Monday, September 14, 2015

San Antonio Hot Springs, New Mexico

The top pool of San Antonio Hot Springs from

(By Greg) There is a hot springs up in the Jemez Mountains that is pretty cool ... or hot!  It is up near a town called "La Cueva" high up in the mountains above Jemez Springs. To access it you must take Hwy 126 past San Antonio Campground (a rare, relatively new Jemez campground with electric / water hookups).  You take Forest Road 376 about 5 miles and then you will see a couple old buildings up on the right side and the hot springs are up a slope in that area. GPS Coordinate of the hot springs: (35.939821, -106.643455)

The hot springs is nice as it sits on the steep side of a canyon and has great views and great water. The water pours out of a spout and you can sit under the water spout as it pours out.  Apparently, a crew was drilling for access to the geothermal water and hit it big with a huge amount of hot water pouring out.  It was too much, or too minerally and they abandoned the spring, and now it is open as a day use area for the public to enjoy. (There may be more to this story, but the bottom line is they created a hole with a large amount of hot water pouring out - thank you very much!)

The top pool is the hottest and then there are about 5 pools on the slope below that folks can enjoy for slightly cooler soaks.

Looking up to the to pool back in 2005
Joe, Greg and Merrily
Clothing is NOT optional and the forest rangers are overly vigilant in keeping it that way (even though the State of New Mexico tourism dept. advertises it as clothing optional). This is true of all the national forest natural hot springs in the Jemez Mountains, so make sure you bring your suit.

Here are some more photos of the hot springs from our prior visits in 2005 and 2006.


San Antonio Creek at the base of the hillside hot springs

Karen's sister Merrily and our nephews enjoying the natural springs

So relaxing!

The slope up to the pools is a bit sleep, so leave great Gramps at home.

The problem with FR 376 is that it is a 4x4 high clearance road with big nasty ruts in a few places. You can't get a standard car up this road, from my experience.  I had a Jeep a few years back that could make it and I took folks up there and we enjoyed the hot spring a ton.

I currently own a Honda CRV all wheel drive. It does pretty good on most dirt roads but it is no Jeep. I don't feel it is the car for getting to the hot springs on FR 376.

I was looking at a map of the area the other day and noticed that FR 144 goes along the canyon ridge right near the hot spring. It struck me that maybe I could drive out there in my CRV, as 144 is a much better dirt forest road then FR 376. I decided to drive with my GPS and figure out if one could get to the hot spring from the west rim of the canyon.

There are a ton of great boondocking spots along FR 144, by the way!

After a lot of hunting around, I found a meadow area on the rim that had a rough trail that led down the steep canyon slope to FR 376, very near to the short trail up to the hot springs from 376.

This trail is extremely steep and you have to side slip down some parts of it, but it is doable by most people in good shape.  I wouldn't take Mom, Gramps, or the kids on this trail as it may be too much of a slope for weaker hikers.  It's not a long trail.  You go down about 350 feet to the bottom.

The climb back up is a real heart pounder. I had to stop quite a few times to let my heart recover from it's massive pounding on the way back up!

The area where this trail / route starts has a few, pretty nice boondocking locations with great canyon views. I plan to boondock up there and hike over to the hot springs at some near future opportunity.

I believe you can get some pretty big RVs back into this area.  The road it not too bad. (Don't trust my word, explore it before you try!)

Here is the GPS coordinate of the area to start the hike down from the top of the canyon: 35.946813, -106.644565 .  It wasn't hard to spot the little trail down.

There is also a Forest Road just a little further north that leads from FR 144 down to FR 376.  It is FR 378.  It's not as smooth as FR 144, but I believe I could take my CRV up and down it with no real serious problems. I plan to give it a try soon.

If you take this road down, you can drive back south on FR 376 to the base of the hot spring area for the short hike up the slope to the pools.  You must open a rickety wire gate at the top of 378 and close it behind you. Cows were standing at the gate when I explored this area. (I guess the grass was greener on the other side? But I kept them from getting through.) There is one big bump to get over right at the top of the road but then it's not all that bad going down. You might have to move a couple of large rocks off the road as you move down it. It's not maintained as well as FR 144.

Here is the GPS coordinate of the top of FR 378:  35.961354, -106.636398 .

There is a surprisingly good little breakfast cafe (maybe lunch and dinner too, but we had breakfast) at the intersection of Hwy 4 and 126.  It's called Ridgeback. It's next to a small market and in front of the rustic La Cueva Lodge.

Here are some photos from my exploration of this area:

One of the boondocking sites near the trail down.

Looking towards the hot springs area across the canyon.

A view looking down into the canyon headed south.

A portion of the foot trail down into the canyon.

Where I parked near the start of the trail down.

A boondocking site next to where I parked at the top of the trail down.

More nice boondocking area on the canyon rim. Great views.

Looking down into the canyon.

Some boondockers along  the early part of FR 144 near the main hwy. The got their big RVs in just fine.

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