Holtville Hot Springs – Southern California

There’s nothing quite like soaking in a hot spring on a cold day. Hard to find and easy to get lost in, these natural pools of hot water are fantastic escapes from the grind of daily life. And the Holtville Hot Springs are easily one of the most accessible hot springs in Southern California.

While there are several hot springs in the desert around Holtville, these springs are located about an hour east of Palm Springs via Interstate 10 and a short hike down a well-maintained fire trail. The hike is steep at times, but it’s relatively short and very doable for most people. There are two soaking pools at Holtville Hot Spring: the upper pool and the lower pool. The lower pool is much smaller and hotter than the upper pool, so it gets packed quickly. The upper pool is larger, cooler, and less busy, so if you want to avoid crowds, head straight for it after you park your car.

Mineral Hot Springs Pools

Holtville Hotsprings
Holtville Hot Spring

Holtville Hot Springs, also known as Highline Hot Well and Old Fogey Hot Springs, has two fantastic manufactured hot spring pools in which to unwind. Both pools are filled with steaming mineral-rich waters drawn from a neighboring artesian well at temperatures as high as 125°F.

The first pool is the larger of the two, measuring five feet deep and accommodating up to ten people. This pool’s temperatures typically range from 104°F to 106°F, while some soakers have reported temperatures as high as 110°F. Regardless, this pool offers the best warm temperatures, which can be changed using the valves.

The larger pool’s waters overflow into the smaller pool next door. The water is a few degrees cooler here, making it ideal for smaller children who like to splish and splash rather than soak their worries away.

Southern California’s Holtville Hot Springs

Holtville Hot Springs – Southern California
Holtville Hot Springs – Southern California

You can enjoy magnificent views in every direction while bathing in the larger or smaller hot spring pool. Because Holtville Hot Springs is located in the Imperial Valley Desert, you can expect to get lost in a sea of palm trees and sand that will transport you to another period.

You’ll also have a terrific view of the lovely lagoon-pond, which has water temps of around 90°F. While you can’t go swimming in this sandy-bottomed pool, it’s a beautiful sight that actually transforms the Holtville Hot Springs into a “oasis.”

When you need a break from the piping hot and stimulating waters, you can wash off in the adjoining showers and relax on one of the benches available.

The upper soaking pool

The upper soaking pool at Holtville Hot Springs is a large, kidney-shaped pool with a rocky floor that’s fed by a waterfall. There are several large rocks around the edge of the pool, and plenty of room for everyone who wants to soak.

Water temperature at this pool tends to be in the 105 to 110 degree Fahrenheit range, and the pH level is about 8. The water is crystal-clear and super-invigorating. It’s a great place to just sit back and relax on a cold winter day.

The fun thing about soaking in this large pool is that it’s quite slippery, so if you want to get away from it all for a minute, you can ease yourself into one of the secluded spots on the far side of the pool and just zone out for a bit.

This soaking pool has been around for thousands of years, so you may find yourself sitting in water that contains minerals that have been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years. It’s not unusual to find people drinking the water straight from the springs or soaking in it with Epsom salts.

The lower soaking pool

The lower pool at Holtville Hot Springs is separated from the upper pool by a steep hillside. After you park your car and drop your gear, head up the hill on the fire trail and make your way down to the lower pool.

This soaking pool is sunken into the earth and surrounded by volcanic rock. The water in this pool is quite hot, often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Scattered about the rocks are plenty of towels for you to use, as well as a few sandals.

The lower pool has a nice earthen bench surrounding it, making it a comfortable place to relax and soak in the soothing waters. It’s not uncommon for people to visit this pool to meditate or reflect, so don’t be surprised if someone asks you to be quiet or leave them alone.

The lower pool has been known to close temporarily due to water contamination, so if it’s closed when you visit, just head up to the upper pool instead.

Colorful landscape

The vibrant colors at Holtville are caused by minerals that have seeped into the rocks over time. As the water heats up and cools, the minerals are released, making their way to the surface of the rocks.

The Holtville Hot Springs have been used by humans for more than 4,000 years. The Yokut, Kitanemuk, and Chumash tribes all took advantage of the pools, which was sometimes a seasonal ritual.

Since it’s a popular spot for locals, you’ll want to avoid visiting on weekends if possible. Weekdays are best because many people go to Palm Springs for the weekend and stop here on their way home. Weekends also tend to be hotter than weekdays in this region of California.

If you can’t make it on a weekday, go early or late in the day because temperatures can reach 100 degrees in this region in the middle of summer.

How to get there

If you’re driving from Palm Springs, take Interstate 10 east for about an hour to exit 74 for Holtville. Turn left at the end of the off-ramp and follow the road straight for about 2000 feet until you find the Mojave County Park on your left (there’s an entrance fee of $5 per car).

Turn into the park and follow the road past a small ranger station. The road will fork; follow the fork to your right, which will take you past an amphitheater and some picnic facilities. The road will become dirt at this point, but don’t let that deter you. The last section of road is steep and rugged, but most passenger cars can easily make it all the way to the trailhead.

When you reach a T-intersection with a gate, stop and put on your hiking shoes. The trailhead is just on the other side of this gate, marked by a sign for Mystery Hot Spring. Simply follow the well-worn fire trail downhill through a wash until you stumble upon both pools at Holtville Hot Springs.

Camping and nearby lodging options

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There are no overnight accommodations in Holtville Hot Springs. In truth, this hot spring locale is only open for day use and closes between midnight and 5 a.m.

Fortunately, you can remain nearby Holtville Hot Springs for several days (or weeks or months). Across the street from Holtville is a “Long Term Visitor Area,” where visitors can camp for up to seven months, from September 15 to April 15th. Keep in mind that there is no electricity, drinking water, or waste sites.

If you prefer hotels to camping, you’ll have to drive a little further. The majority of hotels are at least 15 miles from Holtville. Here are some of the best hotels in the area:

  • Hotel Lucerna Mexicali (19 miles)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Mexicali (16.6 miles)
  • Extended Suites Mexicali Cataviña (16.7 miles)
  • Hotel Araiza Mexicali (19 miles)

Have a fantastic time exploring the enchanted waters of Holtville, California.

Bottom line

In conclusion, a trip to the Holtville Hot Springs is a must-do for anyone looking to have a truly unique and unforgettable experience in Southern California. Whether you choose to camp or explore the day-use area, you are sure to have a great time. From the hot springs themselves to the nearby activities, you can relax and enjoy everything that this magical oasis has to offer. So, pack your bags and hit the road. You won’t regret it!

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Local information

Address: 3700 Evan Hewes Hwy, Holtville, California 92250
GPS: 32.765819,-115.269654
Phone: 760-337-4400 (BLM El Centro field office)
Season: Year-round (fall and winter recommended)
Website: blm.gov/office/el-centro-field-office