How To Visit Wild Willy’s Hot Springs In Mammoth Lakes



A beautiful view of wild willy's hot spring with mountains in the distance

Wild Willy’s is a natural hot spring located within the Long Valley Caldera south of Mammoth Lakes in California. It’s free to visit and features multiple hot spring pools along a 0.6 mile walking trail ranging in temperature from 95–105°F.

In this guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about visiting Wild Willy’s hot springs.

Our Wild Willy’s Experience

A man walking down the boardwalk
Mark walking down the hot spring boardwalk near Mammoth Lakes

We visited Wild Willy’s as part of a west coast road trip in November 2021. During this trip, we visited some of the best northern California hot springs. We drove between several hot springs in our bath robes and it’s been one of our favorite travel memories to date. Read more about us.

There are numerous hot springs in this region of California and you can visit many in the same day. This guide is filled with our best tips for making the most of Wild Willy’s.

What Is Wild Willy’s Hot Springs?

  • Location: About 15 miles east of Mammoth Lakes
  • ParkingGoogle maps
  • Price: Free
  • Open: Year round
  • Clothing: Optional
  • Features: Tiered hot stream with 3 pools
  • Services: Drop toilet at parking lot
  • Temperature: 95°-105˚F

Wild Willy’s is one of the most stunning hot springs near Mammoth Lakes. It’s a popular spot because it features multiple hot spring pools with a beautiful mountainous backdrop which makes it incredibly unique.

The water at Wild Willy’s ranges from 95°-105˚F. This warm water is fed into the hot spring pools by a natural geothermal source and the temperature will fluctuate depending on time of day or year.

The hot springs are part of a tiered hot stream with multiple pools allowing several soakers to fit comfortably. But it’s important to know clothing is optional. During our visit, there were both nude and clothed bathers. If nudity makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this one.

Travel Tip: Wild Willy’s hot spring is also known as Crowley hot springs and the name may be used interchangeably.

How To Get To Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Many cars and a toilet in the parking lot
The gravel parking lot for Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Wild Willy’s hot spring is about 15 miles east of Mammoth Lakes and about 40 miles north of Bishop. Mammoth Yosemite Airport is a very small airport nearby but we recommend a bigger hub.

For the sake of this guide, 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 for about 13 miles and turn left onto Benton Crossing Rd.
  • From Bishop follow US-395 N for about 35 miles and turn right onto Benton Crossing Rd.
  • Benton Crossing Road has a green church on the corner. Once you make the turn, follow this dirt road for about 2.5 miles.
  • After you pass two cattle grates, take the right turn and follow this road for another 1.5 miles. You will reach the parking lot at the end of this road.

Airports such as Las Vegas (5 hours), Los Angeles (4 hour 40 minutes) or San Francisco (5 hours) would be a great option as part of a longer road trip. We drove to Las Vegas after visiting Mammoth Lakes.

Further Reading: Best things to do in Las Vegas

Navigating The Roads

Benton Crossing Road is a dirt road with many potholes. The unnamed road where you make the last turn is also another rough unpaved road. We made it in our Ford Escape SUV, but we saw a few sedans struggling to make it to the parking lot.

If you’re renting a car, keep in mind some rental car policies have restrictions against driving on dirt roads. Parking at Wild Willy’s hot spring is free. There are many parking spaces available with ample room for campervans and RVs.

You’ll also find a drop toilet in the parking lot so be sure to do your business before you visit.

Travel Tip: If you are worried about your vehicle, you could leave your vehicle parked on the side of Benton Crossings Road and walk the last bit to the hot springs.

3 Hot Spring Pools

The trailhead for wild willy's hot spring
The trailhead to the hot spring

Wild Willy’s has no entrance fee and it’s completely free to visit. There are three main pools and plenty of room for several groups to enjoy a soak.

In order to reach the hot springs, you will have to walk a 0.6 mile out and back trail. From the parking lot, look for a very well maintained elevated boardwalk over the sagebrush plains. This will take you directly to the hot springs.

Hiking Tip: Check recent comments on AllTrails before visiting to check current conditions.

As you walk, be sure to enjoy the surrounding views. The snow capped mountains in the distance are breathtaking. There are two pools located at the end of the boardwalk along a tiered hot stream. The third and final pool is more secluded to the left in the distance if you want a private setting.

Here are the three pools at Wild Willy’s:

Large Pool

A beautiful view of wild willy's hot spring with mountains in the distance
A wooden boardwalk leading to a hot spring pool

The big pool will be the first hot spring you come to after the boardwalk and it’s one of the most popular spots due to its large size. At about ten feet wide and two feet deep, this pool can comfortably fit about 10-15 people.

Because this is the closest section to the tiered hot stream, this pool is often very warm. If there are too many people in this first pool, you have two other options. Right after we took this photo, a large group entered the first pool so we spent most of our time in the second pool.

Second Pool

A woman submerged in a hot spring
Kristen soaking in one of Wild Willy’s hot spring pools

The second pool along the tiered hot stream system is much cooler and smaller compared to the first large pool. But it’s 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 because it was a bit more private.

A hot spring by a large pile of rocks at wild willys
Another smaller pool at Wild Willy’s in the distance

Heart Shaped Pool

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 is the famous heart shaped pool which is the hottest and deepest spring at Wild Willy’s. It can be extremely hot so be sure to check the temperature of the water before you head in. This spring was also occupied during our visit so we didn’t sit in this pool ourselves.

Best Time To Visit Wild Willy’s

A beautiful view of the boardwalk at wild willy's
Close up view of a wooden boardwalk leading to a hot spring

Sunrise in late spring or early fall is the best time to visit Wild Willy’s because this time of year has the most comfortable weather conditions for soaking. This hot spring is open all year, but visiting in the summer and winter can bring additional challenges.

If you visit in summer, the hot springs will be very busy. The mosquitos are also quite bad this time of year and the air temperatures will be warm which might make it difficult to fully enjoy a soak.

If you visit in winter, the roads may become impassable. US-395 is well maintained in the winter, but Benton Crossing Road is not maintained during the winter months. Be sure to check weather conditions and have the appropriate vehicle if you plan to visit during the snow season.

Because Wild Willy’s hot springs is easily accessible, it can be extremely crowded. For the best experience, you want to plan your trip when the crowds are minimal. We think sunrise is a better time to visit compared to sunset because there will be fewer crowds and you can watch the sun rise over the mountains.

However, the secret is out about this hot spring and it’s very rare to get these pools to yourself even if you visit at sunrise.

Travel Tip: Try to visit midweek rather than during a weekend because there will be smaller crowds.

Pros and Cons

We certainly recommend you add Wild Willy’s hot spring to your California itinerary, but here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:


  • It’s completely free to visit
  • Beautiful scenic views in all directions
  • Hot springs have numerous wellness benefits
  • Wild Willy’s is easy to access
  • Pet friendly (but not allowed in pools)
  • Free camping nearby
  • Many groups can soak here (up to 20 people)


  • Pools may be crowded and busy
  • Soaking for long periods may cause dehydration
  • It can be very cold in winter
  • The dirt road may be impassable
  • Limited services nearby

Where To Stay Nearby

The land surrounding the Mammoth hot springs area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management or National Forest Service. Dispersed camping is allowed in the certain areas including the parking lot.

There are no services and there is only one drop toilet. These are public lands and you’re expected to pack out all waste. Be sure to pay attention to the signs indicating where camping is allowed.

Do not camp in the meadows to help protect the environment and maintain the wild setting for others. The closest developed camp option is Brown’s Owens River Campground. You can also check out the Dyrt PRO for more information and reviews from previous campers around this area.

Hotel Options

If you aren’t camping, the best place to find accommodation when visiting Wild Willy’s hot spring is Mammoth Lakes. This is a beautiful ski resort town about 15 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 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 top rated hotels 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.

Tips For Visiting

A women soaking at a hot spring completely submerged
Kristen laying in one of the hot spring pools

It’s important every visitor practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace so everyone else can enjoy this amazing hot spring.

Here are a few important things to consider before your trip:

  • Pack any trash out. It’s our responsibility to keep these natural places beautiful and you should 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 to play loud music or host a party.
  • Sharing is caring. Be considerate of others and invite them to soak if there is room. Just because you arrive first does not mean you should hog the springs for hours.
  • Avoid bath products. Natural hot springs do not drain and bath products can be harmful because they disrupt the balance of minerals.
  • Arrive Early. Try to visit early in the day to maximize your chance of enjoying this beautiful place to yourself.
  • Dogs are allowed at Wild Willy’s 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.

Need a campground in Northern California? Take advantage of our exclusive 30 day free trial of The Dyrt PRO to find a spot nearby or snag a reservation at sold out campgrounds with Dyrt Alerts.

Essentials For Your Visit

A woman standing on a boardwalk with a robe
Kristen at the end of the boardwalks at a Northern California hot spring

You won’t need much but here are a few essentials for your visit:

  • Swimsuit – If you don’t want to bathe in your birthday suit, be sure to bring a bathing suit. The sulfur springs might stain clothing so wear a darker color.
  • Wallaroo Hat – This area sits at a high elevation and the sun will be strong, you may want a hat to help protect you from the UV rays.
  • Bath Robe – We used robes when we visited and everyone loved them. For us, this was a necessity because it kept us warm and helped to protect us from the wind.
  • Towels – A big fluffy towel is just what you need for the ultimate spa experience.
  • Trash bag – Be sure to carry out all trash you make including dog poop. Unfortunately, we found trash when we visited and carried it out with us.
  • Water and beer – It’s okay to drink alcohol in the hot springs, but remember to also drink water so you don’t get dehydrated.

Keep in mind you can wear whatever you want when visiting this hot spring because clothing is optional and there may be nude bathers. If nude bathers make you uncomfortable or you are visiting with kids, you may want to consider skipping this area.

In Conclusion

A long boardwalk with sierra nevada mountains in the distance at wild willys hot spring
The path leading to Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Is Wild Willy’s hot springs worth it?

Yes, we think Wild Willy’s is worth it because these hot springs offer amazing views in all directions. There is enough room for about 20 people to soak comfortably unlike some of the other hot springs nearby. If you are driving US-395 as part of a California road trip, we highly recommend adding Wild Willy’s to your itinerary.

Most people visit this hot spring after hiking in Yosemite National Park or exploring Death Valley. You should also check out Travertine, Hilltop and Crab Cooker if you want to visit several hot springs. Even if you aren’t interested in soaking in the springs, this area is a photographers dream.

More From 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 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 in Mammoth Lakes or any northern California hot springs in the comments below.

Happy Soaking,

Mark and Kristen

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