Hot Creek Geological Site Information
The mountain region of Mammoth Lakes, California, sits on a thin surface of the earth, active with geothermal activity. As a result, this region is among the best in the state for visiting hot springs such as Hot Creek Geological Site and other Long Valley hot springs. The area is picturesque, similar to what you may see in other volcanic regions, like Yellowstone National Park.
Hot Creek is a site of great geological importance and is currently a scientific research destination. Though you cannot swim due to the erratic water temperature, you can angle in a fish-filled creek and enjoy the spectacle of multiple blue-colored hot pools and geysers lined by travertine rock and natural steam vents.
This is also a notoriously dangerous site where visitors have died and been injured due to the boiling water and erupting geysers. Fences and signs remind visitors of the dangers of the water and encourage them to take photos from a safe distance. Even if you cannot soak in these springs, they are definitely worth visiting.
Hot Creek Geological Site Facilities
Hot Creek Geological Site has a toilet, interpretive signs, a trail, and a parking lot. You may not have cell phone reception here, and you should bring snacks and water if you plan to hike or fish here.
It is not permitted to camp or park overnight at Hot Creek Geological Site, but you may stay at any of the nearby hotels and campgrounds in the Mammoth Lakes region. Hotels are popular year-round, and prices range from $100 to $500 per night, particularly during the high season months of summer and winter. There are over a dozen local campgrounds, ranging from $25 to $100 per night, and most close during the winter. If you’re camping during the summer, expect to book months in advance.
View Available Lodging in Mammoth Lakes (Expedia paid link)
Access and Usage Fees
Access to the Hot Creek Geological Site is free, including parking.
The town of Mammoth Lakes is known for skiing and ice skating in the winter and hiking and fishing in the summer. Yosemite National Park is also a 45-minute drive through Tioga Pass (sometimes closed in the winter). One notable spot is worth the 30-minute drive: Devils Postpile National Monument, which includes a rare rock formation and the 101-foot-tall Rainbow Falls. Saline-water Mono Lake is a local tourist attraction for hiking, boating, and bird-watching.
This region is also well known for its geothermal activity, and there are hot springs less than an hour away you can soak in, such as Benton Hot Springs, Hilltop Hot Springs, Whitmore Hot Springs, and Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.
Hot Creek Geological Site History
This is currently a research site due to the profound geothermal activity. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a volcano erupted in this region around 333,000 years ago and continues to warm the earth below this site. Here, boiling water comes up from below the earth’s surface, heating the water rapidly and unpredictably, up to 200°F (93°C) in seconds. The Hot Creek hot springs and geysers are an excellent geology class.
Historically, visitors would bathe in the hot springs and creek. However, in 2006, the springs were closed after they would erratically erupt and heat up, causing fatal swimming conditions. In addition, vents can also burst with boiling-hot steam. As many as 14 people died at Hot Creek before the closure, and it is now prohibited to swim here. However, many visitors enjoy the stream on the cooler side of the creek.
Seasonal Access Information
The Mammoth Lakes region is famous for its snowy winters and mild, sunny summers. June through September are the most comfortable months in Mammoth Lakes, with average daily temperatures around 50°F (10°C) to 70°F (21°C). As a result, a summer visit will be the best time, weather-wise. Shoulder season includes April through May and October through November. However, winter conditions are cold and snowy, so the road may be closed, though access is still permitted for those able to hike or snowshoe for two miles.
Hot Creek Geological Site Directions
Hot Creek Geological Site is east of Yosemite National Park, in the Mammoth Lakes region of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. If you’re traveling from San Francisco, you’ll need to cross Yosemite park to reach this site, which is much easier to access from Los Angeles, from which you can take the 395 freeway. The short 3-mile road to the Hot Creek Geological Site is easy to drive but closes in the winter when you can hike or snowshoe the remaining two miles.
If driving from Mammoth Lakes, drive east of town towards the 395 South freeway. About six miles east of town on the 395 South, turn left onto Hot Creek Hatchery Road. You’ll drive this road for around three miles before reaching the site.
Take the 101 North freeway from Los Angeles, turning into the 5 North, which you’ll follow for nine miles. Then, take the 14 North freeway for about 118 miles via Mojave. In the town of Bradys, you’ll merge onto the 395 North, which you’ll drive for 158 miles toward Mammoth Lakes. Just before Mammoth Lakes, exit right onto Hot Creek Hatchery Road for just over three miles until you reach the hot springs.
From San Francisco, take the 180 East, then the 580 East and 205 East for over 60 miles. Then, take the I-5 North for a mile and take the 120 East across Yosemite National Park for over 96 miles (in the winter, check to see if this road is temporarily closed). Then take the Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road over the pass for around 67 miles until reaching Lee Vining. In Lee Vining, turn right on the 395 South, which you’ll take for about 28 miles towards Mammoth Lakes. Just before Mammoth Lakes, exit left onto Hot Creek Hatchery Road for just over three miles until you reach the hot springs.
Hot Creek Geological Site Google Maps Directions
- East from Mammoth Lakes (17 minutes and 10 miles)
- North from Los Angeles (5 hours and 306 miles)
- East from San Francisco (5.5 hours and 265 miles)
Hot Creek Geological Site Hiking Directions
Once you have parked at Hot Creek, an easy 1.6-mile path takes you beside the creek. The hike is just a few minutes, but you can also explore further on the dirt path.
Hot Creek Geological Site Stats:
Season: Summer, Fall
Address: Hot Creek Hatchery Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA
GPS Coordinates: 37.661223697084054, -118.82746456190124
Nearby: Long Valley Hot Springs
Area Features: Devils Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Sierra Nevada mountains, Mono Lake, Yosemite National Park
Closest Gas and Food: Mammoth Lakes (10 miles and 15 minutes away)
Dogs: Yes, but must be on leash
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