Hot Springs LTVA is not just awesome because it has a developed, natural hot spring, it’s because it’s free.
Well, sort of.
Located a few miles east of Holtville, CA in the Imperial Valley, it costs $180.00 to stay there for 180 days between the months of October through April. That’s a dollar a day. The rest of the year it’s free, but you’re limited to 14 days max.
You get dispersed camping on an area about of about a mile long by a 1/4 mile wide. You get several trash dumpsters at the front of the campground, and a couple of really cool hosts who’ve been hosting here for years, and who organize campfire get-togethers at their campsite. There’s also community bulletin board near the hosts’ campsite, and next to that are boxes of free stuff you can claim, or donate free stuff of your own.
While it’s managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there is very little BLM enforcement presence here. I did notice a BLM officer at one point, driving through the campground, however Hot Springs LTVA is largely patrolled by the camphosts and veteran campers.
The hot springs gets really hot. There are two pools. The main pool gets fresh, mineral spring water from underground, and it’s piping hot. In fact, the main pool has a valve that you can turn down water pressure to let the pool cool down if it’s already too hot. The second pool stays about 5-10 degrees cooler.
Some of the people who stay here are work-campers who harvest crops nearby. One guy brings in a pick-up truck load of brocolli and cabbage while the campground hosts distribute the fresh produce to everyone in the campground, for free.
Sash and I found a quiet place deeper into the campground under the shade of a giant tree. Even though we paid for 180 nights, we stayed for 60. It turns out, we just didn’t have it in us to remain camped in one place for that long. We really needed to get back on the road and see new places.
There is no dump station at Hot Springs LTVA. It was taking about 3 weeks average to fill our black tank. There is a RV storage facility in the town of Holtville called “Storage Depot” that has dumping and fresh water fill for $9.00. We had to hook up our trailer and tow it out there to dump and refill. It was hassle, but what else do you do?
But as it turns out, most campers used macerators to grind up their sewage and then pumped them into giant containers. Then they trucked them into Storage Depot to dump. Sash thought it was a good idea, but I didn’t want to invest in these tanks and the macerator pump.
Verizon 4G cellphone signal came in excellent. We didn’t have to use our 4G antenna.
Interestingly, the front portion of the campground, closest to the entrance gets crowded. Most of these campers are Canadian snowbirds who frequently travel together. They prefer the front portion because there are no tall trees and thereby get optimal solar panel use. The rear portion of the park, where we camped, sees a lot of space between camps, so much so that often it feels like there’s no else nearby.
Campfires require a campfire permit which the camphosts assign for you. The permit is good for a full year from the date of issue, at all BLM areas. They only require you burn in a metal container.
How do you do laundry at Hot Springs LTVA?
Well, most campers keep several gallon jugs or larger. The hot springs has a water faucet that delivers fresh (hot) ground water. Some of the Class A RVs have their own washing machines on board. Sash actually bought a portable washing machine. The rest of the campers use large buckets or plastic storage bins to wash laundry in. The resulting water is dumped on the ground.
Others use the water to shower in. They just fill up 2 or 3 gallon jugs of fresh, hot spring water, then stand naked at their camp and wash up.
The town of Holtville has a post office. Sash and I set up a 6-month PO Box there for $30.00 total. We used it to order stuff online from Amazon and other. Just keep in mind that some Amazon resellers don’t ship USPS, so always check the shipping policy on each item you buy.
Temperatures during the LTVA season from October to April varies from highs of 60-90 to lows of 25-50 degrees F. There is very little rain. In fact, this area of the California sees the least amount of rain in the State, and is one of the driest areas in the entire USA.
You cannot reserve spaces at Hot Springs LTVA. You just have to show up and find a spot. Best if you get here during October & November because it gets full around December. The camphosts will register you in, collect fees, and assign you a permit.
For more information about this campground: https://www.blm.gov/visit/hot-springs-long-term-visitor-area