Location Review: The Hobo Pool, A Great Free Hot Spring in Wyoming

The Not So Hot Pool at the Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The Not So Hot Pool at the Hobo Pool

What?  Another free hot spring, complete with showers, in Wyoming?  And it’s only 20 minutes off of I-80?  Why haven’t I heard of it before!?!  The Hobo Pool in Saratoga, WY isn’t particularly well-known, but it sure is nice.  Two pools for soaking (different temperatures) sit, warm and peaceful, next to an almost-new bath house and steps away from the cold water of the Platte River.  Although it was a bit difficult to find, it was well worth the time off the highway and worth the stop!

 


 

I’d originally found out about the Hobo Pool while looking for interesting and out-of-the-way destinations in Wyoming (still trying to sink my hiking boots into the Wind River Range, lol).  When we decided to go to Washington instead (and it was the perfect weather for it, so I can’t complain at all!) I wrote off any chance of Wyoming.  But by the end of the trip, we were so far south that we figured it would be faster to take I-80 home.  We also had an extra half a day to do something.  I did a little research and discovered something I hadn’t planned on: The Hobo Pool was only 20 minutes off I-80.  So I asked my group what they’d rather do for the last hoorah before we went home: Do another short hike around Mt. Hood, or soak in a hot spring?  The vote came back unanimous:  Hot springs ho!

 

The parking area at the Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The parking area at the Hobo Pool

We arrived in the middle of the morning.  We hadn’t worried about time too much because the facility is open 24/7 (apparently it’s quite the thing to go soak while the snowflakes are falling).  We had some trouble finding the place; our GPS told us we’d arrived while we were in the middle of nowhere and obviously nowhere near the right place.  We ended up follow the signs for the “Saratoga Hot Springs” which did eventually lead us up to a parking lot in front of a stucco building.  We scouted around a bit (you have to pay for the pool behind the building, so that’s what all the signs are about) before we realized we had to walk to the right of the building, follow the sidewalk, and then the free hot pools were on the left, with the free bath house on the right.

 

The path around the municipal pool building (and pool) to the free hot springs and bath house, Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The path around the municipal pool building (and pool) to the free hot springs and bath house

There are two pools; the first is the Hot Pool, and it really is hot.  I found it too hot, so I never got in over my knees.  The second, smaller, pool is the Not So Hot Pool.  I found it a very nice temperature and spent most of my time there.

 

The bath houses are clean and neat.  There aren’t any shower stalls (the showers simply come out of the wall) and there are no doors on the toilet stalls, but that’s ok since it seems to have been designed that way.  There are also benches and hooks for dressing.  Several people hung up their clothes and accessories while they went out and soaked, but we were more comfortable stuffing our clothing into backpacks and taking them out to the (very few) benches beside the pool.  (BTW, there are lights next to the pools so you won’t have to soak in the dark if you come after nightfall.)

 

The municipal pool at the Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The municipal pool

There are a few rules: No alcohol, No profane or obscene language, No dogs in the pool area, No nude swimming (attire required – though no one stopped me from wearing a t-shirt and shorts), No glass containers, and Please respect the rights of others.  I think those are pretty good rules in general, and I don’t have a dog, so they didn’t bother me at all.

 

Speaking of rules, there aren’t any about how long you can soak.  In other areas (like Thermopolis) there’s a time limit for your health about just how long you should stay in the hot water.  I know I start to feel lethargic and odd after being in too long, so I recommend only about 30 minutes or so, but as I said, no one seems to care or to be watching.

 

The

The “lobster pot” where the water flows into the Hot Pool. At the other end of this pool, it’s not as hot as right next to the inlet.

The only thing I found a little disturbing was the algae that grows in the hot pools.  I know lots of frequent visitors will tell you that the pools are clean and there isn’t any green scum, but when I visited in mid-August, it really was scummy.  Not enough to drive me off, and I didn’t get sick from it (at least, I’m still here – lol) but don’t expect a state-of-the-art spa, here – this is much more natural.

 

A nice touch was the gravel on the bottom of the pools.  I heard from the locals that if the gravel wasn’t there, the bottom would be sticky, oozy mud.  I’ve been to the hot springs in Big Bend National Park, and believe me, this is a huge improvement.

 

Another angle on the Hot Pool

Another angle on the Hot Pool

Speaking of the locals, they’re an interesting lot.  Some come to soak as doctor-ordered therapy; others just find they feel better after soaking or as something they enjoy.  They’re interesting to talk with or try not to eavesdrop on while they’re talking with others.

 

After a while, I got very hot, so several of us went over and dunked in the chilly Platte River that runs behind the Hobo Pools.  I liked the spot near where the Hobo Pool emptied into the river – it was still warm, but not as hot as the Not So Hot Pool.  Depending on where exactly you waded or sat, the water was warmer or cooler – nice!

 

The Not So Hot Pool - notice the lights? They're for swimming in the dark! Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The Not So Hot Pool – notice the lights? They’re for swimming in the dark!

The bottom line: The Hobo Pool is not as clean as some other free hot springs in Wyoming, but the laid back nature of the place and the fact that it’s not far from a major highway make it worth a stop if you’re in the area.

 

Fees: None.  Even the showers are free.  Go to the right of and behind the building that has signs about paying and you’ll find the free pools.

Facilities: Showers, toilets, trash cans

 

Road ★★★★☆

Signs ★★★☆☆

“Fun Level”: ★★★★★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

 

Key GPS Coordinates for the Hobo Pool:

Hobo Pool Parking: 41.45017N / -106.80338W (41° 27′ 0.6114″ / -106° 48′ 12.168″) (6,799ft.)

Bath House: 41.45002N / -106.80251W (41° 27′ 0.072″ / -106° 48′ 9.0354″) (6,799ft.)

Hot Pool: 41.45005N / -106.80248W (41° 27′ 0.1794″ / -106° 48′ 8.928″) (6,790 ft.)

Not So Hot Pool: 41.44999N / -106.80244W (6,794ft.)

 

The bath house - BTW, I wouldn't use the stairs into the pools as they're very slippery. You're better off sliding in over the edge of the pool. Hobo Pool, Saratoga, Wyoming

The bath house – BTW, I wouldn’t use the stairs into the pools as they’re very slippery. You’re better off sliding in over the edge of the pool.

Getting to the Hobo Pool

From I-80 in Wyoming, take Exit 235; turn south on WY-130E (toward Saratoga).  Drive 20 miles.  Cross the river and enter the town.  Turn left onto E Bridge Avenue; then take the first right onto S River Street and drive 0.2 miles.  Turn left at a crossroads just after E Hickory Avenue turns right.  The Hobo Pool is 0.1 mile later at the end of the road.  BTW, if you’re into small western towns, Saratoga is a nice one with shops, restaurants, etc.!

 

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