Dirty Socks Hot Spring – Olancha, California

Olancha, California is a small town of less than 500 people. It’s remote, has no gas station or fast food joint in town and the only place to get some grub is at the general store that closes at 5pm. To top it all off, Olancha is also home to Dirty Socks Hot Spring. A natural hot spring with a name that won’t make you think it’s anything special. But trust me—it’s worth making the trip if you ever get the chance.

From Google Maps to actually getting there, this blog post will cover everything about my trip to Dirty Socks Hot Spring in Olancha, California so you can visit yourself one day!


Dirty Socks Hot Springs
Dirty Socks Hot Springs

When digging a well in 1917 to find a new water source, hot mineral water was discovered at the bottom of the hole that was dug. Folklore has it that miners and prospectors from the adjacent Cero Gordo mine would come to the thermal pool once a year to wash off their dirt and grime and enjoy a refreshing plunge. There is no evidence to support the urban legend that bathers frequently lose their socks in the water. The odour actually originates from the volcanic sulphur ground that surrounds the pool.

In 1927, a concrete pool and a few other structures were built to serve as the focus of a future hot springs resort that was in the planning stages at the time. After a period of ten years, the proposal was eventually abandoned, and the facilities in question were destroyed.

In 1965, the land surrounding the hot spring that is now part of Dirty Sock Hot Spring County Park was recognised as being part of Inyo County’s park system. In addition to planting trees and paving the access road, work was also done on constructing restrooms and a recreation area.

Despite the rapid rise in popularity of the hot spring among both locals and tourists, the upkeep of the park proved to be more challenging than the county officials had imagined it would be.

Many of the park’s facilities were tough to maintain. The shooting of trash cans and other acts of vandalism have become an epidemic. On October 17, 1978, Inyo County made the decision to close down Dirty Sock Hot Spring Park indefinitely.

Natural Hot Springs

The natural hot spring water has not yet lost its pungent odour, which is described as being similar to that of old socks. The spring is contained in a big pool that is surrounded with concrete and has a diameter of 78 feet. The pool is fed from a source that is located deep inside the soil. The water from the pool will ultimately end up in a pond that is located nearby. It’s accessible at any time of the year.

You do so at your own peril. The water is frequently cloudy with algae, and there is almost no maintenance performed on it.

Unclean Socks Hot Springs are best defined as warm in temperature. The high temperatures throughout certain times of the year typically range from 90 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to not requiring visitors to wear clothes, this location is also pet-friendly. It is highly recommended that you wear shoes before to accessing the spring because there is broken glass both on the ground and at the bottom of the spring.

Overnight camping is not permitted.

The Basics

– Elevation: 4,285 feet above sea level

– Location: In the Inyo National Forest, California. Approximately 350 miles North of Los Angeles.

– Closest City: Bishop, California. It’s 40 miles away.

– Time of year to go: You can visit Dirty Socks Hot Spring year round. But visiting during the fall, winter and spring is recommended due to the high temperatures during the summer months.

– How long does it take to get there? It takes about 4 hours to reach Dirty Socks Hot Spring from Los Angeles.

– Costs: $20 for entrance. $10 per car.

– Camping fee: There are no campgrounds in Olancha, California. You can, however, camp at the nearby Tecuya Hot Springs (towards the end of the article).

– Facilities: There are porta-potties at the parking lot.

– Restrooms: There are no restrooms at the hot spring.

– Parking: There is a large parking lot at the trailhead to the hot spring.

What to know before you go

– What to bring: A swimsuit, towel, water, snacks, sunscreen and a jacket. The water is well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit so you will get burned if you don’t cover up.

– Food/Drinks: There is no food or drinks allowed at Dirty Socks Hot Springs due to people treating the water to create a “bath-like” experience.

– How long is the drive? The drive to Olancha, California is approximately 4 hours.

– What is the weather like? The climate in Olancha is Mediterranean. Temperatures in the summer can exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The drive

– When to go: The best time to visit is during the fall, winter and spring when the temperatures are low. Summers are too high.

– Gas Stations: You will encounter a total of two gas stations on your drive to Olancha.

– Food: There are no fast food joints or places to get food along the way. You can bring snacks or you can purchase food at the general store in Olancha.

– Road Conditions: The road to Olancha is a single lane road that is unpaved and bumpy. You will have to drive through a few small towns.

– Safety: You should always drive carefully especially on unpaved roads. Drive slow and be aware of your surroundings.

Where to park

– If you are visiting Dirty Socks Hot Spring in Olancha, you will have to park at the dirt trailhead across from the town’s general store. There is a large parking lot where you can park your car.

– Coming from Los Angeles, drive towards Bishop, California on 395 North. You will pass Lone Pine, California. You will then pass Independence, California. You will then pass the towns of Big Pine, California, and Owens, California. After Owens, drive another 35 minutes to reach the town of Olancha, California where you will find the dirt trailhead parking lot.

– You can also access Olancha and Dirty Socks Hot Spring by driving towards Death Valley, California. When you reach the town of Inyokern, California, turn towards the right towards Olancha.

Tips and things to know

– Temperatures: The waters at Dirty Socks Hot Spring can be extremely hot. The water at the spring is well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So bring a swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen and be careful when walking around the spring.

– Food/Drinks: Food and drinks are not allowed at Dirty Socks Hot Spring. People have treated the water to create a bath-like experience. So you will not be able to drink or eat near the spring.

– Animals: There are wildlife such as snakes, lizards and mice in the area. Be sure to stay away from them.

– Other Hot Springs: You can visit the nearby Tecuya Hot Springs if you are looking for another outdoor hot spring experience.

– Parking: Parking is free and the parking lot is large enough to fit 50-100 cars.

Why You Should Visit Dirty Socks Hot Spring

– It’s free. There is no fee to visit Dirty Socks Hot Spring. You do have to pay $20 to enter the Inyo National Forest though.

– It’s remote. There is no place like this in the city. I can only imagine the stars and the silence you’re surrounded by.

– It’s magical. The hot spring is so soothing and the water is a beautiful blue color. It’s a place where you are one with yourself and the world around you.

– It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. You can’t get this experience anywhere else in the world.

– There is a clean and large hot spring. It’s not like the hot springs in Vegas. Dirty Socks Hot Spring is a well-kept hot spring with a large area to swim in.

Activities you can do at Olancha and Dirty Socks Hot Spring

– Explore Olancha and the nearby Tecuya Hot Springs: You can explore Olancha and the nearby Tecuya Hot Springs if you have extra time. These places are filled with desert landscapes, creeks, ponds, and the occasional black bear.

– Hiking in the Inyo National Forest: You can hike the nearby trails in the Inyo National Forest. There are various trails to choose from so you can explore the desert and forest.

– Fishing at Lake Tecuya: Lake Tecuya is a small fishing lake located in Olancha, California. You can fish as long as you have a fishing license. There is an entrance fee of $15 per person.

The hike to Dirty Socks Hot Spring

– The hike to Dirty Socks Hot Spring is a short, but challenging hike. You will need to bring lots of water. The water is warm but it’s important to stay hydrated. The hike is approximately 1-2 hours long depending on how fast you walk.

– Parking: You can park your car at the trailhead that leads to Dirty Socks Hot Spring. There is space for 50-100 cars at the trailhead. The trailhead is across from the general store.

– Trail Details: Once you step foot on the trail, you will cross a small creek. The trail is sandy and rocky so be careful when walking. There is one switchback on the trail so be sure to use the handrail. The trail ends at a nearby hill that overlooks the valley. From the overlook, you can see Dirty Socks Hot Spring below.

– The last 25 yards of the hike is a rocky climb down the hill. Be careful when climbing down as the rocks can be slippery when wet.

Bottom line

If you are looking for an adventure, a unique experience and a soothing and relaxing hot spring experience, then you should visit Dirty Socks Hot Spring in Olancha, California. You will not regret it!

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Local information

Address: Located about 10 miles from Big Pine, California
GPS: 36.329659,-117.949248
Season: Year-round