Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga…a natural wonder!

Most people, if they’ve heard of California’s Napa Valley at all, associate the region primarily with its wine grape production, however, long before commercial viticulture and the success of an abundant wine industry the area was identified by geothermal springs and aquifers, filling pools with super-heated water as well as a bottled water business.

Calistogans have been enjoying these natural wonders for more than 150 years, but there’s evidence that the Wappo, the indigenous people of the Napa Valley, bathed in the springs for centuries, using the hot mineral water and mud for soothing aches and pains.

Gold Rush tycoon Sam Brannon introduced commercialization of the geothermal baths when in 1862 he offered the public a hotel, cottages, steam room, mud baths and even a racehorse track.

When invited to join our son, daughter-in-law and infant grandson to relax a couple of days at Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga, we didn’t hesitate.

Indian Springs sits on part of the original Sam Brannon enterprise.


Robert Louis Stevenson, a visitor to the resort around 1880, wrote in his “Silverado Squatters,”

The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena is full of sulphur and of boiling springs…and Calistoga itself seems to repose a mere film above a boiling, subterranean lake.


The heat source comes from a magma chamber linked to the area’s volcanic activity, resulting in water scalding to the touch, but classified as low to moderate in temperature–for a geothermic aquifer!

It’s still hot! Surface temps are typically near 212 Fahrenheit and beneath the surface closer to 300.

This curved hillside bowl was formed by a volcanic blow out occurring millions of years ago. The ash used in the spa’s mud baths was deposited then.

The precise makeup of the underground system is not yet fully understood, but I can attest to the fact it is fully relaxing!

The opposite of a home jacuzzi or hot tub, the water doesn’t need to be heated, but instead cooled enough for guests to take a relaxing dip. The temps during our visit hovered around 104 relaxing degrees.

High concentrations of boron, chloride and fluoride, plus low concentrations of sulfate, iron and bicarbonate crystallize into beautiful jagged and colorful shards resulting in clogged pipes requiring continual maintenance.

Calistoga has much to offer in relaxation. It is a charming town and offers a pace completely unlike my every day experience.

Calistoga sits 75 miles north of San Francisco and 425 miles north of Los Angeles.

It’s worth the drive (or short air flight) to unplug and breathe lighter.

36 thoughts on “Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga…a natural wonder!

  1. mihrank March 17, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    this is so well presented, as I remember Indian Springs with great memories and great property to stay in. The trip and walking in the are is simply beautiful!!

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 8:21 pm

      I am so glad you know Indian Springs and the beauty of the area. It pleases me that I could share this with you. Thank you!

  2. Gerlinde March 17, 2018 / 8:00 pm

    The pool in Indian Springs is my absolute favorite place to relax. I find it almost spiritual, especially on a rainy cold day. I love this place and thank you for this informative post.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 8:18 pm

      How terrific that you know Indian Springs so well, Gerlinde. I am certainly hoping we will have an opportunity to visit again. It is very special and I tap into the way you’ve described it–almost spiritual–and I understand that comment! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your appreciation for Indian Springs. I do hope things are well with you.

  3. nrhatch March 17, 2018 / 8:09 pm

    Sounds wonderful, Debra. And I LOVE the new look of your blog ~ the photos look great. Like postcards from the past.

    Here’s to traveling at Zen Speed!

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 8:05 pm

      I actually thought of you with the Zen Speed sign, Nancy! It’s cool isn’t it? Thank you for noticing the changes in photography. I’ve found a fun app and I can’t stop playing with it! I didn’t think I needed another distraction, but… LOL!

  4. Andrew Reynolds March 17, 2018 / 8:58 pm

    Been too long since I’ve been up there. It’s a wonderful place, glad to hear you folks got to go there.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you, Andrew. Now that we make it to Oakland several times a year we may actually get to know the area much better. It certainly calls to me. πŸ™‚

  5. clinock March 17, 2018 / 10:57 pm

    Fascinating post Debra, thank you. Being a hot springs aficionado this is now on my bucket list.

  6. restlessjo March 18, 2018 / 2:01 am

    It looks wonderful and thanks for breathing some warmth on this frozen northerner. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ I’d heard of Calistoga but had no idea how pretty the surrounds.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 6:23 pm

      I know that our temps are generally warmer than you experience this time of year, Jo, but in Calistoga it was a good 20 degrees colder than our Los Angeles climate. That made the hot springs really delicious. I would walk to the pool shivering, and come back to our cottage super-heated. LOL! It was truly a lovely experience.

  7. Kate Crimmins March 18, 2018 / 6:08 am

    Looks like a great destination for pure relaxation! I love anything heated.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 6:17 pm

      My daughter-in-law had been to Indian Springs before and enjoyed it so much she organized this trip! I think frequent dips in these pools could cure almost anything. LOL! At least it felt that good!

      • Kate Crimmins March 19, 2018 / 6:00 am

        You are lucky to have your family close by.

  8. aFrankAngle March 18, 2018 / 6:38 am

    I can see you having Zen moments here. I’ve been past Calistoga as we were driving north heading out of Napa on the way to Sonoma. Beautiful countryside indeed. Besides – I believe one of our favorite stops is just north of Calistoga – Storybook Mountain Vineyards.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 6:11 pm

      I don’t know Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Frank, but I love that name! Now that my son and his family live so much closer to this region I am confident we’ll be visiting more often. I will be looking for Storybook! That would be fun for me!

  9. Chatter Master March 18, 2018 / 7:00 am

    Sounds like a fantastic place to live, not just visit!!!

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 6:09 pm

      It would be a wonderful place to live, Colleen. Sometimes I say that and friends challenge me thinking a town like Calistoga would be too small and lifestyle too slow for me…let’s just say I’d love to give it a try! πŸ™‚

      • Chatter Master March 20, 2018 / 1:49 pm

        That makes two of us. I have long believed I could live on Inishmor, an island of Ireland where my father’s family comes from (and still is). I have had some question that, saying it is too small. In my head it would take me a very long time to know it all, which is what I would want to do. And people have lived there for generations. And generations. And beyond. πŸ™‚

  10. Gail March 18, 2018 / 8:30 am

    What a great get-away! Sounds wonderful, Debra!

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 5:51 pm

      It was truly special for us, Gail. We went along, in part, to be a “baby handler” so his parents could spend more time in the spa areas. He wasn’t so sure we were the best substitutes. LOL! But we had fun!

  11. Jim Stewart March 18, 2018 / 8:51 am

    Fascinating. I’ll be visiting Napa at the end of July and will check it out.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 5:50 pm

      I am so pleased you’ll have a Napa trip in July, Jim. I loved the little town of Calistoga. This was a first for me!

  12. colonialist March 18, 2018 / 12:26 pm

    Visits to mineral springs are always enjoyable experiences. You are lucky to have that one handy.
    We used to go to one a day trip away where the quaint custom had grown up that any sort of clothing/bathing costume was frowned upon. Amazing how natural it soon seems to go au natural! I don’t know if the custom persists, though.

    • Debra March 18, 2018 / 5:46 pm

      It’s funny you’d mention the “sans clothing” custom. I believe that as a child I accompanied a grandmother to a hot springs, not this particular one, and although I don’t recall if we were in a private pool perhaps, I seem to recall no clothing and being shocked. I was probably around 5 years old. It’s been years since I remembered this experience. πŸ™‚

  13. philipstrange March 19, 2018 / 1:03 pm

    But did you have a mud bath, Debra? I recall when I lived in Berkeley, some of my more “outgoing” work colleagues going north to mud baths, might this have been Calistoga?

    • Debra March 20, 2018 / 8:52 am

      No, Philip, I didn’t have the mud bath. It was an extra amenity and I decided against it. But I’d like to return and that would be a good addition. Your memory could very well have been from Calistoga. They use some of the volcanic ash in their mud baths!

  14. Jacqueline King March 20, 2018 / 8:19 am

    Looks and sounds fantastic Debra! The temperatures here in the UK at the moment are just above zero, with the windchill bringing them down to minus figures. My body aches from tensing against the persistent cold, so while I was reading your brilliant descriptions I was breathing deeply and imagining myself immersed in hot, healing waters. Thank you for that soothing mid~afternoon mini~break! πŸ™‚

    • Debra March 20, 2018 / 8:49 am

      I shiver just thinking of how cold you must be, Jacqueline. I hope there is warmth coming your way soon. Our dips in the hot springs pool was truly luxurious. We commented on how regular exposure would surely erase age if we could only avail ourselves. LOL! A nice hot bath will have to do, I suppose. πŸ™‚

  15. lifeonthecutoff March 20, 2018 / 5:41 pm

    Oh, Debra, how I enjoyed reading this and seeing your photos. I do recall reading somewhat about Indian Springs, but, never thought I would want to see it. Silly me – of course I would. How relaxing and rejuvenating the pool and the entire environment must be.

    When the girls were quite young, on a trip to Colorado, we spent a day in Glenwood Springs, which sounds similar. It was so relaxing and the girls still talk about it, though they weren’t even teenagers yet. Ah . . . to breath lighter.

  16. thefolia March 25, 2018 / 6:57 pm

    This sounds like a dream Debra…I can’t believe I never been in a natural mineral spring, I only try to create one at home…what am I waiting for? How wonderful to be with family too!

  17. Dee Ready March 27, 2018 / 11:18 am

    Dear Debra, I went to a hot spring in Idaho back in November and found it delightful. That was the first time I’d ever visited such a site.

    I’m a little confused about exactly where yours is because Mt. St. Helena is mentioned and I thought the was in Washington State. Are there two volcanos on the West Coast named the same? Maybe my head isn’t screwed on correctly today! Peace.

  18. Amy March 31, 2018 / 12:34 pm

    These photos are beautifully captured, Debra! Enjoyed reading the fascinating historical and the background info.
    Thank you for the fabulous tour!

  19. reocochran April 23, 2018 / 8:11 pm

    Ooh, so pretty here! I would love the chance to be there. I have seen the Eastern side of the Grand Canyon but never been West. . . Yet! ☺️ Thanks for sharing and hope the grandbaby enjoyed this trip, too. XO

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