I always recommend plenty of research for a big trip to find activities to do. Be open and find interesting places to go as well as experience new things that you’ve never done before. As I always say: Get our of your comfort zone and go explore! I’ve always read and watched about natural hot springs (onsens) in Japan that I’ve always wanted to try (ideally in snow all around). So I thought since we were planning this amazing trip to Mammoth for snowboarding that I should try and see if there were natural hot springs around.
I did a few days worth of research and found the most popular one being Wild Willy’s hot springs. There were plenty of great reviews, but being so accessible and easily found I was afraid that it might’ve been too popular so I went and searched for alternatives. I stumbled across another blog that listed another location called “Little Hot Creek Hot Springs” that looked very promising, it was a 50/50 natural and man adapted (humans made a few changes like adding a fence, some benches and temperature control) hot spring. I opted for the latter since I read that it was harder to get to so I was hoping that that would deter a hoard of people being there.
I read up on all the routes possible to get there and thankfully the blog also mentioned the shortest and easiest route to get to Little Hot Creek. Find the most direct route here from Mammoth Lakes. I definitely hope that map helps you find this amazing little place to soak up some fun! It was just VERY unfortunate the day that we decided to go that our co-driver and navigator in the passenger seat got us lost and ended up taking the LONGEST and HARDEST route to get to Little Hot Creek (a route that you’d definitely need 4×4 to handle). When we finally arrived, there was plenty of parking. We walked over some planks to get to the hot springs only to find it full already. The atmosphere was definitely very nice. Albeit I wanted to hot springs with snow, we went on a weekend that was warmer so there was no fresh snowfall to encapsulate the hot/cold and gorgeous experience.
Little Hot Creek was small, very neat and pretty place, but definitely tiny. It was full with just 6-7 people in it and our group also included 5 that wanted in. There was no more space and the current group wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon. We ended up deciding to go to Wild Willy’s (directions here from Little Hot Creek). We arrived around 3:00PM and the weather was beautiful, the sun was out, no cloud and all blue skies. Wild Willy’s also had plenty of parking available, we saw that there were already a few cars so we were definitely expecting a crowd this time. It’s about 10-12 minute walk on a walkway trail that was provided. After the trail ends, you basically walk in mud to get to the hot springs.
I HIGHLY recommend NOT wearing UGGs or any suede boots for the terrain around the hot springs is very muddy and WILL ruin them. I say bare foot and walk in mud or rubber rain boots will work very well. They’ll be easy to clean off. Flip flops will kind of work, but they’ll get suctioned off and mud will just go over your feet anyways. I wore suede boots, got them caked in mud and basically destroyed the car flooring with dirt. LOL. Remember to bring your own towel and some drinks and snacks if you want to munch while soaking.
There were two spring pools, one that was larger than the other one, but being the bigger one, it was filled with families and their kids. We got really lucky with the smaller pool as when we arrived the current group was just leaving so we had the place to ourselves. Not only that, but the hot springs was in a natural shape of a heart. I thought that was pretty cool. It was also very fortunate that on that day the natural springs were working their beautiful natural magic and gave us really hot water. I’ve read that sometimes it’s 50/50 where it might just be luke warm because mother nature didn’t feel like warming up the springs. I loved how hot the water was, almost felt boiling (easily 110+ degrees) and got a really good soak in the pool. It was large enough to have plenty of space for us to move around and the landscape was very open. Although will warn you that it does smell of sulfur, but that’s the natural beauty of it all.
It’s because the hot springs are sulfurous that it made our skin super smooth. Sulfur, a naturally occurring mineral found in hot springs, clay, and volcanic ash—and also as a trace mineral in the human body, is great at busting bacteria, which makes it ideal for skin (especially those that are acne prone). It does double duty when it comes to pores. Sulfur kills bacteria and draws out oil, which in turn reduces buildup in pores. How awesome is that?
We had an amazing time at Wild Willy’s and will definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a hot springs to try!
Hwy 395 Benton Crossing Rd
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546