You don't need to travel to exotic hot springs to soak in the bounty of nature's hot mineral water. San Diegans can drive locally to Agua Caliente Hot Springs.
Located a half hour south of Borrego Springs on County Hwy. S2, this family-oriented day use spa is operated by the County of San Diego. Facilities include a freshwater, above-ground, geothermal 110°, indoor mineral soak pool, an outdoor swimming pool, a kids pool, and surrounding sunning decks with lounges and tables. Four miles of hiking trails surround the park, where endangered bighorn sheep can often be spotted.
Open through Memorial Day weekend (closed for the hot summer until Labor Day), Agua Caliente only charges $5.00 per car to use the facilities, open 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily. There’s no food service at the spa, so bring your own picnic. A small store at the entrance has only limited supplies like beverages or ice cream. There is no cell service in the area.
The spa also has a 106-site campground, with RV hook-up sites and tent spaces. Campground reservations are recommended for weekend camping.
If your kids puke driving the twisty turnies of Hwy 78 through Julian, then take I-8 east to Ocotillo exit (Highway S2) and drive north 22 miles to the park. While it’s much longer in miles, freeway travel makes driving time the same – but you’ll miss the Julian apple pie.