I’ve been meaning to go to Fifth Water/ Diamond Fork Hot Springs for a while now, ever since I realized how much geothermal activity there is in Utah. The reason for my hesitation? It’s a 2.5 mile hike to get to the springs, close to 10 in the winter and I’d have to snowshoe in. I know, I know, two and a half miles is NOT far, and given the popularity of the area—especially families—the hike itself isn’t hard. But true to my former outdoor-hating self, I consistently chose anywhere that I could drive directly up to. However also realizing that the best places were probably ones that I had to work the hardest to get to. And of course, my new, adventurous self was right. The deeper you go, the better the views are, after all.
Diamond Fork (or Fifth Water) Hot Springs is located up Spanish Fork Canyon, nestled in the Uinta National Forest about an hour and a half outside of Salt Lake. The trail itself hugs Sixth Water Creek for most of the way, before switching to Fifth Water Creek once you cross the bridge, so you never truly lose sight of the water. You know you’re getting close when the water starts to change from dark to sky blue and the water starts to smell faintly—and then not so faintly as you get closer—of sulfur.
The hike itself isn’t terrible, in fact, it’ll be a breeze for anyone who isn’t a complete novice (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not a terribly advanced hiker myself). While you only go up about 650 feet in elevation, there are some steep ups and downs so flip flops and sandals are not appropriate footwear. And, since you are hiking in the mountains, layering is a must! During the beginning of the hike, I found myself pretty cold, but once you start to climb, you’ll want to shed some clothing. Likewise, when you’re done soaking, you’ll want to layer back up again for the hike down. I’m pretty sure camping is technically prohibited on the trail, but there are a few picturesque camping spots just off the trail that people have made over the years if you want to break up the hike or do an evening soak.
After about two miles, you’ll start to see some of those pastel blue pools. You can stop here if you can find a pool—we did— or you can keep going to the pools surrounding the waterfall. Even though the waterfall officially marks the end of the trail, you can explore and look around. There are other pools besides the ones right next to the waterfall. Some are even out of sight!
Having plenty of water is CRITICAL! I didn’t drink a lot of water on the hike itself, but once you get out of the springs, you will be parched! All those minerals AND hot water lead to some serious dehydration. If you have them, water shoes are also nice to have. Like all geothermal pools, there are rocks jutting out from just about everywhere, so if you don’t want to hurt your poor feet, water shoes are a must. An extra pair of socks will do in a pinch, you just want something to stop the rocks from ripping up your feet and nails.
And finally, this is a SUPER popular hike for obvious reasons, so the earlier you get there, the better pool you’ll get. However, please be kind to others who may want to share your pool, as there obviously aren’t enough for every group to have their own. I know it’s tempting to want to be totally secluded, but with popular hikes sometimes that isn’t feasible.