Hot Tubbing

Sitting around in hot water with a bunch of strangers is an age-old tradition in the Mammoth area. People talk of wild things down at Hot Creek in the 60's and 70's. Well, the Hot Creek area is now closed for swimming and soaking, and folks are cited for jumping the fence, but there are a number of other natural and man-assisted hot tubs in the valley below Mammoth. Some are well-known and some aren't. We will tell you about the well-known ones and let you find out about the others on your own. Most are small, so when 50 people show up it isn't as much fun. Hint — almost all of the tubs are described in a guide book, so they aren't really hidden or secret. But we like to maintain that illusion.

We ought to mention one thing, first — you can hot tub in rocks, or in redwood. If a freshly cleaned redwood tub filled with hot mineral water sounds nice — an affordable luxury — check out the hot tubs at the Old House at Benton, outside Bishop.

Hot Tub Etiquette
Yes, you can get a ticket for tubbing naked. But most of the hot tubs are isolated and private, so most people don't wear anything while bathing. Some of the tubs, like Hilltop, are popular, and considered open, whether occupied or not. Some are considered private spots and if occupied, you might want to wait your turn. Usually your intuition will guide you properly. If you don't feel comfortable taking it off in front of others, don't. If you do, and it feels okay, do. Just be nice, considerate, and circumspect. There is nothing better for the soul than to lie naked by yourself in a natural hot tub surrounded by the aura of nature. Please take care of the tubs and take your trash out with you. There are several anonymous locals who spend a lot of time keeping the tubs clean and functioning for all of us. Help them out.

Hilltop Tub
This is probably the best known, most popular tub site. Accessible in the winter by walking 300 yards, in the summer you can drive almost right up to the tub. This tub isn't private. If you are in it, expect company. The tub is about seven feet in diameter and about two feet deep, man-made, fed by a nearby hot water source. Probably the best view in the valley, you sit on a small hilltop with a 360 degree view of THE WORLD. You will run into a lot of locals and a lot of tourists here. Take HWY 395 south to Benton Crossing Road. Turn left at the green church and go about 2.5 miles, past two cattle guard crossings. Just past the second cattle guard, you will go down a moderate hill. At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto a dirt road and follow it, staying to the right, for about 300 yards to a well-marked dirt parking area. The tub is just about 100 feet on top of the small hill in front of you.

Wild Willy's
Another popular well-known site. This one has two man-made sitting areas on different branches of a natural creek, so if one is occupied and you are shy, use the other. The views aren't as nice as Hilltop, but so what. To get there, drive towards Hilltop as noted above, but just past the second cattle guard, turn right on the dirt road. Follow it for about a mile, staying to the left, until you reach a well-marked parking area. Then, on foot, follow the obvious trail for about 200 yards to the tubs. This also is not regarded as private, and you may have company at times.

Crab Cooker
This is called the Crab Cooker because it sometimes is hot enough to do just that. This is more of a private tub — most people won't approach when they see it occupied. Smaller and shallow, and sometimes not working well, but a nice place when it is. You will need a map to find it, so get the guide book. Take Benton Crossing Road again, but turn left at the wide dirt road just past the baseball fields, follow that dirt road for about a mile. The tubs are along one of the dirt roads off the right side. Follow one or the other until you find it. There are actually several in this area, some good and most not. You have found the Crab Cooker when you find one at the END of a dirt road in a small valley.

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