Thawing out in a hot spring is EVERYTHING after a long day spent on Jackson Hole's chilly, snow-covered mountains. Whether you're snowshoeing, shredding, snowmobiling, or the like, climbing into a steamy pool of mineral water will leave your muscles happy and your soul even happier.
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In this post, I'll talk about what to pack for an afternoon spent at Astoria Mineral Hot Springs, how to prepare, where to find the springs, and pro tips for an enjoyable experience for all. Let's dive in!
At A Glance:
Location: Hoback, Wyoming, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
Entrance Fees/Permits: Free
Native Lands: Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, Cheyenne
Hiking Level: Easy
Length: 1.7 miles RT (if you walk the full trail, which isn't necessary)
Elevation Gain: 26'
Hot springs nearby: Granite Hot Springs
When's the Best Time to Visit?
I LOVE a good winter soak–mostly for the vibe but also because the cold will keep you from overheating in these extra hot springs–but fall is a good time to visit as well. Basically just avoid late summer and spring when the pools get buried in fresh snow melt.
Hot Springs Etiquette
Before we dive in, let's review a few very important details about hot spring etiquette!
Shower beforehand, if possible. Hot springs are very delicate, and it's super easy to accidentally introduce foreign bacteria that can disrupt its delicate chemical balance. Showering before entering can help their long-term health.
Keep it down. We visit hot springs to relax, and while Rainbow Kitten Surprise is calming for you, your neighbor might not agree. Read the room.
Never use soap. Again, hot springs are very delicate, and any foreign substance can hugely alter its natural balance. This includes biodegradable soaps and shampoos!
Stay hydrated! Hot springs are, well, hot, and can cause serious dehydration if your'e not careful. It's important to drink lots of water to ward off those "fainting spells" hot springs are known to cast. When it's time to leave, get up slowly. I never visit a hot spring without my 34-oz reusable, insulated water bottle.
Leave the glass behind. Breaking glass is (hopefully) never intentional, but accidents happen, and when they do, it can be dangerous, and broken glass can be nearly impossible to see.
Avoid peak times. Overcrowded springs aren't fun for anyone–it increases the negative impact on the springs, increases the chance of COVID exposure, and you could end up without a spot. Try to visit on weekdays if possible, and mornings are always best.
Are the hot springs on private land? If so, remember that this is a privilege. You're there as a guest.
Check for fees/permits/reservations. Every spring has its own rules and many do require fees, permits, or reservations to keep human impact to a minimum. Know before you go.
Check road conditions. Wilderness springs, while amazing, can be pretty grueling to get to. Do your research ahead of time to make sure you're appropriately prepared. Are there potholes? How deep is the snow? Will you need 4WD?
Pack out what you pack in. Hot springs see a lot of visitors, and we all have our little luxuries we like during a hot soak, but all of those cans, snack wrappers, and underwear (this is more common than you think) need to accompany you back home as well. Many of these hot springs, especially those in national forests like Astoria, aren't regulated as well as they could be. Therefore, what you bring in will stay there until someone else packs it out for you. Don't put that burden on them. Do your part, respect the land, treat it as if it were your own property, and keep it clean and pristine for future use.
Don't pee in the springs! Just like pools and hot tubs, peeing (or pooping) in public springs is so not okay. Pools at least have chlorine and a cleaning system in place. Hot springs are as natural as can be, and any foreign substance can throw it off balance. We all know hot water loves to test our bladders, so consider peeing before getting in. (Make sure to pack out your toilet paper too!)
Leave your fur puppies at home.
Camping is not allowed at Astoria Mineral Hot Springs.
Leave it better than you found it!
Astoria Hot Springs is located on the Snake River in Hoback, WY.
From Jackson, take US-191 for about 13.3 miles. Once at the traffic circle, stay right to continue on US-26. After about 2.7 miles, just before you reach the Astoria Bridge, turn left down the boat launch road to park. Winter visitors must park on the highway's shoulder, as the road doesn't get plowed.
Pro Tip: Don't confuse these natural pools with Astoria Hot Springs Park just across the river!
Walk straight towards the river from the highway, and instead of turning right down the road, take the trail that veers left along the riverbank. If you smell Sulfur, you know you made it!
Coordinates: 43.300270, -110.774243
We just finished shredding Snow King Mountain on a beautiful powder day with the Indy Pass–sufficiently worn out, our faces red and freaking cold from the biting wind, we were more than ready to let the hot springs work their magic on our tired out bodies. So, we took off from Jackson for a quick "hippie dip."
Arriving at the boat launch, we found six other cars parked along the shoulder. We prepared for a crowded day, agreeing to leave the experience for another time if we couldn't find a pool where we could appropriately social distance.
Water bottle, snacks, z-mat, and micro-fiber towel tucked into my backpack, we headed down the trail without our spikes, which we instantly regretted. The trail takes you along a bluff, decently high above the river, and crossed our fingers there would be a gradual slope down. Nope! The trail started to dip after a couple of hundred feet or so, and we slipped and slid down a steep but short descent to a collection of pools below.
Two pools–one separated by the river by just a thin wall of rocks, and the other closer to the bluff–sat in front of us, both a beautiful deep blue color. Easily some of the most welcoming hot spring water I've ever seen!
The pool closest to the water had a decent number of soakers–the other was completely empty. A couple more pools came into view down the river, but they were all full, so we headed back to our first finding, stretched out our Z-mat, stripped down to our bathing suit and settled in.
Our pool had a rocky bottom and was decently big, able to fit four people with about 10' of pool between us with no problem at all. And it was hot!! I could see why our dog sled musher recommended a "sloshie" from Hoback Market as a cool-down during your hot soak.
So we sat, listening to the river flow just a few feet away, watching the snow fall onto the rocks around us. I could've stayed there forever if it wasn't getting dark, and fast. We wanted to get back to Jackson before the roads went from slush to ice, just to be safe.
What to Pack
Swimsuit – I layer my one-piece under my clothes to get in the pool as fast as possible.
Water – My 34-oz Fifty-Fifty insulated water bottle follows me on all my hot springs adventures. Stay hydrated, friends!
Snacks – Something fresh like an orange (pack out those peels!) tastes 10x better when enjoyed in a spring.
Z-mat – I throw my clothes on top of my Neo Switchback Pad to keep my clothes dry while soaking.
Spikes – This trail can get slipper in the winter. Spikes can make all the difference!
Trashbag – For your trash and others'!
** Don't forget to pack everything out with you!