The Eastern Sierra is one of the most magical places in California, with towering, snow-capped mountains, endless fields of sagebrush and wildflowers, and, best of all, LOTS of natural hot springs. Travertine Hot Springs is inarguably one of the most uniquely beautiful ones, with four primitive pools that are carved out of a calcium-rich rock formation, filled with steamy hot water, and that offer stunning views of the eastern Sierras.
Sounds like a dream come true? Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Travertine Hot Springs.
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What are Travertine Hot Springs?
Travertine Hot Springs are a series of geothermally-heated hot springs that are located within a massive travertine terrace, with jaw-dropping views of the eastern Sierra Mountains. The unusual blobby travertine formation where the hot springs are located is caused by built-up calcium carbonate (a form of limestone) in the geothermally warmed water that seeps from fissures in the ground.
Within the travertine terrace, volunteers have constructed four primitive pools from rocks and concrete for hot springs enthusiasts (just like you!) to enjoy the deliciously warm water. When my husband, Justin, and I visited, the small tub that’s fed by the teeny heated waterfall (the third tub from the front) was the ABSOLUTE perfect hot tub temperature—about 102°F. The other surrounding tubs were progressively cooler—and probably cooler than what you’d typically think of as a “hot spring”-ranging from 70°F to 90°F.
There’s also a small cement tub right by the parking lot, that’s even warmer than the pools in the travertine formation—in fact, when we visited, this pool was closed off to visitors because it was dangerously hot!
How to Get to Travertine Hot Springs
Travertine Hot Springs is located here, right outside of the adorable and historic town of Bridgeport, California.
To get to the hot springs, you’ll drive about half a mile south of Bridgeport’s Main Street along the stunning Highway 395. This is, in my opinion, one of the most stunning scenic drives in the United States, taking you from Death Valley and the Alabama Hills to the hot springs in Mammoth Lake and, of course, Travertine Hot Springs.
From Highway 395, you’ll turn east onto Jack Sawyer Road and continue east for a little over a mile. Shortly into making your way along this road, you’ll cross over into property that’s managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and the road will noticeably become rougher, with a lot more washboarding and potholes. The road was in pretty rough shape when we visited and I’d generally recommend only driving here if you have a high clearance vehicle.
The road will dead-end in the parking lot for Travertine Hot Springs, which fits around 20 cars. There’s a vault toilet here, if nature calls or you need to change into your bathing suit.
From the parking lot, you’ll immediately spot the cement hot spring and behind it, a dirt trail winding between rock formations, with the stunning Sierras in the background. The flat trail snakes to the left and runs for about 300 yards along a rocky ridge on the right. After just a couple of minutes of walking, you’ll run into Travertine Hot Springs.
When to Visit Travertine Hot Springs
Because most of the pools at Travertine are on the cooler side (in terms of hot springs), summer is the best time to visit, in my opinion. While it happens to be the busiest season, you’ll be able to more comfortably enjoy the pools’ varying temperatures without freezing your butt off.
Spring or fall is also a good time to visit—you’ll have a much better chance of snagging a hot spring to yourself, but, depending on which pool you get, it might not be as warm as you hoped, especially given the eastern Sierras’ cooler temperature.
In the wintertime, Travertine looks lovely—the hot springs themselves can be dusted with snow, with the epic and snowy Sierras in the background. Just remember that the BLM road leading to the hot springs isn’t regularly maintained and won’t be cleared of any snow or ice, so be sure to check the conditions of the roads before heading here. You also might want to consider bringing microspikes to provide better traction along the trail to the springs, if you’re visiting during icy weather.
Tips for Visiting Travertine Hot Springs
Get here early or visit during the off-season.
Travertine is seriously one of the most uniquely beautiful places I’ve ever been—and, given the springs’ popularity, I guess other people think they’re pretty cool, too!
So be prepared to share these springs with other soakers—and potentially having a pool that’s less hot than you may prefer. If you REALLY want to have your pick of the tubs, I’d suggest coming early (as in sunrise early), visiting on a weekday, or during the off-season (bonus points for all of the above!)- you’ll have a much better chance of not having to vulture for a tub.
There may be nudity.
Most of the hot springs in Mammoth Lakes and the Bridgeport area are treated as clothing optional, meaning you should not be surprised to see some butts or genitalia of strangers while you’re here.
Friendly reminder that, despite local custom, public nudity is still against the law (and can land you on the sex offender list!). I haven’t encountered any stories online about folks getting in trouble with Bridgeport law enforcement for donning their birthday suits here, but definitely something to be aware of.
Test hot springs before plopping into it.
Geothermal activity in the area can change, leading to fluctuations in the temperature of the water. As noted above, the cement hot spring right by the parking lot has historically been open for bathers to enjoy—but was decidedly closed when we visited because it was dangerously hot.
So before you dunk your entire body into any kind of geothermally heated pool, be sure to test the temperature with a toe or a finger. Nothing ruins a trip to explore the Eastern Sierras quite like second degree burns.
Leave no trace.
This should theoretically go without saying but, for the avoidance of doubt, Travertine Hot Springs is a wild and beautiful place—let’s keep it that way! Pack out whatever you pack in (including beer cans, cigarette butts, and Bandaids), be considerate of others and share the tubs with those around you, and generally don’t be jerks!
Can you Camp at Travertine Hot Springs?
You are not allowed to camp in the Travertine Hot Springs parking lot or in the area directly around the hot springs—although we saw many, MANY people not following this rule (don’t do that, friends! That’s how we get nice things taken away!).
Given that Travertine is located on BLM land (which generally allows free dispersed camping for up to 14 days at a time), there are plenty of pull-offs that you can legally camp at along the road to the hot springs—just make sure you’re officially on BLM land and check for “no camping” signs before popping a tent anywhere!
Alternatively, Justin and I camped (for free!) on the western side of Bridgeport, in the Stanislaus National Forest, right by another beautiful hot spring, Buckeye Hot Springs. So if you’re set on snagging a campsite for free and can’t find any good ones near Travertine, I’d suggest looking there.
Prefer an actual roof over your head? The adorable town of Bridgeport has several hotels to choose from. Consider:
- Ruby Inn Bridgeport: If you can look past the dated rooms, the Ruby Inn is quite charming, with a friendly staff; nice perks, like in-room coffee makers and an on-site hot tub; and clean comfortable rooms. Best of all, you’ll be within walking distance of everything that Bridgeport has to offer!
- Walker River Lodge: If you want to feel like you’re in a cozy lodge, this is the option for you, with most rooms decorated in an outdoorsy way (think freshwater fish decor!). Beyond the decor that will get you in the mood for adventuring, the rooms are spacious, clean, and usually come with a river or mountain view; the staff is friendly; and there’s a pool!
- Silver Maple Inn: Bridgeport is a mom and pop kinda town and the Silver Maple Inn is a mom and pop kinda place. As a family-owned and operated hotel, the staff are quick to give you recommendations in the area and the manicured lawn is the perfect place to relax and take in the views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
I hope you enjoy Travertine Hot Springs as much as I did. Do you have any questions about visiting these beautiful pools—or about visiting the Eastern Sierra? Let me know in the comments below!