There are as many reasons to visit the natural beauty of the hot springs in the New Mexico Jemez Mountains as there are locations! Generally made up of dissolved minerals, these waters are said to have a variety of healthful results for the body. Depending upon whom you ask, you will get many different answers as to their therapeutic reasons to “go soak”. Some will swear that it eases the pain of arthritis while others claim that it purifies their bodies in a religious experience. Whatever the reason, a trip to one of the many area rejuvenating mineral hot springs can be adventurous, relaxing and fun.
Jemez Springs, New Mexico a great getaway destination, is named for its famous natural mineral hot springs, which bubble up to the surface of the earth through fissures. The area has historically been known for underground geothermal characteristics or volcanic activity associated with the Valles Caldera. Formerly know as the Baca Ranch, the Valles (locally pronounced “VI-ya)” is one of the known super volcanoes that exists on the planet. Our area hot springs are proof that deep within the earth, the Valles Caldera is still active.
Depending upon your level of adventure, there is a sulfur hot spring for everyone. Access can be as simple as parking your car and walking a few steps to a small spring or as difficult as an hour or two hike over serious terrain for a large group soaking spot/pool. There are typically no costs involved with visiting the natural outdoor springs (except possibly parking). However, if you prefer a secluded and private dip, you can go to the Jemez Springs Bath House to get your own concrete tub for a very modest cost.
In an effort to help you plan your own hot springs adventure, here is a breakdown of a few springs you may wish to visit. They are listed from easiest (non-strenuous access) to more difficult (walking and hiking involved).
- Jemez Springs Bath House
- Soda Dam
- Spence Springs
- San Antonio Hot Springs
- McCauley Warm Springs
The Jemez Springs Bath House is by far the easiest way to experience a rejuvenating mineral bath. It’s located right in the middle of town at the park. As you enter the Jemez Springs Plaza, the Bath House will be towards the back near the Jemez River. As you park in front of the Bath House, you will notice a large gazebo looking structure to the right of the building. This natural spring is from the same fissure that feeds the Bath House. Go inside the main entrance and see Talty, the manager, for information on their services!
Further up highway 4 – about 2 miles- is Soda Dam. This structure is a unique geologic feature formed by the geo-thermal system and a very deep fault that crosses the canyon at river level. Approximately 100 feel wide this dam has forced the Jemez River to exit through a hole at the East side of the structure. Ironically, the dam is both being built and carved away at the same time by the geothermal activity and the river erosion. The hot springs at Soda Dam can be found in the small cave above and to the left of the river. They are small but if you can climb up inside, you can soak your feet. There is also a small hot spring stream that runs along the highway (opposite the river) near a large bluff on the highway.
Spence Springs is a very popular hot spring that requires a fairly strenuous hike down the canyon to the river then back up the other side to the springs. Here you’ll find a wonderful group of beautiful natural hot springs on the side of the canyon. Spence is heavily visited because it fairly easy to reach and has had a reputation as a hangout for nudists and skinny dippers. The water temperature is typically about 100 degrees F, which is very comfortable.
San Antonio Hot Springs are located 6 miles up forest road 376 (just North of the Elk Mountain Lodge). The natural spring mineral water pours out of pipes from a hillside at over 100 degrees F. There are several rock pools flowing down the hillside with the largest pool being big enough for a large group. San Antonio Hot Springs is typically heavily visited so be patient and expect to share your experience with other “soakers”. However, once you’re there, you won’t want to leave. There’s plenty of beautiful scenery and it’s very relaxing!
McCauley Warm Springs can be reached via a 2-mile hike from the parking areas along Highway 4. The Battleship Picnic Area has a $4.00 parking fee, but you can park at the upper parking lot (right off the Hwy.) for no charge. The springs are beautiful with clear, warm water. There are 3 or 4 pools that flow down with the top pool being approximately 25 feet wide and 2 feet deep and there are a few smaller, deeper pools down stream that are a little more intimate. Because of the beautiful area these springs are in, they can be busy even though it’s a hike to get there.
As with any trip into the Santa Fe National Forest, you should do a little bit of research on the hot springs of your choice. A good place to start is the Jemez Ranger District. Click here for their website or call them at 575-829-3535. Their office is located just South of Soda Dam on NM State Highway 4. Please note: The Forest Service lists most all of these natural hot springs for day use only between the hours of 6AM to 10PM.