Alaska is dotted with hot springs and soaking the icy chill off in hot water is an Alaskan pastime from time immemorial, long before Westerners arrived. Many are conveniently located for the traveler, but the easy-to-reach spots can be overcrowded and not quite the relaxing escape most people crave at a hot spring. To truly get away from it all, including the crowd, you have to go farther into the Alaskan wild and that often requires hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. For those who want to earn their soak, these trails to remote and interesting hot springs provide a rewarding experience.
You may need to climb a hill, fight through the branches, or slog through a muddy spot, but when you get to soak your tired muscles in a hot pool of pure mineral water in a beautiful Alaskan hideaway, with just a few others around, all the trouble is worth it. These hot springs spots are the hot watering holes that Alaskans have been sneaking off to for hundreds of years, since a hot soak in cold weather never goes out of style. So get a crew and plan a nice long weekend to spend conquering the wild and recharging in the waters.
1. Tolovana Hot Springs (Interior)
There are several trails to Tolovana, the most common being a 10.1 mile trek from the milepost 83 on the Eliot Highway, about 100 miles north of Fairbanks. Although beautiful in summer, hiking or mountain biking can be boggy, buggy and grueling. Go in the autumn, after the ground freezes and the bugs are gone, or early winter when there is enough snow to cross-country ski, snow shoe, skijor or dog mush the trail. You will find yourself at an idyllic little hot springs with two cabins, available for rent year round through their website. The springs are low in sulpher and about the same salinity as sea water, making the soak free from the rotten egg smell of many natural hot springs.
2. Baranof Warm Springs (Southeast)
From the nearby town of Sitka, you can traverse the 16 miles of the Baranof Cross-Island Trail to reach the springs. The treacherous nature of the rocky hike can make it take up to 3 days, but there is a beautiful alpine meadow that's perfect for camping half way. The warm springs consist of 9 pools scattered near the icy torrent that spills from Baranof Lake into the Harbor. The main pools are near the shore, but a little higher up are the hidden pools the locals prefer.
3. Shelokum Hot Springs (Southeast)
Shelokum is 90 miles north of Ketchikan in the Tongass National Forest. A scenic 2.2-mile trail begins at Bailey Bay and arrives at the pools. The hot springs are completely undisturbed, undeveloped and eu naturale, featuring a healthy population of unique algal plant life. A three sided cabin stands at the site for a rustic bathhouse or temporary shelter.
4. Serpentine Hot Springs (Seward Peninsula)
U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr
Located along the Serpentine River, the hot springs is in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. From Nome, you drive 86 miles to the edge of the Preserve and begin the hike. Across the 30 miles of open tundra, you will see incredible views of the treeless landscape dotted with huge granite tors. In summer, it's a 2-3 day hike (bring your GPS tracker and extra batteris!) and in winter, a snowmachine ride through arctic conditions. The hot springs has a bunkhouse and a bathhouse and gets up to the 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Also called Iyak which means "cooking pot" in Inupiaq, the springs were touted for their healing properties long before the first Westerner staked a claim at the springs in 1900.
5. Pilgrim Hot Springs (Seward Peninsula)
U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr
The incredibly hot springs are known as the "Shangri-la of the North." First a mining boom town then a Catholic Mission and Orphanage left many historic buildings in the area. People have long used the heat from the springs to warm houses with plumbing that won't freeze in the harsh winter and greenhouses for food gardens. There is an 8 mile gravel road from the Nome-Taylor highway, very rough and hard on vehicles, but a pleasant hike. The springs are a scorching 178 degrees, but visitors find the pools divine in the Arctic air.
6. Chief Hot Springs (Southeast)
Near Wrangell, this hot springs is a favorite spot of locals. Take a boat from town along the river to the start of Chief Shakes Slough. A short hike leads to open air an red wood hot tub. A perfect day trip when in the area.
7. Kanuti Hot Springs (Interior)
About 12 miles West of the Dalton Highway, this hot springs is truly remote. There are no trails and the thick underbrush make hiking a challenge, but for a real Alaskan adventure, it can't be beat. Most float the Kanuti River from the Dalton Highway crossing in a pack raft, enjoy the springs, and hike back over Caribou Mountain. This one is only for those with back country experience and excellent gear, but the 150 degree hot springs and the cool river nearby make for an unforgettable hot springs adventure.
8. Trocadero Soda Springs (Southeast)
The picturesque Prince of Wales Island is a beautiful spot to explore. The springs are about 12 miles from the town of Craig. Take a boat to the trailhead and walk up a nameless creek that spills the bay. Bears frequent this area, so be careful as you pick your way up the slick mile long hike to the springs. The pools are constantly bubbling with mineral water from the Earth at a rate of 7 gallons an hour. The sparkling, warm pools are refreshing, clear and highly carbonated for a natural hot tub you'll never forget.
9. Melozi Hot Springs (Interior)
Melozi, or Melozitna Hot Springs, was developed with a nice lodge and in operation until the 1980's. Now abandoned, the lodge and beautiful pool are still accessible by the super adventurous. Ski or snowmachine the 30 miles from the Yukon River at the abandoned village of Kokrines. Only recommended for the super prepared and hearty, but this trip is a dream for those who want a classic Alaskan hot springs tub to themselves.
10. White Sulpher Hot Springs (Southeast)
Located in the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness area, 65 miles northwest of Sitka. Once you arrive by float plane and travel to the trailhead by boat, there is a 1 mile, year round accessible hike up to the springs. Bath houses have been built and rebuilt here for over 100 years. Enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean as you soak your cares away at this remote and beautiful hot springs.
Have you been to one of these amazing hot springs? Tell us about it in the comments below.