Death Valley – Saline Valley, Warm Springs


What? : Saline Valley is a large arid valley in the northern Mojave Desert, as of 1994, declaration and expansion of Death Valley, most of it became a part of Death Valley National Park. At the heart of Saline Valley there is an old drying lake with large salt deposit. The most interesting attraction in the valley are the 3 locations of hot springs, known as Saline Valley Warm Springs. Those Hot Springs are preserved since the 60's by volontiers and they kept their "free" and unique atmosphere even when the area got under National Park regulations.


Where? : Located in remote and isolated location deep in the Death Valley north west wilderness.

The main desert dirt road that passes through Saline Valley from north to south is Saline Valley Road. From SR 168 in the north to SR 190 in the south, it is 95 miles long, and ranges in elevation from 1094 to 7593 feet.

The Salt Lake is located 38 miles north of highway 190 entrance to the road and 41 miles south of Death Valley Road (total of 54.5 miles from highway 168 entrance to Death Valley).

Plan for at list 2-3 hours’ drive to get to the valley center.

Google Map Link


Additional Blogs on many others Death Valley places to visit:

When? : The recommended time to visit here is late fall, winter and early spring, summer is just too hot.


Due note 1: This drive is recommended for high clearance 4x4 vehicle, the road is usually kept in a good condition, but some sections can get eroded after rain, close by snow or ice at the high elevation passes. When I visit here, early March 2022, the road was in a good condition and passable by any 4WD. The main problem is flat tire, this is very long drive on gravel dirt road!

Towing from this remote location can be VERY expensive.

There are long stretches of road that are rough and surfaced by sharp-edged primitive rock gravel, full-size spare tires are strongly recommended.

Although it is not difficult to find the road, I always recommend having both a paper map of the area and map application (one that you can download maps and use them where there is no cell reception).

Due note 2: Do not take lightly any off-road driving in this environment, there is very minimal cellular reception. I discover that there is good cell reception if you hike from the hot spring to the mountain ridge to the north. Few other had cell reception at the warm springs.


Due note 3: Always have enough fuel before heading into the drive !
Although this is easy to navigate with a clear road you always need to plan for more fuel than needed. From off-road driving perspective this is at list 120 miles drive but you must take into account its remote location in the park, far from any gas station.


Due note 4: Off-road driving is prohibited as the desert is very fragile and vehicle tracks can remain for years.


Due note 5: As in any other desert area activities, always bring enough water with you. I do not recommend doing such drive at 120-130f in the summertime…


Due note 6: This drive is in remote park section but usually you can see other cars on the road and there are almost always people at the warm springs.


Due note 7: There is very little shade anywhere in Death Valley so use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 8: When visiting or hiking at the Death Valley use several layers as clothing. You can start your day with cold temperatures during early morning sunrise to a very hot midday (even at fall, winter, and spring). At the afternoon it can warm but at sunset temperature plumage and it can be near freezing.


Due note 9: Warm Springs and Palm Spring, in the Saline Valley, have been popular clothing optional hot springs since the 1960's.


Due note 10: Camping is allowed for up to 30 days. Most visitors stay at least one or two nights.


Due note 11: Saline Valley has a large population of wild burros and even larger populations of coyotes. Please do not leave any food out where they can get to it, or they will.


Due note 12: There is no camping fee at Warm Springs.


Due note 13: I found that the Warm Springs water does not have the typical smell of many other hot springs (probably low level of sulfur).


My thoughts: I wanted to visit Saline Warm Spring for 25 years since I saw a short TV show about this place, finally made it.

I was not disappointed; it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, a real oasis in the desert and it remote and hard to get location only add to the experience.

On the personal level it was amazing experience, I spend few hours at the hot tabs during the day. At the afternoon I went to a short hike nearby. Later, after dinner, I went and soke in the hot waters for few hours alone, at cold dark night. At that night the cold strong wind was blowing over the palm trees and I was soaking at the warm hot springs. This was one of the most relaxing and connected to nature experiences I had for many years.

I’m sure I will visit here again.

The visit


Saline Valley is a large arid valley in the northern Mojave Desert, as of 1994, declaration and expansion of Death Valley, most of it became a part of Death Valley National Park. The water no-outlet close valley is surrounded by mountain ranges the most dominate is the 11,000-foot Inyo Mountains bordering the valley on the west.

A large dry lake occupies the center of the long valley, north of the lake area is covered by low sand dunes. The most interesting attraction in the valley are the 3 locations of hot springs, known as Saline Valley Warm Springs.


The drive:

Saline Valley Road is a sporadically maintained dirt road running north–south through for 95 miles long. It goes through two high mountain passes: the Inyo Mountains in the north, and the Nelson Range in the south. The northern pass is higher, but the road is usually better and 20 mules shorter than South Pass.

Mountain passes may be closed during the winter due to snow, ice, or washouts. The "Road Closed" signs are often left in place year-round in an attempt to deter motorists who may not realize how treacherous and long the road is.


North Pass:

From Big Pine in the Owens Valley, take Highway 168 towards Death Valley for 3 miles. Turn Right onto Death Valley Road. In 14 miles, you will reach Woucoba Saline Valley Road. The road passes through Marble Canyon before entering the Saline Valley. From here, it is downhill into Saline Valley. This road is about 60 miles, most of it over dirt roads. 3 hours.


South Pass:

From Highway 190 junction with highway 136 drive 17 miles until you see the left turn into Saline Valley Road. The road sign may post it is closed even when it is open and safe. Saline Valley Road takes you through large Joshua Trees Forest and up to the top of South Pass (6100 feet.), make sure you turn left at the summit and descend into the narrow canyon that will lead you down into Saline Valley. This route is about 50 miles from Highway 190.


From the main road there is a side road that is leading to Saline Valley Hot Springs. It is well used but the turn is not clearly marked, drive slowly at the dune section, and look for a clear turn to the east.

From here this is about six miles of good but winding road to the warm springs area of Saline Valley. Once you start to drive you will be able to see the lowest hot spring palm trees in the distance, at some point you will pass a large standing art statue.



Other 4x4 options to get into Saline valley:

There are 2 other options to get into get into Saline valley and the hot springs.

Both roads are rugged and unmaintained, you need to drive a real 4x4 car with high clearance, good tires are also mandatory.

The roads:

1.      From Racetrack Playa through Lippincott Pass: This road section is 6.7 mile long. Climbing to the pass from the high Racetrack Playa is easy but from here there is serios mountain descend where Lippincott Road is getting down from the high pass into the canyon. Most of the road is ok, just need to drive slowly, but there are some sections that you need a real 4x4 car with good tires.

 This is especially for the short section where there is a large rock located in the middle of the trail. Once you pass the downhill canyon section you are getting into Saline Valley, from here additional 2.5-mile road will cross the valley all the way to the north-south main Saline Valley Road.

2.      From Eureka Dunes: I did not visit here so I can’t give a lot of information on this road, most of it is in good condition but there are few rock and bouldering sections in the narrow canyon. The Steele Pass Road from the Eureka dunes to the lower hot spring is 30 miles long.



The Hot Springs:

Saline Valley Hot Springs may be a little rough to get to but well worth the effort for those that love to dip in hot mineral water pools.


There are 3 sections of springs, the upper, middle, and lower springs.

The middle and lower springs have been developed with surrounding large palm trees, concrete soaking tubs and showers. The upper spring is in an undeveloped natural state.

The water temperature at the source of these springs’ averages at 107 °F (42 °C). Usually, the bath closest to the water source is warmer and the one down the flow are colder but they are all warm enough to use them at cold winter day.


Lower Warm Springs is the first one you see as you drive up the road, it is the largest, most developed, and most popular dispersed camping area.

Palm Spring, short drive up the road the source spring feeds two large tubs known as Wizard Pool and Volcano Pool.

Middle Warm Springs is smaller, less crowded and with less trees, but it has a great open view of Saline Valley.


I prefer the lower springs, although with more people this hot spring is less expose to wind, the trees protect you from the sun, the upper tab is very hot (expose to the sun) and the lower big tab is clean and warm and completely shaded.

There is a nice, irrigated grass section with tables.


At night I had encounter with 2 wild burros that surprise me in the dark. They came to eat here, they do not do anything, but I was worried that they might try to eat my cloths. I saw few burros the following morning, trying to eat from the palm trees.



Warm Springs Rules:

·       Saline Valley Hot Springs are clothing optional, most people using the springs without clothing. Public nudity is not against Federal regulations, but lewd behavior is. Nudity is not allowed elsewhere at the site.

·       The pools are cleaned regularly, so keep them that way.

·       Wash yourself before you enter any of the pools (there are open showers).

·       Pick up your trash, don’t bring any glass bottles.

·       Don’t take pictures of naked people.

·       Saline Valley Hot Springs is in a National Park, the pools are on public property and can be used by anyone.



Art in the nature:

Near the middle hot spring (look for the restroom house) you can find few natures art works, mainly rock drawing.

The most impressive of them is a large black lizard, or a dragon, you can find nearby few other smaller one.

No new art elements can be added because this is now under National Park regulations.


History information points about this place:

There is an interesting story about this place and how it evolved from the 60’s till today when it is under the Death Valley National Park regulations.

In the 1960s, the hot springs in the valley became popular among nudists and were eventually improved and “managed” by a group of volunteers who have constructed and maintained the hot springs for many years. They plant the palm trees, build all the concrete tubs and water system, and even added showers.

In 1994 Saline Valley and the hot spring became part of Death Valley National Park. No further development is allowed at the Warm Springs and their develop state will remain “as it is today”.

Under the National Park there are some directives that set warm spring guidelines.

Existing soaking tubs at Lower Spring and Palm Spring would remain in use., upper Spring would remain undeveloped.

All art installations that were in place before 2019 in non-wilderness areas would be allowed to stay.

Park host is always on duty, visitors are limited to 30 days per year.

The springs do not appear on any official NPS map.

Airplane use of the Chicken Strip, in use for decades, will stay active.

Three camping zones where established, camping is prohibited within 100 feet of source springs.

Existing mature palm trees will stay at Lower Spring and Palm Spring until they die of natural causes. No new palm trees will be allowed to grow, and native plants will be added to provide shade.