At Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, you can soak up a primeval landscape that’s amazingly close to Mammoth Lakes and Highway 395—it just feels a few geological epochs away. The springs are in the middle of the Long Valley Caldera, where two large primitive pools steam in the middle of a broad desert plain, bordered by the Sierra on the west and the Glass Mountain Ridge to the east.
It’s a quarter-mile hike to the pools, which are also known as Crowley Hot Springs. Follow the elevated wooden boardwalk (intermittently a gravel walk), meant to route foot traffic so as to protect the valley’s fragile ecosystem. To the right, you’re hit with an exhilarating vista over a shallow, placid, ephemeral pond that spans the sagebrush flat like a pane of glass, reflecting the snowy Sierra. The boardwalk then slopes slightly downward in a zigzag and ends abruptly at the main pools. The one on the right, about 10 feet wide and 3 feet deep, is fed by a small creek, beside which is another steaming pool to dip in. Float around in the water—or even up the creek—to find hot spots that are just the right temperature for you. You’ll have serene views eastward over a salt-encrusted plain toward Glass Mountain.
The adjacent pool, backed by a rock outcrop, is a bit hotter and deeper and is shaped roughly like a heart—perfect for all you lovebirds out there. In fact, even after dark, people trek by moon or flashlight to bask in the steaming pools under bright constellations.
From US-395 about halfway between Crowley Lake and Mammoth Lakes, turn northeast onto Benton Crossing Rd. (look for the green church on the corner). After roughly 3 miles, turn right immediately after a cattle guard onto a dirt road and follow it 1.5 miles to the parking lot. Wild Willy’s is open 24 hours, and entry is free. Camping is allowed in the BLM land around the springs. Dog-friendly!