Travertine Hot Springs stands apart from other Eastern Sierra soaking sites for the astounding way that rock formations convey water to its primitive pools. Craggy ridges of travertine, 10 to 20 feet high, rise from salt-caked meadows and pinyon pine–covered hills. Climb up on one of the ridges and you’ll see that its backbone is split by geothermal fissures. Piping hot water bubbles up from the deep crack, flows in a tiny rill down its spine, then cascades into four steaming, rock-lined pools below.
Most of the water feeds into the first pool, heating it to over 100 degrees, while adjacent pools are progressively cooler. As you bathe in the pool of your choice, you’ll soak up medicinal minerals and stunning scenery. Algae and minerals paint clay mounds above the pools a rich rainbow of hues—dark green, rusty red and orange, creamy white and tan—adding to the alien beauty of the setting. Gazing west, you’ll see the whole of tiny Bridgeport alone on an open plain, looking like a 19th-century frontier town. Beyond are the snowcapped Sierra Nevada.
Because Travertine is easily accessed from Highway 395, it’s quite popular. If the pools are occupied (or you’d like to explore and pool-hop), hike southwest on a quarter-mile trail that skirts a nearby ridge and meanders through sparse sagebrush and pines to a salt-smeared meadow, where another pool suitable for dipping awaits.
STAY: Several miles south of Travertine Hot Springs and Bridgeport on 395 lies Virginia Creek Settlement, a one-of-a-kind roadside accommodation with a restaurant and a quirky hodgepodge of lodging options. Stay in a ’50s-era, five-unit pinewood motel decorated with publicity stills of Western movie stars, or reserve a small stand-alone modern cabin with a lovely cedar interior. In summer months, you can sleep in an authentic restored covered wagon dating to the 1800s. The restaurant has served hearty pastas with exquisite sauces for over half a century—and today’s cooks still use the original recipes. The voluminous menu also includes pizza and meat dishes.
From US-395 about a half-mile south of Bridgeport, turn east onto Jack Sawyer Rd. and then veer left onto a dirt road. Follow it roughly a mile to reach the parking area for the hot springs, which are just beyond a ridge to the southwest. Entry is free. Dog-friendly!