Forget swimming pools this summer; hot springs are the new place to go. Recently, I attended a birthday party where we all took a trip to Spence Hot Springs in the Jemez Mountains.
From Albuquerque, the car ride is approximately two hours, four hours round trip, on State Highway 4. It might have been shorter if we didn’t have to go through a sobriety checkpoint and pass an accident. The entrance to the parking area is about 6.5 miles north of Jemez Springs, on the right.
To get to the naturally occurring hot springs, a 15-minute, moderate hike is required. The trail starts out flat and smooth, however, as one heads closer to the springs, the ground can get slippery wet. Take caution when climbing up and down the rocky hills. For better traction, I suggest wearing tennis shoes you aren’t afraid to get muddy.
Spence Hot Springs consists of two pools of hot water on a hill. The location of the pools provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The temperature of the hot springs is comfortably warm, even though air temperatures are already in the high 80s. The upper pool is hotter than the lower one. I only stayed in the larger upper pool and estimated the average temperature to be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, close to warm bath water.
The springs are quite popular. When my group arrived, two large families were already established in the pools. Fortunately, they soon left and our party of 14 took over the upper pool. I would say that the upper pool can comfortably fit 12 bodies fully submerged, but could fit 16 people if sitting locations and bodies (sizes) are compromised.
Some neat features of Spence Hot Springs include a tiny cavern where the spring bubbles from. If you are brave (not scared of snails) and flexible enough, try to work your way to the water source. Here in the cavern, the water is noticeably hotter as well as clearer.
Algae and snails are abundant in these hot springs. It’s amazing that the algae can grow in New Mexico. It’s also amazing that both the algae and snails thrive in their hot water environment. Try and spot some of the snails. They’re usually clinging on for dear life to the sides of the pool. You’ll really have to get up close, though, as the snails are the size of gravel. As for the algae, you don’t need to search for it. In fact, if you don’t like slimy things, you might not want to fully get in the pools. There’s so much algae floating around you’re likely to find a little surprise in your swimsuit when you return home for a shower. I noticed that Spence Hot Springs has no strong sulfur odor commonly associated with hot springs, allowing for a more pleasant experience.
Keep in mind that Spence Hot Springs is a public place and not monitored frequently. I saw one family bring their dog (not recommended) to the pools with them and a couple pouring alcohol into the water (also not recommended and prohibited). I heard that the hot springs draw nude bathers. The only nudity I saw was a child changing out of his swimsuit into clothes. Nevertheless, I would be wary since as stated on the Santa Fe National Forest site, “This area is heavily used and nudity is very common, though prohibited.”
Whether you want just a quick dip of the feet or a full scale body relaxation, a visit to Spence Hot Springs is easy, free, and a must to do this summer (or winter which I hope to experience one day). Enjoy soaking it up at Spence Hot Springs!
Tip: For less of a crowd, try visiting the hot springs during a weekday. For the courageous: Try visiting the hot springs during the winter!
Tip: There are picnic tables further up past the pools. Bring food/drink to snack on in between dips in the pool.
Warning: Do not submerge your head in the water. Although very rare, you do not want to risk getting meningitis caused by an amoeba.
For more information: Spence Hot Springs
Date visited: May 26, 2012
About the author: Caroline is a 15 year old who attends Albuquerque Academy. This is her first time to blog about her travels around New Mexico. In the future she hopes to contribute more posts from a teen’s perspective.