Whether you’ve spent a bit too much time on the slopes or just need a day to unwind, Grover Hot Springs is the perfect place to rejuvenate. The 533-acre state park is situated in an alpine meadow of snowmen and sagebrush flanked by snowy Sierra peaks that stretch to more than 10,000 feet. Enough spectacular scenery here to trigger an avalanche of envious social media posts and make the 30-mile drive from South Lake Tahoe well worth the time.
The mineral pool is fed from six hot springs, and then cooled in a holding tank to an average temperature of 103 degrees.
Tendrils of steam rise and twist as I sink into the amber-colored water. The mineral pool is fed from six hot springs, and then cooled in a holding tank to an average temperature of 103 degrees. The groundwater heats when it seeps deep into the earth and makes contact with hot magma and rock. The hot water then rises through fractures, collecting minerals as it percolates to a hot spring.
The list of minerals in Grover Hot Springs is as long as Nana’s secret minestrone soup recipe. Sodium, calcium, bicarbonate, silica and sulfate are a few of the main ingredients, but fluoride, potassium, iron and magnesium are just as essential as they soak through the skin. While bathing, hydrostatic pressure rises, causing circulation and oxygen flow to increase. The benefits from an oxygenated circulatory system help to reduce stress and promote sleep.
The sun peaks over the eastern Sierra and lights the icy falls. A photographer’s fantasy or a picturesque place to relax with a Thermos of hot cocoa before rewarding yourself with a good soak in the mineral pool.
“After a good soak, I feel better inside and out,” says 83-year-old Yure Stankovich, after immersing himself and his knitted beanie. “I sleep like baby with no problems the next day.
Humans have used mineral baths as far back as the Bronze Age. People with chronic muscle pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis can benefit from a good Grover soak. The medicinal properties of the waters sulfur content can help to relieve the discomfort of eczema and psoriasis, as well.
Keep a watch out for Clark’s Nutcracker fluttering from tree to tree guarding caches of pine seeds.
Grover Hot Springs was established in 1959 and named for Alvin Grover, whose Alpine County homestead included the springs. Today, the park offers much more than a soothing soak. Winter activities include camping, miles of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, swimming in a heated pool (not the mineral pool), geocaching and sledding. Acres of sagebrush-scented meadow allow visitors to ditch the crowds and enjoy a secluded picnic or construct the snowman, or woman, of their dreams.
Frozen wonders at Grover Falls
I chose the Grover Falls hike, a 3 miler that starts at the parking lot just past the pools. The trail is usually compacted snow, depending on conditions, and snowshoes are often not necessary. Snow boots or good waterproof hiking boots with an ice traction device, such as YakTrax or Icetrekkers, is highly recommended. This is an easy to moderate hike that can be done with children. Across the meadow, a bridge spans a creek that winds through snowdrifts and granite. Follow the second sign into an open forest of pine and incense cedars. Beware of the Clark’s Nutcracker. These tough little birds flutter from tree to tree; sounding a threatening shrill, similar to frog’s croak, to guard the cache of pine seeds buried last summer.
The 3-mile trail to Grover Falls meanders through Hot Springs Valley and takes about an hour to reach.
The trail and creek meander through Hot Springs Valley and slowly gain elevation. You should reach the partially frozen falls within an hour. At noon, the sun peaks over the eastern Sierra and lights the icy falls. A photographer’s fantasy or a picturesque place to relax with a Thermos of hot cocoa before rewarding yourself with a good soak in the mineral pool.
Know before you go
- Bring plenty of food and water. The restaurants are closed for the winter, but the General Store is open.
- Trail maps are available at the Visitor Center.
- Most cell phones won’t work.
- Dogs must be leashed at all times.
- Roads are plowed, but stay icy long after a storm.
- Pools can be crowded and are limited to 50. Long lines can form and wait times can be disappointing, especially on holidays and weekends.
- There is a water fountain, changing room, restroom and shower, which can become crowded.
- Hot Springs are closed on Wednesdays.
- Pools are drained and cleaned every night. Bromine is used as a disinfectant and reacts with some of the minerals, causing the water to become discolored.
- Pool fees are $10 for adults and $5 for children younger than 16. Day use fee is $8 per vehicle if not using the Hot Springs.
Story & photos by Lisa Michelle
Call ahead to confirm operating schedule at (530) 694-2249 or visit parks.ca.gov.