EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Winter 2015-16 edition of Tahoe Magazine. It was first published on this website in August 2018 and is presented in its original form.
Sierra Nevada winter weather can be vicious.
The snow can be wet and heavy, capable of soaking anyone who’s in it through to the bone. The wind can bite like an invisible demon. Even on sunny days, the cold can be relentless. When it’s at its worst, we all need somewhere to hide.
Hot springs in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region are the perfect escape from winter weather. From full-service spas to basic soaking pools, there are springs for everyone. Though most take a bit of a trip to get to from Lake Tahoe, the outing can be a fun way to experience the area.
Tucked at the base of the eastern edge of the Sierra near Genoa, Nevada’s oldest town, David Walley’s resort is an institution. The 153-year-old retreat offers single-day services or multiple-day accommodations. In the early 1900s, the resort was known as a common stop for those traveling on the Emigrant Trail and Pony Express.
Now owned by Summerwinds Resort Services LLC and remodeled in 2013, the resort features five hot mineral spring-fed pools, an outdoor heated pool, a steam room and dry saunas. For diners, there’s an 1862-themed restaurant and saloon. The landscaped grounds are built around lagoons fed by the warm-water springs.
A full day spa offers classic European facials, eye treatments and aromatherapy. For overnight stays, rooms with full or partial kitchens are available. For even longer stays, the resort has a timeshare program. Or, for special events, Walley’s has banquet and wedding services available.
The water at Carson Hot Springs Resort flows out of the ground at 121 degrees. Supposedly, the water comes from more than 35,000 feet below the earth’s surface, carrying minerals like sodium, sulfate, chloride, calcium and magnesium.
In the mid-1800s, Washoe Indians and emigrants, many oh whom were part of the Gold Rush, used the springs. By 1910, the resort had been established and celebrities of the Wild West were not uncommon guests. During the prohibition, federal officers raided the resort, though they never found any evidence of liquor manufacturing.
Today, the resort is open to the public. Both public outdoor pools and indoor private pools are available on an hourly or daily basis. For frequent guests, there are punch cards for up to 100 visits.
Just southeast of Lake Tahoe lies a scenic high desert valley actually called Hot Springs Valley. At the edge of the meadow is Grover Hot Springs State Park. Visitors can enjoy one of two pools: a hot mineral water pool and a colder swimming pool.
The place is popular among residents of Carson Valley and South Lake Tahoe locals who feel like making the 45-minute drive. Though there’s camping in the summer, there are few winter accommodations in the area. The entry fee is $7, so it’s not too difficult to get your money’s worth on a day trip.
The pool frequently fills to capacity on weekends, so call ahead if you’re going to head down on a Saturday or Sunday. Usually, if you do arrive and they’re full, the wait is fairly short. Even without the springs, the drive through Hope Valley and the granite-lined Carson River canyon is beautiful. Bonus tip: Stop for an after-soak slice of pie at the Hope Valley Café & Market.
A favorite warm spot in the Reno area, Steamboat Hot Springs has a long history, just like many of the area’s hot spots. The first development at the site occurred in 1859 when guest rooms and a dance hall were built to entertain miners from nearby Virginia City. Later, the hot springs was the site of a hospital.
Today, Steamboat acts a healing center and spa. The water comes out of the ground at close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s then cooled in holding tanks before being pumped into the outdoor tub and seven private indoor tubs.
In addition to the thermal baths, Steamboat offers a selection of spa services, including massage, sound therapy, mud wraps and yoga. There’s a geothermal steam room or an infrared sauna for those who don’t feel like getting wet.