Tucked in the forested mountainside of Steven’s Pass in Washington, you’ll find a secluded natural hot spring, where you can soak with views of the evergreen forest, and mountains in the distance. You’ll need to trek a little to get there, so this guide will tell you everything you need to know to hike to Scenic Hot Springs in Washington!
We’ll talk about how to make reservations, the best time to go, how to prepare, and everything you need for the Scenic Hot Springs hike.
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About Scenic Hot Springs in Washington
The first thing you need to know about Scenic Hot Springs is that it’s privately owned! This means you can’t just lace up your hiking boots and go – a reservation is required, but this means you’ll have it (mostly) to yourself, and you won’t have to deal with crowds.
The water in the hot springs is natural, but they have been developed – there are three tubs to soak in, and they’re cleaned frequently. A hike is required to get there, so you’ll need to be prepared!
Scenic Hot Springs Hike Length
Distance: 4.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
Difficulty: medium – hard (the trail isn’t too long, but it is steep!)
Leave No Trace at Scenic Hot Springs
Anytime you’re outdoors, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair. Because the hot springs are privately owned, it’s also important to keep them clean to respect the owners, and to ensure they stay open to the public!
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike to Scenic Hot Springs!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know where to go, and have the right shoes and gear to hike the steep trail.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash of any kind behind. Pack it out! There is no trash can at Scenic Hot Springs, so be prepared to keep your trash for a bit.
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are not allowed anywhere along the trail, and there is no camping at Scenic Hot Springs.
- Respect wildlife – avoid feeding or approaching birds or any other animals you might see. Dogs are not allowed, so leave them at home for this one!
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to uphill hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music. Scenic Hot Springs is also clothing optional, so be prepared for some nudity.
The Best Time to Hike to Scenic Hot Springs
Scenic Hot Springs is open year round, but because it’s located in Steven’s Pass, the weather varies dramatically!
We originally had our trip booked for January, but there was a huge storm in the pass, closing the highway to Scenic Hot Springs – we had to reschedule, and ended up going at the end of March. I think being able to see the snow while you soak in the warm water makes it even better, so the best time to go is spring or fall, when there’s snow in the mountains, but it’s not as deep as it would be in the winter. Of course, this requires some extra preparation, as you’re more likely to encounter rain or snowy weather – summer is a great time to visit if you prefer a snow free hike.
Scenic Hot Springs Reservations
To visit Scenic Hot Springs in Washington, you’ll need to make a reservation.
There are no more than 10 people allowed per day, which keeps the experience private! If you want it all to yourself, you can also make a reservation for exclusive access – which means your group will be the only ones there.
A general reservation costs $10 per person, while exclusive access is $150 for the entire group.
At the time that I’m writing this, Scenic Hot Springs is only accepting exclusive access reservations due to the COVID pandemic – they plan to reopen for general reservations again, but for now, you’ll need exclusive access to visit.
You can go to their website to make a reservation and see availability – choose a date on the calendar that isn’t taken, and send an email to the hosts to make sure the date is still available. If it is, you can make your payment through the Paypal link – this money goes to maintaining the hot springs. Then, you’re booked! You’ll get an email with detailed directions for parking and for the hike.
Parking for the Scenic Hot Springs hike
You’ll need a car to get to the hike, and there are two parking areas – one is located on a hidden forest road, but is inaccessible in the winter, so if there’s too much snow, you’ll park at the Surprise Creek trailhead.
The owners of Scenic Hot Springs do a really good job detailing how to get to both parking areas, so you’ll have no trouble finding them once you get your confirmation email! From there, the directions to hike to the hot spring are really easy to follow too, and they include a map. Be sure to save it to your phone or print it out, in case you don’t have service when you get to the trail.
To hike to Scenic Hot Springs, be sure to have a copy of your confirmation email on your phone – if you provided your license plate and car info, you don’t need to print it out, but otherwise, print your confirmation and leave it on the dash. It is a private hot spring, and trespassers get towed!
The Hike to Scenic Hot Springs
Once you’re ready, it’s time to begin the hike! There are no signs along the trail (but the “private property” signs will let you know you’re going the right way), so it’s important to save the directions you get in the email. They’re easy to follow, so you should have no trouble getting there! Just make sure to save the photo, track your hike with an app like AllTrails, and read the written directions carefully before you go, and along the way.
Make sure to keep reading this guide to learn what to bring to the hot springs – especially if there’s snow, you’ll need some gear.
In the winter, you’ll hike along highway 2 for about a third of the mile before turning onto the forest road (in the summer, you can park right here), and the hike begins through a gorgeous forest trail, with mushrooms, moss, and stunning old growth forest.
Soon, you’ll come out to a clearing – there are tons of power lines, so you can’t miss it! There’s a short cut that the owners include in their directions, which cut some time off the hike, but it is pretty steep. Continue uphill, and you’ll come to the beginning of the private property where Scenic Hot Springs is located.
The snow gets deeper as you gain elevation, so snowshoes definitely come in handy, though it’s doable without them if the snow has been packed down. You’ll cross a few tiny streams – one of which is warm! There are gold deposits in the water, and you can feel the warm trickle and get excited for the hot springs waiting after this cold hike!
Soon, you’ll come up above the three tubs – descend down the rocky “stairs” and you’re there! There is a bench and hooks where you can leave your things while you soak, as well as a restroom (an outhouse with a roof) down the path.
There are three tubs, with a gorgeous view of the forest (and some mountains on a clear day). When you arrive at Scenic Hot Springs, the tub on your left is the warmest, and the one on your right is cold – the middle one gets water from both streams, so it’s a nice in-between temperature! Enjoy your soak, and if you don’t have a private reservation, be respectful of the other visitors!
What to Bring to Hike to Scenic Hot Springs
The trail is steep, and weather can be unpredictable in the mountains of Stevens Pass! It’s important to be prepared, no matter what time of year you’re visiting Scenic Hot Springs. Here’s what you need to ensure the best experience!
Snowshoes or MicroSpikes
If you’re hiking in the snow, I really recommend adding some extra traction! The trail is steep, so navigating the icy, snowy hike gets much easier if you bring snowshoes or micro spikes. Snowshoes are typically better for powdery or deep snow, while spikes are best when the snow is packed down and icy. If you don’t have your own snow gear, you can rent gear from REI – which is a great way to save money if you don’t hike in the snow very often.
Having trekking poles also makes it a lot easier to walk and keep your balance in snow or ice – but make sure you have poles that are made for snow! Regular hiking poles will just poke through soft snow, and will be pretty useless, but snowshoe poles have a basket that keeps them from sinking. These poles are great for snow, and they fold up – so they’re easy to store or pack!
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Sturdy shoes are a must for this hike, and I recommend waterproof ones – even if you aren’t hiking in the snow, Washington’s trails are often muddy from rain and snowmelt. The trail is steep, so make sure your shoes have good traction!
My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof! I also love hiking in my Chacos, but of course, I would only recommend sandals if you’re sure there won’t be any snow!
Rain boots are another great option for muddy or wet conditions, and are definitely the easiest to clean.
PNW weather is known for being unpredictable, and it’s always best to wear layers when hiking in the mountains. The Scenic Hot Springs hike gains quite a bit of elevation, so weather can change as you go. It’ll also be a lot colder when you stop hiking, and you’ll need dry, warm clothes after you’re done being in the water!
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option for hiking in the rain, which is common in Washington. If it’s cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, but keeps me warm! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
You need somewhere to put your snacks! And your hiking gear, of course. The hike isn’t too long, but it’s steep, and you’ll probably want to stay a while to enjoy the hot springs – so I recommend a backpack with plenty of room.
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Especially when you’re hiking or exploring outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Where to Stay Near Scenic Hot Springs in Steven’s Pass
Turn your day hike into a little getaway! Steven’s Pass has plenty of amazing places to stay, with everything from adorable cabins and chalets to free camping sites. Here are some of the best places to stay nearby.
Washington has some of the best A-frames, rustic cabins, and adorable stays! They make for a really cozy getaway.
Check out these amazing spots:
Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts
For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins, glamping sites, and more.
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper van
Find a Campsite
Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! There are also options for free camping near the trail – for tips on finding the best ones, check out this guide.
More Adventures Near Scenic Hot Springs
For more adventures after you’ve finished your hike to Scenic Hot Springs in Stevens Pass, Washington, check out these posts!
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