Aboveground, the Land of Enchantment’s geological landscapes deliver serene vistas at nearly every turn. But in certain areas of New Mexico, serenity can be found deep below the ground. Natural hot springs are formed when mineral-rich water heated by the Earth’s interior percolates through cracks and fissures to the Earth’s surface. Thanks to an abundance of geothermally active land in New Mexico, the state is home to at least 77 natural mineral hot springs.
While not all of these springs are suitable for soaking, many are, and people from all walks of life have long sought out New Mexico’s hot springs for both relaxation and healing. Whether you prefer easily accessible developed hot spring spas, undeveloped pools surrounded by wilderness, or something in between, New Mexico has dozens of choices for those looking to experience these gifts of nature. Read on to find your perfect New Mexico hot spring.
North Of Albuquerque
The quaint mountain valley village of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, is an ideal destination for those interested in visiting an array of developed and primitive hot springs. Located about 45 minutes from Albuquerque, Jemez has attracted soakers since the late 1870s, when one of the area’s springs erupted into a geyser and locals enclosed the spot with a rock wall.
For easy access and comfort, the Jemez Hot Springs day resort is a great place to start. Located along Highway 4 on the main drag of Jemez Springs, this attractive spot with a slightly New Age atmosphere features four mineral-rich, terra-cotta-colored outdoor pools that blend seamlessly into a peaceful red-rock mountain backdrop. Visitors pay by the hour, and day passes are available.
If a historic, slightly rustic atmosphere works for you, Jemez Springs Bath House, also on the main drag of Jemez Springs, offers affordable 25-minute soaks in private indoor concrete tubs, where soakers control the temperature of the water through hot and cold faucets. Jemez Springs Bath House was one of the first structures to be built in the town. It’s a nonprofit owned and operated by Jemez Springs, and all proceeds go back to the village.
The Jemez Springs area is also home to two popular natural outdoor hot springs located within the Santa Fe National Forest. They cost nothing to use, but they require a bit of effort to reach, and there are no on-site facilities available. The relatively short .06-mile hike to Spence Hot Springs includes a steep ascent, but this does little to deter the crowds on weekends. Early mornings and weekdays are the best times to visit.
The San Antonio Hot Springs are harder to reach, but they’re truly sublime. Getting there requires a 5-mile drive on a stretch of bumpy forest road (four-wheel drive or a high-clearance vehicle is recommended) followed by a .07-mile uphill trail. Many people opt to hike or bike the forest road, which is closed to vehicles during the winter. This is a clothing-optional hot spring, but many folks do opt to soak in bathing suits.
With a variety of lodging options and an on-site restaurant, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is a place where you can have a complete hot spring getaway. Located about an hour north of Santa Fe and 45 minutes south of Taos, Ojo Caliente is said to be one of the oldest natural health resorts in the United States, and the waters that feed the Ojo Caliente pools have been sacred to the surrounding Northern Pueblo tribal communities for thousands of years.
The pools at Ojo Caliente are defined by temperature and mineral properties, giving visitors the opportunity to soak in pools rich in iron, arsenic, soda, and lithia. Private pools complete with pinon fireplaces are also available.
South Of Albuquerque
Truth Or Consequences
It’s possible to soak in a different spot every day of the week in the small town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Located about 2 hours south of Albuquerque, this small, funky town is built on top of hot springs and is home to 10 commercial bathhouses. In fact, before adopting its current name in 1950, the town of Truth or Consequences was aptly named Hot Springs.
One of the most popular soaking options in this town full of soaking options is Riverbend Hot Springs. This developed resort offers five outdoor communal mineral pools as well as four private pools, all of which sit next to the Rio Grande and offer mountain views. The pools at Riverbend are built of smooth rocks and have steps and rails that increase accessibility. Visitors can pay to soak by the hour, but those staying in Riverbend’s on-site lodging and RV park get unlimited access to the communal pools. Soaking at 8 a.m. before the pools open to the public is magical. After dark, the property is gently lit with multicolored mood lights, giving it an otherworldly feel.
Another popular soaking option in Truth or Consequences is La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa and its sister property, La Paloma Too. These bathhouses have been in operation for more than 90 years and offer 13 gravel-bottom baths, most of which are indoors. A unique feature of the baths at these properties is that they are “natural flow,” meaning that the water in the pools surfaces naturally and is not run through any pumps or pipes.
Located in the western part of the state, the Gila Wilderness is part of the Gila National Forest and is a hot spot for hikers, campers, and folks who enjoy rustic and undeveloped hot springs. The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is the big draw in this area, and the following popular hot springs are all in close proximity to this site.
Tent and small trailer campers get unlimited access to three natural hot spring pools at Gila Hot Springs Campground. Located about 40 miles north of Silver City, New Mexico, and about 4 miles from the Gila Cliff Dwellings, this private campground has just 12 campsites. The pools, which have natural rock perimeters and gravel bottoms, are open to the public during the day. After dark, the pools are clothing optional and open only to campers.
A three-quarter mile hike from the Gila Visitor Center and two river crossings are what it takes to get to Lightfeather Hot Spring (also called Middlefork). This spring, situated in a steep canyon, pulses from the ground at about 130 degrees and flows into the middle fork of the Gila River, where people have fashioned a shallow soaking pool out of stones. While the spring gets mixed reviews, the hike is consistently lovely.
Jordan Hot Springs is another popular undeveloped hot spring that is accessible from the Gila Visitor Center, but this one takes some serious effort to reach. The shortest route to Jordan Hot Springs is a 6-mile trail that passes through Little Bear Canyon. The trail includes several river crossings and at least an hour of uphill and downhill trekking. If you are up for the challenge, the large 94-degree natural pool covered in dappled shade will not disappoint.
In the quest to find your perfect hot spring, it is important to remember to hydrate often and take frequent breaks so as not to overheat. Submerging your head in natural hot springs is also discouraged due to rare but serious complications stemming from bacteria found in some hot springs.