4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Taos, New Mexico: Natural Hot Springs on the Rio Grande

Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande Gorge

Although a longtime fan of hot tubs, my first experience in a natural hot spring was outside of Taos, New Mexico.

As the sun was setting over the mesa, I climbed for an hour on a narrow, steep, precarious trail down 800 feet into the Rio Grande Gorge that sits west of town. The Rio Grande is so named because of its length, not its width.

To look at its width, you’d think it a stream rather than a river that stretches about 1,800 miles from just east of the Continental Divide in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest to southwest of Corpus Christi into the Gulf of Mexico. It is, nonetheless, part of the American heritage and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

It was dark when I finally got down to the water’s edge. By the light of a full moon and the Hale-Bopp comet (which lit nighttime skies for more than 18 months in 1996-97), I saw three small but steaming pools along the edge of the river. The day before, I’d hiked into the La Junta Canyon to the north where the Red River meets the Rio Grande.

In a mist of sunshine-infused spray I sat on a river-worn boulder that cupped me like a giant hand. The amount of water from the springtime melt off was substantial, and the roar from the force of the two engorged rivers joining was deafening. It was hard to see how this babbling brook in front of me could be that same river.

Chilled by the cooling evening temperatures of the high desert, I wasted no time in getting undressed and submerged in the 105 degree-ish water. I remember thinking life was pretty divine as I looked up at the clearly visible Milky Way in my private comet-crossed canyon.

Since then, I aim for hot springs when planning my trips. And for the record – although some of the undeveloped hot springs I’ve soaked in were boiling with snakes (discovered after the fact) – they are by far my favorite.

Should you be drawn to explore these in the wild yourself, in order to distinguish between the shy but fatally toxic coral snake and the non-toxic Mountain Kingsnake, milk or corn snake look-a-likes, become reacquainted with the child’s rhyme: “Red touching black is a friend of Jack; red touching yellow can kill a fellow.” (Not that it matters much once you are sitting comfortably among them as they wrap around your legs and spin themselves in the length of your hair.)

It should be duly noted that I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon some truly incredible developed hot springs as well – some in the form of public pools, others hidden behind thick adobe walls at private spas. On a recent trip through four California deserts, for instance, I came across a few that I’d promptly add to my list of favorites.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Tabu Shabu’s shabu shabu not too shabby

Start boiling meats and vegetables, and eventually you’ve made yourself soup
Next Article

Smokey’s Lake Wohlford Cafe: old-school country diner

“I always sit here,” Neil says. “Been coming for 40 years.”
Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande Gorge

Although a longtime fan of hot tubs, my first experience in a natural hot spring was outside of Taos, New Mexico.

As the sun was setting over the mesa, I climbed for an hour on a narrow, steep, precarious trail down 800 feet into the Rio Grande Gorge that sits west of town. The Rio Grande is so named because of its length, not its width.

To look at its width, you’d think it a stream rather than a river that stretches about 1,800 miles from just east of the Continental Divide in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest to southwest of Corpus Christi into the Gulf of Mexico. It is, nonetheless, part of the American heritage and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

It was dark when I finally got down to the water’s edge. By the light of a full moon and the Hale-Bopp comet (which lit nighttime skies for more than 18 months in 1996-97), I saw three small but steaming pools along the edge of the river. The day before, I’d hiked into the La Junta Canyon to the north where the Red River meets the Rio Grande.

In a mist of sunshine-infused spray I sat on a river-worn boulder that cupped me like a giant hand. The amount of water from the springtime melt off was substantial, and the roar from the force of the two engorged rivers joining was deafening. It was hard to see how this babbling brook in front of me could be that same river.

Chilled by the cooling evening temperatures of the high desert, I wasted no time in getting undressed and submerged in the 105 degree-ish water. I remember thinking life was pretty divine as I looked up at the clearly visible Milky Way in my private comet-crossed canyon.

Since then, I aim for hot springs when planning my trips. And for the record – although some of the undeveloped hot springs I’ve soaked in were boiling with snakes (discovered after the fact) – they are by far my favorite.

Should you be drawn to explore these in the wild yourself, in order to distinguish between the shy but fatally toxic coral snake and the non-toxic Mountain Kingsnake, milk or corn snake look-a-likes, become reacquainted with the child’s rhyme: “Red touching black is a friend of Jack; red touching yellow can kill a fellow.” (Not that it matters much once you are sitting comfortably among them as they wrap around your legs and spin themselves in the length of your hair.)

It should be duly noted that I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon some truly incredible developed hot springs as well – some in the form of public pools, others hidden behind thick adobe walls at private spas. On a recent trip through four California deserts, for instance, I came across a few that I’d promptly add to my list of favorites.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

La Jolla’s Monkey House

“The site of many family weddings, 4th of July parades, holiday parties, and La Jolla Secret Garden Tours.”
Next Article

Sara Jacobs extends House District 53's foreign junketing

Wealthy politico off to controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup venue
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close