15 Essential Hot Spring Etiquette Practices You Need To Know Before Your Next Soak

Post Summary: Hot Springs Etiquette Tips For Your Next Soak

What’s better than a trip to natural hot springs? Not much!

Visiting backcountry hot springs can be a fun adventure, relaxing escape, or a place to take beautiful photos and soak in the scenery (pun very much intended). Berty and I have visited more than 20 hot springs in the Pacific Northwest alone, and we’ve gathered so much knowledge about how to enjoy them responsibly.

To protect these fragile places for future generations, we’re sharing essential hot springs etiquette. These practices will include everything from LNT principles, proper drinkware, what to do if you encounter nudity, and must-read safety tips for your best soak yet!

Let’s get started!

15 Hot Spring Etiquette Tips You Need To Know

Hot Springs Etiquette - Goldbug Hot Springs in Idaho

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1. Don’t Be A Gatekeeper

We understand that sharing locations and geotagging can be a murky subject, with all sides bringing valid and concerning points to the table.

We don’t believe in keeping locations a ‘secret’ because public lands are just that: PUBLIC. People in the United States who want to enjoy the outdoors have the right to their public lands, because we are all the ones paying taxes to upkeep these spaces.

For us, there is a lot of thought that goes into sharing locations on social media, especially if it’s a fragile spot. Our goal is to educate visitors and create a community that practices good stewardship and sustainability in the outdoors, while still providing information and accessibility to all who want to enjoy them.

We hope you will join us in creating an inclusive community that sets a good example of hot springs etiquette for all!

Hart Mountain Hot Springs - Eastern Oregon hot springs

2. Leave It Better Than You Found It

Rule #1 of hot springs etiquette – leave it better than you found it!

One way we like to do this is by carrying a trash bag with us on our hot springs visits. Pack out any trash on your way out, even if it’s not yours. Cleaning up will set a higher standard for the next visitors. People are less likely to dump trash if it’s a clean space!

Emily Mandagie sitting in Hart Mountain Hot Springs in Eastern Oregon
Read More: Hart Mountain Hot Springs

3. Plan For The Weather

Looking for a backcountry soak on your next road trip? Check the weather and road conditions before venturing out, especially in the winter season. Some roads are not maintained in the winter, making some hot springs 3-season pools (unless you have a snowmobile!)

Others have sketchy trails down to the site, so make sure to pack micro spikes and proper winter gear for the trek. Read our full hot springs packing list here to make sure you’ve got all the things you need for a great soak!

Emily Mandagie at the Boiling River
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Read More: The Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park

4. Keep The Noise Down

Soaking is generally a relaxing and peaceful activity for many – that can be quickly ruined with someone blasting music on portable speakers. Nobody likes a rowdy group, so be aware of the people around you.

Read the room to determine the energy level in the space – is it quiet and calm? Chatty and friendly? Consider the vibe, and either match that or tone it down for proper hot springs etiquette.

Emily Mandagie at Hot Springs Cove, Tofino, Vancouver Island
Read More: Hot Springs Cove during a weekend trip to Tofino, BC

5. Skip The Soap and Shampoo

It’s not your bathtub! The spring water can be a delicate combination of minerals that can be easily disrupted by introducing other chemicals. Hot springs often don’t have a way to drain or filter out water, so whatever you put in it stays for a loooong time.

Leave shampoo and soap for your shower at home, and don’t add anything to the water that you wouldn’t want to sit in yourself!

Emily Mandagie standing at Kirkham Hot Springs
Read More: Kirkham Hot Springs

6. Do NOT Pee In The Pools!

Similar to the soap and shampoo rule, no one likes sitting in someone else’s bodily fluids. We’ve actually visited pools with floating poop in the water, and it ruined our entire experience.

Don’t be a jerk, and please use the bathroom before visiting, or travel at least 200 feet from the nearest water source to do your business. It’s essential hot springs etiquette!

Need tips on pooping and peeing outside? Read our camping hygiene tips!

Use The Bathroom Before Hot Springs
Use the bathrooms at the trailhead!

7. Safety Always Comes First In Hot Springs Etiquette

Some hot springs can be located in sketchy spots, like Pine Flats Hot Springs, located on a cliffside.

Others can be at dangerously hot water sources, like Worswick Hot Springs or Bonneville Hot Springs.

Consider packing water shoes for extra stability on slippery rocks. Stash your gear in a dry bag, bring a hat for extra warmth, and pack plenty of water!

Finally, tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back. For even more precautions, take a two-way satellite like this Garmin inReach mini for easy communication in case of an emergency.

Hot Springs Safety - Cliffside at Pine Flats Hot Springss

8. Bringing Drinks? Ditch The Glass

The drink choices are up to you, but make sure it’s in a can or reusable cup!

Glass bottles can easily break, and the pieces are difficult to clean up and can be a hazard for others. Avoid glass bottles, and instead bring cans and other alternatives to enjoy around the pool. We’ve got our eye on this portable wine bag for backpacking!

Bring your coffee to sip poolside!
Read More: Burgdorf Hot Springs

9. Be Considerate of Others (Partying)

Soaking in hot springs can be a fun way to gather with friends, but don’t think that it’s a perfect space to get wasted or high. Being a nuisance to others is incredibly disrespectful, and can put everyone in an uncomfortable situation.

Cracking a beer or smoking is totally fine, but know your limits! (Also, definitely check your state’s individual laws before partaking).

High water temperature can also increase body temperature and affect the way you react to certain substances. It can also be incredibly dangerous to drink and soak – don’t put your safety in the hands of strangers. Drowning, making others uncomfortable, or getting taken advantage of are real and scary consequences that can occur, so be responsible and aware.

Hot Springs Etiquette - Partying

10. Be Friendly and Courteous

Gathering with friends, escaping daily life, or taking photos…all are valid reasons to enjoy hot springs! In a shared and public hot springs, you have a right to be there as much as anyone else does. Don’t be entitled. Be friendly and welcoming if someone joins your pool – you don’t own the place.

We’ve actually met some really awesome people by soaking in a hot springs together. You never know – they may be your newest friends!

Emily Mandagie in Travertine Hot Springs
Read More: Travertine Hot Springs

11. Clothing Is Optional

A good rule of thumb is the farther the distance to the hot springs, the more likely there will be nudity! Feel weird about naked soakers? Skip those far away pools and choose another one that requires suits instead.

Want to get nude? Assess the situation before dropping your drawers. Are there kids around? Is there only one other person? Are you sharing the pool with a LOT of people? Be mindful of others, and don’t be a jerk just because you can get naked. There is a right time and place.

Berty Mandagie at Goldbug
Read More: Goldbug Hot Springs

12. Be Mindful of Hot Springs Capacity

Sometimes, you will encounter pools that can only hold 1-2 people at a time! (Like Boat Box Hot Springs!) Enjoy these pools, but be mindful if others are waiting to use it as well. Be mindful of the time you are taking in the pool, and give others a chance to enjoy it as well.

boat box hot springs in summer
Boat Box In The Summer

13. Learn The History

Natural springs have been used by indigenous communities as sacred spaces for healing and restoration. There are also pools that are teeming with history – like Burgdorf Hot Springs that are more than 100 years old!

Spend time learning about your hot springs’ history to better appreciate your experience!

Learn The History Of The Area
Read More: Hot Springs Near McCall, Idaho

14. Check For Reservations, Fees, or Permits

Some hot springs are on private land (like Scenic Hot Springs in Washington) and these require prior permission before using. Others require a forest pass, fee, or reservation to enjoy.

Before visiting, research the proper fees needed (and even determine if they take cash, card, or just a receipt!) so you aren’t surprised or turned away on site.

Emily Mandagie walking to Idaho Hot Springs in Stanley, Idaho - TheMandagies.com
Read More: Mt. Village Hot Springs

15. Camping? Keep Your Distance

Camping near a hot spring can be a fun and convenient way to enjoy them the whole day! First, make sure camping is allowed near your desired hot spring.

If camping is allowed, make sure to set up your tent at least 500 feet away from the pools. For cooking and using the bathroom, use the same rules, and steer clear of the hot springs to avoid contaminating the water.

Read More: Our Guide To Finding Free Camping Spots In The USA

Hiking to a camping site near Goldbug in Idaho
Read More: Goldbug Hot Springs

Hot Spring Etiquette Tips (Summary)

  1. Don’t be a gatekeeper
  2. Leave it better than you found it
  3. Plan for the weather
  4. Keep the noise down
  5. Skip the soap and shampoo
  6. Do NOT pee in the pools
  7. Safety comes first
  8. Ditch the glass containers
  9. Be considerate of others
  10. Be friendly and courtesous
  11. Clothing is optional
  12. Be mindful of pool capacity
  13. Learn teh history
  14. Check for reservations, fees, or permits
  15. Keep your distance when camping

We hope you enjoyed our post on hot springs etiquette! This is an important topic to us because we believe it’s all our responsibility to be good stewards of the world and take care of our spaces.

If you enjoyed these tips, please send them to a friend! Let’s start making these the norm, so that our hot springs are around and clean for a long time!

Did we miss any hot springs etiquette tips? Share some ways people can respectfully enjoy pools in the comments below!