It’s a crisp morning deep in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico – perfect for a hot springs hike. San Antonio Hot Springs is a place I’ve visited many times in different seasons. For this visit, I decided to begin my hike high on the western wall of San Antonio Canyon on the opposite side of the canyon and well north of the springs. Following a slow drive on a rough forest road that more or less follows the canyon rim, I park at a spot where a closed road drops steeply into the canyon.
The altitude at the start of the hike is about 8300 feet (2529 meters). A quick descent through deep forest breaks into the open meadow at the base of the canyon. San Antonio Creek snakes its way along grassy canyon bottom. The hike is about 8 km roundtrip from where I parked and it covers some beautiful ground. There are other routes to the springs approaching from the south, but I’ve decided that this is definitely the prettiest approach. In addition, there are a number of interesting tent rock formations along the way.
Following the stream south, you eventually come to a crossing at the base of the eastern wall of the canyon where a foot trail starts up the canyon wall to the hot springs. The walk up the fairly steep trail tracks the warm flow coming down from the pools above. Reaching the top of the pools you come to a concrete cistern with a few culvert pipes coming out of it. I’ve read that the water issuing from the canyon wall into the cistern is about 125 degrees F (52 C) and the pool that the culverts feed into stays at about 105 degrees F (41 C). It is a pleasant temperature to knock the chill off. The canyon is steep here so the pools stay in the shade well into the day. I spend my solitary soaking time in the upper pool.
Some say the cistern and rock-walled pools were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the depression era but I’ve never seen anything definitive about that. They stay in fairly reasonable shape given that they are untended and get plenty of visitors. I like to go early on a weekday and I usually have the place to myself. This is a Santa Fe National Forest free, day-use only area.
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San Antonio Hot Springs Hike
San Antonio Hot Springs
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