Eastern Sierra California Mammoth domiciles thermal tub springs

wild willys hot springs water california travel dejavu travel blog

Californian Jacuzzi: Wild Willy aka Crowley 

Getting to take a dip in Wild Willy’s Hot Spring, one of California’s most famous and pinterested (yeah, it’s a verb now) natural hot springs, was my bucket list for a while. The online directions to this and the neighboring tubs are seemingly cryptic, resulting in us getting lost.. a few times. For those who want to respectfully soak in these tubs, without getting lost, I am writing this for you.

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We were northbound on Highway 395 heading towards Mammoth Lakes, and Google Maps told us to turn right on Benton road, with a locally famous Green Church at the corner. Even though I saw the green church loud and clear, I also saw a group of tourists wearing identical green shirts (creepy), and a road of nothingness beyond that.

wild willys hot springs water california travel dejavu travel blog
Did Google maps get it wrong? Was there somehow another Benton road with a green church at its corner? Needless to say, I drove right past it and immediately made a left turn, accidentally discovering Convict Lake (everything happens for a reason!).  After noting that this was a place to definitely check out later, we were able to find someone who knew the lay of the land, and who gave us their version of directions to Wild Willy’s. We then returned back onto the 395, and confidently made a left turn onto Benton, passing the Green Church and even waving to the green-shirted tourists.  Time to soak! Not..

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Driving into nothingness, well…it feels like driving into nothingness.  And the directions online say to make a right turn after the second cattle guard.  Look, I may be directionally challenged, but telling me to turn onto some random ‘dirt road’ after guessing what a cattle guard looks like, was not a good idea.  We got lost again and soon returned back onto the semi-familiar Benton road.  We continued East until we turned into Brown’s Owens River Campground, “a fisherman’s paradise.”  There, we used the facilities, and headed into the General Store where we met this wonderful woman working there who knowingly smiled, and asked if we were lost trying to find the hot springs.

wild willy hot spring water map california united states travel dejavu travel blogLuckily for us, she and her husband drew out this map (see below) that visually tells you where each hot tub is located, with approximate distance and all. When I mention that this was a map to the Eastern Sierra’s hidden treasures, at least in terms of tubs.  Her response was, “Look hun, this happens so often that we just thought it would be easier to draw something out for all of the tourists rather than explain word for word how to get to each one of them, every time”.. (thank you, kind lady!). She then confirmed that the online resources available are purposefully cryptic (see, I’m not delusional).

With this map in hand, we got back on ol’ Benton road and this time, made a left turn onto the correct dirt road.  From there, it was 1.2 miles until reaching Wild Willy’s Hot Spring’s parking lot, which may seem like forever without an all-wheel drive car and I definitely wouldn’t recommend driving this road during the winter.

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You will then see the entrance to the yellow brick road, or in this case, the beautiful wooden walkway.  Walk approximately 10 minutes until you reach both pools. The first one on the left is warmer than the one on the right-side. Upon our arrival, there was only one other small group in the first pool (who left soon after) and a lone Mammoth native in the other, who shared a wealth of knowledge with us about the ins and outs of the local territory.  Ah, nothing compares to soaking in nature’s bathtub.

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As you can see, this place is breathtaking and ultimately was worth getting lost (three times) for.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any of the other spring, but our next voyage will be a breeze with this tub-ular treasure map in hand!



Enjoy your time in the pool(s), and don’t forget to practice leaving no trace behind.

As always, Buen Camino!

Read on to know which are the 15 things people forget to tell you to pack on the Camino De Santiago. 




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Christina Kantzavelos

It only took her two masters degrees, and journaling an entire pilgrimage (Camino de Santiago) to realize her love for writing and the need to share it with others. To follow more of her writing, visit www.buenqamino.com or follow her on social media, @buenqamino!

Comments

  1. The place looks breathtaking, and I agree that getting lost was worth it. It would be nice if you took more photos, but still it’s an informative post. I’m looking forward to your next trip!

    • Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for reading, and I am so glad you found the article to be informative. I too wish I had taken more photos in retrospect. Perhaps you can create a photographic addendum when you visit! Keep following my adventures, @buenqamino.. Visiting Yellowstone this weekend 🙂

      Take care y Buen Camino!

  2. This is so cool! Things like these make you marvel at nature more and more. The pictures are so gorgeous that I have put the destination in my bucket list right away. Thank you for this post.

  3. I’m glad it was worth the difficult journey! It’s great that some places are deliberately hard to find as then you can get the place almost to yourself… What beautiful scenery; I bet you didn’t want to leave.

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks for reading! You’re right.. When natural treasures are difficult to find, you feel the true serenity and gratitude of and for your surroundings. And yes, I didn’t want to leave… until the temperature outside of the water seemed warmer than inside the water haha. I would love to return back during a different season.. Imagine being surrounded by snow while inside a hot tub! That was one of my favorite things in Iceland.

      Thanks again, y buen camino!

  4. Indeed, sometimes, the best adventures come unplanned. Getting lost and finding something more than what is expected truly makes every travel worth repeating. Loving your shots, btw. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. It’s amazing that you got the chance to have the entire place for yourself, without other people disturbing you. I didn’t know that there were hot springs in California too. I’ve never tried them in the wild, only in man built pools, in South America and Europe.

    • Joanna,

      I totally agree, and am so grateful that we had the entire place to ourselves.. Maybe would have gone bare (like many others do) had my parents not been my travel companions 🙂

      California is FULL of amazing hot springs.. So many that have and have not been written about. Don’t forget, we are on a geographic fault line! Two Bunch Palms in desert Hot Springs is one of my favorited, as is Ensalen in Big Sur, where you can swim on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Both are man built pools.. But another natural favorite is Remington Hot Springs in Kearn County. I’m telling you, the list can go on and on. Hope you get to take a dip soon.

      Thank you for reading, y buen camino!

  6. Wow! An open air jacuzzi huh? I’m sure you never wanted to leave! I loved the hand-drawn road map, seems pretty accurately made! We’ve never been to USA but California is definitely on our list for the natural beauty. Its a long haul from India but should happen soon

  7. Wow, there is more fun in getting lost. Thanks for sharing the drawn map :), I hope someday I’ll get a chance to be here.

  8. What a breathtaking view! It’s even better when you’re all by yourself there. Great post. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Seems like the walking was definitely worth it. I really like that they are surrounded by greenery. Lovely photos especially the one with the path disappearing in the distance. We recently visited pink natural mud and salt baths in Bulgaria so I was interested to read your post about this natural hot tub place.

  10. Those hot springs look amazing, I’m actually surprised there’s so few people around! I’ve only been to a hot spring once before in Turkey and I loved it, I had no idea there were that many in California, so thanks for that information! You learn something new every day I suppose 🙂

  11. It takes efforts to find Paradise and the hot springs are akin to that. The place is lovely and looks you had it to yourself which adds to the allure.

  12. The place looks amazing but you only have few shots? Anyway… its still a good spot and no tourist at all eh?

    • Hi Lee,

      Thanks for reading 🙂 Like I mentioned in a previous comment, I wish I had taken more pictures in retrospect. It really is a beautiful place, and I think some days and hours are more popular and filled with tourists than others.

      Buen Camino!

  13. I have never been to any hot springs, especially not some beautiful like this one you shared with all of us. The nature looks amazing and it is great to enjoy all by yourself right?

  14. Your pictures are breathtaking! I can’t believe that such a beautiful place exist. It’s amazing! Thank you for sharing this, you must have had an amazing experience 🙂

  15. Its making me want to get the hot tub now haha, great read

  16. Absolutely love your post. That area is so beautiful :). Your photos were amazing! Reminds me of winters past in the June Lake area. Such a sense of peace when you’re there.
    Safe travels 🙂

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