On the way back from a weekend camping trip in central Nevada, we strayed off the main route to try to find the hot springs in Smith Creek Valley east of Carroll Summit on SR 722. On a previous trip through the valley, we had made an attempt to find the hot springs by memory of a map I had looked at months before. We had come close, within a mile, before we gave up, afraid of wasting too much gas or getting stuck. This time, though, I had GPS coordinates written down, and a very recent study of the map!
We followed the Campbell Creek Ranch road north for a few miles along the west side of the dry lake bed, and then turned onto a lesser used doubletrack road leading out to the lake bed and hot springs. Near the edge of dry lake bed is an area of much geothermal activity. Soon we found the first tub, a cattle watering tub filled by a pipe from a nearby spring. Hopping out of the vehicle, the first thing we noticed was a dead cow on its side just a stone’s throw away from the tub. Secondly, the water was pretty green with floating algae. It wasn’t exactly the postcard photo of relaxation. We continued along the road further to see what else we could find.
A little ways further down the silty road, we found a second tub. Still a few algae floaters, but no deceased bovines. We would check it out. The water coming out of the ground here is very hot, so it must be mixed with the standing water in the tub to get the right temperature. Seeing that the water was just about perfect when we got there means that someone had been there in the last few hours. A fire ring was nearby with a small stack of wood. I didn’t see any “private property” or “no camping” signs like I’ve seen at other hot springs in the area. Still, I think it’s more courteous not to hoard a tub when you’re not using it.
Spending the weekend out in dusty central Nevada made the slightly green hot water more inviting. Any reluctance to get in the tub soon passed as the soothing hot water took hold. Bricks on the bottom of the tub helped elevate the seating position and kept us off the slippery bottom.
After a quick soak, we were back on the road, eager to get home after a long weekend. Making the drive through Smith Creek Valley even more enjoyable was the blooming of the desert globemallow, which was all over alongside the road. We had seen amazing desert flowers all Memorial Day weekend, thanks to a wet Spring.
I walked to the end of the road to see if there were anymore tubs, but I didn’t see any. Had it not been for the dead cow, the first tub would’ve probably been on par with the second tub. It was nice that they were far enough apart for privacy as well. Although I’ve definitely been to better hot springs, especially one in particular nearby with cooler water that can be totally refilled upon arrival, the visit to Smith Creek Valley was very enjoyable. The solitude and expansive views of the barren lake bed and rugged mountains made it easy to overlook a little murky water. It’s definitely worth a stop when passing through!
If you go, the hot springs are pretty easy to find on a topo map. Special places like this are often maintained by the people that visit them, so make sure to leave the place as good or better than how you found it.