Dramatic vistas! Tickling bubbles! Heavenly steam! Hot springs prove Mother Nature wanted us to luxuriate at one of these affordable spa escapes.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Where: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
What: Perched 5,200 feet above sea level in Banff National Park, this bathhouse has been around since 1932 and offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies, along with plunge baths, steam rooms, and soaking tubs that reach 104 degrees. Spend the night at Alberta's Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a sprawling, 125-year-old Scottish-style castle (from $269 a night).
While You're There: Drive 45 minutes on the scenic Trans-Canada Highway to the ethereal turquoise waters of Lake Louise. Feeling energetic? Follow the 2¼-mile trail up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, where guests have been enjoying pots of Earl Grey and fresh-baked treats since 1905.
Where: New Mexico
What: Indigenous Southwestern tribes bathed in Ojo's healing waters for ages, and in 1868, the first bathhouse was built on this rocky desert site. Today, visitors can bask in 11 pools-all fed by a natural aquifer, whose 80- to 109-degree waters contain iron and trace minerals believed to relieve everything from digestive troubles to skin conditions. Prefer a solo soak? Reserve one of Ojo's cliffside suites with a private outdoor tub (from $139 a night).
While You're There: Feast on tender house-made pork tamales and chiles rellenos at Rancho de Chimayó, a 48-year-old family-run New Mexican restaurant just a 45-minute drive away.
The Omni Homestead Resort, Hot Springs
What: After a three-week stint in 1818 to soothe his rheumatism, Thomas Jefferson praised this property's Allegheny Mountain hot springs as among the best in America. The crystal-clear water stays a body-warm 98.6 degrees year-round, and the sodium content is so high, you'll float. Plus, the Homestead Resort itself, a National Historic Landmark with Ionic columns, is straight out of a fairy tale (from $180 a night).
While You're There: Browse the vintage furniture and textiles at Ashwood School Antiques-it's chock-full of local estate-sale scores (540-839-2348).
What: Fueled by the world's deepest geothermal hot spring, this resort's 23 terraced mineral baths overlook the mountain-lined San Juan River. Overnight stays come with 24-hour access to the pools-for gazing at shooting stars (from $199 a night).
While You're There: Book a detoxifying full-body seaweed wrap-it includes a hearty, circulation-revving scalp massage-at the on-site day spa. If you're looking for a true Rocky Mountain high, the hotel also offers hot-air-balloon rides.
Where: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
What: Once a hangout for in-the-know park rangers, this spot's still one of Yellowstone's best-kept secrets. Three miles south of the park's north entrance-and half a mile from the parking area-a rock wall and billowy clouds mark the location where a thermal spring with temperatures of up to 140 degrees clashes with the colder water of the Gardner River, creating a series of hot tubs-from super-hot to tepid. Get a room at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and you'll be able to watch elk graze outside your window (from $87 a night).
While You're There: Sign up for a rollicking rafting trip on the Yellowstone River. Then chill out with a thin-crust pie at Yellowstone Pizza Company in Gardiner, Montana, where bison numbers among the exotic, locally sourced toppings (406-848-9991).
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