On Sunday, October 4th, I took my maiden hike to what we locals call the Diamond Fork Hot Pots to begin this project. I am no stranger to hiking alone and want the ladies out there to feel empowered knowing they are safe to do so. Hiking alone today was completely fine by me as I chose to wear spandex cotton blend leggings so I feared no judgement. At least not from any opinion I cared for. Plus I was free to take 100 plus pictures. It was a win all around.
The trail head, officially named Three Forks, has the GPS coordinates of 40.08 Latitude and -111.32 Longitude. In layman’s terms, head south up Spanish Fork Canyon via Hwy 6 from lovely Spanish Fork, UT, (my hometown) past the Escalante historical marker, (big cross on the hill toward the West) and the impressive, giant wind turbines.
On the way up there are a few things to visit. If you see big, orange signs advertising jerky for sale, GO BUY SOME JERKY! I stopped and chatted with an old cowboy who offered me some samples for stopping in and informed me he was there every weekend during the summer; weather permitting. I unfortunately did not have cash on me, (no cards accepted) but I won’t make that mistake again. It was my first time tasting buffalo anything and a part of me died of happy. The man knows what he’s doing.
Just a little further south from the Diamond Fork turnoff you’ll find Hwy 89 and the remnants of the small town of Thistle, which was destroyed by flooding and a massive landslide in 1983. There is a view area where you can see where the mud flow dammed up the river, creating a reservoir and ultimately destroying the community. There is also the Spanish Fork River Park if you need to let some kids or doggies release their wiggles.
The trail head is approximately 10 miles past the Diamond Fork turn off, which is on your left at about mile marker 184. Don’t miss it! Then while you’re at it enjoy the beautiful drive full of meadows, trees, the occasional rabbit or deer, and the intermingling of red sand stone painted across the hills. Be careful however of free range cattle in the warmer seasons. You don’t want to end up with a bovine friend on your windshield.
You will see various picnic and camping areas on your way to the trail head, such as Red Ledges picnic area, (day use and also a bit of bouldering should you have your climbing shoes handy) Diamond Fork Campground, (fee area with water and bathrooms) and Dry Canyon Campground (non-fee with no water and one bathroom). Depending on how primitive or social you want to be, I highly recommend either CG, with a slight preference being Dry Canyon. Because people. But that’s me. I don’t tolerate crowds well.
The Three Forks trail head will be on your right just past the campgrounds. Bathrooms are provided here as well. There is an adjacent parking lot making the journey no match for my Super Mom sedan. Should you find yourself to be more adventurous and with a beefier vehicle, you may continue to drive through to Strawberry Reservoir or out Hobble Creek Canyon in Springville. But I only went to Three Forks so this is what you’ll get. If you still crave adventure, the trail is open to horses and bikes; motorized or non. Sorry, no 4-wheelers.
This day was a perfect day for hiking and I have to say, I was particularly excited for this expedition. I spent my entire childhood in Spanish Fork, yet I’ve never had the experience of this trail nor the hot springs. It was a perfectly beautiful day for hiking in Utah. You have to learn to roll with the indecisive weather here. Sunday I was absolutely sure it was going to rain on me as the grey clouds ominously clung to the mountains above my destination. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when the sun broke and I had a perfect mixture of sunshine, clouds, and crisp autumn temperatures. Always a good idea to dress in layers! Be sure to take the open trail, not the one over the gated bridge. That will take you someplace I have yet to figure where.
I was blown away. I could not believe this beauty was in my own “backyard” and I had never experienced it. The trail was accompanied by the beautiful sight and sound of a roaring river. Yet I usually drown everything out with music. Always be mindful of your surroundings when choosing this option. There are rattlesnakes in the area and perhaps an unsavory creature or two. It’s always a good idea to bring pepper spray or another form of protection when hiking alone, which I failed to do. …Don’t tell my dad.
The trail was lined with beautiful fall leaves and a hint of pine in the air. The closer you get to the springs the more aware you will become of the sulfur smell due to the geothermal activity. So not to worry: It’s neither you nor your date. I dipped my toes into the stream and felt the amazingly perfect warmth dance around my toes. I was deeply disappointed I was coming for research and not pleasure. I would loved to have dove in. The springs have been built into pools, so it is an area full of “natural hot tubs”, complete with a waterfall. This had to have been one of THE most absolutely wonderful hikes I’ve been on.
Be on your guard, especially if you are with children. Occasionally the bathers will neglect to wear suits. There are also patches of erosion on the trail so you will want to keep your animals, both human and furry, close by in these areas.
General synopsis of the hike is that it is approximately 2.5 miles, making it 5 miles round trip. It is a moderate hike with ups and downs; twists and turns. I was sore the next day, seeing as how it’s been a few weeks since I have gotten out. It took me about 2 hours in and out, without taking a dip.
Depending on the temperament of your children, this may or may not be a child-friendly hike. My children are avid hikers (against their will) and I know I would be bringing lots of snacks with the promise of spectacular water fun. Speaking of water, be sure to bring plenty of it because… we’re in the desert. And the heat of the springs will be sure to dry you out. Remember there is a rule of “pack in, pack out.” Please do us all a favor and clean up after yourself. Don’t be gross.
If you’re hungry when you come down, Spanish Fork has grown tremendously since I’ve moved away and there are a plethora of eateries. However, I suggest the old “Mom and Pop’s” like Little Acorn at the mouth of the canyon, Glade’s Drive Inn, (300 South and Main; both open on Sunday) and Barry’s Drive Inn (200 South and Main).
All in all… HIGHLY recommend this hike.
Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or any questions and we will be more than happy to answer!
I took my monsters on this hike for Fall Break. They protested, but relented with the promise there would be “hot tubs” to reward their arduous journey. Apparently my children are part frat boy and that got them on board. We brought snacks and no devices, apart from my phone for its camera. They didn’t hate it and really loved taking a dip in the warm water, among other things, like the rocks that looked like castle walls and the cows that blocked our path. Be sure to wear aqua footwear as the water can be very hot in places. It was a bit long, but I’m pretty sure they would go again. Granted, my kids are used to me dragging them along for such things. 😉