Wilbur Hot Springs Northeast of San Francisco
Wilbur Hot Springs is a quiet resort with natural, geothermal hot springs pools inspired by Japanese onsen culture. These hot springs are also a historical site built in the late 1800s, sitting on a peaceful creek.
To get here, you’ll need to drive a couple of hours from either Sacramento or San Fransisco, and you’ll soon find yourself in the wilderness, far from any electronic distractions. This is an ideal location for solo visitors or couples who want to relax off the grid. Be prepared to fall in love with Wilbur Hot Springs, named one of the best hot springs in northern California.
What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wilbur Hot Springs
- The bathing at Wilbur Hot Springs is open all day and night
- No electronic devices are allowed in the bathing area
- Nudity is optional but expected
- You should shower before entering the pools
- Alcohol is not permitted at the pools
- Silence is encouraged in the bathing area
- Reservations are required for all visits
Hot Pool Information
There are three hot springs pools at Wilbur, including a “Fluminarium” where water flows through four flumes into the pools. The geothermal water is channeled directly from the ground and is about 143°F at surface level. When the water reaches the pools, it averages 100° F, 105°F, and 109°F.
There is also a swimming pool, dry sauna, and cold-water bathtub plunge. The swimming pool is heated in the winter and cooled and chlorinated in the summer.
You will need to bring a towel, but robes and towels are available for purchase at the store.
Wilbur Hot Springs Resort Facilities
At Wilbur Hot Springs, you’ll experience an off-the-grid stay in the wilderness. While one can stay the night, there is no on-site cafe or restaurant, Wi-Fi, or cell phone service. The location uses solar power and spring water (most of it is cold), and the nearest grocery store is 23 miles away.
Overnight visitors can choose from three types of accommodations: hotel or lodge rooms, cabins, cabin suites, or campsites. All overnight guests have access to the hot spring pools in the evening and morning after day visitors leave. The accommodation includes modest twin, full-size, or queen beds, and most guests will need to share bathrooms and kitchens. Guests who want privacy should select the cabins or cabin suites with private half-baths. In addition, cabin suites are the only option with a kitchen, living room, and outdoor deck. All rooms and cabins are double-occupancy, with a maximum of three guests.
Access and Usage Fees
Visitors can access the hot springs and hike in the preserve between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily. Day passes cost the same regardless of when you arrive, so it’s best to be there in the morning. Rates are $59 per person on weekdays and $65 per person on weekends and holidays. If you want to arrive earlier than 10:00 a.m., there is an additional fee of $10 per person.
Visitors can stay overnight from $75 per night in the campground to $380 for a weekend in a cabin suite. Rates include taxes. Rooms and cabins are the same rates for one or two guests. There is a required two-night minimum stay in 2022.
Unlike other hot springs, Wilbur Hot Springs is also a tourist destination by itself. The hot springs sit on a nature preserve, where you can see a genuine geyser, contribute to a “wishing tree,” listen to the wind chime tree, hike a rock labyrinth, and look out for wildlife such as the local ponies. Longer hikes are best in the fall, winter, or spring, as summer can be sweltering. In the core of summer, enjoy dips in the swimming pool.
Wilbur has been around for centuries and was a spiritual haven for Native American tribes such as the Patwin, Colusi, Wintun, and Pomo. According to local folklore, the hot springs became famous for their curative powers when one of Congressman John Bidwell’s men was extremely ill while on a gold prospecting expedition in 1863. It is said that Native Americans recommended a source of healing waters and Bidwell’s man made a full recovery after taking a dip in the curative hot water. After this miraculous healing, word began to spread about the health benefits and Wilbur Hot Springs was eventually founded by Dr. Richard Louis Miller in 1972 and since has developed into one of the most popular hot springs in Northern California.
Seasonal Access Information
This region of California has sweltering, dry summers and cloudy, wet winters. The most comfortable months to visit Wilbur hot springs will be in March through May and October through November.
If you arrive in the winter, daytime temperatures are mild in the 50°F to 60°F range, but you may experience cloudy or rainy days, with December being the coldest month. Of course, this may be ideal hot springs weather if you don’t mind the cold air.
Summer temperatures can be scorching, up to 100°F. So, wait to soak in the hot springs until dark or early morning. The hot springs are open 24/7 for overnight guests.
Like many wooded areas of California, this region experiences wildfires. A wildfire destroyed the lodge in 2014, and the owners rebuilt it months later. And in August 2021, a nearby fire damaged the city of Clearlake. The riskiest months for wildfires are August through October.
Wilbur Hot Springs Directions
Wilbur Hot Springs is between Williams and Clearlake, two small towns north of San Francisco. It’s best to fly into Sacramento International Airport (SMF), an hour and a half from the hot springs. However, visitors may also take a two-hour drive north from San Franciso. These hot springs are a great stopping point on the way to Clearlake, a tourist destination 40 minutes west of the springs.
Note that there is likely no cell phone service here, so you’ll need to download your maps or use a paper map to get to the hot springs.
If you’re traveling from Sacramento, drive the I-5 North freeway toward Redding. After 58 miles, you’ll arrive in the town of Williams, where you’ll take exit 578. This exit will take you on the 20 West freeway toward Clear Lake. After approximately 18 miles, take a left to stay on the 20 West. After about 4 miles, you’ll turn right onto Bear Valley Road. From here, you’ll follow the creekside road until you get to a bridge, where you’ll turn left. This road is Wilbur Springs Road (see the Google Street View of the turn). You’ll take the road for a few minutes before arriving at the hot springs on your right.
If you’re traveling from San Francisco, drive the I-80 East freeway towards Oakland, and after 55 miles, take the I-505 North freeway toward Redding. After 77 miles, exit 21 toward Esparto and continue on the 16 West for about 40 miles before you come to a T-junction. Then, turn left on State Highway 20 West and immediately take a right onto a narrow paved road named Bear Valley Road (see the Google Street View here). From here, follow the creekside road until you get to a bridge, then turn left onto Wilbur Springs Road (see the Google Street View of this left turn). After a few minutes, you’ll arrive at the hot springs on your right.
From Los Angeles, driving to Wilbur Hot Springs is possible but not enjoyable. It will take at least eight hours of travel time. You could optionally take a short domestic flight to Sacramento instead if you’re in LA.
Wilbur Hot Springs Soak Stats:
Seasons: Open all year but Spring and Fall are the best
Address: 3375 Wilbur Springs Rd, Williams, CA 95987
Elevation: 1,450 feet (442 meters)
Hot Spring Temperatures: 100°F (38°C) to 109°F (43°C), depending on the pool
Area Features: Geyser of Life, Bear Creek, Clear Lake
Nearby Hot Springs: Harbin, Orr, Roman, Vichy
Closest Gas and Food: 23 miles east in Williams
Dogs: No, only service animals allowed
Clothing Optional: Yes
Wilbur video results on YouTube