Hot Tub Hopping at Diamond Fork Hot Springs
6am. This is the unnatural hour we decided to start day two of our Salt Lake City trip. With limited vacation hours, our goal was to make every hour count. By 6:30 we were in the car heading one hour south of Salt Lake City to Diamond Fork Hot Springs. For all of our effort, we were rewarded with a fiery sunrise that was exceptionally difficult to capture from a moving car.
In my hurried vacation planning I had come across this hike here. This blog did a wonderful job of explaining how to get to the trail head. We pulled off the main highway into Utica National Forrest. As we headed down the deserted road, the fall foliage rose all around us. Golden yellows, russets, and reds dotted the landscape. Before long we came across a group of mule deer grazing on the side of the road. Then the road, fit for two cars, narrowed considerably not allowing much room if two cars meet each other. We were lucky not to pass another car.
As we entered the parking lot at the trail head, we grabbed one of the last spots. I had read that this hike is very popular on weekends, but I was hoping by arriving before 8am, we would miss the crowd.
We hit the trail which starts directly behind a pair of latrines. Be prepared to hold your breath because the smell will slap you in the face. Immediately we were forced to make a choice, turn left at the gate or proceed straight. Thanks to the great info provided by Barefoot Theory, we proceeded straight ahead on the trail.
The brisk air was refreshing as we made our way towards the hot springs. Sixth Creek bubbled along next to the trail. Yellow leaves coated the pathway. On the way to the springs, there is a gradual elevation change of a little more than 800 feet which had me shedding my coat quickly after beginning.
As we ambled along the trail, we passed a few people heading in the other direction. After about a mile in we crossed a footbridge. We were nearly halfway there. Here we began following Fifth Creek. I don’t know why people feel that they must always deface bridges by writing on them, but we did come across one interesting phrase.I’m not sure if that was to warn us that people like to skinny dip in these springs. Thankfully, everyone we met was fully clothed.
Within another half mile of so, we started to smell sulfur, a sure sign we were getting close. Small campsites begin to dot the creek bank as well.
Then the clear waters turned a cloudy blue. The blue waters in contrast to the fall leaves was something that my camera could not quite capture, but nonetheless, I demanded we stop and try.
We continued on for a few more tenths of a mile before the pools became apparent. There were so many of them. Their vibrant blue looked like something out of a Greek photograph. And after spending a little time exploring the area, I found a secluded place to change into my swimsuit.
A few other people were in the pools, but we found one to use for ourselves. Carefully, I picked my way over the slick rocks and dipped a toe into the perfectly warm water. It was just like sitting in a hot tub.
Each pool was a little bit different in temperature. We took our time sliding from one pool to the next. I can’t even explain how slippery the rocks are when trying to move from one pool to the next. When I walked, I kept my center of gravity low which helped considerably when I my feet slide out from underneath me. I hit the rocks hard leaving a bruise on my hip. Had I been standing up though, my injury would have been much worse. I highly recommend wearing hiking sandals or water shoes when moving about the pools.
My little slip and slide moment had me finding my favorite pool. It was formed by a small waterfall. I used that as my backrest and let the hot water spill over like jacuzzi jets.
We spent about an hour lounging in the pools enjoying the chill air and the hot water before making the 2.5 mile journey back to the car. The hike back was mostly downhill and went much faster than the gradual ascent me made to the springs. We passed many groups heading to the springs, and I was so happy we had foregone sleeping in this morning.
I love hiking when on vacation, and Diamond Hot Springs was a great payoff for the five miles spent walking to get there and back. I consider us lucky that the big group that had been lounging in the pools when we arrived left, and we had the pools all to ourselves. From my previous research, I understand that is not the case, especially on a weekend. Make time to take this side trip from Salt Lake City or Park City, you will not be disappointed.