Those of you who are Weekend Warriors, like myself, know the importance of the 2-day road trip. Being a self-proclaimed “hot springs enthusiast,” I love to seek them out wherever and whenever I can. Best yet, Nevada is the perfect place to find them as there are over 300 naturally occurring hot springs in the state, meaning that Nevada boasts the most hot springs in the United States.
One weekend in July the itch to travel and to get off the grid a bit was hitting me hard, so the decision to explore Spencer Hot Springs was an easy one. I grabbed a friend and some camping gear and we set off early Saturday morning. It’s a 3-hour drive from Reno to Austin, which is a great stop on its own or in conjunction with the hot springs, and then another 20 miles on a dirt road out to Spencer. The location is amazing both in terms of physical beauty and the fact that you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s so easy to get to.
To our surprise the area was not crowded at all. We parked by the lower hot spring, which was comprised of a large metal trough that was filled up by water piped in from a hotter source just above it. From the main source, the water is about 130º and guarded by a large metal grate, but by the time it reaches the tubs suitable for human bathing is a perfect 100ish° depending on the season. After testing the temperature, we immediately hopped in. The best part about this tub is that the water temperature can be adjusted by moving the pipe in and out of the tub. It was perfect!
There is something so soul soothing about warm, natural water, and an outstanding view. Nestled comfortably in the tub, your view is of the aptly named Big Smoky Valley with the Toiyabe Range to the west and the Toquima Range to the east. The combination of water, mountains and expansive desert is so quintessentially Nevada, and one of the things I love so much about the state.
Only a handful of cars drove in throughout the day, most people opting for the larger hot spring a slightly cooler, rock-lined pool with a natural silt bottom. This one was the main attraction when it came time for the sunset soak, and it seemed that most people drove out just for the hour or so around sunset and then left again, meaning it remained quiet and peaceful throughout our trip.
Another awesome thing about Spencer is the wildlife that is present. One of the cool, runoff pools is home to some goldfish and we were advised to keep an eye out for the Hickison Burro Herd, and large group of wild burros that rely on several water sources in the area. After waiting (admittedly, not so patiently) all day to see them, the herd finally made its appearance at dusk.
We were still enjoying the warmth of the hot spring after watching one of the most beautiful Nevada sunsets, when we heard them braying off in the distance. We could just barely make out their silhouettes as night fell on Spencer, and they continued to keep us company throughout the night as they grazed just feet from our tent. You could definitely say we were one with nature out there!
The next morning we decided to check out Toquima Cave, located in the Toquima range, less than an hour from Spencer Hot Springs on a dirt road. From the Toquima Campground, it’s an easy half-mile hike to the cave, which is covered in pictographs from local Native American tribes that lived in that area thousands of years ago.
After the hike, we took a dip in the larger pool at Spencer and had great conversations with several people who did not hesitate to share their own stories and pull out maps to show us their favorite Nevada hot springs. What a wonderful experience to be able to share one of my favorite hobbies with others who enjoy exploring Nevada’s hot springs scene just as much.
Ultimately, the experience was a positive one with lots of adventure and relaxation packed into just two days, making it a successful weekend getaway. The best part? I was able to add some other off-grid hot springs hot spots to my list!