May 19 2010 by Bridget Daly
One day, while sitting in a natural spring in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, I had a true spiritual awakening. It was January of 2000, the beginning of the new millennium, and the snow was falling as I sat in a 100 degree natural sulfur spring with the steam lifting off the water in a surreal swirling motion. Snow covered mountains, that I had just snowboarded on earlier that day, surrounded me. And every little snowflake that hit my head created a cold sensation in contrast to the hot water beneath me. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. It was then that I decided to take a different path in my life and that path eventually resulted in the decision to have my first child. I attribute that meditation-like experience with helping me to make important decisions in my life that created the wonderful life I have now. So as you can expect, I take trips to natural hot springs whenever possible.
The general definition of a hot spring is a natural spring of water that has a higher water temperature than the area around it, which is usually produced by the surfacing of heated groundwater from the Earth's crust. There are hot springs all over the earth - Japan and South America have what most consider the best - but I'll focus this article on the interesting and what I consider the best in the northwest and southwest U.S.
In one of the most beautiful settings in Alamosa, Colorado lie pools, saunas and accommodations at Valley View Hot Springs (Orient Land Trust). The Valley View Hot Springs is a rustic and peaceful location in a wooded area where the springs are developed into pools and are large enough to accommodate many visitors. While this isn't an upscale resort, it is a lovely serene place with a stunning surrounding.
Often the best natural places to visit take some hiking to get there. The San Antonio Hot Springs in Los Alamos, New Mexico requires a five mile hike, but it is well worth it. Water flows out of the steep mountainside to create the springs and is over 100 degrees yearlong. The area is extremely primitive and it's not uncommon to see nudity. The elevation is over 8300 feet and so the surrounding creek, valley and forest is visible from all the pools.
If you're looking for a not-so-primitive hot spring and a more traditional bathhouse experience, try the Carson Mineral Hot Springs Resort in Carson, Washington. Founded by a man whose wife found relief from neuralgia by sitting in the springs, it has become widely thought that the springs here can cure health problems. Many people say that staying here is like taking a step back into time. While there is a golf course, the resort holds up a traditional, Victorian-like environment. Rather than sitting in an outdoor pool surrounded by rocks, this resort has bathhouses where the 120 degree water flows from the banks of the nearby Wind River. Men and women are separated into secluded rooms and visitors are encouraged to soak in the tubs and then enjoy a massage afterward for the ultimate European bathhouse experience.
There are several different types of springs to soak in and release tensions, meditate and relax. But check out these other popular spots and decide which one is right for you: