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Hiking to Spence Hot Springs in New Mexico

Mountain Views from the Hot Spring
Mountain Views from Spence Hot Spring


THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

MAP OF LOCATION

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

– EASY / MODERATE –

  • Hours: Day Use
  • Trail length: 3/4 Mile Round Trip
  • Elevation Gain: Moderate – 121 Feet
  • Pets: Not Allowed in Hot Spring
  • No Restrooms or Water
  • No Glass Containers
  • No Camping in Hot Spring Area
  • Parking for 7 Vehicles and 1 RV
  • Located in National Forest
  • Heavily Used

Santa Fe National Forest Cairn
National Forest Cairn

THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED

  • Water
  • Trail Map
  • Athletic Shoes/Hiking Boots
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel

Santa Fe National Forest
Pine Trees in the National Forest

ABOUT THE AREA

Spence Hot Springs is located in the Santa Fe National Forest near Jemez Springs, New Mexico. In this portion of the Santa Fe National Forest resides the Jemez Valley, which is believed to have been inhabited for the last 4500 years. It is home to several Native American Pueblos, hot springs, and religious retreats. Jemez Springs became a tourist destination in the 1800’s due the the natural mineral hot springs. Many structures are more then 100 years old and have been re-purposed over the years into restaurants, saloons, and guest houses. Remnants of a Spanish mission opened in the 1600’s still remains, and can be toured at the Jemez Historic Site. The entire valley is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with an abundance of forested lands for hiking, fishing, camping, and much more.


Spence Hot Springs Trail Head
View From The Spence Hot Springs Trail Head

FINDING THE TRAILHEAD

The trailhead to Spence Hot Springs is located directly off New Mexico Highway 4. The highway runs north from Highway 550 through the Jemez Mountains to Los Alamos, New Mexico. The parking area is paved, and has parking for 7 vehicles and 1 RV/Trailer. You will find an information station with site status and rules, and the trail begins near this point.


Spence Hot Springs Trail Head
Trail To Spence Hot Springs

HIKING TO THE HOT SPRINGS

The trail begins with a descent down the valley to a creek that runs through the valley. This portion of the trail has recently been updated, and contains switchbacks which make the trip much easier. There are signs reminding people to stay on the new trail, as the old trail has been removed to prevent the erosion of the hillside.


Bridge Over San Antonio Creek
Bridge Crossing On Hot Spring Trail

After winding down the hillside from the parking lot, you will arrive at San Antonio Creek. There are several nice spots along the creek for a rest before making your way up the valley to the hot spring. This is also a great spot for trout fishing if you brought your pole.


Spence Hot Springs Trail Markers
Hot Springs Trail Markers

Just across the bridge you will find signage directing you up the hill to the hot spring. This is the moderate portion of the climb, and the time of year in which you visit will affect the condition of the trail. We encountered some frozen sections in the winter, but they were easily passed with a quality pair of hiking boots. You will be expected to climb up a rocky hillside, so watch you step for loose rocks and gravel.


Spence Hot Springs
Mountain views from the Hot Spring

SOAKING IN THE VIEWS

Once you have made it to the hot springs, be prepared for some breathtaking views. The water at the hot spring is around 95°, with the hottest areas located at the top, and inside a small cave. Inside the cave there is room for a few people, but be sure to share the warmest water with others. While this hot spring is now considered only “warm” as its temperature has been decreasing, the views more then make up for the water temperature. Be prepared to encounter other visitors when at the spring. This hot spring is easily accessible, and heavily used. There is also an advisory on the Forest Service’s website as follows “Nudity is a violation of State Law and violators will be sited.”


Santa Fe National Forest
Santa Fe National Forest

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

After you have finished your soak, or even while you are waiting for your turn, be sure to hike further up the valley into the forest. The pine forest and the rocky terrain is spectacular during all seasons. Once you are ready to head back to the car, you will take the same trail in which you arrived on. Be sure to pack out what you packed in, and as always leave no trace. Keeping these areas clean and beautiful, ensures they will remain accessible for all.


PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR USED

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