A Practical Guide to Hot Springs Etiquette

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here’s how to have good hot springs etiquette – including tips on noise and nudity – next time you take a dip.

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here are our best tips for hot springs etiquette including how to handle noise, nudity, and more.

Visiting a natural hot spring is one of the most peaceful, soothing, and enjoyable experiences you can enjoy outdoors. Having a good soak somewhere beautiful in a geothermal pool is well worth traveling for, including the many hot springs in my home state of Idaho. But what about hot spring etiquette?

Like many of our wild spaces, hot springs are getting more crowded and there are a few things to keep in mind while you’re there to keep the experience enjoyable for everyone. Knowing how to be respectful of other people and the space makes a world of difference and can even help you to avoid a potentially awkward situation.

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here’s how to have good hot springs etiquette no matter where you go.

8 Hot Spring Etiquette Tips

1. Keep the Noise Down

Many people visit hot springs as a way to reduce stress and relax. Be respectful of this by keeping the noise down, don’t blast music on your phone or portable speakers, and be aware of the people around you. While it’s fine and completely reasonable to chat and socialize with friends or other visitors in the hot springs, use your best judgment by having an awareness of the space and energy levels. If things are quiet, help to keep them that way.

It’s never fun to have your day at the hot springs ruined by a rowdy group, nor is it a good idea to be that guy or girl anyway. Bottom line: be kind, respectful, and considerate.

2. Be Welcoming

Maybe you’re the first one there, but that doesn’t mean you own the hot springs. Everyone has a right to be there – locals and vacationers alike. Be welcoming and willing to share the hot springs with others, and drop the entitled attitude.

If the hot springs are too small to share, be mindful of how long you’re in there if others are waiting to get in.

3. How to Handle Nudity at Hot Springs

At some hot springs, especially ones located in the backcountry, clothing is optional. Before you go, check out the policy on nudity at hot springs. At Diamond Fork Hot Springs here in Utah, nudity is actually illegal and more often than not, there are kids at the hot springs.

If you do decide to embrace it and go without clothes, all the power to you, but do your best to be modest. I’m not sure why many hot springs I’ve been to recently have at least one dude who seems to think it’s cool to stand on the edge of the pool and have a conversation with their full-frontal junk hanging out for everyone else to see. GUYS…this is not cool, especially when all of the girls in the hot springs are wearing swimsuits.

If you are choosing to stay clothed, be mindful and respectful of others who choose to be in their birthday suit by not staring, pointing, or being rude in any way. Use common courtesy no matter how you choose to enjoy the hot springs so it’s a good experience for everyone.

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here are our best tips for hot springs etiquette including how to handle noise, nudity, and more.

4. Leave No Trace at the Hot Springs

Make sure you brush up on and practice the ethics of Leave No Trace. That means leaving the hot springs better than you found them and packing out everything you pack in, including all of your trash, food, drinks, and belongings. Treat it the same way you would while you were hiking or camping outdoors so it can stay clean, beautiful, and continue to be preserved for others to enjoy.

Also, do not bathe or use soap in the hot springs. Hot springs typically don’t have a way to drain, so what ends up in there, stays there. Using soap, even biodegradable soap, in lakes, rivers, and hot springs, is a no-no according to Leave No Trace because it can disrupt the balance of minerals in the water.

5. Be mindful of others when you bust out your camera

Unless you’re the only person there, it’s not good hot springs etiquette to grab your camera and start taking tons of photos. This also includes flying drones overhead. Others might feel uncomfortable if they are nude or just in the background of your selfie while wearing a bathing suit. While it’s not the worst offense, it’s just not that courteous. Of course, you have the right to snap a couple of shots, but save your full-blown photoshoot for after other soakers head home.

Stanley, Idaho hot springs / Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here are our best tips for hot springs etiquette including how to handle noise, nudity, and more.

6. Keep the partying to a minimum

This one should speak for itself but it’s worth the reminder. Don’t show up thinking that smoking or getting wasted is good hot springs etiquette. It’s disrespectful to the visitors and the space, period. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a couple of cold ones, but forcing drunk talk on your neighbors when you’re 8 beers deep is never appreciated.

Also, don’t bring any glass to hot springs, because if they break, it can cause dangerous shards at the bottom. Hot springs have been closed due to broken glass, so leave it at home!

Lastly, if you want to have a smoke, don’t light up in the springs for everyone else to inhale.

7. Don’t pee in the hot springs!

Don’t be THAT person. We all know hot water does something to our bladder, so do everyone a favor and use the restroom before you get in. Remember, hot springs don’t have a drain, so whatever ends up in the hot springs…stays in the hot springs. Yuck.

8. Leave your dog at home

Many hot springs don’t allow dogs on the trail, but even if they’re allowed, I’d recommend leaving your pet(s) at home while visiting hot springs. A barking dog can be disruptive to the peaceful environment of a hot spring, plus other visitors may not be comfortable around dogs. If you do choose to bring your dog, be sure to keep them on a leash and OUT of the hot spring – dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures in the same way as humans, so it’s actually dangerous to allow your pet to swim in a hot spring. Likewise, normally there are hot spots of geothermal water near hot springs – you don’t want your pet accidentally stepping in boiling water, causing awful burns.

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here are our best tips for hot springs etiquette including how to handle noise, nudity, and more.

10. Don’t camp next to hot springs

Camping or parking within 300 ft of a hot spring can have negative impacts on the hot springs themselves and also on other visitors who may also want to enjoy the peace and quiet of the springs.

Hot springs are delicate ecosystems that are easily disrupted. Camping near a hot spring can disturb the natural balance of the ecosystem and can lead to erosion, pollution, and damage to the surrounding vegetation.

Secondly, camping next to a hot spring can be disruptive to other visitors who may also want to enjoy the area. The smell of campfires, the music from speakers, and other camping-related activities can detract from the tranquility and relaxation that hot springs are known for.

What hot springs etiquette reminders are we missing? Any experiences you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!

Not familiar with the rules of a good soak? Here are our best tips for hot springs etiquette including how to handle noise, nudity, and more.

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  1. Thanks for the advice. I appreciate everything you said and come agree more or add anything. Happy soaking!

  2. Hi Kristen, We have lived here in Boise for 20 years and love McCall but I still learned a lot of good information! Thanks so much!

  3. Keeping dogs on a leash or under control is a good one. We went to a hike-in hot springs in Idaho where dogs were barking and running up to us in the hot springs while we were trying to relax, and one of us is afraid of dogs. Another one for the list!

    1. YES! It’s totally disruptive, and it can also be dangerous for dogs since they can’t regulate their body temps like humans, or if they step in boiling hot water near the source. Just added a note in about dogs – thanks for bringing this up!

  4. Another note that people should be mindful of about dogs is the instictive habit of peeing and pooping around hot springs. It is respectful to both the environment and people to keep dogs away from the pools and flows. I’ve been a caretaker of a natural hot springs for years and the amount of poop cleaned up is alarming. Most casual visitors would not go barefoot around natural springs if they knew how much and how often. We believe most people have a misconstrued theory that poop biodegrades right away or that their one time isnt going to matter. Or simply are not paying attention to what their dog is doing. It’s the biodegrading that contaminates the water. And all turds matter.

    1. Hi Randy, thanks for sharing your insight & that is another great reason why pups are best left behind on these adventures. Thank you for voicing this, and also for taking care of a natural hot spring all these years. Without the work you (and other volunteers) do, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy natural hot springs as we do!

  5. You might mention it is considered bad etiquette to camp next to a natural hot spring. It is invasive to the serenity. Hot springs are a shared space, not one’s personal camp. Even if you were the first one there. When camping is permitted, 300 ft or more is the accepted rule.

  6. It is a shame that the US is so textile centered. A ‘Bathing Suit’ is the most useless piece of clothing ever invented. People are so incredibly uptight. You’d think what they have is different than what the rest have, you have one type or the other and you’ve seen both. Get over it! This aside, I agree that if you are the sole free spirit, then by all means, and I hate I am saying this, Conform!, but likewise, if you are the sole uptight, then if you won’t or can’t try it, at least don’t be rude the rest of the crowd.

  7. Just few questions as I have never experienced hot springs. Where do you change your clothes or disrobe to enter the springs. I assume on the bank of the water? Is there any worry about leaving your clothes or backpack on side of water? also are there bathrooms anywhere in case you get the urge to empty your bladder?

    1. Hi Mary – It really depends on the hot springs. Usually I wear my swimsuit underneath my clothes so I don’t have to put it on when I arrive. I bring a towel and clothes that are easy to put on after I’m done soaking and I’ll hide behind a tree or my towel if there are other people around. Unless it’s a paid hot springs, there are generally no bathrooms, so you’ll have to find a place far enough away from the hot springs to pop a squat. Have fun!