Hilltop Hot Springs (Pulkey’s Pool) – Mammoth Lakes, CA

While the nearby ski resort Mammoth Mountain may be the most popular outdoorsy destination in the area, that doesn’t mean its neighbors in Mammoth Lakes aren’t worthy of exploring. In fact, one of the best ways to relax after a day on the mountain is to soak away your sore muscles in the natural hot springs found on nearby Minaret Summit.

While there are several hot springs in the Mammoth Lakes area (this guide also details how to find Tahoe Hot Springs, which are located just outside of Stateline), Minaret Summit is home to two of the most easily accessible spots: Hilltop Hot Springs and Pulkey’s Pool. The latter is one of California’s most famous swimming holes, thanks to its stunning aqua blue water and deep natural pool.

Hilltop is a bit more secluded but just as easy to access once you know where to go (and it boasts a much more natural setting). The nine-mile round-trip hike is considered easy and should take you less than three hours. If you’re looking for an easier way to get there, consider jumping in one of these rental boats and paddling across the lake or renting a bike for an easy pedal.

Hot Springs Pool

Hilltop Hot Springs (Pulkey's Pool)
Hilltop Hot Springs (Pulkey’s Pool)

Hilltop Hot Springs, also known as Pulkey’s Pool, is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a soothing soak in warm waters. Located along the Long Valley Caldera, one of the world’s largest calderas, this man-made cement pool is fed by geothermal waters that flow through a network of pipes.

The water source for Pulkey’s Pool is a nearby spring that gushes out mineral-rich, naturally-heated water at a scorching 130° F. As the water flows through the pipes and into the pool, its temperature ranges from a toasty 100° F to 110° F, making it an ideal spot to unwind and relax.

The hot spring pool’s water temp varies depending on the season. In the summer, visitors can expect hotter temperatures and breathtaking views of the meadows and mountains that surround the pool. In the winter, the temperatures may drop slightly, but the view of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains provides a stunning backdrop that is simply awe-inspiring.

Apart from Pulkey’s Pool, Hilltop Hot Springs offers several other man-made tubs that are fed by the same mineral-rich, naturally-heated water. These tubs are perfect for those who prefer a more private soak. The Bathhouse Row, located nearby, is another popular spot where visitors can indulge in the delicate environment of hot pools and mineral waters.

It’s worth noting that the Hilltop Hot Springs take their responsibility towards the natural springs and the environment very seriously. The hot spring pool is constantly monitored, and the management ensures that not even a single gallon of water is wasted. Moreover, the cement tubs are regularly maintained to ensure that visitors can enjoy a clean and hygienic soak.

In short, if you’re looking for a relaxing soak in naturally-heated water, the Hot Springs Pool at Hilltop Hot Springs is a fantastic choice. With its gorgeous backdrop, warm waters, and commitment towards preserving the delicate environment, it’s no surprise that Pulkey’s Pool is one of the most popular destinations in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

At Pulkey’s Pool, visitors can enjoy a two-foot deep tub with adjustable water temperature and the option to go clothing-free. The tub can hold up to six people but may offer limited privacy due to its small size.

Camping and Lodging Options Nearby

Unfortunately, Hilltop Hot Springs does not offer any camping options in its immediate vicinity. However, adventurous travelers looking for overnight camping options will be delighted to know that there are plenty of basic camping choices nearby.

Tent campers have several options to choose from, with Mammoth Lake Campground being a popular choice. This peaceful spot is situated amidst tall pine trees and offers breathtaking views of the mountains. Another option is Twin Lakes, which offers a range of camping spots, including both primitive and developed campsites.

For those traveling in RVs, Hilltop Hot Springs is only a 15-minute drive from Mammoth Lakes. Brown’s Owens River Campground and Mammoth Mountain RV Park are two nearby options that offer spaces for camping, travel trailers, and tent campers.

If you’re looking for a more luxurious camping experience, Hilltop Hot Springs offers a range of accommodation options. The Hilltop Hot Springs Log Cabin is a cozy and rustic cabin that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Alternatively, the Luxe Hot Springs Cabin on Pond w/ Game Room is a perfect choice for those seeking a more upscale experience, complete with sofa beds and a game room.

No matter what your camping style or preference may be, Hilltop Hot Springs has something to offer. With its proximity to Mammoth Lakes and a range of nearby camping options, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to set up camp and experience the beauty of the area.

When to Go

Soaking in Hilltop Hot Springs
Soaking in Hilltop Hot Springs

When planning a visit to the Mammoth Lakes area, it’s important to keep in mind the weather conditions. This region is heavily reliant on snowpack, making it a popular winter destination for skiing enthusiasts. However, visitors should be aware that snowy winters can lead to road closures and limited accessibility. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable visit, consider visiting during the summer months when the weather is pleasant and the area is accessible.

One of the main attractions in the Mammoth Lakes area is the hot springs. Hilltop Hot Springs, also known as Pulkey’s Pool, is a popular spot for visitors. However, it’s important to note that the pools may be closed due to cold weather or heavy snowfall. Pulkey’s Pool is also closed from October 1st to May 1st, so summer availability is the best option for a soak in these natural springs.

If you’re up for a hike, Hilltop Hot Springs is accessible via a nine-mile trail. The trail is marked with yellow blazes and leads to a rocky basin filled with pools of varying temperatures. It’s a great way to relax and soothe sore muscles after a day of skiing or hiking. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and check the weather conditions before heading out.

Overall, the Mammoth Lakes area is a beautiful destination to explore. While winter sports are popular, summer months offer pleasant temperatures and a chance to explore the natural beauty of the area. Just be sure to plan accordingly and check for any weather-related closures before making the trip.

How to Get to Hilltop Hot Springs

Boardwalk to Hilltop Hot Springs
Boardwalk to Hilltop Hot Springs

If you’re looking to visit Hilltop Hot Springs, there are a few different routes you can take to get there. One option is to start at the trailhead located at the end of Minaret Summit Road, which is a nine-mile road that splits off from Highway 120 as it heads west toward Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. The trailhead is located at the last parking lot on the road, which also marks the end of public access to the area.

Once you’ve parked your car, you’ll need to hike west along the Blue Lakes Trail for about two and a half miles. Along the way, you’ll pass by Blue Lake on your right and cross over several bridges. Keep an eye out for a fork in the trail; take a right here and stay on the main trail. The trail will then veer left, heading toward an open ridge. After about one mile, you’ll reach a false peak; after another mile, you’ll reach the top of Minaret Summit at 9,200 feet.

From the summit, you’ll have the option to either turn right and head toward Pulkey’s Pool, or turn left and continue along the ridge to reach Hilltop Hot Springs. If you choose to visit Pulkey’s Pool, keep in mind that there is no official parking lot. You’ll need to pull off along the side of the road, which can be narrow and windy. However, it’s suitable for all cars as long as you drive slowly and safely.

Another option for reaching Hilltop Hot Springs is to start at the Lake Mary Loop Trailhead, which is located off of Highway 203 in Mammoth Lakes. Head east on Minaret Road toward Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, and then turn right onto Lake Mary Road. You’ll see a parking lot on your left, where you can park to start your hike. Look for the trailhead called Lake Mary Loop Trail, which heads down to the left just after a series of picnic tables.

From here, you’ll follow the wide dirt trail for about a half mile as it circles Lake Mary. Eventually, you’ll come to a sign that points you to the left, toward Hilltop Hot Springs. The hike from here is about 1.1 miles and is well-maintained and easy to navigate. The first 0.4 miles are covered by a wide dirt trail, while the next 0.7 miles will take you over some rocky terrain.

No matter which route you choose, it’s important to come prepared with offline maps and plenty of water. Keep in mind that some areas may require four-wheel drive, so check beforehand if you’re unsure. But once you reach Hilltop Hot Springs, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Mammoth County and the beautiful mountain city of San Francisco.

Bottom line

Exploring the Hilltop Hot Springs (Pulkey’s Pool) in Mammoth Lakes, California is an experience that you won’t soon forget. From sunbathing on the rocks to the refreshing sensation of the hot springs, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day or a fun family adventure, Pulkey’s Pool is the perfect place to enjoy a wonderful day outdoors.

With its breathtaking views, peaceful atmosphere, and natural beauty, Pulkey’s Pool is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated. So why not take a trip to Pulkey’s Pool and explore one of Northern California’s hidden gems? You won’t regret it!

Weather forecast for next 5 days

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Local information

Address: M676+H6, Mammoth Lakes, California
GPS: 37.663972,-118.789407
Season: Year-round
Clothing: Optional




Anne loves to explore the world and share her experiences through her blog. She loves to travel to places that are off the beaten path and find unique experiences to share with her readers. She also loves to share tips on how to make the most of a trip, from budgeting to activities. She hopes that her blog will inspire others to explore the world and enjoy the beauty of nature.