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Are There Hot Springs in Kentucky? A List of 10 Natural and Hot Springs In and Near Kentucky

There are 257 natural springs throughout Kentucky. Surely there’s at least one or a few Kentucky hot springs among that number, right?

Wrong! Because there isn’t a lot of geothermal activity in Kentucky, cold springs dominate the state.

Though there are no hot springs in Kentucky, the following springs listed are still important landmarks in the state. So much so that most of them are hidden to preserve them.

Keep reading to learn about the Bluegrass State’s natural springs and a few hot springs near Kentucky!

View of a natural spring flowing from mossy rocks.

Natural Springs in Kentucky

1. McConnell Springs


McConnell Springs Park is a natural 26-acre oasis with two natural springs that are hidden in the industrious city of Lexington. In fact, the land is the very founding site of the city itself!

Explorer William McConnell found and camped at the springs in the 1770s. After learning that the American Revolution’s first battle occurred in Lexington, Massachusetts, he called the area Lexington.

It’s not a hot spring in Kentucky, but it’s a historical hot spot worth preserving for sure!

The Boils

McConnell’s first natural spring is an artesian spring. That means the pressure from underground conduits forces the water to emerge to the surface.

Spring water bubbling up from the ground.

The surfacing water may have you believe it’s a hot spring in Kentucky at first glance. But don’t be fooled. After heavy rainfall, the cold water rushes up in a column up to 24 inches high, bubbling as if it’s boiling.

When the water flows to the final sink (a cave formation), it submerges and resurfaces at Preston’s Cave. Then it empties into Elkhorn Creek. The path leading to the Boils is wheelchair-accessible and ADA-compliant, so nobody can miss this phenomenal display!

The Blue Hole

McConnell Springs Park’s second artesian spring is 15 feet deep with a funnel-like bottom and a blue appearance. The water’s point of origin is southwest of Lexington, and it flows through a limestone bedrock.

Beneath the surface, the water emerges from a fissure, and its force is enough to blow away soil and sediment. This contributes to the spring’s funnel-like bottom. And like the Boils, it flows underground after reaching the final sink, resurfacing and emptying at the same places.

Blue Hole is very sensitive to rainfall levels and human impact, preventing it from becoming Lexington’s water source. Leave no trace as you hike around this spring. Stay on the trails and out of the springs, and keep your pets at home.

2. Johnson Springs


Along the Green River near Mammoth Cave is the Johnson Spring. The karst landscape from limestone dissolution gives the spring its blue and emerald green appearance. Adding to the spring’s beauty are the rare and diverse ecosystem and other springs littering the riverbanks.

Essentially, Johnson Spring is set on Harry C. Wilson’s land, which his family has owned since 1952. He shares a piece of the land with the public, so guests may visit the spring and watch the wildlife there.

Because water levels affect the springs’ health and the ecosystem, it’s important to minimize human impact. Even if visitors aren’t camping near the spring, they’re expected to leave no trace.

To see this not-so-hot spring in Kentucky, hike the Jenny Wilson Byrd Memorial Trail at Thelma Stovall Park. Dogs may be unleashed in certain areas except near the spring. You can also kayak or float down the Green River to reach it, as Wilson also permits this mode of transportation.

3. Saunders Springs


Saunder Springs is in a pet-friendly 26-acre nature preserve on the edge of the Karst Plateau in Kentucky’s Highland Rim. The spring stems from a cave at the cliff’s base and sends a cascade down a rocky stream.

A waterfall coming from Saunders Spring.
A waterfall from Saunders Spring.

In the 1800s, children commonly played around here. It also used to be Radcliff’s primary water source before modern water transport methods changed that in the 1930s.

In addition to the preserve’s many springs, there are many cave systems and underground caverns. As you hike, camp, or picnic here, watch for any sinkholes. In the meantime, take a peek at the many types of wildlife and numerous trees and plant varieties living here!

4. Cove Springs


The 240-acre Cove Spring Park and Nature Preserve is home to many natural features besides Kentucky springs. There are streams, wetlands, waterfalls, and forested ravines for guests and leashed pets to see from the park’s hiking trails.

View of flowing water inside Cove Spring Park.
View in Cove Spring Park.

These may not be hot springs in Kentucky, but they’re springs with an honorable piece of history. In 1804, Cove Springs was charted as Frankfort’s main water supply. It’s possibly the country’s first water supply to be set west of the Allegheny Mountains.

5. Big Bone Lick Springs


To visit Big Bone Lick Springs, hike the Big Bone Creek trail at Big Bone Lick State Park. This is a natural salt spring whose name touches on the history of this site.

The phrase Big Bone comes from the big bones that paleontologists found around this marshy area. Because of the salt’s natural occurrence around the springs (hence the term Lick), animals came by to lick up the salt. The bones could’ve been from white buffalos or prehistoric animals.

As guests visit the springs, they can see buffalos roaming the park. And the fossils displayed in the Visitor Center are not to be missed either!

Cold and Hot Springs Near Kentucky

There may not be any hot springs in Kentucky, but its neighboring states have a few of them! If you desire a good soak or want to see a hot spring up close, travel a little out of state.

Steam rising from geothermal hot spring water.

Some of the springs aren’t too far away from Kentucky’s borders, while some may take a few hours to reach them. Even if an out-of-state spring isn’t hot, its features and the environment around it make it worth checking out.

Here are some examples of cold and hot springs near Kentucky that you can visit.

6. Red Boiling Springs


One hot spring near Kentucky is in Tennessee, but it’s the only hot spring in Tennessee. It’s located at Armour’s Hotel and Spa in the city of Red Boiling Springs.

The city was previously named Salt Lick Creek for the area’s mineral springs until its name was changed in the 1840s. Four decades later, the city developed mineral spring resorts to accommodate tourists visiting the springs.

These mineral springs were said to heal many infirmities. This attracted many people to the point resorts added annexes to hold more guests. However, the excitement dimmed in the 1920s when medical science questioned the springs’ healing properties.

That didn’t stop Armour’s Hotel and Spa from operating and preserving the city’s history with the springs. It’s now the only resort at Red Boiling Springs to offer hot mineral spring baths.

7. Hot Springs

North Carolina

Hot Springs, North Carolina speaks for itself in regard to hot springs near Kentucky. Similar to Red Boiling Springs, Hot Springs is the only location in North Carolina to access these hot springs.

When the city was founded in 1882, it wasn’t originally called Hot Springs but Warm Springs. The area mostly had warm-water springs until people discovered hot-water springs, thus renaming the city to Hot Springs.

Ancient history states that these mineral waters that seep through warm rocks in western North Carolina possess healing properties. Folks with fatigue, pain, stiffness, and other ailments sought relief through these 80–104-degree-Fahrenheit waters.

The city’s Resort and Spa and Broadwing Farm are where you can experience these mineral waters. Jetted hot tubs sit along the French Broad River and Spring Creek at the resort. And each cabin at the farm offers a private outdoor hot tub for cabin campers.

8. Iron Spring

Adams County, OH

Iron Spring is one of a few hot springs in Ohio. Unlike some geothermal springs near Kentucky, you may swim in this one, not just soak in it. The water comes from a source near the glacial till and bedrock formations, and its primary mineral is iron.

The high iron content in the spring warrants its name and contributes to the rumors of its medicinal properties. With a good soak in iron, one can take in health benefits such as muscle stiffness relief, hemoglobin production, and cell growth.

With a small entrance fee, guests can come here for a healthy swim.

9. Big Spring

Van Buren, MO

Big Spring is a large hot spring in Missouri that’s located in the state park of the same name. Depending on the local rainfall, it’s either America’s biggest spring or is competing against Idaho’s and Florida’s biggest springs.

On average, 286 million gallons of water flow daily as underground passages bring it from 45 miles away to the spring. It’s not only water that flows but also 70 tons of dissolved limestone. And if the spring ever dries up, you’ll get an eyeful of a large cave.

Should you camp at a tent or RV site, take the wheelchair-accessible walkway to see this hot spring near Kentucky.

10. Bell Smith Springs

Ozark, IL

Bell Smith Springs has well-hidden cold springs that are located in southern Illinois’s Shawnee National Forest. They were named after the area’s early settlers, the Bell and Smith families.

These aren’t geothermal springs near Kentucky, but the area surrounding them is too wondrous to miss. The area’s sandstone cliffs, rock formations, and fauna and flora make it an exciting place to hike. How often do hikers get to see armadillos on a trail system?

One feature of the springs that draws in guests is Devil’s Backbone. The set of triangular boulders is a sight to see as they appear to resemble a beast’s backbone. The turquoise spring next to them is just as marvelous; because of the scenery around it, it’s the best swimming spot.

Another feature is the stone staircase, which winds down a cliff face and into the water. Guests can access them by taking the 1.2-mile White Trail. Because of the strenuous ascent and descent, it makes the springs more inviting for a cooling-off period.

Wrapping Up Hot Springs in Kentucky

View of running natural spring water.

Even though there are no hot springs in Kentucky, the many cold, natural springs are still something special. The history and scenery surrounding the springs are just as enlightening as geothermal ones.

Fortunately, the few hot springs near Kentucky are available as alternative sights if you’re visiting the Bluegrass State.

Visit our Ohio hot springs and Missouri hot springs posts to learn more about their geothermal springs. And check out our natural hot springs post for more information about these natural wonders in the US.