• Aria Zoner

How was The Hot Springs Trail Created?


There are numerous ways to create a trail – in this case 'trail' meaning a route that can be successfully completed and repeated. When intending to hike a route that has been published to be followed as a trail, it’s important to understand how the trail was created and what the intentions were behind it. I’ll also share my answers to 4 Important Questions To Ask When Planning for this, or any long-distance trail.


Aria Zoner - creator of The Hot Springs Trail


How was The Hot Springs Trail Created?


Trails are usually designed and built with 3 goals in mind:

  • To gain views of a natural feature

  • To cross a geographical region

  • To access an isolated location

Let’s look at The Hot Springs Trail and see how it came to be…



Step 1: The Original Concept



The Hot Springs Trail is a themed trail that is primarily focused on getting to hot springs – both wild and resort. The first step was choosing which ones to try and connect and which way to go about connecting them. I already had a few places in mind and thanks to the luck of their location, large portions of the trail between them were already in place.



Step 2: Scouting


For this step, I literally put my boots on the ground and rubber to the road and spent the better part of 5 years going to places and test-hiking/experiencing them. For every trail that the HST takes now, there are 3 that it doesn’t that I’ve tried. While some trails didn't make it into the route due to unpassable obstacles, others just didn’t make the grade.



Step 3: Section-hiking


The Hot Springs Trail has been broken down into 4 parts, each of which is its own epic adventure with its own guidebook. After completing the trail in its major sections, I published the route based on the experiences that I had during those journeys.



Step 4: Thru-hiking


Inspired by the thought of walking to 100 hot spring areas in 100 days, I set off from Santa Barbara on May 8th, 2016 and with my own guidebook in hand, completed the journey in one go, in 110 days. Along the way I not only had an incredible time but I took extensive notes and tested alternates. By the end of the journey, I had found a few new hot spring areas too.



Step 5: Publishing


The Hot Springs Trail is an ongoing project that will continue to be improved as new options appear and new sections of trail are built. But aside from these changes, the route is ready for adventuring on. As compared to my other long-distance hikes, the actual Hot Springs Trail journey itself was for me, more epic.



The reason for that is simple: theme.


This brings us to 4 Important Questions To Ask When Planning. I ask these questions whenever I'm getting ready to hike a long-distance trail:



Question 1:


What are the intentions – or what's the mission statement – of this trail?


In the HST's case it's to experience the ebb & flow of therapeutic soaking and multi-sport adventuring. On a trail like the Hayduke, it's to travel down the Grand Staircase of the Escalante. If there's no clear mission statement or theme to the journey, I'm probably just hiking it to train.



Question 2:

Are there any sub-themes or secondary objectives that I’ll be visiting and can collect during the journey that I should be aware of?


In the HST's case, it’s hot springs - both wild & resort. On a trail like the Colorado 14'ers, it's to summit every 14er in Colorado.



Question 3:


Are there any anomalies or points of interest I should be aware of?


On the HST you'll visit the largest dome in the entire sierra, the Geographical Center of Nevada, and the most remote hot spring in Idaho; plus many others. On a trail like the Lowest to Highest, it visits the lowest & highest points in the US.



Question 4:


And finally, a consideration that wasn't even an option when I first started hiking long-distance trails. Was Google Earth used in the creation of this trail?


Not when it comes to the HST and SPT. In fact, The Hot Springs Trail may be the last of a generation of long distance trails - along with The Siskiyou Peaks Trail - as they were created without using a GPS device either. Personally, I had no idea about Google Earth until after the HST’s route was already developed and tested. After checking it out, I can see how somebody could use it and easily think that something is hike-able when it’s actually not; and on the flip-side, think that something’s not-hike-able when it actually is.



Guidebook Authors - "By trail, we mean route."



So with peace of mind and your Official Guidebook in hand, I hope you feel confident to go out there now and have a fantastic soaking experience. I also hope that you reach all of your goals for the hike; whether it's hitting every spring, doing every mile, or both.


***Creating the HST was an accomplishment that could not have been done without the countless hours and endless love that people ahead of me had for hot springs. I not only hope that you get a good soak in while you're on this trail, I hope that you gain a new appreciation for the people in the background who've donated their time and energy to finding, building, and maintaining hot springs. None of this would be possible without you.


Stay tuned for new updates & insights from the trail...


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