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Trail Tread Use on The Hot Springs Trail Explained

Meet the real creators of The Hot Springs Trail – the trails, roads and mountain ranges that are traveled on during this 2,421-mile adventure. In this post, you'll also find out why this trail is unique, beyond its volume of hot springs.

Newark Valley, Nevada


Trail Tread Use on The Hot Springs Trail Explained


Setting off, it’s important to understand that The Hot Springs Trail is NOT a single defined trail – in the single-track dirt trail sense – instead, it utilizes a variety of treads which each present their own benefits and potential set-backs. Let’s explore each tread style and see how we can use them to our advantage plus what we should look out for when they arrive.

Roads = 8.28%

Roads are a fact of life in America and a part of this trail. The majority of road mileage on the HST however, is located in southern Idaho and is recommended for bike-packing. Road in this case means anything that you will be following that is covered with asphalt.


Road use on the HST allows for a continuous line of travel while at times avoiding private or tribal lands. To get to the next hot spring or town quicker, some of these roads segments can be hitched to surpass. If wishing to hike the whole way, the roads used by this trail are pleasant to walk and oftentimes devoid of traffic, or at least light. This trail also uses roads at times so that it will pass directly in front of the hotel, library, post office, or grocery store - removing the need of having to hitch in order to successfully complete this route.


Utilizing this kind of tread allows for efficient moving thru what would otherwise be un-hike-able terrain. you're approaching town after an epic section of wilderness hiking. Oftentimes, these miles are effortless but if not paying attention can lead to sunburn, blisters, random interactions with people, and possibly a lack of places for spur-of-the-moment camping.


4x4, dirt, or gravel roads = 35.5%

The majority of these miles see little to no traffic, as many of these roads are relic tracks, service trails, subject to gate closures, rocky, or extremely remote.


Utilizing this kind of tread allows for efficent moving thru what would otherwise be un-hike-able terrain.

Possible Set-backs:

These miles can have ATV or truck traffic and unmarked intersections (Described in the guidebook).


Non-drivable roads = 1.26%

Some of the asphalt roads used on this trail are roads that are closed to traffic.


These miles are oftentimes old sections of highway that run along the ridgetop. They give you time to walk side by side with your pals or play The Road is Lava with the asphalt.

Possible Set-backs:

These roads can still have ATV or authorized traffic on them in places so as a general rule of thumb, avoid camping or spreading out at mid-day breaks directly in the right of way.


Along The Hot Springs Trail


Trails = 50.06%

This portion of The Hot Springs Trail utilizes existing trails and contains a mixture of:

  • National Scenic Trails

  • National Recreation Trails

  • National Historic Trails

  • Historically used routes

  • Forest Service trails

  • National Park trails

  • Wilderness trails

  • Locally used trails


Too many to list.

Possible Set-backs:

The Hot Springs Trail follows trails that are not just scenic but alive. Trails - both remote and local - can have trees blocking it, closures due to wildfire, or damage from erosion and vegetation affecting the conditions of it. If you see something affecting the trail as you’re out there, take a moment and let me know about it and I’ll forward your report to the proper agency. Thanks ahead of time!


XC (off-trail) = 4.9%

The remaining miles of this adventure are trail-less and mostly located in Nevada - in the form of ridge-running. These sections are the most difficult in some regards but the easiest in others and should only be attempted by experienced, LNT-practicing hikers. The cultural and ecological landscapes that hiking off-trail opens up demands a different kind of respect and awareness as you travel thru them. *These will undoubtedly be the most unique miles of the journey, and personally, I've never experienced anything like them on any other long-distance trail.  


With challenge comes reward. I say this in regards to the HST because narrow gorges with secret swimming holes, soaring mountain tops with stunning views, and desert basins with carpets of wildflowers are not easy to get to, much less surpass. Sometimes it’s because of the footing, but mostly it’s because of their sheer beauty.

Possible Set-backs:

Although labeled as XC in the guidebook, the majority of these miles have either patchy game trails, defined natural features, or historical indications of usage to follow and are straight-forward to surpass in the navigational sense; however, whiteouts and other natural forces like wind, injuries, and snow can affect your rate of travel. If concerned about these sections stopping you during a thru-hike attempt, try them out as a weekend out-&-back from the car first and see how it goes. The investigation itself will be worth your time and you’ll be that much more familiar and confident on the day of the big hike.



When combined and traveled as one trail, these different tread types become an exciting hiking experience that provides a variety of natural zones and habitats, opportunities for multi-sport adventuring, and jaw-dropping scenery. Plus, access to some of the wildest hot springs in the US.

Just thought this was worth explaining...

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