Heavenly Hot Springs in Northern California

We may be the among the most powerful and influential nations in the world, but when it comes to the art of relaxing, America lags far behind. Most of us have yet to discover what the Native Americans, Japanese, and many other cultures have known for centuries — that immersing ones body in a natural hot spring is incredibly rejuvenating to the body and spirit.

In the past, most hot spring resorts were havens for hippies and New Age types, but these days more and more mainstreamers are discovering the calming effects of a good mineral soak. In Northern California theres a hot spring resort for every type of person — luxury spas, New Age retreats, pro-nudity spas, Japanese bathhouses, and even inexpensive mom-and-pop enterprises. Hot Springs are one of the rare benefits of living in an earthquake zone.

Along Californias fault line, a mere 4 miles below the earths crust, lies an enormous magma core that superheats the mineral-rich ground water and brings it gushing to the surface. This isnt just tepid tap water, mind you, but mineral-enriched, spring-fed, naturally heated nectar that seeps into your pores, erases your worries, and turns your skin baby-soft. Give it a try — your body will love you for it.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Vichy Springs Resort

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Photo: Courtesy of Vichy Springs Resort

If youve never been to 150-year-old Vichy Springs Resort in Ukiah, you simply have to visit this place. Its not only a piece of classic Americana — its a California Historic Landmark and was a favorite retreat for Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and Jack London — its the only naturally warm and carbonated Vichy mineral baths in North America. Located about 100 miles north of San Francisco, the no-frills resort is quite affordable, with room rates starting at $215, which includes full use of the mineral baths (bathing suits required), hot soaking pool, Olympic size swimming pool, and unfettered access to 700 private acres for walking and hiking. Massage and facials are available by appointment daily until 8pm and are reasonably priced as well. 

Sweetwater Spa & Inn

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Photo: Courtesy of Sweetwater Spa & Inn

The Sweetwater Spa & Inn, located in the heart of Mendocino, offers a wining combo of gorgeous location, reasonably priced lodging, private saunas and hot-tubs, and massage therapists that are highly skilled in a full range of massage and bodywork styles. For overnighters the inn offers a wide array of romantic lodgings to choose from — private fireplace cottages, historical water tower suites, ocean view luxury suites — and is even pet-friendly.

Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs

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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Wilkinson’s

Located in the heart of Calistoga, Dr. Wilkinsons offers one of the best lodging/spa deals in Napa Valley. Facilities include three mineral-water pools (two outdoor and one indoor), a Jacuzzi, a steam room, and mud baths. All kinds of body treatments are available at the spa, including their famed mud baths (which I tried once and enjoyed but its not really my thing), steam treatments, skin care, and massage. They also offer fantastic facials in their specially built facial cottage, and their hot stone massage therapy is pure bliss. All of the hotel’s 50 modern, renovated guest rooms reflect the look, feel, and nostalgia of Calistogas original wellness resort. Relax with a pool or patio view, lay low in the cottages, or gather in the Victorian House.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

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Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

For an ultra-luxe experience, it’s hard to beat Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa’s sprawling 40,000 square foot space. Built on the historic site first revered by native American Indians for its healing waters, it is one of the only spa resorts in the United States with its own source of natural thermal mineral water, which flows 1,100 feet directly beneath the Inn at 135 degrees. Signature spa features include a self-guided Bathing Ritual, herbal steam, individual mineral baths, private whirlpools, a dedicated Watsu pool, special Vichy showers, and the King’s Bath and treatment rooms for couples. Many guests who dip in the Watsu treatment pool find it not only soothing, but also profoundly transcendent.

Harbin Hot Springs

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Photo: Courtesy of Harbin Hot Springs

Nestled in a secluded valley near Middletown — about 30 minutes north of Calistoga — is Harbin Hot Springs, one of the largest and most popular hot springs in California. The atmosphere at this nonprofit retreat is decidedly New Age; youll see a good number of aging-hippie types in the buff (clothing is optional and rarely worn), mingling with the occasional urban professional. The 1,160-acre resort has a sauna, four mineral pools, and large redwood sun decks for that full-bodied tan. Meditation sessions, moon ceremonies, massages, facials, aromatherapy and Watsu (a warm-water massage) are also available. Lodgings range from inexpensive campsites and mens and womens dormitory-style rooms to cozy cottages. Within the resort is a health food store, two small cafes, and the Stonefront Restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner daily.

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

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