4 clothing-optional hot springs to soothe your winter blues

Man bathing in a natural hot spring.

Need a quick escape from winter blues? Just a few hours from San Francisco, in the forested terrain of Northern California, you’ll find some of the country’s greatest hot springs. These clothing-optional destinations offer a rejuvenating, relaxing experience that is sure to warm your bones.

Harbin Hot Spring

Harbin Hot Springs

New Age Phoenix 18424 Harbin Springs Rd · Middletown, CA 95461
(707) 987-2477

Only two hours away from San Francisco, this queer-friendly retreat center is often referred to as the phoenix of hot springs, due to the fact that a forest fire damaged the resort in 2015.  The soothing waters of Harbin have been used by indigenous groups of the region well before a pleasure hotel was created in 1870. Since then, the property has had many identities including a 1960s free love haven for counterculture hippies. Today, the retreat center and 24 hours hot springs feature meditation soaking pools in various temperatures under the shade of a majestic fig tree, where silence is strictly enforced. The largest pool is comfortably warm while the small temple features one of the hottest tubs in California. (~116 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pray to the illuminated goddess that you will last more than a minute before you shock your system by plunging into the cold pool. The bathing area also features a dry sauna and four “conversational” pools. There is also a large deck and lap pool perfect for those warm summer California days. In addition to the springs, Harbin is known for its aquatic bodywork treatment called Watsu (Water Shiatsu) which was created in 1980 on the property. You can book a treatment with an on-site aquatic therapist, and you will often see people Watsuing each other in the pools.

Besides the soaking tubs, the property has a variety of accommodations ranging from creekside caravans with kitchenettes, camping in the surrounding forests, upscale cabins, and even rooms in stunningly unique geodesic domes. The property has yoga classes, and special events, and features an on-site take-out cafe. The sleepy nearby Middletown has a variety of dining options as well. If you’re not lucky enough to spend a whole weekend at Harbin, look into the 6-hour day pass, but make sure to reserve them beforehand as they go quickly, especially during the weekends.

Wilbur Hot Spring

Wilbur Hot Springs

Clothing optional rustic bathing 3375 Wilbur Springs Rd · Williams, CA 95987
(530) 473-2306

Relaxation seekers have flocked to the bubbling geysers of Wilbur Hot Springs since the late 1800s. Surrounded by historic buildings and a nature preserve, just a 2.5-hour drive from San Francisco, you’ll find the healing waters of Wilbur, where soaking plumes of various temperatures rest under a rustic barn. 

Its large soaking pool overlooks the babbling stream, and its clawfoot tub cold plunge is sure to improve your circulation. Take advantage of the dry sauna and massage services between soaks. The property also has communal bikes that allow you to explore the attached nature preserve where remnants of old mining operations, a natural geyser, and a windchime-covered tree grace the rolling landscape.

The site features cabins, historic hotel rooms, private rooms in the solar lodge with shared bathrooms, and camping is available seasonally. The historic hotel houses a communal dining room and lots of places to snuggle up with a book. There aren’t any food options on the property, but there is a large shared kitchen for cooking meals. Make sure to bring everything as the closest grocery store is 23 miles away! Day passes are also available.

Sierra Hot Springs

Sierra Hot Springs

Clothing optional alpine oasis 521 Campbell Hot Springs Rd · Sierraville, CA 96126
(530) 994-3773

Deep in the Sierra Mountains just one hour’s drive from Lake Tahoe, you’ll find a montane retreat where hot spring pools dot the forest floor. Known as Harbin’s more rustic sister, Sierra Hot Springs features a bathing area with a large warm pool and a covered geodesic dome with stained glass goddess imagery where you can soak in hot pools or dunk in cold plunges. The deck is also a great place to watch the sunset over the scenic valley. 

What makes this space truly magical are the hot tubs and private bathing areas sprinkled throughout the forest. The main lodge has private rooms with shared bathrooms and a quaint cafe with tons of outdoor seating. There is also seasonal camping and an off-site accommodation called the Globe Hotel which is located less than a mile away in Sierraville. 

Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs Resort

Clothing optional redwood wonderland  13201 Orr Springs Rd · Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 462-6277

Located 2.5 hours driving from San Francisco, in the hills of the coastal California mountain range near Ukiah, this queer-owned hot spring is nestled in a Redwood Forest ravine. The site has a communal kitchen, moss-covered yurts, multi-room cottages, and seasonal camping. The property offers a large cold swimming pool and two different-temperature communal tubs. The property also has private clawfoot tubs on the rooftop perfect for gazing at the shimmering stars, and multiple bathing rooms for private soaking. Dry and wet saunas are available as well, while massages can be booked on-site. Looking to explore the surrounding forest deeper? Don’t miss taking a hike in the nearby Montgomery woods. 

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