Nestled in a notch of the High Sierra about an hour’s drive southeast of Lake Tahoe, mineral springs bubble up from the earth, a testament to the geologic and geothermal forces that have shaped this landscape. This state park, just west of the quiet mountain town of Markleeville, may or may not have been discovered in 1844 by John C. Fremont, the explorer credited with first sighting Lake Tahoe. Historians haven’t settled that debate. But no one disagrees that since the 1850s, people have flocked to “take the cure” in these restorative waters.
The park’s pools are fed from six different springs containing low amounts of sulfur. That means you won’t notice the strong “rotten-egg” smell of many hot spring pools. The water emerges from underground at a scalding 148°F/64°C, but it’s cooled down before it’s piped into the park’s two concrete pools—one for soaking at a safe 103°F/39°C, the other a pleasant temperature for swimming and splashing.
The pools are open most of the year (hours may vary during the off-season/winter period, September through May, so call ahead; 530/694-2249). The state park also has a 76-site campground and hiking trails, some easy scrambles for the kids (don’t miss the walk to the waterfall along Hot Springs Creek), as well as longer treks into surrounding alpine regions.