hot springs

Nature loves hot tubs so much, it made its own in the Olympic National Park.

Photo by tobo.

You can’t depend on the sun to keep you warm in a Washington summer. With hot springs—places where water is heated deep underground before it burbles to the surface—you don’t have to.

Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic National Park has the most family-friendly natural hot tubs in the region. Staying at the Sol Doc cabins means free access to three mineral pools at various temperatures and one freshwater pool; campers and day-trippers can buy passes. Near the springs are trails and spots for stargazing and kite flying.

• It takes more effort to reach the Olympic Hot Springs not far from Sol Duc. They’re a series of nine pools located 12.5 miles into the national park, though when road work concludes in 2014, the hike on the Boulder Creek Trail will be cut down to a mere 2 miles. Snow drifts in the area can reach 15 feet before melting mid-summer, and hikers you have to register with rangers before trekking in. You’ve got to want this one.

• Only 20 people per day can schlep the 4.5 miles to Goldmyer Hot Springs outside North Bend. Reservations must be made by phone and the waters, which emerge from an abandoned mine shaft, top 110 degrees. Access is $15 per day, and be prepared to see skin—many soakers take naked dips.

• There are actual bathhouses—one made from a 1901 hotel—at the Carson Hot Springs Spa and Golf Resort on the Washington side of the Columbia River near the town of Hood River. This is a hotel experience, not a hike. Cabins date back to the 1920s and soaks take place in claw-foot tubs, with massages and wraps also offered at the spa.

• Check-in is required at Harrison Hot Springs Resort in British Columbia, about 90 minutes east of Vancouver. Adult-only, family, and indoor pools are for guests only (bonus: no sulfur smell). There’s a public bathhouse in town, though, with a great view of the expansive Harrison Lake.

• Most remote of all is Vancouver Island’s Hot Springs Cove. The Tofino-area pools are refreshed by incoming tides (so those closest to Clayoquot Sound are the coolest) and are accessed through an easy boardwalk stroll. Camping is available nearby, and water taxis operate from Tofino, about 20 miles away.