Frozen Experiences of a Lifetime: Hit the Hot Springs

The ultimate North American winter bucket list

Snowy Conundrum Hot Springs.     Photo: Pierce Martin/Flickr

Why would you soak in the summer when you can head to the hot springs in winter instead, and submerge yourself in a steaming pool while ice crystals form in your hair?

Some natural hot springs remain incredibly basic: a hand-built wall of rocks to keep the warm water pooling in one area before it flows away. Others are so developed that they might as well relocate to the Wisconsin Dells. Personally, I like the springs that land somewhere in the middle, with a few amenities—changing rooms, towels, showers—but a mostly natural setting.

Colorado’s Conundrum Hot Springs falls at the undeveloped end of the spectrum. Near Aspen, they’re reached by an 8.5-mile hiking trail—no chlorinated water or accompanying day spas here.

The three Rocky Mountain hot springs maintained by Parks Canada are more built up: Radium Hot Springs, in Kootenay National Park, is Canada’s largest hot springs pool. Banff Upper Hot Springs is right in town, and has been warming visitors’ bones since the 1880s, while Jasper National Park’s Miette Hot Springs is a bit more remote.

Thermopolis, Wyoming, is a town dedicated to—and named for—its hot springs. There are a couple of private, developed pools here, but the State Bath House, in Hot Springs State Park, is free.

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