May also be known as Pulky’s Pool in hot springs books.
Hilltop is a new found favorite and one of the more scenic spots for a soaking tub in this region. Sitting out in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by marsh lands, this remote hot springs is a hike-in destination. No paved road, nor paved trail. The mountain and sky views from this tub are splendid, and if you time it perfect, you may have the place to yourself.
From US Highway 395 @ Benton Crossing Road – drive approximately 3 miles (passing dirt road Whitmore Tubs). Once you’ve crested a small hill, look for a gated dirt road on left, which leads a short ways, back through the sagebrush, to the parking area.
GPS coordinates: 37.6455, -118.8001
The dirt parking lot is adequate enough to handle a dozen vehicles, and this place is so well known, that it gets a fair amount of traffic at any time of year.
Rumor has it that Hilltop is one of the most visited hot springs near Mammoth Mountain; probably due to the proximity to the paved road. Cars and trucks, camper vans and RVs will be coming and going at all hours of the day and night. So consider yourself warned!
Gate and fence separate the parking from the trail, which leads a quarter mile (often over wooden plank boards) through alkali fields – out to the cement tub.
Only one, small makeshift bench next to the pool – and no tables, no seating, no facilities; Bring tarps, towels, ice chest and camp chairs (if you plan to stay a while).
Plastic PVC pipes and control valve adjust water flow and temperature. If the valve is left ON (wide open) overnight, the small tub will be too hot to soak in the following morning.
Camping options are pretty limited here. A small clearing for a tent, next to the parking lot; and one decent parking spot, large and private enough to call a camp site (at the dead end, past the parking).
The Eastern Sierra corridor of US Hwy 395 is far enough away that it cannot be heard from this spot.
BLM gate at the paved road entrance reads: road is closed seasonally – assuming you can walk in during snowy winter months.
Hilltop is one of several primitive hot springs in this immediate region. See Mammoth Hot Springs for more choices.
The Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains run the length of US Highway 395, through most of the eastern side of California. Mammoth mountain is a volcano, so naturally hot springs come with the package. These hot tub destinations listed here are mostly part of the Long Valley Caldera, an ancient volcanic table land. North of Bishop and near the snow ski destination towns of June Lake and Mammoth, California in Mono County, California.
(This region is not to be confused with Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, nor the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.)
Backroads Camping is allowed throughout Inyo National Forest, but there is private ranch lands mixed in w/ public lands. Respect property boundaries, and speed limits around gates and intersections.
Camp sites are not located next to the soaking tubs. A few may be within walking distance. Parking is often limited at these remote, public use hot pools. Total Escape TIP: Behind Lake Crowley: abundant, free camping – wide graded dirt roads (RV and passenger car suitable). Inyo National Forest Map is recommended.
Eastside of Highway 395
Casa Diablo Hot Springs near the Mammoth exit, is a location noted on most maps, but this seems to be the geothermal power plant for the region. If you are looking for hot springs tubs to soak in, you’ll need to get off the main drag for those beauties, way off the highway.
On to dirt roads
Inyo Forest Road #3S45
Hot Creek Hatchery Road
(near Mammoth Airport)
Minimal dirt road driving. A very popular spot where hot springs are located within the big creek, so you can feel cold and hot water flowing by you. Scalding can occur near vents underwater, so use caution when wading. Large parking lot overlooks the soaking area and creek canyon. Swimsuits required.
Benton Crossing Road
leads east, around Lake Crowley, to the small town and camping resort and inn of Benton Hot Springs
Inyo Forest Road #2S84
Benton Crossing Road
This rural intersection at US Hwy 395 is known for the little green church on the corner. Turn east off the highway on to this road > BENTON CROSSING.
Pull over, get out and stretch. Look at your maps, get the GPS out and then start your exploring. First timers might be able to find a soaking tub within half an hour, if you don’t get lost. Or get stuck in a muddy spot, which is easy to do at night.
Hill Top Hot Springs
also known as – “Hilltop, Pulky’s Pool”
Willy’s Hot Spring
also known as – “Wild Willie’s, Crowley Springs”
Inyo Forest Road #2S07
Whitmore Tubs Road
a major graded dirt road that leads north off of the paved road, becomes Owens River Road and connects back to US 395 many miles to the north.
Several primitive hot tubs can be found on dirt roads in this region, which lead off the main paved road. At night these remote pools can be hard to find – with no signage, no street lights and pitch black darkness. Plus the mud bogs and grassy fields all around make the landscape difficult to navigate. If you plan a nighttime arrival, then plan to drive in slowly around the pools, have your GPS handy and look for steam in the air. Cut your headlights if you see other cars or people, and proceed slowly.
Be considerate of others and friendly. Do not litter. Do not crank up music. Wait for others to finish soaking and do not rush anybody. Give others space and privacy to get dressed.
Whitmore Hot Springs
904 Benton Crossing Road Mono County Park w/ public swimming pool & day use fee
also known as – “Whitmore Tubs, Whitmore Springs”
Inyo Forest Road #3S11
Minaret Summit Rd
This wilderness region is located the on the west side of Mammoth Mountain, accessible by the paved Minaret Summit Road, which closes due to deep snow and is generally only open during summer months.
Red’s Meadow Hot Springs
developed campground w/ wooden sheds for baths: showers & tubs.
near Devil’s Postpile National Monument
also known as – “Red’s Meadow Hot Showers”
Iva Bell Hot Springs
remote, wilderness; hike-in hot springs.
south of Mammoth & Rainbow Falls, via trail #2622
also known as – “Fish Creek Hot Springs”
Mammoth Lakes area has several festivals throughout the year; a few ski and snowboard competitions, as well as mountain bike races. Mammoth is the outdoor recreation hub of the Eastern Sierra.
This summer mountain festival revolves around beer and live music, in the best spot to be in California’s 100+ degree hot weather – at 7000′ elevation, in the cool, pine forest (with refreshing lakes nearby).
A multi-day festival that screens independent features and shorts in the spectacular setting of Mammoth Lakes and the ruggedly beautiful Eastern Sierra. Traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend. There used to be a “Mammoth Mountain Film Festival”, but I guess this event replaces it.
California Camping Rentals: Outdoor gear rentals in California are more common in big cities with large retailers and harder to find in specific, small towns on the back roads. Plan ahead trying to rent gear. Recreation destinations such as Joshua Tree, Mammoth & Bishop might have rental shops, but finding a rental store in an unfamiliar area could be ‘just chancing it’.
Be sure, before you go.
DanaMite has revised this handy list for your wilderness vacation planning, recreational equipment and rental needs.
2020 UPDATE: Recently deleted 4 shops on this page, so don’t be surprised if more gear rental shops vanish.
There are many reason people rent gear. Tourists or vacationers passing through, wanting to experience a non-hotel night outdoors; Beginner backpackers wanting to try out equipment before committing to a big purchase; College students on an impromptu road trip; Novice cross country snow skiers; Doggy now packs in his own food & water too.
A new concept now being delivered is online gear rental, from camping to fly fishing. Seriously. They can ship you quality rental gear, and you can use it, test it, review it, all hands-on, out in the field. These 2 players in the West both ship nationwide. Imagine what else the web will rent in the future?
• Elevation: 7600′
• Number of Sites: 28
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – September
• Trailheads: McGee Creek, John Muir Wilderness
Mc GEE CREEK CAMP is located –
8 miles north of Mammoth Lakes exit
4 miles from Lake Crowley
2 miles from McGee Creek Canyon trailhead
Aspen trees line McGee Creek that flows down from the Eastern Sierra peaks. Autumn is short and sweet, when the fall colors come and go – usually within a week or two. First snow fall of the season is generally in October and the camp closes for the winter season.
Located about a mile away from Highway US 395 in the wide open high desert. Sage meadows w/ minimal trees at camp. USFS has built shade structures for each camp site, so your time here is not spent in direct sunlight. Summer can get hot and it can also be quite windy at this location.
Awesome granite domes of the western Sierra, plus a scenic recreational lake that is only accessible half the year. Home to “Hells Half Acre” – Mammoth Pool Lake is one of the lesser known reservoirs in the western Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s kinda hard to get to although it is located on the border of Yosemite National Park. Area is totally surrounded by granite creeks, hiking trails, dirt roads and wilderness. This Mammoth Pool is an hours drive, way back behind Bass Lake (off Highway 41), and NOT located near Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra.
Camping just outside of Yosemite. Although the National Park boundary and trailheads are near by, accessing Yosemite Valley for day trips from this location will be quite tiresome and difficult, with long winding roads and over 2 hours drive one way. Better to camp near Bass Lake if you wanna be convenient to Yosemite NP.
(loop road, backcountry route closed in winter months)
Near the town of Oakhurst and Bass Lake California, get off the main highway and head over to the small town of North Fork. Take South Fork Road 225 (Italian Bar Rd) to Minarets Road (#81) also called Mammoth Road. Side trip paved Auberry Road (#222) which skirts oak hills down to Redinger Lake Road. Hook up w/ Minarets Road (#81) that parallels the San Joaquin River on the forested ridge above, traveling 20 miles to Numerous developed campgrounds and primitive camping sites off this route. Mammoth Pool is a signed right turn down Mammoth Pool Road, a steep road w/ a couple of campground near the lake shore and the only public boat launch is narrow, one at a time and it is not paved.
The lake is closed to the public during May and the first half of June to allow migrating deer to swim across the reservoir. The reservoir is inaccessible following the first snowstorm, as the access road is not snowplowed.
Grizzly Road, a paved route that leads deeper into the woods and connects over to BEASORE. Back on the main route (Road #81) on the far north end of the loop, a narrow, paved side route connects Clover Meadow Ranger Station and the impressive Granite Creek Campground. Plenty water and hiking trailheads that lead into Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park.
Back on the main route (Road #81) – the pavement becomes dirt in some sections and the route loops down to Beasore Road (#7), which traverses past meadows and dense forest, and heads back towards Bass Lake.
backpacking, boating, camping
fishing, water ski, kayaking
Steep, rocky, gravel road, way up above (and behind) Convict Lake. 4WD may be needed during wet or snowy weather. High clearance is always advised. Locked GATE at the bottom means the NFS rangers have closed the route (seasonally) for deep snow, rock slides, avalanches, or other erosion hazards.
Laurel Canyon, US Hwy 395
Oldest, exposed rock in the Sierra Nevada mountains range. Buckling granite w/ volcanic rocks. Evidence of glacial activity including, terminal, lateral, and recessional moraines, glacial striations and polish, erratic boulders, and of course the numerous lakes. see more
Wanna vacation near a lake this season? So does everyone else in California.
“Mountains” & “lakes” are the top camping destinations sought by most web surfers. Be prepared to search for your ultimate lake side camp. Summertime is prime time at all water sources, so make your reservations, or better yet – find a secluded lake all to yourself. (4×4 may be required).
Lakes area recreation & camping sites in California
Primitive Camping Inyo National Forest – Eastern Sierra Car Camping
The mighty US Highway 395 runs from the Mojave Desert north through the eastern side of California, where the state line of Nevada meets. Mount Whitney and the tallest peaks run on the western range @ 14,000’+ the highest in elevation.
The Inyo Mountain range sits @ 11,000′ to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Major elevations but little vegetation, when compared to it’s neighboring Sierra range. The Inyos lay in the rain shadow of the taller western mountains – but still get snow. Plenty of primitive SUV camping on the dirt roads throughout this desert area north of Death Valley.
A more forested part of the Inyo National Forest is the Eastern Sierra region. Encompassing Mount Whitney & Mammoth Mountain area, plus the entire Hwy 395 corridor. This side of the Inyo National Forest is quite different that the desert range of Inyo.
Eastern Sierra back roads lead all over the place & may require 4WD. A high clearance 2WD can still get you to some awesome viewpoints & scenery. No picnic tables or toilets are available out in the boonies, but plenty of seclusion & vast open space wilderness. INYO Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping w/ no fees. See the Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need.
Open (free) Camping along Hwy 395
Monache Meadows – This high elevation (8000′) south Sierra Meadow is accessible by 4WD truck or SUV. Near Kennedy Meadows CA
Walker Creek Rd – quick camp in the lowlands; an easy in route camping near oaks & creek. Southside of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon. No RVs whatsoever.
Fish Slough Road – open desert camping w/ popular bouldering & rock climbing areas; near Indian Petroglyphs. N of Bishop, CA
Lower Rock Creek Road– signed turn off US Hwy 395. Only a couple good camp spots tucked away in the trees. Small creek, very overgrown, traffic noise minimal. Nearby Round Valley @ Sherwin Pass had a big wildfire in wintertime (dry) FEB 2015!
Road# 4S02 – Owens Gorge Road – N of Bishop behind Lake Crowley. Free RV camping w/ boulders & pines
Road# 2S05 – Deadman Creek – Camp in pine forest on creek; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Road# 2S07 – Owens River Road – Camp in pine forest, near hot springs; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Parker Lake Road – Camp along aspen creeks or in pine forest, near lakes; no facilities. E of Grant Lake on June Lake Loop (Hwy 158)
Coyote Flat 4×4 Bishop – just west of Bishop CA is a 4 wheel drive paradise, Coyote Creek – This steep dirt road is quite a climb. A true off-roaders dream of open space, great views, large meadows, & alpine lakes. Great primitive camping along creeks, in pine or aspen forest or near small secluded lakes. Real remote Sierra high country, usually only reached by backpackers, is accessible to those who dare to venture off the beaten path of Highway 395.
At the golf course keep your eyes peeled — from the highway take Schober Ln. / Underwood Ln. due west through a residential neighborhood to the backside of the town. Find the electrical power station to the left at the base of the hills. Veer onto the slightly paved /dirt road to the right of the station & continue straight up the sandy wash. 4×4 is recommended, since the lowest gears are needed for the careful climb. The road will begin to get steep & gain in elevation fast. The area up here changes with the mileage: passing pinyon pines on cliffs, topping off to high meadows & aspen lined creeks, finally reaching large towering pines & small alpine lakes with snow melt still visible. Basically TREE LINE. This region is most likely open only half the year, due to its high elevation of 8000’+ and winter snow.