Two famous, accessible Californian hot springs are located in the remote central region near Mammoth Lakes, against a backdrop of the Eastern Sierra mountains. These natural hot springs are called “Wild Willy’s Hot Spring” or “Crowley Hot Spring.” The hot springs are easy to drive to, require only a short walk, and are free to access. The area is undeveloped public land, and there are no amenities, bathrooms, or trash cans, so you should take out your trash and stay in another nearby campground or hotel listed below. Visit during the summer to fall in love with the heart-shaped natural hot springs.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring Near Mammoth Lakes
Only 13 miles outside the touristy city of Mammoth Lakes sit Wild Willy’s Hot Spring. You’ll drive a bumpy, unpaved road to a small parking lot. Once you arrive at the hot springs parking lot, you’ll hike a flat, wooden boardwalk for 10 minutes before you come across the first, heart-shaped pool that can fit a dozen people. There are two hot springs, ranging in temperature from 95°F to 105°F degrees. The second spring is hotter and holds just a couple of people. These springs are much-loved as are the many neighboring mineral hot springs in the Long Valley area, like Whitmore Hot Springs. If you arrive in the early morning or on a weekday, you’ll have time to relax in the pools and experience the mountain views.
Seasonal Access Information
The Mammoth Lakes region has four seasons with cold, snowy winters that make it one of the best ski regions in California. Between October and April, temperatures frequently drop to freezing. Summer temperatures can reach triple-digit temperatures, but at higher elevations like Wild Willy’s Hot Spring, temperatures rarely exceed 90°F degrees (check the weather forecast and monthly averages on Weather.com). As a result, the best time to visit Wild Willy’s is between late May to early October. You will have the most comfortable daytime and morning temperatures during this season. Then, if you visit the hot springs at sunrise or sunset (which we recommend), the temperatures will be a cool 30°F to 60°F degrees. The hot springs are still warm in the winter, but roads may be closed due to snow.
While summer is the best time of year to visit because of moderate temperatures, there is also a higher chance of bad air quality due to wildfire smoke. In 2020 and 2021, many summer wildfires occurred in the Mammoth Lakes region, making the air quality the worst in the country. If you visit in late summer, check the air quality before visiting.
While camping is not allowed immediately next to the hot springs, there are many local campgrounds. For instance, Brown’s Owen River Campground, a no-frills campground, is only 10 minutes drive from the hot springs ($35 per night, open April to September). The Convict Lake Campground is about 20 minutes away and is available only during the summer for $29 a night.
If you are visiting the hot springs in the winter, you will have to stay in Mammoth Lakes. However, the most popular season is winter, so hotels will be more expensive then.
View Available Lodging in Mammoth Lakes (Expedia paid link)
The hot springs are in the wilderness, so few amenities are nearby. The closest grocery store, Crowley Lake General Store, is 20 minutes away from the hot springs, though it is better to stop in the city of Mammoth Lakes 25 minutes away to shop at one of their many supermarkets. Mammoth Lakes is also the best location for restaurants, hotels, and gas stations.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring Map
Driving Directions to Wild Willy’s Hot Spring
Wild Willy’s is almost the same distance from Southern as from Northern California. Drive 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles or 330 miles southeast of San Francisco to the 395 highway (395 North from Ridgecrest and 395 South from South Lake Tahoe) to get to these hot springs. 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 three miles before turning right onto an unmarked road for another 1.4 miles until you arrive at a small parking lot. The springs are free to access but require making a bumpy drive over this undeveloped, potholed dirt road that closes when it snows. We don’t recommend this road in the winter or with a low-profile car.
Google Maps Directions
Hiking to Wild Willy’s Hot Spring
You won’t get lost following the wooden boardwalk to the hot springs. The elevated trail is about 0.25 miles (0.4 kilometers) long and should take about 10 minutes of walking.
Nudity and the Hot Springs
Nudity is common in most hot springs, and because this is the wilderness, you should expect it at Wild Willy’s. 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 sunscreen, 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.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring Soak Stats:
Season: All (access roads may be closed during winter)
GPS: 37.66219888590565, -118.76756673681996 (hot springs)
Map Quad: n/a
Elevation: 6,824 ft – 2,080 meters
Restrictions: Road closed during poor winter conditions
Temp: Between 95°F (35°C) to 105°F (41°C)
Water Clarity: Low
Long Valley Hot Springs: Hilltop (Pulky’s Pool), Alkali Lake, Whitmore, Hot Tub (Rock Tub), Crab Cooker, Shepherd, Hot Creek, Little Hot Creek
Nearby: Benton, Buckeye, Travertine
Closest Food/Gas: Mammoth Lakes, CA (13 miles)
Camping: No on-site camping allowed, nearby options: Brown’s Owen River Campground, Convict Lake Campground
Clothing Optional: Yes
Pit Toilet: None