Cold weather and hot springs go together like old-English font and rear-window decals here in the Land of Enchantment. From resorts and spas to natural rock formations in the national forest, New Mexico has a soaking experience for bathers on any budget. We’ve got a bubbling spa scene here in the city. Still, if you’re looking for an escape from the 505, here are a few options just a short drive away. This week, I’m focusing on nearby Jemez pools, but there’s more winter tub talk to come.
Run by the Village of Jemez Springs, this place is simple and quaint. Visitors can drop in for a soak, explore a nature path along the river and see the original historic spring. The water here runs super hot—between 159˚ and 189˚. Some of the water is pumped from the natural spring into a holding tank where it cools overnight. This allows bathers to mix the hot and cold mineral waters to obtain an optimum bathing temperature. The bath house is a series of private individual tubs, so bathers may opt out of swimsuits. There’s also a set of side-by-side baths for those who want to bathe together. A 25-minute bath will set you back $12 and a 50-minute bath $18.
While Spence Springs is beautiful, it’s not very secluded, making it the fast food of hot springs in this area. It’s a little more than an hour’s drive from Albuquerque and a quick hike from the parking lot right off State Hwy. 4. Accessibility does not diminish the natural beauty of the tiered three-pool spring perched on a hillside. Still, it does generally ensure you will never be alone there. In fact, you may be there with people who are less than savvy about the finer points of pack in / pack out. Leaving empty beer cans in the national forest is not cool. Some of the other visitors might not care to follow the rules about nudity or public intoxication. If you’re down with random naked drunk people—or willing to sit on the hillside and wait until they leave—you can’t beat the price at this natural hot spring because, after all, it is free.
This is the best natural spring in the Jemez. Harder to find and more difficult to reach, it’s less visited than neighboring Spence springs. Still, most of the same caveats apply. The five miles of Forest Service Road 367 to reach San Antonio can be tough going in a truck and nearly impassable to cars. But if you’re willing to hike five miles each way or have a truck that can handle it, the journey offers spectacular views of the valley floor stretching back toward Jemez Springs. Once you reach the end of Forest Road 367, it’s a short, steep hike up a round pebble-bottom pool with ample room for bathers. It’s not very deep, but it offers soothing warmth from the chilly air at this 8,360-foot elevation. A few smaller pools sit below the main one. The mountaintop views of the rock formations and aspens changing color make it worth all the trouble it takes to get up there.
Songs for the Springs
“Warm Sound” • Zero 7 • When It Falls
“Wedding Bell” • Beach House • Devotion
“Here Come the Warm Jets” • Brian Eno • Here Come the Warm Jets
“Homesick” • The Cure • Disintegration
Elizabeth W. Hughes can usually be found speeding away from Albuquerque with her dog, Dixie Belle, windows down, music up, in search of hot springs, cold beer or both.