Wild Willy’s hot spring is nestled within the Long Valley Caldera south of Mammoth Lakes in California. This area is one of Earth’s largest calderas making it the perfect place to find a high concentration of hot springs.
But what is Wild Willy’s hot spring and why should you visit?
This is exactly what we will discuss in this comprehensive guide to Wild Willy’s, one of the most popular hot springs in Northern California.
We will show you:
- What you can expect
- The best season and time of day
- Specific driving directions
- The different pools at Wild Willy’s
- Tips for your visit
- What you should bring to the hot springs
Let’s explore Wild Willy’s hot spring!
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What Is Wild Willy’s Hot Spring?
Wild Willy’s hot spring is also known as Crowley hot springs. Along with Crab Cooker hot spring, Wild Willy’s is one of the most popular hot springs near Mammoth Lakes. Both consist of natural hot pools with stunning mountainous backdrops.
Unlike many of the other hot springs in the area, which are man made tubs fed by pipes originating at a geothermal source, Wild Willy’s is composed of natural hot spring pools.
The hot springs at Wild Willy’s are unique in the fact they are part of a tiered hot stream with multiple pools allowing several soakers to fit comfortably.
Is Wild Willy’s Hot Spring Clothing Optional?
Clothing is optional at Wild Willy’s hot spring. We encountered both nude and clothed bathers during our visit. So if nudity makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this one.
Why Visit Wild Willy’s Hot Springs?
You should definitely add Wild Willy’s to your California bucket list just for the gorgeous scenery alone. Even if you aren’t interested in soaking at the hot springs, this area is a photographers dream.
Most people visit Wild Willy’s as part of a longer California road trip, after hiking in Yosemite National Park or exploring Death Valley.
Can You Swim At Wild Willy’s Hot Springs?
Yes, you can swim at Wild Willy’s hot springs. Although the pools found here are only about two feet deep so consider your visit a soak rather than a swim.
Best Time To Visit Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
The best time to visit Wild Willy’s is at sunrise during late spring or early fall. This time of year has ideal weather conditions and early morning is the best chance of getting the hot springs all to yourself.
Best Season To Visit
While Wild Willy’s hot spring is open all year, the best time to visit this beautiful place is in the late spring or early fall. During these two seasons, the weather is perfect for soaking without being too hot or too cold.
If you visit during the summer, not only do you run the chance of sharing the hot springs with many other people, but the temperature may be too warm to fully enjoy a soak.
If you visit during the winter, the roads may be completely impassable.
While the highways around the hot springs are well maintained in winter, the dirt road (Benton Crossing Road) is not maintained in winter.
Be sure to check the weather conditions and make sure you have the appropriate vehicle if you plan to visit during the winter months.
Best Time Of Day To Visit
Sunrise is without a doubt the best time to visit Wild Willy’s hot springs while 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 Wild Willy’s hot springs is easily accessible, it can become extremely crowded. For the best experience, you want to visit when the crowds are minimal.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring Statistics
- Location: About 20 miles east of Mammoth Lakes (off Benton Crossing Road)
- Parking: Google map location
- Price: Free
- Open: Year-round
- Clothing: Optional
- Features: Tiered hot stream with 3 pools
- Services: Drop toilet at parking lot
- Temperature: 95˚ to 105˚F
Where Is Wild Willy’s Hot Springs?
Wild Willy’s hot spring 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.
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) and 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 2.0 miles.
- After the second cattle grate, take the right turn and follow this road for another 1.0 mile. You will reach the parking lot at the end of this road.
Parking At Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Parking at Wild Willy’s hot springs is free. There are many parking spaces available with ample room for campervans and RVs.
You will also find a drop toilet in the parking lot so be sure to do your business before you visit.
The Pools Of Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
One of the best parts about Wild Willy’s hot springs is plenty of room for many groups to enjoy the beautiful scenery. However, in order to reach the hot springs, there is a very short hike.
From the parking lot, there is an elevated boardwalk over the sagebrush plains which will take you straight to the hot springs. The boardwalk is about 0.2 miles long and is very well maintained.
As you walk down the boardwalk, be sure to take in the surrounding views. The snow capped mountains in the distance are breathtaking.
How Many Pools Does Wild Willy’s Have?
There are three main pools at Wild Willy’s hot springs. Two of the pools are located right after the boardwalk along a tiered hot stream.
The third and final pool is a bit more secluded in the distance if you prefer a more private setting.
The Large Pool
The large pool will be the first hot spring you come to after the boardwalk and is one of the most popular spots due to its big size.
At about ten feet wide and two feet deep, this pool can comfortably fit many people.
Because this is the closest pool to the tiered hot stream, this pool is most often the hottest. If there are too many people in this first pool, you have two other options.
In the photo above, the first pool is in the background. There was a group in this first pool when we visited.
The Second Pool
The second pool along the tiered hot stream system is much cooler and smaller compared to the first large pool. But it is a great spot if there are many bathers in the first pool.
You can easily submerge yourself in this pool and it comfortably fits two people. We loved this second pool and spent a bit of time here.
Additional Pool Nearby
If you sit in the first or second pool, you will notice a large pile of rocks in the distance. An additional pool is located here and will comfortably fit about two people.
This man-made pool is shaped like a heart and can be very hot so be sure to check the temperature of the water before you head in.
Pros and Cons To Visiting
We would certainly recommend you add Wild Willy’s hot spring to your California itinerary, but there are a few pros and cons to consider before you visit.
- Beautiful scenic views
- Sulfur from springs is said to relieve pain
- Soaking in the springs is extremely relaxing
- Hot springs are easy to access
- Pools may be crowded and busy
- Soaking for long periods may cause dehydration
- Temperature of the pools will vary
- The dirt road may be impassible
Tips For Visiting This Popular Area
- Leave the place better than you found it. Pack any trash out, even if the trash is not yours. It it our responsibility to keep these natural places beautiful.
- Be respectful of others. People visit hot springs to relax and reduce stress. This is not the place to host a party and play loud music.
- Sharing is caring. Just because you arrive first does not mean you should hog the hot springs for hours. Be considerate of others and invite them in if there is room.
- 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 Wild Willy’s:
Arrive early. While this is a natural place of beauty, it can be 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 Wild Willy’s 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 along a suit.
- 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 (dressing gown) – A robe will keep you warm and help to protect you from the elements.
- 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!
Where Should You Stay When Visiting Wild Willy’s?
Mammoth Lakes is the best place to find accommodation when visiting Wild Willy’s hot springs, as well as nearby Crab Cooker hot spring and Hilltop hot springs.
Or you can disperse camp, which we will cover in the next FAQ section.
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:
- Alpenhof Lodge – Low Budget: (8.5 / 10)
- Innsbruck Lodge – Mid-range Budget: (8.5 / 10)
- Village Lodge – Mid-range Budget: (8.7 / 10)
- Westin Monache Resort – Luxury: (8.7 / 10)
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.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions regarding Wild Willy’s hot springs.
What Should You Wear For Your Visit?
You can wear whatever you please when you visit Wild Willy’s hot spring. However, keep in mind clothing is optional so you will likely experience both clothed and nude bathers.
If nude bathers will make you uncomfortable, you may want to consider skipping this area.
Can You Camp At Wild Willy’s Hot Springs?
Yes, you can disperse camp at Wild Willy’s hot springs. Camping is allowed both in and around the parking lot. But if you plan to camp in this area, please be respectful. Carry out all trash and be mindful of the growing vegetation.
Check out the Dyrt PRO for more information and reviews from previous campers at this location.
How Warm Is The Water At Wild Willy’s?
The water at Wild Willy’s ranges from 95˚ to 105˚F.
The warm water is fed into the hot spring pools by a natural geothermal source and the temperature will fluctuate depending on time of day and time of year.
Are Dogs Allowed At Wild Willy’s Hot Spring?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Wild Willy’s hot springs, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Be sure to pick up after your pet and be considerate of others in the area.
More From Near Mammoth Lakes
- Complete Guide To Visiting Travertine Hot Springs
- Yosemite Itinerary: Ultimate First Time Visitor Guide (1, 2 & 3 Day Itinerary)
- Where To Stay At Yosemite: Best Places, Hotels and Lodging Options
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 Wild Willy’s Hot Springs helps with planning your visit to this beautiful area!
Please let us know if you have any questions about Wild Willy’s hot springs or any northern California hot springs in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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