Fall is the perfect time to visit a relaxing hot spring. The heat of the summer is over and the hot water feels great against the chilly air. But even though it’s cold, it’s not so cold that you’ll get frostbite after you leave the pool, like during the winter.
Hot springs can run the gamut from hoity-toity, historical playgrounds of the rich and famous to undeveloped natural upwellings in the middle of nowhere with a trail to lead you there.
These six hot springs fall right in the middle — not super spendy, but they also offer more amenities for maximum relaxation. For a true frugal hot springs visit, pack your own meals and drinks for a poolside picnic and check out these six beautiful locations. (See also: 4 Affordable Autumn Destinations for Nature Lovers)
1. Thermopolis Hot Springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming
At first glance, Thermopolis Hot Springs looks like something otherworldly. The pools are fed by a spring that drips over a gigantic, cascading wall of mineral buildup (known as the Rainbow Terraces) that resembles a scene from prehistoric times.
The entire hot springs is contained within Hot Springs State Park, which charges a reasonable $6 entrance fee ($4 if you’re a Wyoming resident). Once in, you can visit the historic State Bath House and the pools for free. There’s even a herd of wild bison that live in the park, which the staff feed daily at 8:30 a.m. during the late fall and winter (a great time to see them).
There are several affordable lodging options nearby. You can find rooms right in town for under $100, as well as a plethora of Airbnb private cabins, homes, and campsites nearby also for under $100 per night. (See also: 9 Simple Ways to Save on Hotel Stays)
2. Riverbend Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
New Mexico can get scorching hot in the summer. But come fall, you can enjoy a gorgeous vista of the red rock mountains right from a pool at Riverbend Hot Springs, located smack dab on the banks of the Rio Grande.
These hot springs are perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, as the Riverbend Hot Springs Resort has a strict “whisper-only” policy around the pools, and small children are only allowed in certain areas. You can even reserve private pools that are clothing-optional starting from $30 per hour, if that’s how you roll. Otherwise, you can get a one-hour pass to the common pools for $12 per hour.
Riverbend Hot Springs itself offers lodging starting from $94 per night for an “artist room,” or $146 per night for a “budget double.” If you book a room at the resort directly, you’ll also get a free pass to use the common hot spring pools, or you can book a private pool at a 33 percent discount.
3. Kirkham Hot Springs in Lowman, Idaho
Kirkham Hot Spring is a bit of a local secret, and a destination ripe for adventurers. It’s less developed than many other hot springs — it’s literally just a cascading, hot pool in the forest — but it is located within a campground inside of Boise National Forest. The campground offers vault toilets, drinking water, trash cans, and picnic tables. There is a short trail to get to the hot springs that can be steep and slippery for some folks, so bring your hiking shoes.
The best way to experience this rustic hot springs is by making a camping reservation online so that you don’t even have to travel far to get back to your cozy tent. Rates start at $15 per night, and there is a $5 day-use fee if you don’t plan on camping here and instead park at one of the picnic sites. One final heads-up: Because it’s a less-developed hot spring, the campground (and therefore the hot spring) closes each October 31 and reopens the next year on April 1.
4. Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, Oregon
Be prepared for a tranquil, yet hippie-like retreat at this hot spring. It’s owned and run by a member co-op, all of whom live on-site. Since this is a remote lodge, there are few other alternative lodgings nearby. However, lodging at the resort is relatively affordable, ranging from $72-$165 per person, although you will need to bring your own bed linens (heads-up: you may be asked to bunk with a roomie if you show up solo). Lodging does include meals, however the options will be vegetarian and organic.
If you’d rather just visit the hot springs and not stay on-site, there’s a $22-$38 per-day fee, and you’ll need to make reservations in advance. This may also be another spot to leave the kids at home for. While kids are allowed on-site and in the pools, the hot springs themselves are all entirely clothing-optional. (See also: 5 Affordable and Unforgettable Experiences to Have in National Parks)
5. Quapaw Bath and Spa in Hot Springs, Arkansas
The Quapaw Hot Springs is located right within the thriving town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. There are many options for lodging, including over 30 local Airbnbs for under $75 per night or three-star hotel rooms starting at $129 per night.
More of a “spa” than a “hot spring,” this one is a perfect choice if roughing it on algae- and mud-covered rocks isn’t your style. It’s owned and operated by a resort that has channeled the hot springs into a series of indoor pools. Spa services cost extra, but if all you want is a simple soak, it’ll cost just $20 per person.
6. Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
It’s hard to complete any hot springs list without including one from Colorado. After all, the state boasts around 30 hot springs. Strawberry Hot Springs is one of the best, however, because it offers an affordable, rustic-yet-not-too-rustic experience.
A day pass for the hot springs costs $15, and includes access to the pools, restrooms, picnic areas, and heated changing areas. Although there are plenty of lodging options available in nearby Steamboat Springs, you can stay on-site in a whimsical covered wagon for just $70 per night, or a rustic cabin for $85 per night.
Although two-wheel-drive cars are fine during the summer months, it’s better to plan on using a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get up the road in the fall and winter, just in case there’s snow or ice on the road. If you don’t have access to such a vehicle, no worries — two different shuttle services will drive you up for $45 per person.