Iva Bell Hot Springs

2 reviews #332 hike out of 395 in
5.2 mi
2 hrs 56 min
1,227 ft
Elev Gain


What can you say: the hike includes the best Hot Springs with pools of different temperatures and exposure and privacy dotting a hillside with multiple potential campsites. The hike starts at the Devil's Postpile/Rainbow Falls trailhead. These are both worthy destinations, but today our way lies beyond, like 13 miles beyond, which makes this a backpack destination.

Start out in the busy parking lot with the crowds of sightseers and head out on the Fish Creek Trail toward Rainbow Falls. Pause a reverent moment as you pass over the junction with both the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail, promising to return. Soon you pass the turnoff to the right for Rainbow Falls. If you are inclined, it is surely worth seeing as it's one of the biggest falls in the Sierra's (in flow, not height.) Or perhaps save it to soak your tired feet on the way out.

Passing that junction, the crowd disappear as you take the clearly marked trail past the Ansel Adam's Wilderness sign. The area you are hiking in is full of snags and blowdowns as the area recovers from a fire in 1992 which burned most of the Devils Postpile National Monument. Interestingly, this hike starts in Ansel Adam Wilderness, and after a few miles cross into John Muir Wilderness, so you get two wildernesses for your trouble. The trail is flat and follows along but high above the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River on your right. After 3 miles, you cross over Crater Creek and enter into the John Muir Wilderness. The next two miles of trail pass along bare granite overlooking the River to your right. It's a great place to stop for lunch and climb up on the knobs overlooking the river to watch Crater Creek swirl and plummet into the San Joaquin. At 5 miles in, the trail crosses Cold Creek, the last water source for another 3 miles, and an big campsite appears on the left amid the mature conifers.

The trail then zigzags up the hill to cross over into the Fish Creek canyon. There are pretty groves of aspen before the trail finally reaches the edge of the canyon and several promising, but dry campsites exist to the right on the bare granite. Don't forget to enjoy the expansive views to the east.

The trail then switchbacks down the hillside to reach the bridge crossing Fish Creek. There are numerous campsites near the bridge and along the trail. The springs are another 4 miles ahead. The trail is straightforward heading up the south side of the creek interminably (are we there yet?). Butterflies were abundant on this trail when I've done it, so enjoy them as you plod onward. After 4 miles you reach a crossing for Sharktooth Creek (when did it change names?) The trail crosses the creek and then ascends up the creek on the right for about 1/4 miles before reaching a huge campsite next to a meadow at the base of a hill. You've reached the springs! A trail leads from the campsite across the marshy meadow to one of the largest pools. Other campsites surround the meadow uphill, downhill, whatever. Exploring is part of the fun. From the meadow you can see the hot spring spilling across mineral-stained rocks downward. There are more pools up the hill including small one-person tubs, and one or more cozy two person camps with two person tubs.

I've always wanted to make this a loop, by doing some of the nearby trails to Duck Lake or Lost Keys Lakes, and I'm sure I will.

The return is a reverse of the way out, but you'll be carrying the memory of some pretty amazing hot springs.

Getting Started

This trail starts from the Devil's Postpile trailhead in Mammoth. Take a shuttle to the Devil's Postpile and Rainbow Falls. Continue toward Rainbow Falls to the Fish Creek Trail. A permit is required for overnight stays that is available through reserveamerica.

Taking Children

This would be a wonderful hike for children if it weren't for the distance. I do bring my dogs as the Wildernesses are dog friendly.

    Rate this Hike

    user_profile stars
    2 years, 7 months ago
    I wrote the description above. It gets 4 stars because it's just a great trip that I've done twice. It loses 1 star only because you have to use the shuttle system at Mammoth and because of the distance. I don't know why the track shows what it does. Here's mine: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/6UaTRoudg7dkPL7mOkkOYSZF . Do note that I recorded this route leaving, so it goes from Iva Bell to the trailhead. Distance is 12ish miles with about 2,000 ft gain/loss on the round trip.
    ★ ★ ★ ★

    1 year, 1 month ago
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Public Tracks

There are no published trips for this hike. There are 16 private trips.

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