Winter is slowly releasing its grip on Utah and I’m feeling that familiar twinge of spring fever. It’s still cold outside and pockets of snow hover on shady cliffs, but the days are getting noticeably longer and the sunlight isn’t so slanty. Still, I'm trying not to get too antsy. We still have a few solid weeks of winter left, and Jordan and I want to squeeze in a couple more snowy adventures before the warm weather hits.
With that in mind, we decided to head north to the Uinta Mountains. It was Jordan's 28t birthday, and he wanted to try out the pair of snowshoes I got him, then soak in Fifth Water Hot Springs. We pulled into Diamond Fork Canyon that afternoon, set up camp, then snowshoed along the nature trail as the sun set and the moon rose. The full moon reflecting off the white snow was gorgeous, but it was getting cold, so we crawled into the tent. It was only then that we realized we forgot our sleeping bags! After a moment of "I thought you packed them" disbelief, we curled up in a couple thin blankets for a cold night of 13-degree snow camping. Whoops. Oh well -- our dumb asses survived!
The next morning, despite being cold and sleep-deprived, we were determined to warm up in Fifth Water Hot Springs. So we were pretty discouraged when we saw the road was closed three miles before the trail head. Luckily, a super nice retired dentist from Salt Lake offered to give us a ride on the back of his snowmobile to the trail head. The snow-covered road whizzed by as Jordan and I each took a turn riding behind him.
Once we got to the trail head, it was a gorgeous 2.5 mile hike to the hot springs. The trail was covered in snow, but enough people had walked on it that the path was packed and easy to follow. The trail gradually gained elevation as it wound along a chilly running creek, and we kept gawking at all the huge Doug firs and weird conglomerate rocks (the Uintas are way different than the red-rock desert!)
After about an hour of hiking, we reached the springs. You could definitely smell the sulfur before seeing the water! Fifth Water is a natural hot spring, so it isn't really developed or built up. Over the years, people have installed PVC pipes and built a couple pools, but for the most part it's natural and really scenic. The water ranges from glass-green to milky blue, and there's a frozen waterfall with a base of rocky mineral deposits. The tubs we soaked in weren't quite as warm as we would have liked on a snowy February day, but I think there are warmer pools closer to the waterfall.
Fifth Water is a beautiful place, but you can tell it's really popular. Even on a chilly winter Monday with a closed road we saw six other people, so I'm sure it's slammed on warmer weekends. For the most relaxing visit, I'd definitely try to come during the off-season. There was some trash left behind by careless visitors, so make sure you pack out your garbage.
To reach Fifth Water Hot Springs, drive on Route 6 to mile marker 184. 1 (about 11 miles south of Spanish Fork.) On the north side of the road, you'll see a sign for Diamond Fork. If the paved road is open, drive about 10 miles to the Three Forks Trailhead. However, we learned the hard way that during the winter the road is closed past Diamond Fork Campground. You can either bring a snowmobile or do the 3-mile (each way) road walk to the trail head. Or get lucky like we did and mooch a ride!