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Crab Cooker Hot Springs: Directions and Tips

Crab Cooker Hot Springs: Directions and Tips

Crab Cooker hot springs is aptly named. This extremely popular spring in Northern California is known for being tremendously hot but it also offers a wonderful backdrop of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range.

So what is Crab Cooker and why should you visit?

This is exactly what we will discuss in this comprehensive guide to Crab Cooker hot springs.

We will show you:

  • What you can expect when you visit
  • The best season and time of day to visit
  • Driving directions
  • Everything you need to know about the hot spring pool
  • Tips for your visit
  • What you should consider bringing

Let’s explore Crab Cooker hot springs!

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What Is Crab Cooker Hot Springs?

Crab Cooker hot springs is a man-made cement tub with water piped in from a nearby geothermal mineral spring. If the name didn’t give you a hint, the water in this spring is scalding hot.

The hot water (sometimes over 150˚F) is transferred into the man-made tub from a nearby cement well. You will see a high amount of steam coming from the well when you visit because it is only a few feet away from the pool.

The hot spring has also been fitted with a valve to control the temperature of the water inside the pool. If the valve is left open for too long, you won’t be able get in the piping hot water.

Consider this your warning for your visit! Dip your toe in ever so slightly to test the water temperature before jumping right in.

Be sure to leave the valve closed when you leave so the group behind you won’t get burned.

Is Crab Cooker Hot Spring Clothing Optional?

At Crab Cooker hot springs, clothing is optional. During our visit, there were both nude and clothed bathers. If nudity makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this hot spring.

Woman enjoying a hot spring pool

Why Visit Crab Cooker Hot Springs?

Crab cooker hot springs is an absolute gem. We loved this pool because it was completely secluded unlike other popular springs nearby including Travertine hot springs, Hilltop hot springs and Wild Willy’s hot spring.

But if you can time it right to have this entire pool all to yourself, it is truly magical.

Most people visit Crab Cooker as part of a longer California road trip, after hiking in Yosemite National Park or exploring Death Valley.

Can You Swim At Crab Cooker Hot Springs?

Yes, you can swim at Crab Cooker hot springs. The primitive hot springs pool is only about two feet deep so consider your visit more of a soak rather than a swim.

Best Time To Visit Crab Cooker Hot Springs

The best time to visit Crab Cooker is at sunrise during late spring or early fall. This time of year has ideal weather conditions with early morning being the best chance of having the hot springs all to yourself.

Best Season To Visit

While Crab Cooker hot springs is open all year, the best time to visit is in the late spring or early fall. The weather during these two seasons is perfect for soaking without being too hot or cold.

If you chose to visit during the summer, you run the chance of sharing the hot springs with many other people. The warm temperature of a summer day may also be too uncomfortable to fully enjoy a soak.

If you chose to visit during the winter, the roads may be completely impassable. The US-395 is well maintained in the winter, but the dirt road (Benton Crossing Road) is not maintained in winter.

Be sure to check weather conditions and have the appropriate vehicle if you plan to visit during the winter months.

Perspective photo of crab cooker hot spring

Best Time Of Day To Visit

Sunrise is without a doubt the best time to visit Crab Cooker hot springs and sunset will be the worst time to visit. Try to arrive just before sunrise so you can soak while you watch the sun peak over the mountains in the morning.

We would also recommend you try to visit midweek rather than the weekend. The crowds will be much smaller and make for a more enjoyable visit during the week.

Because Crab Cooker hot springs is easily accessible, it can become extremely crowded. For the best experience, you want to try to visit when the crowds are minimal.

The secret is out about these hot springs and it can be very rare to get these pools to yourself.

Crab Cooker Hot Spring Statistics

  • Location: About 20 miles east of Mammoth Lakes (off Benton Crossing Road)
  • ParkingGoogle map location
  • Price: Free
  • Open: Year-round
  • Clothing: Optional
  • Features: One spring
  • Services: None
  • Temperature: 95˚ to 110˚F (but usually on the hot side)

Where Is Crab Cooker Hot Springs?

Crab Cooker hot springs is about 20 miles east of Mammoth Lakes and about 40 miles north of Bishop. Mammoth Yosemite Airport is a very small airport nearby but we would recommend a bigger hub.

Airports such as Las Vegas (about a 5 hour drive), Los Angeles (about 4 hour 40 minute drive) or San Francisco (about 5 hour drive) would be a great options as part of a longer road trip.

Water in hot spring pool from a very close perspective

Driving Directions

We are going to assume you are coming from nearby Mammoth Lakes or Bishop, California for these driving directions.

  • From Mammoth lakes follow US-395 S (about 12 miles) or from Bishop follow US-395 N (about 35 miles).
  • If coming from Mammoth Lakes, turn left onto Benton Crossing Rd. If coming from Mammoth Lakes, turn right onto Benton Crossing Rd.
  • Benton Crossing Road will be the road with the green church. You will make a turn onto a dirt road. Follow this dirt road for about 2.5 miles.
  • Before the first cattle grate, take the first left turn and follow an unsigned dirt road for another 1.0 mile. You will reach the parking lot for Crab Cooker at the end of this road.

A Few Words About The Unpaved Road

Benton Crossing Road is a dirt road with many potholes. But the unsigned road (where you make the last left turn) is a very rough unpaved road. It is by far the worst road in the area and the potholes are very deep.

We made it in our Ford Escape SUV, but we saw some sedans struggling to make it to the parking lot. If you are renting a car, keep in mind some rental car policies have restrictions against driving on dirt roads.

If you are worried about your vehicle, another way to reach Crab Cooker hot springs is to drive to Shepard hot springs (parking lot located here) and walk about 0.3 miles southeast along a footpath.

Woman sitting on the edge of crab cooker hot spring

Parking At Crab Cooker Hot Springs

Parking at Crab Cooker hot springs is free. There are many parking spaces available with ample room for campervans and RVs if you can make it down the dirt road.

There are no toilets or services in the parking lot. After you parked, there is a 0.2 mile walk down a rutted track to reach the hot spring.

How Many Pools Does Crab Cooker Have?

There is one hot spring pool at Crab Cooker. In our opinion, this is one of the best reasons to visit Crab Cooker because it is completely secluded with a single pool.

The Pool Explained

As we have said early in this post, be sure to try the temperature before heading straight into this hot spring. When we first arrived, it was so hot we couldn’t get in.

Unfortunately, the valve was left open so the temperature was boiling.

We had to leave the valve closed to allow the temperature of the pool to cool down. We estimate the cement pool is about three feet deep and would fit about four to six people squeezed together.

Crab cooker hot spring drone shot from above

Pros and Cons To Visiting

We would certainly recommend you add Crab Cooker hot springs to your California itinerary, but there are a few pros and cons to consider before you visit.


  • Stunning scenic views
  • Soaking in the pool is extremely relaxing
  • The single pool is a highlight
  • Relatively easy to access


  • Pool may be crowded and busy
  • Soaking for long periods may cause dehydration
  • The pool might be extremely hot
  • The dirt road is difficult to drive down
Drone shot of crab cooker hot spring
  • Pack any trash out, even if the trash is not yours. It it our responsibility to keep these natural places beautiful. Always leave the place better than you found it.
  • Be respectful of others. People visit hot springs to reduce stress and relax. This is not the place play loud music or host a party.
  • Sharing is caring. Be considerate of others and invite them in if there is room. Just because you arrive first does not mean you should hog the hot springs for hours.
  • Avoid bath products. Keep in mind natural hot springs do not drain. Bath products can be harmful to the hot springs because they disrupt the balance of the minerals.

Our Top Tip For Visiting Crab Cooker Hot Springs:

Arrive Early. While this is a natural place of beauty, it can become very crowded. We recommend you try to arrive as early as possible to maximize your chance of enjoying this beautiful place to yourself.

What Should You Bring For Your Visit?

You won’t need much when visiting Crab Cooker but consider some of these essentials for your visit:

  • Swimsuit – If you don’t want to bathe in your birthday suit, be sure to bring a swimsuit.
  • Wallaroo Hat – This area sits at a higher elevation and the sun will be strong, you may want a hat to help protect you from the UV rays.
  • Robe – A robe will help to keep you warm as well as protect you from the wind before and after your soak.
  • Towels – You will want something to dry off with after you soak so bring a big fluffy towel for the ultimate spa experience.
  • Trash Bag – Be sure to carry out everything you carry in.
  • Water, Beer and / or Snacks – These are definite essentials for a memorable soak, but please pack out all trash!
Aerial photo of crab cooker hot spring

Where Should You Stay When Visiting Crab Cooker?

The best place to find accomodation when visiting Crab Cooker hot springs is Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful ski resort town about 20 miles from the hot springs. The town is filled with traditional Alpine Lodges and we have stayed in the town ourselves several times now.

We would recommend staying in Mammoth Lakes if you are driving to Yosemite National Park from Las Vegas, Death Valley or anywhere else Southeast of the park.

Here are the best hotels by guest rating, price and location in Mammoth Lakes:

Want more in depth hotel options?

Read our comprehensive guide on the 10 best hotels in Mammoth Lakes CA on our hotels site Best Hotels Anywhere.

Crab cooker hot spring with woman sitting on edge of pool

Crab Cooker Hot Spring FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions regarding Crab Cooker hot springs.

What Should You Wear For Your Visit?

You can wear whatever you want when visiting Crab Cooker hot spring. Please keep in mind clothing is optional so there may be both nude and clothed bathers.

If nude bathers will make you uncomfortable, you may want to consider skipping this area.

Can You Camp At Crab Cooker Hot Springs?

No, you can not camp at Crab Cooker hot spring. The land is owned by the Los Angeles Water and Power Company which forbids camping.

However, camping is permitted on nearby public land. Check out the Dyrt PRO for more information and reviews from previous campers at this location.

How Warm Is The Water At Crab Cooker?

The water at Crab Cooker hot spring ranges from 95˚ to 105˚F. However, the source which feds Crab Cooker is sometimes well over 150˚F so this tub typically tends to be on the warmer side.

Are Dogs Allowed At Crab Cooker Hot Spring?

Yes, dogs are allowed at Crab Cooker hot springs, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Please pick up after your pet and be considerate of other people in the area.

More From Near Mammoth Lakes

Want more California content? Head to our California Travel Guides to explore National Parks, popular road trips and things to do in major cities of the sunshine state.

We hope this guide to Crab Cooker Hot Springs helps with planning your visit to this beautiful area!

Please let us know if you have any questions about Crab Cooker hot springs or any northern California hot springs in the comments below.

Happy Soaking,

Mark and Kristen

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