A Guide to the Arizona Hot Springs

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The Arizona Hot Springs (aka Ringbolt Hot Springs) are located along the Colorado River just south of the Hoover Dam. Tucked away inside a colorful slot canyon, these hot springs offer a beautiful environment to enjoy a nice long soak. They can be accessed by boat via the Colorado River or by hiking a 5.8 mile round trip trail from the Arizona state highway 93.

In this post, we’ll cover how to hike to the Arizona Hot Springs as a day hike, or as an overnight backpacking trip!

Michael relaxing in Arizona hot springs

Important Arizona Hot Spring trail details

  • Arizona Hot Springs is closed from May 15-September 30 each year. Please check for any other trail closures or alerts on the NPS website before your hike.
  • Trail Distance: 5.8 miles round trip when hiked as a loop
  • Total Elevation Change: 900 feet
  • Time to Hike: Six to seven hours round trip (plus time to enjoy the springs!)
  • Trail Difficulty: Strenuous, according to the NPS website.
  • Safety Considerations: Summer temperatures can exceed 120F and the trail is exposed (which is why the trail is closed in the summer months) and there is limited water until you reach the river. Flash floods in the canyon are a concern if there are rain or thunderstorms in the area. Be aware of rattlesnakes along the trail. For more info, please refer to this document from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

What to bring on an Arizona Hot Spring hike

Many people visit Arizona Hot Springs as a day hike, but we planned to camp there overnight.

Regardless of whether you hike to the springs for the day or overnight, you’ll want to make sure you have the following items in your backpack:

Water: This hike is located in the desert, so until you hit the river at the end of the hike, there are no reliable water sources. Pack enough water for the 3.2 mile hike in, and bring a water filter so that you can safely fill up at the river before you hike out.

Extra Food: Bring plenty of food, even if you’re not going to be camping overnight.

Sun Protection: Desert hiking requires good sun protection to avoid sunburn and heat injury! In addition to sunscreen, we recommend a wide-brimmed hat and a UPF hiking shirt.

Navigation Tools: A map of the trail can be found here. Bring along a compass or GPS that you feel comfortable using.

Headlamp: In the event that you end up relaxing at the springs longer than planned, be sure to bring along a headlamp in case it gets dark before you return to the trailhead.

Layers: The temperature swing in the desert is pretty significant, so be ready by packing several layers, including an insulation layer.

Emergency Items: Pack a first aid kit, fire starter, and emergency shelter so that you’re prepared for the unexpected. You could also consider bringing a SPOT or inReach device if you have one.

Water Shoes/Sandals: The unfortunate reality of many hot springs is that people are careless with their trash and there is occasionally glass in them. We always wear Chaco or Teva sandals at hot springs to protect our feet.

If you plan on camping near the springs as we did, you’ll additionally want to back the proper backpacking gear. You can find our complete backpacking checklist here!

Michael sitting on the tailgate of his car tying his hiking shoe

The Trailhead

The trailhead parking lot is on the north side of State Route 93, about 3.5 miles south of the Pat Tillman Bridge. The weather was forecasted to be very hot, so we arrived early to get on the trail before the sun got too high. But even at 7 am, the air was already pretty warm.

At the end of the parking lot, there are signs warning hikers about the heat. There have been so many fatalities here from sunstroke and dehydration that the trail is actually closed from mid-May through September. Since the trail is relatively short, people tend to underestimate it. But it’s completely exposed nearly the whole way down.

Despite these ominous warnings, we did have one fortuitous sign. In the completely deserted parking lot, somebody had left a disposal cooler containing beer and rapidly melting ice. We helped ourselves to a couple “trail magic” beers to enjoy at the end of our hike, and started our descent down.

Michael hiking past a trail sign
The Trail

You can find a map for the Arizona Hot Springs hike here. The trail begins by taking you underneath the freeway and down a gravel filled wash. From here, there are two ways of getting to the hot springs. Hot Spring Canyon approaches the springs from behind and White Rock Canyon will allow to approach the springs from the river. We decided to go down White Rock Canyon and return back via Hot Spring Canyon.

Michael standing on a trail in a canyonShortly after the wash, we quickly descended down into a high-walled canyon. The sun was still low enough on the horizon that this section remained almost entirely in the shade. We meandered down the loose gravel trail for about an hour and a half before we arrived at the banks of the Colorado River. Here we had to turn left, but while one might expect the trail to follow the river, it actually cuts inland in order to get up and over a ridge.

There are signs marking the way, even though the topography makes identifying the trail a little difficult. In a few areas, we had to scramble our way up and over a narrow rocky crack in a cliff. This was a little tricky with our overnight packs, but we managed to crawl our way up.  At this point, the sun was getting pretty high in the sky and we were starting to get the classic backpacker back sweat. Thankfully we were nearly there.

Backpacking tent set upThe Campground

We descended into a gravel wash of Hot Spring Canyon and followed it down to the river. Here, we found a dozen kayaks, rafts, and canoes that had been pulled ashore on a semi-protected beach.  A local tour group had just landed and was in the process of setting up camp nearby. There were also a few people who had arrived by power boat from downstream. With its flat open area and proximity to hot springs, this beach is a fairly popular camping destination. If you’re visiting on the weekends, be prepared to have a little company.

The weather forecast was calling for high winds during the evening, so we spent some time scouting out a good place to pitch our tent. There were plenty of spots inside the canyon, but the way the cliffs channeled the air, we felt it was actually more breezy there than by the river.  So we decided on a secluded spot, tucked away in a thicket of brush. While the bushes didn’t offer much shade during the day, they did an excellent job of buffering the wind that night.

Despite the easy access from the river, this is backcountry camping. Which means no trash, no potable water, no designated campsite. The one exception are the two vault toilets set up just to the south of the beach. These were extremely clean and well-kept, as they are serviced by a park ranger about every week. When we arrived, the ranger was just leaving.

One sour note of the experience was the amount of garbage we saw. Despite the signs urging people to
Leave No Trace and Pack It In, Pack It Out, there were some areas that looked completely trashed. And not just an errant candy wrapper or empty water bottle, but entire campsites where the previous occupants had apparently thrown all their trash on the ground and just left. It truly breaks our hearts to see such carelessness and disrespect for the natural environment.

If you enjoy the outdoors, we highly recommend doing a little reading about Leave No Trace.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a great write up that outlines best practices for camping in the backcountry.  

Megan relaxing in ringbolt hot spring

The Hot Springs

After setting up camp, we threw on our bathing suits and made a trek up to the hot springs. As we hiked up the canyon, we found a trickle of warm water that was flowing down. The further up we went, the stronger the stream became and warmer the water got. In a few areas, we had to shimmy up a slippery rock chute as warm water rushed down it.

Michael hiking in a slot canyon
The trail dead ends at a 20 foot waterfall, but a ladder has been rigged up so you can access the hot springs located above. While securely fastened to the cliff, the rungs of the ladder were wet and slippery, making the final dismount at the top was a little tricky.

Michael climbing up a ladder in a slot canyon
Here at the top, is where the first of the hot springs pools begin. Gravel filled sandbags have been stacked to create artificial pools to prevent the water from just rushing down the waterfall. The first pool is the coolest, but as you progress up the canyon they get progressively warmer. The top pool, which is closest to the source, runs at about 110 F degrees.  

Michael relaxing in Arizona hot springsNear the hot springs there are also signs about Naegleria Fowleri – also known as the brain-eating amoeba –  which can be found in thermal pools such as these. If present, the amoeba can travel up your nasal passage and cause a fatal infection. While such infections are extremely rare, with only 130 cases being reported to the CDC since 1962, it is still advised that visitors refrain from putting their head underwater. While these hot springs are beautiful, they are wild, and a certain degree of caution must be exercised when visiting them.

Since it was a warm day to begin with, we couldn’t handle the hotter pools at the top, so we spent most of our time hanging out in the lower pools. There we reclined in the clear water and listened to the sound of the waterfall echo down the canyon. While it was very exposed down by the beach, inside the canyon we could relax in the shade. Finally after a good long soak, we headed back to camp.

Hot spring in a slot canyon

The Hike Out

Having hiked in via White Rock Canyon, we decided to hike out via Hot Spring Canyon. This actually takes you through the hot springs, so if you’re going this way be prepared to get your feet wet. The water inside the pools isn’t much more than knee-deep, but they can get pretty hot towards the top. We hiked through in our sandals and then switched back to our boots.

Michael walking on a trailThe hike back to the trailhead via Hot Spring Canyon was about a half mile shorter, but it was much steeper and far more exposed. The canyon walls aren’t as high as White Rock, so even the morning sun was peeking over the sides. Thankfully it wasn’t as hot as the first day.

The Arizona Hot Springs have got to be some of the most interesting springs we’ve visited so far on our trip. The hike to them was pretty incredible, the campground was right on the Colorado River, and the springs themselves were hidden away in an amazing slot canyon. If you’re in the area, we’d definitely suggest checking it out. But while this place is beautiful, it is a fragile environment, so enjoy responsibly.

Megan standing in Arizona Hot Springs

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35 Comments

  1. haha magic beer find!! Nice! Looks like you guys had the place to yourself 🙂 Its such a bummer that people will just purse out these beautiful places – pick up your chip bag dudes!

    1. We arrived pretty early on a weekday, so we did get it to ourselves for a little bit! (The weekend was a different story!) I know, it really is such a bummer. I really just DON’T understand how someone could want to spend time in nature, to the point where you have to hike 6+ miles RT to get to a place, and then trash it. Like, WHAT?

  2. Love this post, nicely done! Curious, which Osprey packs do you like for backpacking? I am going to check out Fireside Provisions!

    1. Thanks Jordan! Michael has the Atmos AG 65, and I have the Kyte 46. Michael LOVES the AG system on his pack – I really wanted to love it but the hipbelt didn’t work for me. The Kyte is great, but it would definitely be a little on the small side if we didn’t split gear and I had to carry a bear barrell in it. It’s definitely possible if you’re a bit on the minimalist side, though.

  3. Hah! Loved that you made mention of the tell-tale “classic backpacker back sweat”. And, of course, loving all these stunning shots you got!

    So disheartening to hear about the trash situation you encountered, it’s always such a shock to see such flagrant disregard for nature like that. But so HEARTENING that you’re sharing all your hard-earned knowledge about Leave No Trace and promoting better practices!

    Going to have to make a mental note about Fireside Provisions for our upcoming road trip through the parks this summer, sounds like it could be a game-changer!

    1. Haha, just trying to keep it real 😉
      Yeah, the trash situation was a real bummer, but I’m glad that we have the opportunity to open up a discussion about the topic. While I have a hard time believing that folks trash outdoor spaces because they “didn’t know any better,” I do think that the more the issue is brought to light, the more likely people will think twice before leaving an entire weekend’s worth of trash scattered around their campsite when they pack up to leave.

  4. Liz Volchok says:

    This is a great and helpful post, thank you for sharing! I have a question about tents and sleeping bags … a friend and I are planning a camping trip (short, one or two nights) but one that requires us to travel cross country (plane) with our backpacks. We wanted to keep the load light so are looking to purchase excellent sleeping bags and tents (probably a 2 person tent) that are small and can fit in the pack, also semi budget friendly. Out of curiosity, which do you carry? Or do you already have a post outlining your gear? Thank you in advance!

    Best,
    Liz

    1. Hi Liz! We don’t currently have a post outlining our gear, but here’s some of the stuff we carry + why we like it!
      Sleeping bags: Sleeping bags tend to become more expensive the lighter they are, so you’ll have to strike a balance on that front. If you’re just front country camping and aren’t camping anywhere particularly cold, you could probably get away with a 2 season bag, which will be lighter and budget friendly. Michael had a Marmot bag for a long time that he liked a lot, I have a Sierra Designs bag which I enjoy but their bags can be a little on the pricey side (something I was willing to do since it was for a month long backpacking trip several years ago).
      Tents: For front country car camping, the two tents we have used recently would be way too bulky to take on a plane. However, we’ve used our backpacking tent on a number of occasions even when car camping to save space. For the last four years, I’ve used a Tarptent Double Rainbow, which is big enough for two people (incl. Michael who is 6’6″). I love this tent except for one aspect: It’s a single wall (to save on weight + bulk), which means that is is very prone to condensation. That being said, if it’s not forecasted to rain, you can set it up in a way that promotes air flow which helps cut down on the condensation issue. Tarptent makes a bunch of different backpacking tents so there might be a different model that will work best for you. My JMT hiking partner had a Big Agnes UL tent that he really liked and I don’t think he had as big of a condensation issue, so you could look into that one as well (though I think those can get a bit pricey).
      If you’re not backpacking, another option which would be much more budget friendly could be to pick up a cheap tent from an Army surplus or Target in the area where you’re camping, and then donate it after your trip (local youth organizations like the YMCA, Girlscouts, or Boys & Girls clubs usually have a need for things like this!!!). That way you don’t have to worry about the weight + bulk while flying, but also don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a lightweight tent.
      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!
      Megan

  5. That looks like so much fun! And not to mention your photos are beautiful. I agree, Chacos are a must-have for hiking. I actually broke through two pairs when I was down in Brazil!

    Katie // thekatiebaker.com

  6. Todd Schacherl says:

    As a regular visitor to these springs they are an incredible spot. I often hike to the springs at night after work. With or without a moon, it’s an incredible night hike. It’s unfortunate how much trash people leave and a handful of regulars and myself are constantly bringing it out. Even things like orange peels people don’t realize how long they actually last in the desert.

    There is also an area right above the springs that makes for a great campsite. Usually there isn’t anyone camping there and that also means the springs are only 100 yards away. Much closer than if camping at the river.

  7. Melanie Salikin says:

    Well done! Easy to see why it’s important to have everything necessary for the journey.. you offer wonderful advice and your photos are beautiful.. Me and my guy are looking forward to going to Arizona for the first time.. his parents have a place there for vacations.. I now have these wonderful Hot Springs to look forward too.. they love to hike and I betcha we will be on a great adventure.. Thank you so much.. I am happy that I came across this today.. It’s meant to be! Cheers friends! xo

  8. Can I just say I absolutely love the quality of photos and the overall aesthetic 🙂
    I am an Arizona Native and have had this little adventure on my list for a while! I just started a blog so I suppose that gives me an excuse to pack up and just go do it! Your article is super helpful in that as well as the formating for how I would someday like to blog!

  9. great post, informative and responsible jounalism!
    may i suggest supporting the craft beer movement in future adventures?

  10. Hey, I hike this trail a lot and am contemplating spending the night. I just really have one question…what is the critter situation out there at night? One thing I hate about living here is that if you go out at night you encounter roaches (aka waterbugs) and scorpions. Since you went in warmer weather, did you have to deal with these guys at all?

    1. We didn’t see any critters, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some out there. Snakes and scorpions are definitely a possibility out in the desert. While all the human activity in the area might scare off some animals, others animals (e.x. coyotes) might be attracted to food and trash.

  11. What a great descriptive article. Thank you for sharing
    How long is the entire trail ?

  12. P. J. Ohm says:

    I visited this magnificent place several times back in the mid/late 1980s. I accessed it via a motorboat from down river at Willow Beach. Was a fun place to camp and just hang out for a couple of days. I remember a steam cave in the wall of the canyon and hot springs on both sides of the river. So glad to see that it is still accessible and being enjoyed. I may need to revisit! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Friends and I are thinking of heading here in late November – 2 quick questions: 1. how chilly do you think we need to be prepared for in the evening or early morning? 2. Did you notice if there were any tree areas possible for strap up hammocks? Thanks so much for the great informative post! We are looking forward to our visit, and certainly plan to do our part in supporting our beautiful mother earth with less trash!

    1. Being the dessert, it will definitely be chilly at night. Be prepared – at least – for something down close to freezing at night. It probably won’t get that low, but better safe than sorry. There are very few if any trees in that area, so your hammocking options are going to be very limited.

  14. Oh wow, I usually go to the El Dorado hot springs near Phoenix and was searching for the other one north of Phoenix which was burned down a few years ago but now rebuilt then I came across your blog, fascinating, must try, thanks, Ed

  15. Great post! Currently, a new resident to Arizona and looking to take on some adventures. After your post – this definitely made the list!
    However, I’m a little concerned with the amoebas. :0/
    Noticed a lot of people stating they’ve visited this location.. so that makes me feel better.
    Feeling anxious.. help!

    1. We get freaked out by the amoebas situation from time to time. We follow a couple of simple rules. 1.) If you have an open wound (even a hangnail or minor cut) you are not going in. 2.) Do NOT submerge your head. Your head stays out of the water at all times. Even if the chance of getting an amoeba is 1 in a million, if we follow these rules, we hope we get the odds closer to 1 in a billion.

  16. Gary Poopins says:

    How is the loose firewood situation in that area for winter time?

    1. There is very little to no wood in that area. Mostly low-lying scrubs. If you are interested in making a campfire, you will need to bring the wood with you.

  17. john w murray says:

    ive spent some time there in the past usually a week at a time from my experience the people who come up the river on the boats have parties and leave trash i spend a week and take out all i bring in they stay a few hours and cant take their trash out its just the rich mentality thinking they dont have to clean up after themselves the maid will do it or mommy and daddy thanks for your positive comments there is a better way

    1. It’s just sad. We have no idea the thought process behind the type of person who wants to go out to someplace in nature and then proceeds to trash it. It doesn’t make any sense to us.

  18. Susan Goldstein says:

    We are planning on doing the hike mid March. First, if you could tell me the temperature to expect and second if you could tell me if we will have to change our boots into water shoes if we take White Rock Canyon up to the pools, then turn around and go back the same way. I am also asking because I don’t do uphill very well.

    1. In mid-March is going to be warm during the day, but chilly at night. So be prepared for something in the neighborhood of low 40’s in the evening. It might not get down that low, but it’s good to be prepared. You will probably want water shoes. The trail can get quite wet and especially in the spring when water levels are high, there is a good chance you’re going to get your feet wet.

  19. All in all a nice hiking, camping, and hot spring soaking experience. But crowded. Too many people starting Friday afternoon and crowded by Saturday mid-morning. Saturday people were mostly non outdoors types; loud, trashy, and shockingly inconsiderate. One latecomer group set two tents up for their children, as close as 15 feet from our tent. While the adults set up close to the water, not wanting children to bother them while they partied.

    1. We’re sorry to hear the other campers were less than considerate, but unfortunately, we’re not entirely surprised either. We had a similar experience when we visited as well. Since this area can be accessed via boat, it does seem to attract a different, less considerate crowd. We really struggle with what to do in these types of situations. The best that can be done is to be a good role model yourself. Thanks for being one of the good ones!

      1. Kristiena says:

        Took the hike today, but we took the Hot Springs Trail both there and back. It was a beautiful day to go. Slightly overcast and only 60 degrees makes the hike perfect and the hotsprings just the right way to relax before heading back.

  20. This detailed information about the hike and springs is so helpful. Thank you!