People have gravitated to geothermally-heated ground waters or “hot springs” since the dawn of mankind, seeking rejuvenation, comfort, and healing. Did you know the word “spa” originates from Spa, Belgium which was a popular watering spot in the 1600s? And the ancient Romans took their soaking very seriously—building the first formal baths in the first century AD, which visitors can still view today in Bath, England. Fifteenth and 16th century Spanish explorers discovered New Mexico’s natural hot springs, thankful for their healing properties, which Native Americans had known about for centuries.
European hot springs locations became known as wellness centers after 18th century doctors started promoting water cures. And ever since, there has been a steady flow of wellness seekers taking the plunge. Here in New Mexico there are plenty of places to “take to the waters”—ranging from remote hike-in spots to more upscale experiences. And some of our popular tourist locales have strong ties to wellness and hot springs such as Jemez Springs, Ojo Caliente, and Truth or Consequences.
There’s no doubt that soaking in hot springs can ease body aches and pains, and promote a sense of calm. But then again, so can a hot bath. Proponents claim it is the minerals in the springs such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and lithium that provide healing effects to different organs and body systems. For instance, the experts at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort claim that lithia water helps relieve depression and aid digestion, while arsenic water relieves arthritis, stomach ulcers, and heals a variety of skin conditions.
New Mexico Hot Springs
Stagecoach Hot Springs, Taos
Near Arroyo Hondo outside Taos, Stagecoach Hot Springs (Manby Hot Springs) is a great spot with two sand-bottomed rocks pools along the banks of the Rio Grande. Named for its proximity to an old stagecoach stop, water temps are about 97 degrees. This popular spot requires a 20-minute walk down a rocky path to reach the pools. A bit hard to find, so definitely utilize a map.
Black Rock Hot Springs, Taos
Another popular soaking spot outside Taos on the banks of the Rio Grande is Black Rock Hot Springs. This one is located over the John Dunn Bridge for those of your familiar with the area. A 5-10 minute jaunt on a trail takes you to two mud-bottomed rock pools with temps hovering around 97 degrees. Find out how to get there on.
Montezuma Hot Springs, Las Vegas
Cement-bottomed hot springs are located right off a country road (NM 65) near Montezuma Castle, which is today part of United World College, five miles outside Las Vegas, NM. Although the hot springs are technically located on private land, UWC allows free public usage of the pools and maintains them. As a result they’re often busy and sometimes a little rowdy. Beware the pool called the lobster pot – for good reason at 120 degrees.
*Jemez Springs and the Jemez Mountains are a virtual bonanza for hot springs aficionados and options range from those located via rustic hikes to more user-friendly (and fee required) springs. The area gets its prolific bubbling springs from its proximity to the super volcano, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, which is just 17 miles away.
Spence Hot Springs
One of the most popular spots, and only a quarter mile from the pull-off on Highway 4, Spence is nice for a dip but not a particularly tranquil spot due to high visitation traffic.
McCauley Warm Springs
As the name indicates, these springs are more on the warm side rather than hot, but are located in a beautiful location with killer views. It is an approximate 4-mile moderate roundtrip hike with switchbacks and an altitude gain, so getting your heart racing is part of the experience. Trail starts at Battleship Rock Day Use Area off Highway 4.
San Antonio Hot Springs
Located off Forest Service Road 475 in the Santa Fe National Forest (about six miles from Jemez Springs), getting to this scenic and remote hot springs area is an adventure in itself. For starters, there is a five-mile out-and-back road that usually requires a 4X4 or high-clearance vehicle to reach the trail. (And in the winter it can be impassable due to snow pack.) Many people opt to hike this five-mile stretch—and some snowshoe it in winter. Once you reach the trail, it is only 0.7 miles to the top of the springs, with 4-5 small pools in a really stunning setting.
Jemez Springs Bath House
Established in the 1870s, this rustic bath house located in the middle of town, is owned and operated by the Village of Jemez Springs and contains mineral-rich springs with aluminum, calcium, chloride, iron, and magnesium. The cost is $18 for 25 minutes, $25 for 50 minutes. Locals can soak at half-price (zip codes 87025, 87024, 87044, and 87053) and a birthday special allows for a free 25-minute soak – valid one week before/after and on one’s special day. Visitors can also opt for spa services such as herbal wraps and massages.
Jemez Hot Springs (Formerly known as Giggling Springs)
Peaceful spot alongside the Jemez River in the town of Jemez Spring with a several pools and zen-like landscaping. Fun fact: Giggling Springs is located on the site of the oldest bath house in the area (mid 1800s), when people rode up from Albuquerque in a stagecoach. One hour soak costs $25, two hours costs $50.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort is a popular destination for its beautiful vistas and hot springs. The resort underwent a major renovation several years back, amping up the chi chi factor and cost. But it still retains its offbeat character and is a fantastic day trip for soaking in its multitude of mineral pools (11 public) that range from 80 – 109 degrees, as well as its mud pool, cold plunge pool, and outdoor kivas fireplaces. Be sure to take a pair of hiking shoes or sneakers with you and opt for the hilltop trail behind the resort to the Posi pueblo ruins, a 1-mile round trip hike. Fees for the public mineral pools are $45 (Monday – Thursday) and $65 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays). Of course you can raise the bar on this sanctuary experience by choosing from a selection of treatments such as a therapeutic massage, body scrub, facial, or yoga class.
Ten Thousand Waves Santa Fe
While there are no natural mineral springs in Santa Fe proper, there’s a great choice for a soak in the Capital City, especially on the way down from a day on the mountain at Ski Santa Fe. At the very upscale Ten Thousand Waves, located on Hyde Park Road, the spa experience is modeled after the great Japanese mountain hot spring resorts, and visiting the communal tub for men and women is $58 for 90 minutes. Of course you can always heighten the visit with a spa treatment or dine at the adjacent Izanami, which serves small plate Japanese izakaya fare.
Pajarito Springs White Rock
Keep this one in mind for next summer. There is a great cool soak that you can access after a challenging hike on the “Red Dot Trail” in White Rock, NM. This steep, rocky climb drops about 800 feet into White Rock Canyon and has amazing views. Find the trailhead along Pierda Loop in White Rock in the middle of a housing development.
One word of caution about hot springs: keep your head above the water at all times. There have been some rare cases of people catching primary amoebic meningoencephalitis after using a geothermal pool, which is a nasty illness that can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control there have only been 121 cases in all of the United States in a 70-year period, so less than two cases per year nationwide. So yes indeed very rare—but also very dangerous. So play it safe, keep your head above the water, and enjoy the healing waters.