort is for you. The resort features overnight accommodations and ownership opportunities, along with the hot springs and other facilities. It was established in 1862 and one of the original buildings is still in use.
For day-use, Walley's has a big hot springs pool and six surrounding small spa-type pools. All of the pools are outside and open to the sky. There is a steam room, sauna, restaurant, fitness room, and playground among the amenities. The fee for daily use of the hot springs is $30 per person. A local's rate of $15 per person applies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (the Reno area is considered local). Various massages and other spa services are available at additional cost.
1862 David Walley's Hot Springs Resort is located in the Carson Valley, just north of Genoa on Nevada Highway 206. The address is 2001 Foothill Road, Genoa, NV 89411.
Another thing to do while visiting Walley's is to hike the Genoa Vista Trail. This scenic path runs between the resort and the historic town of Genoa, providing expansive views of the Carson Valley and bird watching opportunities.
Carson Hot Springs Resort
Carson Hot Springs Resort is a historic place that has been in business since the 1800s. Before white settlers arrived, Native Americans in the area made use of the healing waters. Today, Carson Hot Springs Resort is in Nevada's capital city and still offering visitors a soothing soak in a warm mineral water pool. There are no overnight accommodations, but efficiency apartments are rented on a monthly basis. The rate of flow is such that no city water or chemicals are needed. The pools are drained and refilled every day.
Carson Hot Springs Resort has a large outdoor pool and several private spa rooms. Pool use is $10 a day for adults, $8 for children and seniors. Refer to the rates schedule for information about spa room costs. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Carson Hot Springs Resort is located at 1500 Old Hot Springs Road in Carson City. Take the College Parkway exit from U.S. 395 to reach the resort. The information phone number is (775) 885-8844.
Sierra Hot Springs Resort and Retreat Center
Sierra Hot Springs Resort and Retreat Center is operated as a non-profit retreat. Use of the facilities requires membership, which can be purchased by the month at $5. To use the hot soaking pool and other amenities, at least one member in a group must be a member. Membership is also good at Harbin Hot Springs, an affiliated retreat.
Sierra Hot Springs is in a secluded, peaceful setting that might be appealing to you. There is a large outdoor pool and a smaller, hotter "quiet" pool inside a geodesic dome. Clothing is optional in both areas and the dressing rooms are co-ed. There is a hotel at springs and meals are available. There is also a campground suitable for RVs (no hook-ups). Before going, you should read "Things to Know" to familiarize yourself with the atmosphere you will be entering.
Day use rates (in addition to membership fee) are $15 per person for 3 hours, $20 per person for all day until midnight. Refer to the rates schedule for a list of all fees, including lodging and camping. The information and reservations phone number is (530) 994-3773.
Sierra Hot Springs Resort and Retreat Center is near Sierraville, CA, north of Truckee from Highway 89. Refer to the website for detailed driving directions.
Hot Springs of the Black Rock Desert
There are several hot springs in the Black Rock Desert, all wild and undeveloped. They include Trego Hot Springs, Black Rock Hot Springs, several hot springs in Soldier Meadows, and Double Hot Spring. The area is 100+ miles north of Reno and within the Black Rock Desert - High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. The federal agency in charge is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
If you want to go, be prepared to be self-sufficient and know that you must be equipped to help yourself if you get into trouble. Cell phones don't work up there and the paved road ends. A good place to begin is Black Rock Station, the official visitor center in the town of Gerlach. Before heading out, however, you can get a great deal of information from the BLM Black Rock Desert website and from Friends of Black Rock / High Rock.
The official position of the BLM is that visitors should stay out of the hot springs. You should follow this advice unless you really know what you are doing. Inexperienced people have been injured and killed at hot springs in the Black Rock Desert. Another hazard is chiggers and biting flies, particularly at springs surrounded by grass and other vegetation. Be aware of these dangers and you are more likely to enjoy the adventure.
More About Hot Springs
If you want to learn more about hot springs and why issue forth warm or hot water, refer to About Thermal Springs from the About.com guide to geology.
Books About Nevada and California Hot Springs
There are several guide books to hot springs (developed spas and resorts, as well as wild springs) for those interested in further exploration of this fun and fascinating form of recreation. Click the links to see what's available.
Sources: Various hot springs websites.