If you have a road trip planned along the 395, consider delaying your arrival time by 30 minutes to enjoy a much needed soak in a natural hot springs with incredible views right off the freeway. Also called Crowley Hot Springs, Wild Willy's is one of many hot springs in the area. Not really considered a hike since it is a short, leisurely walk along the boardwalk, it feels nice to use those legs and enjoy the desert scenery.
Hot Springs Info
Since we had a long drive up to North Tahoe from San Diego, we had planned on breaking up the trip with short breaks at the natural hot springs and the beautiful Mono Lake. There are so many hot springs in this area, we just chose Wild Willy's because of its convenient location and beautiful views.
When heading north on the 395, you'll make a right onto Benton Crossing Road. Go about 2.5 miles until you cross 2 cattle guards (not including the initial guard at the turn). Turn right immediately after the 2nd guard onto a dirt road, and always take the left fork if presented with the option. Our 2WD car handled it fine, and about a mile down the dirt road, you'll reach an obvious parking lot with a sign.
The Hot Springs
We changed into our swimsuits at the lot and headed down the wooden boardwalk that seemed to lead off into the distance. After only a 200 yard walk, you can see the steam rising from the two heated natural pools in the ground.
When we reached the first pool, the larger of the two, we saw there were a couple people already enjoying some beers at the pool. We headed to the second pool directly at the end of the boardwalk and eagerly jumped in. The bottom was soft and muddy, and we didn't mind the small fish also enjoying the perfectly-warmed water. You could also find some hotter water by moving up the spring that fed the pool.
After the initial group left, we headed to the first pool to try it out.
After relaxing in the first tub and enjoying the quiet surroundings for a couple minutes, we decided to hit the road again once another group showed up, likely for sunset.