Fifth Water Hot Springs
Hot Water Therapy in Utah County
When it comes to hot springs, there are two types: 1. The springs that for all intent and purposes are commercial grade heated swimming pools. 2. Those left in a semi-natural state and have had little-to-no human intervention. Regarding the latter, it’s hard to beat Utah’s Fifth Water Hot Springs which are tucked away in Utah County’s Diamond Fork Canyon. With the annual East Coast invasion of Park City, better known as President’s Day weekend, we thought it wise to escape the Joey Fest and headed south for the day.
Diamond Fork Canyon is nestled off HWY 6 just past the town of Spanish Fork. As a rule, I try limiting time spent in Utah County at all costs, typically only passing through en-route to Moab or similar desert destination. However, Diamond Fork is a picturesque canyon filled with red rock, flowing rivers, and hot water that warrants a stop and further exploration.
Up until a few years ago, the trailhead was accessible by car year-round, however the Forest Service started closing the gate on the main road during the winter months, effectively turning a 4 mile jaunt through the woods into a 15 mile expedition. This wasn’t our first rodeo up in Diamond Fork, so we came prepared for the voyage equipped with bicycles. Last year we trekked in on skis, however, with the variable snow conditions, we found skiing in to be almost as much effort as walking. From the gate, it’s a six mile ride into the trailhead with little elevation change.
The warm weather and slushy snow pack made for a challenging ride, even with a fat bike, and left us semi-exhausted by the time we reached the trailhead. Here we dumped our bikes and ate a quick lunch to refuel. I’d advise proceeding on foot the rest of the way to the springs as the trail can get quite icy and it’d be easy to take a plunge into the river below on the more exposed sections of trail.
The canyon’s volcanic history is present throughout. Sedimentary rocks form many of the canyon walls and have created some peculiar rock formations. About ½ way in you’ll cross a bridge. You know you’re getting close as the sulphur smell grows stronger. There are several different pools of varying depths and temperatures to choose from, many of which, have been modified by industrious bathers to make for more comfortable lounging in the pools.
The springs offered a much needed relief from the trip in. We spent about 45 minutes in the water before feeling rejuvenated enough to make the trek back to the bikes. Though the work to fun ratio is on the high side, Fifth Water Hot Springs makes for a great off-the-beaten-path adventure. While spring and fall are peak season to visit the springs, I highly recommend making the trip during the winter. The springs turn the cold air extra crisp and offer a therapeutic dose of the wild.
A word of caution: In our past few visits to the springs, we’ve encountered several unprepared travelers, like hiking in Croc’s with no socks, a blazer, and no water unprepared. This is not a leisurely stroll into some hot springs. You are in a wilderness area with rapidly changing weather/conditions, and at the springs, you’re over 7 miles from your car and even farther from help should you need it. Wilderness rescue is expensive and can restrict access for everyone else, so don’t be a dumbass out there. Below is a gear list with the items in bold you should have at a minimum.
- 1 Liter water/person (minimum)
- Packed lunch and/or trail snacks
- Layers of clothing
- Waterproof boots
- Hat & Gloves
- Change of base layers
- Phone for emergencies
- Trash bag
For detailed directions and additional information on Fifth Hot Springs, please inquire via email.
Location: Fifth Water Hot Springs – Diamond Fork Canyon, Utah
Date: February 16, 2014