Wilbur Hot Springs: The Complete Visitors Guide

Wilbur Hot Springs is a haven of tranquillity and renewal. An ideal setting for introspection and quiet reflection, if you're willing to brave a few days of solitude without the use of cell phones or the internet.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about Wilbur Hot Springs so you can prepare for your trip there with confidence.

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    QUICK FACTS
    • 39° 2′ 19′′ North, 122° 25′ 15′′ West
    • 3375 Wilbur Springs Road, Williams, California.
    • Type: Developed/Resort
    • Temperature: 98-109 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Water composition: sulfate, calcium, silicate, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, carbonic acid, pH 8.0.
    • Fee: Yes (varies).
    • Hike-in access: No
    • Vehicle access: Yes
    • Number of pools: 3
    • Clothing is optional.
    • Reservations: Required
    • Phone: (530) 473-2306
    • Day Use: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

     

    Do you know that exercise, peace, and quiet lead to stress relief and that lowering your stress levels will benefit your health in the long run? This is a well-known fact.

    But, where can one find peace and quiet amidst the noise of our fast-paced everyday life?

    A nature preserve can give you the chance to experience this peace and quiet. Imagine being outdoors, surrounded by fresh air, beautiful plants and flowers, interesting wildlife, breathtaking views, and quiet. No worries, no distractions, no cell phones, no social media. Just you, nature, and healing hot spring water in which you can soak and feel refreshed.

    nature preserve at wilbur

    Wilbur Hot Springs offers you this and more. 

    Wilbur Hot Springs is located in an 1800-acre nature preserve, about 1.5 hours’ drive from Sacramento, California. It is an off-grid, solar-powered health resort that features clothing-optional hot spring pools, overnight lodging, dining, yoga, massage therapy, and other fun activities.

    A bit of history

    wilbur hot springs historical photo

    The story goes that in 1863, a wealthy congressman by the name of General John Bidwell was searching for gold when one of his men became gravely ill. When he was looking for a cure for this illness, some local Native Americans who had been frequenting the location of this hot spring for a long time told him about a source of powerful healing waters. 

    Bidwell took his man to the mineral springs, and there, the man experienced a miraculous recovery. Almost immediately, General Bidwell returned to San Francisco and Chico and started spreading the word about the curative properties of these waters, which emerge from the ground. The location of these curative waters is now referred to as Wilbur Hot Springs.

    Transformations

    Since 1863, the Wilbur Hot Springs site has been through a lot of transformations. In 1865, a man named Ezekiel Wilbur purchased the land, built a hotel with a wooden frame, and announced the opening of Wilbur Hot Sulphur Springs. 

    The location became a post office of the United States of America in 1909 and served as a way station for the local stagecoach until 1945. 1915 saw the construction of the site’s first concrete hotel. It was one of the first buildings in California to be constructed out of poured concrete. Over the course of several decades, both the property and those who owned it went through a number of transitions.

    wilbur hot springs

    In 1999, Dr. Miller, who was the owner at the time, purchased the neighboring valley, which was 1,560 acres in size, and he established a conservation easement on the property. As a result, the land that lies in the vicinity of Wilbur Hot Springs was designated as a nature preserve.

    A devastating fire occurred on the property in 2014, which ultimately led to the restoration of the historic hotel. Since that time, new guest cabins as well as other types of accommodations have been built on the property, helping to transform it into what it is today.

    Hot Springs

    wilbur hot springs

    The thermal water at Wilbur has a unique quality. The moment the water came into contact with my skin, I noticed there was a difference from other hot spring waters. The water felt silky to the skin and dense with a sulfurous odor. The water here has been analysed and all the mineral content in the water is known. There is a sign at the facility that displays the water profile. 

    The soaking pools are private and are located in what they call a fluminarium. That word was strange to me, but it is an open-air structure where the water is directed into three long channels (or flumes). Each of these flumes has average temperatures of 100°F, 105°F, and 109°F. When you step into these pools one after the other, you will notice the difference in temperature, even if you don’t measure with a thermometer.

    There is also a swimming pool that is cool and chlorinated in summer. In winter, it is fed with a mixture of hot spring water and cold water to give a warm (about 50°F) non-chlorinated pool.

    wilbur hot springs

    There are three showers and a changing room. You will also find a completely cold spring tub made from an antique bathtub close to the showers.

    Try alternating between the hot spring and the cold spring water to tone your skin and reap the other benefits of hydrotherapy. I tried it, and it was nice.

    Bathing in the buff

    Clothing is optional at the pools. This bit is very obvious. The four other visitors using the pools with me were bathing in the buff. I had a small amount of clothing on in my first soak session. But subsequently, I went in with my birthday suit and it felt so much better. Nothing beats soaking without clothes in these hot pools. That said, apart from the soaking pools, nudity is not allowed anywhere else in the facility.

    Please note that the hot spring soaking pools are only available to registered visitors. Also, note that confirmed reservations are required and walk-ins are not accepted. Day use of the facility is restricted between 10am and 5pm.

    Before you go

    Please note that:

    • Wilbur is a cell phone-free property. There is no cell phone reception at Wilbur Hot Springs. So no inbound calls, only outgoing calls on a particular designated phone. You will have to drive about 35 minutes from the facility to get cell reception.
    • You will have to cook for and take care of yourself here. The communal kitchen is fully outfitted for that.
    • There may be nudity here. If you are comfortable with that, then there is no problem.
    • There may be bugs like mosquitoes as well. The environment is all natural and wild.
    • This place is not a five-star resort. It is rustic in places, and the surroundings are wild. You will immediately notice that you are in the middle of nowhere here.
    • There are bugs and wildlife. Some of this wildlife encroaches onto the property. I encountered one on my way to the cabin at night.
    • Before you head out, get all the fuel and supplies you need from the nearest town. This location is in a remote location.

    What to bring along?

    • Towels 
    • Robe. You can wear robes to and from the clothing-optional soaking area.
    • Sandals or flip-flops
    • water bottle
    • Your preferred beverage
    • Sunscreen lotion, hat  and sunglasses ( in summer)
    • Blanket and layered clothing ( in winter)
    • Flashlight (if you are camping).
    • Hiking shoes to explore the nature preserve.

    When you get there,

    • It is important that you don’t drink the water in the soaking pools or submerge your head.
    • Don’t soak in the pools for too long. Break up your dip into short sessions. This is the safest way to use hot springs.
    • Endevour to use the showers after each soak session.
    • Visit the Fountain of Life geyser located on the property.

    Some rules for the bathing area

    • Before getting into the bath, you should always take a shower and scrub your body.
    • The area designated for swimming is a no-phone zone. Refrain from using cameras, cell phones, and other electronic devices there.
    • Be respectful of guests’ desire for modesty and quietness.
    • Please do not bring any food into the bathing area so as not to attract any wild animals.

    A note on the day use of the facilities at Wilbur Hot Springs

    Day use of the hot springs, swimming pools, and steam baths, as well as access to the Nature Preserve, is only available for 7 hours a day.. Day use of the facilities at Wilbur Hot Springs runs from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. No matter what time you arrive, you are required to vacate the premises by 5:00 p.m. and the day use fee is always the same amount, notwithstanding when you arrive.

    In order to make the most of your visit, I recommend you arrive no later than 10:00 in the morning.

    The day use fees are as follows: $59 USD per person during the week and $65 USD per person on weekends and holidays.

    Accommodations at Wilbur Hot Springs

    wilbur cabin

    Wilbur Hot Springs offers clean and beautifully fitted cabins, hotel lodges, and campsites.

    All the cabins feature a half bath and a queen-sized bed, and can only accommodate two guests at a time.

    Please note that campfires and stoves are not allowed on the grounds. However, campers can use the indoor spaces in the hotel and also have access to the hotel kitchen.

    DESCRIPTION RATES OCCUPANCY
    CABINS There is a queen bed and a half bathroom in each of the cabins. The ADA compliant cabins are cabins 9 and 10. Weekdays: $232 Weekends: $290 Holidays: $300 Double
    CABIN SUITE The Cabin Suite includes an outdoor deck, in addition to a separate kitchen and living area. It also has a queen-sized bed and a half bathroom. Weekdays: $304 Weekends: $380 Holidays: $390 Extra Person Charge: $125 Double
    HISTORIC HOTEL There are two guestrooms available at the Historic Hotel, each of which has a corner sink and a queen bed. Weekdays: $208 Weekends: $260 Holidays: $270 Double
    SOLAR LODGE PRIVATE ROOM The Solar Lodge has a total of 8 rooms, and guests have access to two half bathrooms. Each individual sleeping space is comprised of a ground-level sleeping area with a full-size bed, and a sleeping loft with either an additional full-size bed or twin-size beds Weekdays: $196 Weekends: $245 Holidays: $255 Extra Person Charge: $125 Double
    CAMPING The campsites at Wilbur are available seasonally from April to October. The sites are located about 600 feet from the facility and are accessible by foot. 1 person: $75 per night 2 people: $150 per night 3 people: $225 per night ,,,

    How do you get to Wilbur Hot Springs?

    wilbur entrance

    Wilbur Hot Springs is located in a remote area. You can get there using GPS, but make sure to have a print-out direction just in case.

    There is no hike-in access to this hot springs site. You can drive right up to the gate of the facility. When you get to the gate, open and close it behind you, then proceed slowly to the Temporary Parking Lot beside the hotel for check-in.

    From Sacramento to Wilbur Hot Springs,

    From Sacramento, take I-5 north in the direction of Redding. After approximately 49 miles of driving, you will come to the town of Williams. Take exit 578 onto Highway 20 West and drive for another 18 miles until you reach the intersection with Highway 16. From this intersection, take the first right to access Bear Valley Road. This is a gravel road. After approximately three miles of driving on this road, make a left turn onto Wilbur Springs Road. Proceed and make your way over the Silver Bridge. Keep driving for another half a mile and you will reach your destination, which is the gate to the Wilbur Hot Springs.

    This drive will take you about 1 hour 30 minutes.

    From the San Francisco Bay Area to Wilbur Hot Springs,

    If you are coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, this trip will take you about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

    Take I-80 East. Immediately after you pass Vacaville, take exit 56 for I-505. Drive north for 34 miles, then get onto I-5 North. Drive for about 18 miles and you will reach Williams. From Williams, take exit 578 for Highway 20 West. Continue on Highway 20 West for another 18 miles until you reach Highway 16. Turn right after this intersection to get onto Bear Valley Road. Turn left onto Wilbur Springs Road after traveling for about three miles on this road. Go ahead and cross the Silver Bridge. The entrance to Wilbur Hot Springs is a half-mile further down the road.

    From Napa Valley to Wilbur Hot Springs,

    It will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes to get from Nepa Valley to Wilbur Hot Springs.

    Follow Highway 29 North all the way through Calistoga. Take a right turn onto Tubbs Lane, and when you reach the end of Tubbs Lane, take a left turn onto Highway 29. Keep going straight for another 20 miles on this highway. You will cross over Mount St. Helena and travel through the town of Middletown as you make your way down to Lower Lake on this section of road. Continue on Highway 53 North for approximately 8 miles, and you will come to an intersection with Highway 20. From here, drive 18 more miles on Highway 20 East through Colusa County. After entering Colusa County, continue driving for approximately 3 miles before making a left turn onto Bear Valley Road. Take this unpaved road for about 3 miles, then turn left onto Wilbur Springs Road and cross the Silver Bridge. Continue driving until you reach the entrance to the Wilbur Hot Springs.

    Wilbur Hot Springs Map

    Healing Arts at Wilbur Hot Springs

    Apart from the hot springs, sauna, and nature preserve, Wilbur Hot Springs also offers what they call “Wilbur Hot Springs Healing Arts”. This comprises a 75-minute therapeutic session in one of the private creek-side cabins on most weekdays from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. 

    Any of these treatments will set you back $150 per session. You have to make appointments for treatments ahead of time and talk to the person giving the treatment about the details before the session starts.

    The sessions, which are administered by contracted healing experts, include the following:

    esalen massage

    Esalen Massage is a type of massage developed at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. In its most basic form, it is a relaxing massage that imitates the undulating motion of the ocean. By beginning the massage with slow, long, flowing strokes that travel from the top of your body all the way down, and back up again, the practitioner of the massage tries to invite and coax the body into a deeper state of relaxation. 

    The practitioner will pay attention to how your body reacts to the treatment, and as your muscles start to loosen up and get warmer, he or she will progress to working on the deeper muscles in your body.

    • Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is a form of treatment that is characterized by the insertion of extremely fine needles into particular points located throughout the body. These needles cause your body to release chemicals known as endorphins, which inhibit your perception of pain and help you feel more relaxed. 

    Traditional Chinese medicine places a significant emphasis on acupuncture as an important component. It is believed to be beneficial in the treatment of chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, migraines, and low back pain. In addition to the alleviation of stress and the promotion of weight loss, it is also used for general well-being.

    • Myofascial Release

    Myofascial Release is a type of physical therapy that involves applying manual pressure to tight or stiff tissues in order to loosen them up and make them more flexible or mobile.

    Most of the time, myofascial release therapy is done as part of massage therapy. Your massage therapist will start the treatment by lightly pressing on the body with their hands. When the therapist finds a spot that feels stiff, he or she will gently stretch and massage it to release the tension and make it more flexible.

    deep tissue massage

    Deep Tissue Massage is a type of massage therapy that is used to treat muscle strain or musculoskeletal injuries acquired during sporting activities. Your therapist will apply strong and sustained pressure to the deeper layers of your muscles and tissues, thereby increasing blood flow and reducing tension in those areas. 

    This type of massage is not for stress relief or relaxation because, during the application, it can cause a bit of discomfort.

    Other types of massage therapy available at the resort are: Swedish Massage, Thai Massage, and Sports Massage.

    Some Interesting and Unique Sites at Wilbur Hot Springs

    Before you leave the premises, endeavor to check out these unique sites.

    • Fountain of Life Geyser

    A geyser is a rare hydrogeological phenomenon that exists only in a few locations across the planet. Unlike the majority of geysers, which are steam-driven, this unique geyser at Wilbur Hot Springs called the Fountain of Life Geyser is gas-driven.

    The geyser is formed when carbon dioxide from an underground sea floor mixes with volcanically heated groundwater. The resultant pressure build-up pushes the water and steam through tube-like holes into the atmosphere, producing the geyser effect every 45 minutes.

    • The Wishing Tree

    the wishing tree

    This is an oak tree that is located on the property. When you get there, you will notice that there are a number of colorful tags that have been tied to the branches of the tree. You are welcome to jot down your hopes, prayers, and wishes on a tag of your choice and then secure it to one of the branches. 

    These tags with wishes will be taken off so that they can be set free and transformed at the facility’s annual New Year’s Eve bonfire.

    • Hiking and biking

    nature preserve

    There are miles of hiking trails to explore in the Wilbur Nature Preserve. Mountain bikes can be ridden on certain sections of the trails. You are welcome to bring your own bicycle, or you can use one of the bikes that Wilbur Hot Springs provides.

    Please be aware that the Nature Preserve closes at sunset during the winter months and at 8:00 p.m. during the summer months.

    Final Thoughts

    There are many things that make Wilbur Hot Springs special, and we’ve covered them all in this guide. Among the many attractions are the nature preserve, swimming pools, spa treatments, and the site’s unique geyser, as well as the accommodations and the primary draw, the mineral-rich hot springs. This hidden gem for nature-based personal retreats is definitely worth a trip. 

    Thank you for sticking with me this long. Please use the comments area to ask any questions you may have.

    Wilbur Hot Springs-FAQs

    Is Wilbur Hot Springs pet friendly?

    Pets are not allowed at the facility.

    Is there an airport close to the hot springs site?

    Yes. The Sacramento Airport is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away.

    Where is the nearest town to Wilbur?

    Williams. This town is 23 miles away.

    At what time of year is this hot springs site open?

    Wilbur Hot Springs is open all year round, 24/7.

    Is the internet available at Wilbur Hot Springs?

    Cell phone reception and internet access are not available here.

    Is RV camping allowed at Wilbur Hot Springs?

    RV camping is not allowed.

    Is parking available at Wilbur Hot Springs?

    Yes. Parking is available and it’s free.

    When is the busiest time at the hot springs?

    Wilbur Hot Springs is busy year round. This is why you must call to make a reservation before you go.

    Is a campfire allowed at Wilbur Hot Springs?

    Campfires are not allowed on the campsites.

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