Guide to Hilltop Hot Springs Near Mammoth Lakes
Few California regions are as geothermally active as Mammoth Lakes, California. Around Mammoth, there are many hot springs to enjoy. Hilltop Hot Springs (AKA Pulkey’s Pool) is a popular destination for soak seekers that want to relax in a natural mineral hot pool while being engulfed by views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
Hilltop Hot Pool
Hilltop features a single rock-walled pool that requires a 10-15 minute walk to reach from the parking lot (0.6 miles one way). The pool is small, about two feet deep, and can fit around five people.
The hot springs are piped from an underground source, which may be as hot as 130°F. In the hot springs pool, you can turn on a tap to change the temperature of the water from cold to hot or vice versa. In the pool, the mineral water ranges from 90° to 110°F.
The hot springs are reasonably straightforward to drive to and do not cost anything to visit or park. However, the roads may be closed in the winter due to snow, so if you’re seeing Hilltop in the winter, prepare for icy driving and a longer hike from the road.
The Mammoth Lakes region has four distinct seasons, including icy and snowy winters. In the fall, winter, and spring – between October and April – temperatures often drop to or below freezing.
In contrast, summers are pretty hot in California’s Central Valley, but near the hot springs, temperatures don’t often exceed 90°F. Check the air quality before visiting, as recent fires can make the air smoky.
The ideal time to soak in Hilltop is between late May to early October when you’ll have more comfortable morning and daytime temperatures. Hilltop is a wonderful place to enjoy at sunrise or sunset.
The hot springs are warm in the winter, but you may need to walk further to the hot springs, as roads may be closed due to the snow.
No Camping, Fires or Stoves
The area around Hilltop Hot Springs is a “no overnight camping” and “no dispersed camping” zone. No camping, fires, or stoves are permitted, and overnight campers may be prosecuted for trespassing. However, day use is allowed.
Additionally, you may stay at nearby lodgings, such as campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes. There are over a dozen local campgrounds, ranging from $25 to $100 per night, though most close during winter. If you’re camping during the summer, expect to book months in advance.
Other Overnight Lodging
View Available Lodging in Mammoth Lakes (Expedia paid link)
Hilltop Hot Springs Directions
To get to Hilltop Hot Springs, drive 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles or 340 miles southeast of San Francisco to the 395 highway (395 North from Ridgecrest and 395 South from South Lake Tahoe).
From Highway 395, exit on Benton Crossing Road near the Mammoth Yosemite Airport; if you’re traveling south, it’s just after the airport, and if you’re traveling north, it’s just before.
Take the Benton Crossing Road for 3.7 miles before turning left onto an unmarked road (see the turnoff here on Google Maps). Drive for only 0.2 miles until you arrive at one of two small parking lots that each fit a few cars.
Google Maps Links
There is only one path to the hot springs, and it is easy to spot from the parking lot. Walk about 0.6 miles across this dirt path with a partially elevated wooden boardwalk for about 10-15 minutes.
Nearby Hot Springs
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring aka Crowley Hot Springs, 13 miles outside of Mammoth Lakes, offers a beautiful natural soak in a large heart-shaped pool. Whitmore Hot Springs is another excellent option in the area. Boasting mountain views and a natural comfortable pool of around 100* F. The Hot Creek Geological site is another area to add to your regional checklist. Not a place to soak, but definitely a must-see.
The Mammoth Lakes region is well-located for accessing many natural wonders, including Tuolumne Meadows Yosemite National Park, which is a 45-minute drive via Tioga Pass. However, this road often closes between November and April or even later. Tuolumne Meadows is an alpine wonderland of lakes and trails.
Neighboring Crowley Lake is fascinating and features striking natural stone columns that require a 4-mile hike (best in the warmer months). In addition, the city of Mammoth Lakes is famous for winter sports and summer hiking, while Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls are only a 30-minute drive from Hilltop.
Long Valley, where Hilltop Hot Springs lie, is a site of geological and historical importance. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a volcano erupted in this region hundreds of thousands of years ago and heats the earth underneath the hot springs. The earth’s surface is shallow at Hilltop, allowing the hot water to rise.
Hot springs have historically been places where people can rest in the healing, warm waters. This region has been a historical site for Native Americans to bathe in the geothermal pools, and many of these Native people still live there. In fact, the local Paiute tribe, the Utu Utu Gwaitu, is named the “Hot Water Place People.”
Nudity and the Hot Springs
Nudity is common in most hot springs, and because this is the wilderness, you should expect it at Hilltop. You are welcome to wear a swimsuit, but don’t be surprised to see others not.
Politeness and Other Considerations
When visiting these hot springs, remember to follow leave no trace principles and take trash with you in addition to picking up others’ garbage. Also, wear sun protection, and bring water to drink since the high-altitude hot springs may dehydrate you more quickly. Finally, since this is an area where cows freely graze, be mindful of taking a pet with you and make sure that they do not damage the environment or startle the livestock.
Hilltop Soak Stats
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Early Fall
Type: Roadside, Hike
GPS Coordinates: 37.66415015340291, -118.78922490985154
Elevation: 6,890 feet (2,100 meters)
Usage Fee: None
Parking: Yes, free
Access Restrictions: Road closed during poor winter conditions
Pool Temperature: Between 90°F (32°C) to 110°F (43°C)
Water Clarity: Low
Camping: Not at/near hot springs, nearby dispersed camping
Area Features: Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake, Lake Crowley
Nearby Hot Springs: Mammoth Lakes Hot Springs, Benton, Buckeye, Travertine
Closest Gas and Food: Mammoth Lakes (12 miles and 16 minutes away)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Mastodon (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Nextdoor (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on X (Opens in new window)
- Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)