By Keilah Keiser
Do you have visions of yourself sitting in a natural hot spring, lying back in the warmth and comfort of the water? You don’t need to wait until you plan a trip around the world to make this a reality. There are numerous hot springs around the country within easy reach. But just what is a hot spring…and why are they now more popular than ever?
To keep it simple, a hot spring happens when heated water from the ground rises up to form a pool of water. Water from precipitation and melting snow flows underground, moving slowly around porous rocks and dissolving minerals as it moves deeper into the ground. The water heats up as it moves over hot rocks deep in the earth. And as it heats, the water expands and creates pressure that forces it to come bubbling and spurting back up to the surface through natural faults in the earth and rock. The warm, mineral-rich water gathers and collects on the rock surface, creating beautiful pools of natural hot springs.
For thousands of years, the healing powers of hot springs have been used by different cultures around the world. The Egyptians and Romans had their baths and spas, and the Japanese have their Onsen. No matter where you go people all agree that hot springs are pure bliss. What do these cultures know that we’re just learning?
According to folklore, the warm waters have a healing property and are used around the world to cure a multitude of ailments. Heated water holds more dissolved minerals and solids, so the water in hot springs has a high mineral content. Depending on where the hot spring is located it can contain calcium, lithium, magnesium, and silica – everything your skin loves!
The lovely, warm temperatures of hot springs are ideal for soothing aching muscles – perfect after a long hike. In Asian history, hot springs have been used to treat arthritis and swollen joints. European spas use hot springs to rejuvenate the skin and treat some skin conditions. It’s believed that regularly soaking in the warm spring waters can reduce the redness and itching of eczema. Soaking in hot springs is also thought to help to improve blood circulation – and that some minerals, such as calcium, are good for the heart. And then there’s the benefit of helping you sleep better. The magnesium content in hot springs may help you get a great night of sleep, which many of us so desperately need after a long day of hiking!
You probably don’t need more convincing. We’ve been enjoying hot springs for thousands of years. And they’re back at the top of the list of things to do to help us relax in a time when most of us are busier than ever. Whether it’s raining, snowing, or the sun is shining, nothing is better than soaking in the natural, calming waters of a hot spring. It’s one of the best ways to relax and ‘soak up’ the surrounding beauty of nature.
Even without the folklore and health benefits, sitting in natural hot springs is just wonderfully relaxing. While Instagram has made may hot springs around the world famous, like Iceland’s Blue Lagoon and Pammukale in Turkey, those in the United States often fly well under the radar. Just the adventure alone is worth seeking out as many of the 1,661 hot springs in the country as you can, each with a different temperature and mineral content. Some are small and off-the-beaten-path, so you’ll need to trek in. But this makes the experience of sitting in one even more satisfying, as the healing waters gently soothe your sore muscles from the hike to the springs. So, pack up the tent, grab your swimsuit (or not!), and head over to the first on our list of the top 71 natural hot springs in the western United States.