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  • Aria Zoner

A Brief History of The Hot Springs Trail

Although you may have just heard about The Hot Springs Trail, this adventure is more than 7 years in the making. Here are some highlights and milestones that have been achieved over this time and a quick look at what’s up ahead.

April 15th, 2009 – I’ll never forget it. I was half frozen and huddled-up inside of a small recess cave, 130 miles into The Hayduke Trail. Snow was falling outside and I was dreaming about hot springs. At first, it was just the thought of being in one. But then, I had a vision of hiking between certain ones that I had been to before – Sespe, Pulky’s, Spencer, and a few others. Distracted by excitement, the cold was more tolerable. When the weather cleared, I hiked onward but was no longer on The Hayduke Trail as a mere hiker. I was now on the heels of its author as a trail creator. Just a few days earlier, when Mike Coronella (Co-Author of The Hayduke Trail) had dropped me off at Mile O, neither one of us had an inkling that it would be giving birth to another long-distance hiking trail; one that also visits sacred and hard-to-reach places.

Hayduke Trail - April 15, 2009

June 2009-2012 – The initial development of the route that would become The Hot Springs Trail was completed thanks to first-hand exploration by vehicle and short segment hikes. No GPS devices or Google Earth were used in the pioneering of this trail.

Pioneering The Nevada Trail

May 5th-26th, 2012 – With a great sense of uncertainty, and light snow under my feet once again, I set off across Nevada on the first thru-hike attempt of The Nevada Trail. To my dismay, I was stopped just 70 miles short of Idaho when I arrived to the Independence Range and found not a beautiful National Forest as I had expected, but an active mine that was stretching across the entire range; and virtually impassable. I bailed and returned to the drawing board. Detouring around this mine led to the HST taking the only other feasible option thru this area, which was across the Bishop Flats. Faith in the journey was restored however when this new option wound up leading to 4 additional hot spring areas and ultimately the official bike option which now leaves from Wells.

Border of Idaho and Nevada - 2016

2013 – The first thru-hike attempts of The Coast Connect Trail and The High Sierra Hot Springs Trail were a success and total joy to complete.

2013-2014 – Planning for the Idaho Centennial Trail quickly becomes scanning for the Idaho Soaktennial Trail when I learn that Idaho has more useable hot springs than any other state and that the ICT misses almost all of them.

Aug-Sept, 2014 – Due to the incredible nature of the first 3 section-hikes, I set out to walk across Idaho already knowing that The Hot Springs Trail was no longer going to be just a personal voyage that would go unrepeated. When I arrived to Canada, 53 days later, I ended one part of the journey and began another - publishing an official guidebook for it.

Aria Zoner - Priest Falls 2014

Priest Falls - 2014

Sept, 2014 – Feb 2015 – The first computer mapping and data breakdown of an unbroken track from Santa Barbara to Canada was completed and permissions were established for 6 non-Post Office resupply drops:

Feb 17th, 2015 – With more grammar errors in them than steps required to complete the trail, the first editions of The Hot Springs Trail guidebooks were published.

July 4th, 2015 – The first Hot Springs Trail interview is released on The Trail Show Podcast.

Aug 10th, 2015 – Inspired by this record-setting episode, Drew “Dreams” Reams wasted no time and took on The High Sierra Hot Springs Trail, becoming the first non-author hiker to complete a thru-soak of an HST section.

Here's what he had to say: "I found your directions and maps more accurate than the Tom Harrison maps!" Read about his hike here...

Oct, 2015 – April, 2016 – Computer crashes, lost files, and more time spent sitting looking at the computer than it takes to hike this trail trying to rebuild it.

May-Aug, 2016 – In it's inaugural year, 3 out of 3 people made it from Santa Barbara to Canada; however, 0 out of the 3 hiked the trail in purist fashion or soaked in every single spring, which is realistic. Bernie Krausse is the first thru-hiker of this trail, although he detoured from the route here and there to avoid repeating any parts of it that he had already done before in the past. His partner Stacey took a brief mid-way break to go on a road trip with friends then leap-frogged ahead to catch back up with Bernie. As for myself, I was test-hiking possible alternates and investigating other nearby hot springs as I went to see if they would be worth adding to the route, which 15 of them were!

At Priest Falls with Stacey and Bernie - 8-25-2016

Oct 1st, 2016 – To a roomful of hungry hikers, the 1st keynote presentation on The Hot Springs Trail is delivered at the 2016 ALDHA-West Annual Gathering.

Oct 4th, 2016 – Sparked by an impressive list of trails that were presented at the ALDHA-West event and the possibility of the HST as an NST, USA Today reporter Ben Spillman publishes the 1st news article about The Hot Springs Trail.

Oct 7th, 2016 – Updated versions of the official guidebooks were released that included grammar improvements, re-routes that were suggestions from Bernie, and my own notes from this year’s hike. For the Class of 2017, the trail is now 2,421 miles and visits 96 hot spring areas! Want to make it 100?


Ending this year, it’s nice to look back and see how far The Hot Springs Trail has come. But as great as these achievements are, I haven’t lost sight of my ultimate personal goal for this trail which has yet to be achieved…and that’s a purist thru-hike/thru-soak.

More to come on this piece of history next year!

For now, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this trail.

Is this thing for real? Or am I still in the cave dreaming.



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