There are a handful of hot springs in Washington, but most of them are a bit of a hike to get to. That’s why hiking Scenic Hot Springs in the Cascade Mountains is a goal many hikers around here have. You can hike this year-round, but you’ll want to prepare for it in advance.
These Steven Pass hot springs are one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Pacific Northwest. While you can access them anytime throughout the year, you’ll need different gear if you go when it’s dry out in the summer compared to a snowy winter day.
I did this hike last year and put together this guide to help you understand how to book your reservation and know what the hike is like for Scenic Hot Springs in Washington.
How to Book a Spot at Scenic Hot Springs
Many people have seen these stunning hot springs on Instagram and want to know exactly how to get there. The first thing you should know is these are private hot springs. That also means you can only get here with a reservation. You’ll want to get on it, as this is one of the best winter hikes near Seattle.
To make Scenic Hot Springs reservations, you’ll want to book in advance, as only 10 people are allowed per day in the hot springs. This is also one of the best things to do in Seattle in winter, or you can wait until it gets a little warmer for a fun Seattle spring hike.
I booked my spot in the winter during the weekday about three months in advance. If you want a weekend spot, you’ll need to book even further out.
To reserve your spot, go to the Scenic Hot Springs website. You can view the schedule on the side and see if there are enough spots available for the day you want.
If there are, you’ll see a few paragraphs that you’ll copy and paste to the email address listed. This is stating some basic information about yourself and your party as well as agreeing to the terms. For example, you can’t camp here overnight and you cannot bring any pets.
You’ll then click the “donate” button on the page and send $10 for each person that is in your party to the PayPal address listed. If you want to reserve the spot for the entire day, it’s $150.
After that, send the owner an email with the information you filled out and state that you paid the donation fee. If you get accepted, the owner will email you back to confirm your date. He will also send a very detailed description of how to get there.
While you can easily do this hike as a day trip near Seattle, many people love making a weekend out of it. I recommend checking out my list of the best Airbnb cabins in Washington to stay at to make the most of your weekend!
What to Pack for Your Scenic Hot Springs Hike
This is about a two-mile hike to get to the top, and you’ll gain about 1,100 feet in elevation. While this is moderate compared to some hikes in Seattle, it’s still a fairly steep hike. The hike during the summer months will be easier, but you’ll need to be prepared if you go during the winter.
You’ll want to bring the following on your hike:
- Change of clothes (for after you go in the hot springs)
- Garage bag (to put wet clothes in and to protect your backpack if it’s raining or snowing)
- Water bottle
- Hiking shoes
- Snowshoes (necessary in winter)
I also have a complete list of gear for winter hiking to check out if you want to make sure you have everything.
I wore my swimsuit underneath my long underwear during my Scenic Hot Springs hike so I didn’t have to worry about changing at the top. However, nudity is allowed here, so you don’t have to wear anything if you don’t want to.
To be honest, I attempted this hike twice because I failed the first time. The main reason was there was a huge snowstorm the night before and the trail was covered in fresh snow. I didn’t bring snowshoes the first time and spent 10 minutes post-holing to my hip with every step, so I had to turn around.
Since it’s a bit of a drive to get to the area, I recommend bringing snowshoes during the winter. The hike the second time around was so much easier, and if I didn’t use them I could’ve put them on the side of my backpack. There are many steep parts that may be icy, so snowshoes are essential.
How to Get to Scenic Hot Springs
Scenic Hot Springs is in the central Cascades by the Steven Pass area. You’ll take U.S. 2 and go past the town of Skykomish, after which you’ll start looking for the trail (the owner will email you exactly where to park when you get approved).
If you’re coming from Seattle and you reach Stevens Pass, you’ve gone too far, as it’s a little before that. During the winter you’ll likely have to park in a nearby parking lot and walk 1/4 mile on the snow wall on the side of the road or on the road itself. This part made me nervous, but just be careful and walk quickly.
During the summer, you’ll see a road leading to the trail that you can park on the side of. Whatever you do, don’t park on highway 2 or your car will get towed.
What to Expect on the Hike to Scenic Hot Springs
The first part of the Scenic Hot Springs hike is pretty easy and a slow incline through the forest. The trail is easy to follow, even in the winter, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.
You’ll then come out to an open field with powerlines and follow that up, weaving underneath them and to the side of them. This is the part where I could see people had tried to go in just their hiking boots but kept falling in the deep snow and turned around. Again, I highly recommend wearing snowshoes.
After the powerlines, you’ll head back into the forest. This starts to get steep, which means it’s slippery in the winter, so I had to go slower during this part. There are also some parts that may be dry, like in the picture below, so you’ll have to be careful walking on it with your snowshoes.
You will start to see signs for private property, which means you’re on the right track during your hike to Scenic Hot Springs. There will be several of these signs along the way to confirm you’re going the correct way.
The only part that was confusing to me was the “rock alley.” The trail will lead straight into a narrow path, which is normally the right way to go.
However, this will be partially or fully blocked with snow during the winter. You can head to the right of this and you’ll likely see footprints on an alternative route that others have taken. You’ll stay on this for a bit and then take a left up a hill to get back on track.
Visiting Scenic Hot Springs
When you finally see Scenic Hot Springs, you’ll follow the trail that goes behind them and drops down. However, be careful coming down when there’s snow on the trail. The hill was very slippery getting down, so I found it was easiest to take off my snowshoes and slide down.
Once you get to the Hot Springs, you can hang your clothes in bags up on the hooks that are provided. There is a small shack for a restroom if you need to change or go to the bathroom.
There are three different tubs, with the left one being the coolest and the right one being the hottest. I was surprised at how warm I got and had to switch out of the middle pool to the coolest one several times.
Enjoy your time here and get to know any neighbors you may have. We were lucky enough to have the place completely to ourselves. While 10 people are the maximum that can be here at a time, I’d say more than three people per tub would be pushing it as far as having enough space.
You can be here as long as you want during the day, so you could always bring a lunch to eat away from the hot springs when you want a break. While the owner does allow alcohol in moderation, you have to switch it to a container that won’t break.
I’d also be careful with not having more than a drink or two if you do, as the hot water will dehydrate you and you still have a two-mile hike back down.
Heading Back Down
I recommend changing into dry clothes when you’re done so you won’t be wet on the way down. You can either use the small restroom or have someone hold up a towel. Toss your swimsuit and towel in your garbage bag and you’re ready to head back down.
I found that snowshoes weren’t necessary on the way down, as it was much easier to navigate certain parts without it. Also, it was easier to hold onto my gear and just slide down at certain points. The only place you may want to put them back on is by the powerlines, as this was the deepest part when I went.
In total, it took me 1.5 hours to get up, but that included stopping multiple times to take pictures and for small breaks. Coming down only took 45 minutes. I recommend going early in the morning to increase your chances of having the place to yourself.
Visiting these hot springs near Seattle is a fun experience, so I hope this post encourages you to book a spot there!
Feature photo credit: Kelsey Gurnett