Black Rock Hot Springs is a secret natural hot spring near Taos, New Mexico that looks out to the Rio Grande.
On our recent New Mexico roadtrip, we chanced upon a locals-only secret: nature's Black Rock Hot Springs. This wasn't the original plan, though. Along with the Great Sand Dunes, the more popular Valley View Hot Springs has been on our list for quite some time. The rustic, nonprofit hot springs destination in San Luis Valley is known for its free-spirited clientele (bathing suits are optional) and natural outdoor ponds.
I’d planned on stopping at Valley View Hot Springs for an evening soak on Sunday night before we drove to the Dunes on Monday morning. But when I gave them a call on Saturday to confirm they could take us, they said their reservations were full all the way through Tuesday!
I started chatting with Elsa, a local barista at Santa Fe’s Iconik coffee shop, about this predicament–and mentioned how disappointed I was that we wouldn’t be able to visit Valley View on our way back to Colorado.
Over pineapple mezcal margaritas, she then told me about Black Rock and Manby, two spots with natural hot springs pools that I could *maybe* find along the river an hour north—and probably only go to if we had a four-wheel drive.
The next day, we skipped our original plan of Plaza Blanc and headed toward the little spiritual village of Taos instead. As we left Taos, though, the southwest sun was getting toasty, and hot springs sounded, well, unpleasantly hot. We considered passing on the hot springs altogether, briefly.
But we’d completely redirected our afternoon for the sole purpose of finding these hot springs, and so we set off and found ourselves bumping along a dusty dirt road into the most magnificent gorge.
We parked our car on a little cliff and hiked down a narrow dirt path with sagebrush on either side. After a few minutes, wholly unsure of whether we were headed the right way—we turned a corner and there they were—perfect little pools just along the Rio Grande. We dropped our backpacks on a rock and stepped in for a soak.
A little while later, a tattooed biker gang showed up, stripped down, and jumped in. They’d ridden south, three hours from Pueblo that day.
Soon another character appeared on the cliffside with his ukelele in tow. Perched on a rock above us, he serenaded our little motley crew of spring-soakers as the afternoon sun dwindled away.
It was weird and wonderful, and I guess New Mexico is the place where this kind of magic happens.
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We visited Black Rock Hot Springs because the hike down was a little easier and quicker, but Elsa also recommended the nearby Manby Hot Springs (and you’re likely to have a little more privacy, since they’re a bit harder to reach).
Below, directions on how to reach both from Taos.org:
Black Rock Hot Springs
Black Rock Hot Springs is located north of Taos, west of the town of Arroyo Hondo; from Highway 522 North at mile 5.3 turn west onto County Road B007. After about 2.5 miles, the road turns hard to the right. Continue on, staying to the left and downhill until you reach a narrow one-lane bridge that takes you across the Hondo River, then cross the John Dunn Bridge over the Rio Grande. Go left uphill and park at the first switchback. It’s about a 5-10 minute walk on the trail downstream to two mud-bottomed rock pools on the west bank of the Rio Grande. Pool temperatures are usually about 97 F depending on how high the river is. Clothing optional.
Manby Hot Springs (also known as Stagecoach Hot Springs)
Located north of Taos southwest of the town of Arroyo Hondo; from Highway 522 North at mile 5.3 turn west onto County Road B007. Go about 2.5 miles and turn left onto another dirt road just before B007 makes a hard turn to the right (see above). This stretch of road to the Manby Hot Springs parking lot needs to be taken slowly and is best negotiated with a high clearance vehicle. Continue past the Dobson House sign and take the next left fork. Continue staying to your right until you reach the large parking lots for the Manby Hot Springs. At the left side of the parking area, take a dirt and rock path to the river, about a 15-20 minute walk. Two sand-bottomed and rock pools are located in the ruins of an old stagecoach stop on the east bank of the Rio Grande. Water temperatures are usually about 97 F, depending on how high the river is. Clothing optional.
P.S. Add the otherworldly Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks in New Mexico to your roadtrip!