Want to find some of those bluest waters without spending money on permits or leaving the U.S.? Fifth Water Hot Springs near Spanish Fork, Utah boast some of the most beautiful natural hot springs with bright blue waters. Bonus: They are completely free!
How to do it like we did:
We have been to Fifth Water Hot Springs (also known as Diamond Fork Hot Springs) twice: once in the fall and once in the winter. The trailhead is on Diamond Fork Rd, just 20 miles from Spanish Fork, Utah. We followed the directions on AllTrails to locate the trailhead.
Parking at the trailhead is limited and usually super crowded. Get there early in the morning or late at night, or be patient to find a spot further up the road. From the trailhead to the hot spring pools is 2.5 miles, which makes the hike 5 miles round trip. The trail starts at the pit toilet and trail sign. Walk through the fence next to the trail sign. The trail goes straight before you, following the river. There is a bridge immediately to your right – this will NOT take you to the hot springs. The whole hike is pretty easy, with only 780 feet of elevation gain.
This is a great hike in the fall because the leaves are turning an array of vibrant colors. The only downside is the weather in Utah often warms up during a fall afternoon which voids the effect of the hot springs. Our first time up we started around 1 o’clock on a September afternoon. We were hot and sticky by the time we made it to the hot springs. This did not make them any less gorgeous but the effect is greater when you are chilly and get to climb into a hot pool.
The hike starts out in a forested area then slowly finds its way to the river. Most of the hike follows alongside the river. You will know when you are getting closer to the hot springs because the river will start to smell like sulfur. As the sulfur smell gets stronger the river starts to steam. Are you to the springs yet? Nope! Keep walking. It will be really obvious when you get to the hot springs. The trail will turn into a slightly more aggressive incline, the water will turn bright blue and the river will turn into pools.
The pools actually look like someone came around and created a series of little hot tubs. The hike ends in a waterfall that pours into the hottest of all the pools. The tubs get increasingly cooler the further downriver you get from the waterfall.
The second time we went in December. We waited until the sun was beginning to set. This made sitting in the pools an amazing experience for two reasons. First, the skies are so dark that the stars pop right out of the sky. Second, the chilly air makes the hot springs cozy and perfect. If you are there in the day time, the sun actually keeps things pretty warm as you change.
Since I am a big fan of going when the weather is cold, I am going to focus on that. There are no changing rooms at the top of the trail. If you wear your swimsuit in, you will need something to change into on the way out. Wearing a sopping bikini under your clothes in freezing temps is a good way to catch a cold or get frostbite. Not to mention, wildly uncomfortable. We bought a couple of emergency space blankets and used these as makeshift changing rooms. Just wrap up in one of those while you are changing and you will stay nice and toasty. It helps that the water is so hot because you retain quite a bit of heat when you get out. Between a towel, a space blanket, and residual heat from the hot spring I actually stayed pretty warm. We also threw a tarp down on the ground to keep our wet feet and clothes from getting muddy.
If you are planning on hiking out in the dark, remember the headlamps. The trail is very forested in parts and you are in a canyon which blocks a lot of starlight on many parts of the trail. Headlamps are a great option to keep the trail well-lit and safe.
1. In the winter Diamond Fork Rd is usually closed due to snow. It is often closed completely from October – March. The hot springs are STILL accessible. You just have to park at the gate and snowshoe or walk (depending on conditions) the road to the trailhead. From the gate to the trailhead is about 3.4 miles one-way, making your entire trek about 12 miles round trip.
2. Ice, ice baby. If you do go in the winter bring YakTrax. The trail gets icy. There is a lot of traffic, plus sunlight during the day, so the snow melts underfoot during the day and freezes at night, causing glare ice in the worst possible spots. The photo below shows a particularly gnarly spot. The cliff drops off on the other side, opening to a straight drop down to the river. Always hike prepared for the conditions.
3. Bring snacks and drinks! We packed in our Jet Boil and backpacker meals in the winter. Yum! Eating dinner in a natural hot tub is about as relaxing as it gets. You can also bring hot chocolate, wine, cookies, popcorn, and whatever else you crave.
Gear of the Trip:
Jetboil Flash Cooking System . Especially in the winter it was awesome to be able to cook a hot meal at the end of the hike. Sure, it is a short hike and does not necessitate dinner. However, it is so fun! The Jet Boil makes it so easy to make hot food wherever you go. You can also pack in hot cocoa packets or tea bags and use the Jet Boil to make steamy drinks.
Take time to relax! I will leave you with one more phot of my favorite pool to soak in. This is a great spot to refresh your soul.