Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter

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Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
Diamond Fork Hot Springs is one of Utah's must-see places! Offering four pools ranging in hot temperatures, it's a great place to soak away your worries, take in nature, and relax. Hiking to Diamond Fork requires a 2 mile hike in Summer, and in Winter it's 6 miles one way. These hot springs are extremely popular so don't count on getting any alone time. However, the hike in and soak is well worth it - you might even make some new friends depending which pool you sit in! Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter does require more effort and planning, but in my opinion it's much more enjoyable in Winter and you get to see the canyon covered in snow. Pack your swimsuit, a thermos of hot tea or cocoa, and get ready to soak!

From SLC, head south on I-15 and take exit 257 B-A for Highway 6 heading East. Drive about 11 miles and look for the brown sign for Diamond Fork and turn left. Drive another 6.5 miles until you reach the winter gate. Here is a driving map.

Distance: 12.4 miles RT
Elevation gain: 835 ft
Time: 6-8 hours (including a 2 hour soak)
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, but the distance may be too long for younger kids
Fees/Permits? None

Can my dog hike with me off leash? Can dogs swim in the pools?
Yes to both. However, be advised that not all dogs do well in water temperatures above 100F. Please be courteous of other swimmers and make sure your dog doesn't shake off or step on other people's stuff. Bring a long line just in case you need to tie your dog up to a tree if others aren't comfortable with dogs in the area. You also need to bring along your own dog poop bags - none are provided.

Should I bring microspikes, snowshoes, or both?
It really depends on the snow pack. If you are hiking here right after a big snowstorm, then you will need snowshoes. If you hike after a few days after a storm, then road will be packed down from other hikers and you can hike without microspikes. I brought my microspikes just in case and only used them on the actual trail (not the road).

Can I ride my fat tire bike here?
Yes, definitely! If I were to come here in Winter again I would do a fat tire bike to get to the hot springs faster. You can rent fat tire bikes from a few outdoor stores such as Hyland Cyclery for $50/day.

Is it as crowded like it is in Summer?
No. There are still plenty of people coming here on weekends though. To avoid the crowds hike during the week, and not around the holidays. We started hiking around 9:30am, and didn't pass anyone else hiking in. When we left the hot springs at 2pm, we passed probably 30 hikers coming in.

Do I need to bring anything special with me?
Aside from dressing appropriately and layering, make sure to bring a towel to dry off. I also carry my Chacos with me so I don't have to walk around on the snow, and I bring 2-3 plastic grocery bags (per person) to put my wet swimsuit and towel in before hiking back out. I also brought some beer and a hot thermos of tea. Something fun would be to bring along a Jet Boil to make hot chocolate on the spot!

When does the gate open/close?
The gate usually opens up around Memorial Day weekend, and closes at the first big snowfall of the season (typically October).

Just a word about trash - there are no trashcans on the road nor the trail, so please Leave No Trace and carry out what you pack in! Let's keep it clean. The restrooms at the actual trailhead were open, but don't count on it every time.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 The winter gate/parking area is 6.5 miles from the HWY 6 turn off; the parking lot will be on your right (south) side.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Walking up to the winter gate from the parking lot. It was a brisk 10F.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 You'll pass the Red Ledges Picnic Area on your left.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Diamond Fork Canyon is an open-range area. We passed a family of 4 cows.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 It sure was cold! I kept warm by wearing all of my layers, plus my PolarTec fleece headband from Fitness Fox. Sunglasses will help on sunny days from all the reflection off snow.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 You can see how well packed the road was. 
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 At 4 miles, you'll see the Three Fork Trailhead sign and "No Trailers Allowed". This is the TH for hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs. In Summer, this is where the trail actually starts. From here, you only have 2 miles to go. It took us 1 hour 15 minutes to reach the TH from the Winter gate. We were hiking a fast pace since it was so cold out. Most people will take closer to 1:30-1:45 to reach this point.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 The trail begins to the right on the restrooms, passing the gate. Do NOT turn right after this gate - keep hiking straight.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 It was a winter wonderland on the trail! We were now in the smaller canyon and in the shade, so it became even colder.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 The trail is sooo pretty in Winter!
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 I just love the white, snowy trail against the upper Red Rock canyon.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
For the first mile, you will be hiking along Sixth Water Creek.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Around 1 mile, you will cross the bridge.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Another frozen photo of Sixth Water Creek.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 After the bridge you will turn East, and will now be following Fifth Water Creek. Many people call Diamond Fork Hot Springs, Fifth Water Hot Springs. They are the same thing, it's just that calling it Fifth Water Hot Springs is now considered "out of date" to the new name. You will know you are close to the hot springs when you smell sulfur, or a rotten egg smell. 
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 One mile past the bridge and you will finally reach Diamond Fork Hot Springs. Find a spot to change into your swimsuit and get ready to soak!
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
When you first arrive to the hot springs you'll see two pools, about the size of two pool tables. About 6-8 people can fit comfortably. The upper pool is warmer, since it's closer to the hot spring source. The cooler pool is with these three people below. The further away from the hot water source, the cooler the water will be.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Charlie soaks it up! He loves sitting in hot springs with me. Dogs can safely swim and drink the water here - he has never had a problem from either. It actually really relaxes him, and as usual, loves to sit in my lap.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 Charlie wades his way in to the first pool. 
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
This is what Diamond Fork Hot Springs looks like in October - no snow, and pretty leaves.
Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter
 If you walk up another 100 yards from the first pools, you will find the waterfall and the source of the hot water. The water is hottest in these pools, but it can fit closer to 20 people comfortably. Test the water in each pool to decide what temperature you can handle. Most people stay and soak for at least one hour - we soaked for 2 hours.

While nudity does happen here, especially at night, it's actually against the law and there have been reports of this being enforced (more so in summer months). Strip at your own risk!

Trail map - Winter.

Also check out...

7 Reasons why Winter is the Best Season to go Hiking in Utah!
7 Reasons why Winter is the Best Season to go Hiking in Utah!

(great year-round!)
Hiking to the Spanish Fork Cross, Spanish Fork Utah

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Hiking to Diamond Fork Hot Springs in Winter


Jessica said...

Hi Alicia,
The Jet Boil hyperlink is leading to Microspikes. But I looked it up and am definitely going to get one. Thank you for posting, your suggestions are always needed and so helpful!

Alicia Baker said...

Thank you, I fixed the link :) And thanks for liking my blog! -Alicia

Heather Purnell said...

Winter is my favorite time bringing my jet boil places and making hot coco while picnic-ing in the snow! -Heather @ ExploreWithHeather.com

Robyn Barnes said...

This is a great trip report, but dogs and hot springs are generally a bad mix. I wish you would post a warning, like:

WARNING!! Dogs can seriously overheat in the springs. They cannot sweat, but dissipate heat through panting. Anything over 102 degrees is extremely dangerous for a dog.
Be respectful of others:
- not everyone wants to soak in 'dog soup'
- make sure your dog doesn't shake off near people or their belongings.
- make sure your dog doesn't trample mud on people's belongings.
- not everyone is comfortable around dogs. People go to the springs to relieve stress, not increase it.
- Do not let your dog fight with other dogs, or disturb natural wildlife.
- Think about the next people to visit the spring. How long will it take for the dog hair and germs to clean out of the pools?

You would think that most dog owners would be aware of other people and respect their spaces. Sadly, at Diamond fork responsible dog owners are rare. Most soakers hate to see dogs up there because their owners are selfish, and don't care about the trouble their dogs may cause.

Alicia Baker said...

All good points - thanks Robyn! -Alicia

Katie Arruda said...

Hey Robyn,

These are great rules dog owners should follow in all public places. I have been to Diamond Fork (also with my dog, and my friends dogs) and have never seen heard of or had any issues with dog poop, "floating dog fur" or anything of the sorts. I have never had any issues with dogs actually. In my opinion, dogs tend to be much more respectful of humans and the environment than people. The constant problem I see at these hot springs are human induced, I.e. nudity, vulgar language, and insane amounts of garbage. Wow was I amazed by the garbage. Hopefully we can all work together to be responsible and keep the Hot springs open to dogs and humans for the future.

Katie @ Katie Wanders

Robyn Barnes said...


My friends and I go to those springs quite often. In our experience, dogs are a problem there about three out of four times. Thank you for being a responsible dog owner.

You are right in that the bigger problems come from people. The trash is getting awful. It's sad how people are quick to take advantage of hard work done by others, but can't even clean up after themselves.

Shameck said...

Thanks for all the info. Very well explained.

Spencer Clegg said...

I see you posted a screenshot of your Google Earth track. Can you post the KML or KMZ so we can check it out in Google Earth?

Alicia Baker said...

I actually don't save the files, nor know how to do that - sorry! :/

Spencer Clegg said...

No worries. I went ahead and created the Google Earth file. I posted it to my Dropbox. The link won't be there forever so feel free to download and post it if you want.


Leah Doyle said...

So it says it's open May-October. Can I go in Dec/Jan? Thanks for the post & help!

Alicia Baker said...

Yes! I just meant to say that the road is only open during those months (i'll update that to make it clear). It's better in winter -less people! It's just a longer hike in. -Alicia

Spencer J. Ellison said...

thanks for the info!

Suzy said...

Hi Alicia! Thanks for posting these great hiking guides. We especially love the ones in the Moab area and use those all the time.

Just a heads up, we went to these hot springs today and called the ranger station, it seems like they have actually moved where the winter gate is now located. I forgot to drop a pin where the new gate is but now from the gate to the actual trailhead in the winter is only 1 mile and then the remaining 2 miles for a 3 mile hike into the springs.

Alicia Baker said...

Oh wow! That is good to know, and I'm glad they reduced the milage. Thanks!