Review of Wilbur Hot Springs Clothing Optional Spa / Resort in Northern California
Last winter, Jordan and I managed to visit two different clothing-optional hot spring resorts near San Francisco, in Northern California.
The first was Harbin Hot Springs, which I reviewed. During our stay at the clothing optional hot springs at Harbin, we went to their little computer room, did some online research and also got some helpful advice from another visitor who frequents hot springs. So our second destination ended up being Wilbur Hot Springs, located in the Coast Ranges of Colusa County in Northern California.
Wilbur is situated in a gorgeous nature preserve with mineral water hot springs running through the property. Its natural mineral waters have made it a popular site for centuries – dating back to the Native American tribes that populated the area.
With European settlers, the land was first sought after for mining copper, but that proved to be unprofitable. Instead its waters became the major draw, and by the 1880’s it was a thriving “European-style health resort,” according to their website.
Both Harbin and Wilbur clothing optional hot springs advertise themselves as a retreat from the outside world, but Wilbur is really on a different level. It’s isolated, smaller and much quieter. There’s no WiFi and no cell reception.
You have to drive 30 minutes out to another town to get a signal. (So it’s important to know how to get to Wilbur, as you may not be able to call them if you get lost!) I think the office has a landline phone for guests to use, but you should basically prepare to go off the radar.
The rooms are cozy, but also very basic with a bed, table or desk, and maybe a closet. No TV. The whole place is powered by solar energy (yay for clean energy!), so they ask you to leave your heavy electronics at home and minimize your use of outlets.
I just learned that due to a fire this past spring, their hotel lodge is currently undergoing renovation. But that’s where we stayed. I found the whole lodge to be charming and comfortable. Our room was on the 2nd or 3rd floor, just a short walk up the carpeted stairs. It was nice enough.
However it was a little strange to pay so much (over $200/night) for a room with no private bath and no towels provided whatsoever. We shared a bathroom and sink area with everyone on our floor. The other strange part of the lodging was that none of the rooms seemed to lock. Not even from the inside. It’s not the sort of place where you’d expect theft, but best to store your valuables with management or in your car.
There’s no restaurant on the premises, so you have to bring and cook your own food (aside from their special “guest chef” dining events). This is also a bit unexpected given the price of rooms. You would think they’d at least provide (or sell) ready-made coffee and some form of continental breakfast in the mornings. We weren’t used to such minimalism at a hotel / resort, but we made do.
For guests to make their meals, there is a fully furnished, ample-sized kitchen on the ground floor and a quaint dining room area to eat in. You could also bring prepared food and store that in the fridge. (Note that visiting the nearest grocery store requires a drive back into civilization.) At the front desk they do sell some essential items (granola bars, juice, bottled water, pasta and other dry goods).
Now on to the important part – the baths! The enclosed bath / spa area is across from the hotel. It’s designed like a Japanese Onsen, and it’s clothing-optional, while the hotel itself is not. I thought this was a little weird, but I think it’s part of their effort to downplay the nudity. The idea is still comfort so you can wear a robe or pajamas in the hotel. Most visitors were naked in the pools and sauna.
There are three long, shallow pools that they call flumes, each one a different temperature ranging from 98 to 110 degrees. Silence is mandatory here (some people take this very seriously, as Jordan discovered!). All the pools are outdoors, but the flumes have a roof overhead and wall on one side. Down on the lower deck is another bigger flume where you can relax and socialize.
Then there’s the large, unheated regular pool, which was probably around 60 degrees during our visit. You can jolt your circulation with a dip in that pool, or in the freezing cold plunge / bath tub near the flumes. Next to the cold pool is a small sauna. There are wooden deck chairs all around for relaxing and sunbathing.
The mineral water feels great, but you do have to get used to the smell, as it’s heavy on the Sulfur. At the edge of the deck is a fine view of their water source – Sulfur Creek. Not to mention the view of surrounding nature. You can’t help but relax and soak up the serenity of this place.
The baths are all open 24/7 to be enjoyed at any time. But in the evening you can also curl up next to the wood stove in the hotel library.
There are plenty of books to choose from if you’re in need of one. Aside from bringing your own entertainment, there are a few other things to do: get a massage, go hiking in the nature preserve, go bike riding, or take a weekend yoga class.
To conclude, I would say Wilbur Hot Springs is a wonderful escape to find rest and relaxation. If you’re looking for a luxury resort that will cater to all your needs, this is definitely not it.
But if you’re self-sufficient and don’t mind the preparations required, Wilbur may be the place for you.