Natural Hot Springs in the New Mexico Mountains
There's nothing quite like soaking in a hot spring after a long hike. In central New Mexico, north of Albuquerque and west of Santa Fe, sits the Jemez plateau, an active geothermal area that boasts several natural hot springs. Some of these, like McCauley Hot Springs and Spence Hot Springs, are either right next to the road or just a short hike in. San Antonio Hot Springs takes more work to get to, but that means there are fewer people and better views.
Jemez Springs is a small mountain town, located on Mew Mexico highway 4 at 6,300 feet above sea level. The road north continues up the mountain valley until it reaches the trail head for San Antonio Hot Springs at 8,000 feet. The hike from the trail head to the hot springs is six miles long, most of it along an access road. Signs warn that only high clearance vehicles should attempt to drive the five miles to the parking area. Four wheel drive isn't a bad idea either. Even if one does the six mile hike the route is not difficult, except for the elevation. At this height there is about half the oxygen available compared to sea level. Adjusting your pace and drinking lots of water is recommended.
The access road works it way up the mountain, providing beautiful vistas and forests of pine and birch trees. At the parking area the route turns into a trail that switchbacks it's way halfway up the east side of the valley. The water from the hot spring has been directed into four man-made pools that work their way down the mountain. The water is the top pool is about 110 degrees. The water then drains into each successive pool, making them a bit cooler as you move down. The pools are shallow but the water is very clear and the view is spectacular.
San Antonio Hot Springs is located in a national forest, which leads one of the more interesting facts about the springs. Nudity on national forest land is prohibited. All the official publications reminds you not to get naked in the hot springs. However, all the local papers and guide books tell you that you may encounter nudists at the springs. So while it's technically illegal to enter the hot springs au naturel, the prevailing wisdom is to enjoy the hot water in the way you are most comfortable.