A Solo Soak at Mystic Hot Springs Utah’s Hidden Deadhead Paradise
My 2020 Halloween spent in a clawfoot tub in the middle of rural Utah was surprisingly not my first spent in a bathtub. But the naturally heated spring water pouring out of impressionist painting looking, rust-colored mounds ensured the experience wasn’t a reductive one.
Monroe Utah’s Mystic Hot Springs are not your average spa visit. The vibe is more beatnik than clinical.
Water bubbles up from limestone fissures (through a patchwork of man-made ditches) to fill a half or dozen or so overflowing antique metal bathtubs shoved into the mountainside’s red-hill travertine deposits.
And the rest of the property is littered with its own non sequiturs. Peacocks, broken down log cabins, vintage school buses, psychedelic murals, a duck pond with a two-by-four diving board… The whole place has an 80s abandoned adult summer camp feeling. As if the Wet Hot American Summer cast became Kerouac-like vagabond poet-rogues of the open highway. Oh, and smoked a lot of mescaline. (Naturally.)
For me, it’s not an unfamiliar aesthetic. Growing up in America’s counterculture outpost, I’ve definitely attended more than one house party featuring fire-hula-hoopers and staged debates on the philosophy of Ayn Rand in a vegetarian, Lord of the Rings themed co-op.
In a story that will tempt you to believe in destiny, the current proprietor (and architect of the baths) first stumbled onto this natural geothermal system after a flat tire on his way back from a Grateful Dead concert.
There was an added quirkiness to visiting this place in the middle of a pandemic. Our “contactless check-in” was a lackadaisical, but head spinning, tour of the grounds by phone.
When we booked our passes (a 6-hr “solo soak” for only $15) the rentable gypsy wagon and refurbished school buses were listed “unavailable”. I wasn’t sure how much of that was pandemic-related, since I couldn’t make out at first which were the abandoned buses and which ones were inhabitable. But a peek inside a London-style double-decker with an impressive octopus mural revealed metal-frame bunk beds, shag carpet, and electrical outlets. Hippie luxe.
Despite the missed opportunity to shack up in a rusted 70s style volkswagen, it wasn’t a bad call to end my day in a metal bathtub on the side of a mountain. Even with the backdrop of frost and invasively honking canada geese.