Nevada, the number one state for the most naturally occurring hot springs, is home to over 300 of them! Most of them are located on public land, but there are some that are located on private land and ranches. We had the opportunity this weekend to visit one of these little gems, which happens to be located on private property. The owners of the property are gracious enough to open the hot springs to the public. This being said, it is important that everyone do their part to keep the land, as well as the springs, as natural and litter free as it should be. They do not prohibit food or drink, so if you pack it in, pack it out.
Situated in northeast Nevada, the small town of Wells sits right off of Interstate 80 and US Highway 93. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in its history, dating back into the early 1800’s. It was a popular resting stop along the California Trail in the 1840’s, due in part to the natural hot springs, allowing pioneers a place to take a warm bath. The hotter springs which were too hot to soak in, allowed for a place to cook food.
While a lot has changed today, one thing that hasn’t changed, is the hot springs. Just twelve miles outside of city limits, on a private ranch, sits Twelve Mile Hot Springs (also known as Bishop Creek Hot Spring). it is nestled back in a slot canyon and runs along the base of the canyon. They say that it is not a heavily trafficked area, but this past weekend was a beautiful day and there happened to be several other people there by the time we got to it.
Getting to it was a sort of adventure all in itself. The hot springs sit about 2 miles or so off of the paved road, inside the canyon walls. The dirt road is not marked for Twelve Mile Hot Springs, and you have to drive through a cattle gate (which is open), to access the dirt road that takes you in. A word of caution, if you do not have a vehicle with four wheel drive and pretty good clearance, your best bet is to park and walk in. We drove in, adding to our excitement for the day! Steep hills, deep ruts, and areas where the road is washed out, makes driving a little tricky! At one point, we passed a truck that looked as if it may have rolled down a small embankment, sitting on the side of the road.
While there is a small area that you can park a vehicle or two in, next to the hot spring itself, we decided to stop and park just inside the canyon. It looked as if there used to be a bridge of sorts at one time, but the bridge was gone now, all but one board, just big enough to walk across. Either side of the bridge gave way to areas where people have crossed in their vehicles before, but both sides were completely under water as the river washed through at the crossings.
We pulled off the road and parked. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day, but the higher elevation and the wind that would whip through the canyon off and on, made it just a little chilly at first. Equipped with jackets and backpacks, we headed off on the hike. Crossing through the water, the first thing I noticed was that the water was very warm! I know this is a hot spring we are hiking to, but in my mind, I had prepared myself to step into icy cold water. The water came up to the top of my hiking boots where we crossed at, and even though my socks stayed dry, I could feel the heat through my boots.
The hike up Twelve Mile is pet friendly, and while it is a good idea to have a leash handy, they are not required. There were a couple of times that I did use the leash, but for the most part, Scout – and her sidekick, Levi -were in full investigation mode.
At the beginning of the hike in, just upstream a little, there is (what’s left of) an old bridge that goes over a waterfall. On the other side of the bridge, there are valves that look like they controlled the water flow to a canal that runs just above and parallel to the road in. This canal was used to water the cattle and ranches in the area. I’m not entirely sure if it is still in use today.
Winding our way past the bridge and through the canyon walls, the spring opens up to where the “pool” is located. There are two areas where the water collects. The area where everyone usually soaks is actually a man made “pool” area that has been constructed with stone and concrete. The water temperature in this area is usually pretty stable at right around 105 degrees year round. The water moves swiftly through here keeping the soaking area fairly clear , though there can be a little bit of algae buildup on the rocks. The pool area itself is only about 30-40 feet in length and is about 2-3 feet deep. Enough to sit in and relax. Apparently, clothing in this area is – optional. Like I said, when we got there, there were probably about 6 or more people in the water. I chose not to take a photo of that exact area…just in case some of the swimmers opted out of clothes.
The man made soaking pool empties down and across a small crossing area that brings you up to where there is a small parking area, if you are able to drive back that far. This part of the spring forms a larger pond that has remained in its natural state. There are no concrete floors or rock walls in this area, but the water temperature still remains at about 98-100 degrees in this part. No one was soaking in this area, though I’m sure they do, especially when the upper section gets full.
Once you pass by the main soaking area, the trail winds its way through the canyon walls. The stream follows along the hiking trail. The canyon provides a beautiful hike through many different rock formations. There are different types of wildlife that call this area home, but we were only fortunate enough to see birds circling their nests atop a large rock, and a few ducks that took off out of the water. The dogs had a great time running up and down from the spring, jumping in the water every chance they got, only to run back up the other side of the trail into the rocks.
We continued just hiking the trail, taking in all that the canyon had to offer, the peacefulness and the beauty. You could easily spend an entire day just wandering the trail and wrapping it all up with a soak in the hot spring when you are done. We stopped to take one last look at the spring and the meadows that cover the canyon floor, before heading back to the truck.
Twelve Mile Hot Springs is just one of many hot springs that you will find across the state of Nevada. It is a perfect way to spend the day if you are wanting to spend your time outdoors and relaxing. If you ever find yourself passing through Wells (or really, anywhere in Nevada – there are hot springs in EVERY county of the state), plan to spend a little time at one of the Silver states little gems, like Twelve Mile. Until then…Happy Soaking!