Updated: Mar 16
Hot springs are beautiful things. Over time, humans have used hot springs for healing, relaxation, bathing, cooking food and more. Indigenous peoples of Alaska have known about and used hot springs since time immemorial for healing and access to hot water.
In our opinion, there is nothing better after a long day than sitting in a steaming hot spring, soaking sore muscles. Many hot springs are perfectly located to view the Northern Lights - away from town, under the darkest skies.
This post is intended to support your next adventure in Alaska by providing details about many of the Alaskan hot springs such as where to find them, how hot they are and how to get there.
Table of Contents
Interactive Alaska Hot Springs Map
What are Hot Springs?
Hot springs are rivers, pools or streams of hot water that has been naturally heated by the earth's magma. Hot springs are usually found in places with active volcanoes such as Alaska, Iceland and Hawaii. They often contain large amounts of dissolved minerals and this is why they are known for healing a variety of ailments.
The chemistry of hot springs ranges from acid sulphate springs to alkaline chloride springs saturated with silica, to bicarbonate springs saturated with carbon dioxide and carbonate minerals. The minerals brought to the surface in hot springs often feed communities of extremophiles, microorganisms adapted to extreme conditions, and it is possible that life on Earth had its origin in hot springs.
How do Hot Springs Form?
Most commonly hot springs form when rainwater or groundwater is heated by magma underneath the Earth's surface. Cracks or faults in the Earth's surface allow water to flow deeper towards the mantle, where it comes in contact with hot rocks that heat the water. Underground pressure then forces the hot water upwards, back to the Earth's surface through the same cracks or faults. The amount of underground pressure determines how fast and how far the hot water flows.
Types of Hot Springs in Alaska
Alaska has three main types of hot springs;
Primitive Hot Springs
Rustic Community Hot Springs
Resort Hot Springs
Primitive/ Natural Hot Springs
These springs usually require backcountry travel by plane, boat, hiking, snowmachine or dog team. They are the most natural version with little to no amenities - you sit in the river or pool on the rocks and the temperature is not regulated. There is no accommodation or changing areas.
Visit here if you like a good challenge when it comes to access, are prepared to camp in bear country and love being under a big, dark sky.
Baranof Warm Springs
Located on the east shore of Baranof Island, about 20 miles east of Sitka, is a private hot spring on Warm Springs Bay (status unknown). This hot spring is only accessible by boat or floatplane. A Forest Service trail extends a half mile from the hot springs to Baranof Lake where a cabin is located.
Shelokum Hot Springs
Located about 90 miles north of Ketchikan, in the Tongass National Forest on the Cleveland Peninsula, is Bailey Bay. A 2.2-mile trail begins at just south of Shelokum Creek and leads to Lake Shelokum where a 3-sided shelter marks the natural hot pool. These hot springs are completely natural, undisturbed by people and support a healthy population of unique algal plant life.
Trocadero Soda Springs
This hot spring is more of a unique place to visit than a place to sit and soak. This is a 4 to 5-acre geothermal area that features a lunar-like environment of mounds and craters. Here, the minerals come alive with colors ranging from subtle yellow to iron red. The springs originate in muskeg, then the mineralized water meanders about 100 feet, forming a deep crust of tufa in which there are hundreds of small vents with escaping gas and bubbling water.
This seldom-visited spring is located on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island about 12 miles southeast of Craig. Access is only available by boat.
Rustic Community Hot Springs
These springs can be road accessed or are more remote, but have some form of shelter or tub. There can be a bathhouse, outhouse, perhaps even a cabin to stay in. For the hot springs, there may be tubs with the hot water being piped in and cool water nearby to help regulate the temperature.
Visit here if you like some amenities like a cabin, perhaps logging road or snowmachine route to follow and still want a big, dark sky for watching stars and northern lights.
White Sulphur Hot Springs
Located about 65 miles northwest of Sitka, within the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness area, this hot springs is popular for it view out over the Pacific Ocean while soaking in the hot water. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a cabin and bathhouse that include a translucent fiberglass screen and admire the view.
Access is usually by float place and a hike to the cabin. you can also reach this spring by boat or kayak to Mirror Harbor (from Pelican) and walk the easy, year-round 0.8mile trail to the hot springs.
Chief Shakes Hot Springs
Located off Ketili River, approximately 12 miles upriver. The area features two hot tubs; one enclosed in a screened structure and the other, an open-air tub with a wooden deck around it,. There is a changing area, picnic table, fire ring, and an outhouse.
The Forest Service maintains 2 cabins just upriver. This area is heavily used during evenings and weekends by powerboats.
Serpentine Hot Springs
Located within Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and access the Nome-Taylor (Kougarok) Road, this area is best visited in winter by dog team or snowmachine. Use the winter trails from Shishmaref and other traditional villages to get to Hot Springs Creek. The waters of Serpentine Hot Springs have long been sought for their healing properties. A public-use cabin is located at the springs as well as a 1,100-foot airstrip at the hot springs allows wheeled plane access.
Goddard Hot Springs
Located 16 miles south of Sitka on the Kliuchef Peninsula, this hot spring is only accessible by boat. Maintained by the city of Sitka, there are 2 modern cedar bathhouses that are open shelters over the hot tubs, which feature natural hot springs water and cold water. The area has outhouses campsites in a grassy meadowlike area and on higher ground. Boaters can anchor in the bay and go ashore in skiffs. This is NOT a place to take a boat without a chart; there are lots of rocks and shoals!!
The springs are very popular with area residents.
Pilgrim Hot Springs
Located on the left bank of the Pilgrim River, 13 miles northeast of Salmon Lake. Access is by charter air service from Nome to a small airfield at Pilgrim Hot Springs, or by car on an 8-mile gravel road that joins the Nome-Taylor Road at Cottonwood.
Tolovana Hot Springs
Tolovana is an absolute oasis amidst the vast, harsh landscapes of Interior Alaska. Here there are three beautiful cabins situated within walking distance of three private hot tubs spread along the hot springs ravine. This spring is only accessible by hiking, skiing, dog sled or snow machine. You can take our guided Tolovana Hot Springs Mushing Trip to enjoy this area.
Resort Hot Springs
These are the nicest and most frequently used hot springs. Featuring everything from hotels, to swimming pools to spa services and restaurants, resort hot springs are where you can go and have it all, i.e. running water.
Visit here if you enjoy easy access, comfortable amenities and more time in the water than getting there.
Manley Hot Springs
Located in the town of Manly Hot Springs, this family owned resort is just 151 miles from Fairbanks via the Elliott Highway. The resort is open year-round. Manley Hot Springs Resort (907) 385-8660 offers comfortable lodging and access to their private indoor hot springs fed hot tub.
Chena Hot Springs
Located in the Chena Rivers State Recreation Area, about 50 air miles northeast of Fairbanks. This popular resort is accessed via the Steese Highway and the Chena Hot Springs Road. The Chena Rivers State Recreation Area has picnic sites, campgrounds and easy access to the Chena River's grayling fishery.
The resort offers food, lodging and swimming in the mineral springs; phone (907) 452-7867. There is also an airstrip at the lodge. Overnight camping is available for a fee in the parking area at the end of the road.
Local Hot Springs Tips
You are always in bear country, ensure your items are secured while enjoying the hot springs. Please clean up all garbage and pack out ALL food.
Always BYOT ( bring your own towel) into the primitive and rustic springs.
Please use the bathrooms provided or walk more than 500 feet away from the springs. Follow Leave No Trace Principles at all springs to ensure they are clean and remain available for all to enjoy.
Alcohol and heat don't mix. We don't recommend drinking and soaking. Especially when at a spring where you have to travel home afterwards.
Hot springs are best enjoyed with a cold plunge. Take breaks from the heat to cool down by sitting outside the spring, rolling around in the snow, or taking a refreshing dip in the nearby cold water supply.
Hot spring water is not for drinking - bring fresh water with you, ideally 3-4 litres so you stay hydrated.
Do not wash with soap in a hot spring. The chemicals from soaps will accumulate and contaminate the springs. When at a resort or place where a separate shower is provided, wash and rinse yourself prior.
Go prepared. All remote hot springs require you to show up prepared for the weather and the ability to get help if you get hurt. Check out this Hot Springs Packing List.
Check if permits or fees required before you show up.
Make an effort to learn the local history of the spring. This is an easy way to respect the local history and Indigenous communities who consider these springs essential for wellness.
Have a hot spring we should add or a tip to share? Comment below or email us at email@example.com