You don’t just happen upon Benton Hot Springs, California. You go there with the intent to explore — otherwise, you would not keep going through the vast, bare expanses and up and down roadways of California 120 that come before it.
It’s a ghost town, about an hour from Bishop, with a population sign that reads 13 1/2. I’ll admit I’m incredibly curious about the 1/2. Perhaps it’s the neighborhood cat? Does one of the homes sit on the border? I’m not sure, but the number feels oddly right for the town.
Once a stop for miners hoping to strike it rich in Bodie in the 1800s, Benton Hot Springs now sits largely empty. Which is why it’s quite a surprise to find such a wonderful B&B in the middle of it. But there sits the Inn at Benton Hot Springs.
Blessed by flowing natural hot springs, the Inn at Benton Hot Springs is a literal oasis. Lush and wonderfully maintained, it’s a stark contrast to the dilapidated remains of a once livelier western town that surround it.
The rooms in the Inn are comfortably furnished and are highlights of the old west that once was. Our room enjoyed a stunning view of the White Mountains that turned almost crimson as the sun set. The view alone is worth another visit. Larger groups can rent three private homes nearby.
Speaking of the view, it’s also visible from the three private hot springs tubs that run along the back of the property. Gloriously relaxing at any time, and meticulously cleaned, they benefit from some spectacular views at sunset and sunrise. While you can’t exclusively reserve any of the tubs, the Inn is small enough that you rarely have to wait to grab a soak. I can highly recommend gingerly submerging after the long drive or an impromptu trek to check out the neighborhood.
You’ve probably guessed that driving somewhere and grabbing a quick dinner is fairly unlikely. The Inn has thought of that. Barbecue grills are set up behind the property off a patio for the guests to use. Luckily, Andy thought ahead, and as we were coming down through South Lake Tahoe, we stopped off at a market and loaded the cooler with perfect grilling grub. Great food in such a tranquil setting was a perfect capper to our day.
Breakfast, naturally, is provided by the Inn. The food was excellent, and even though I am rarely one to jump into conversation with strangers, the other guests at that particular breakfast serving were disarmingly interesting, so I got over my shyness (and Andy is a natural at striking up conversations with strangers). We were fortunate enough to get a tip that if we took the road into Nevada (only about 15 minutes away), rather than turning back into California, we might catch a glimpse of the wild horses. Spoiler: We did see the horses. Sadly, they were too far away to get a photo of them with my iPhone camera, so you’ll just have to take my word on this.
I know what you are thinking: what is it about California ghost towns? It’s not only the sense of being part of something from another era that appeals to me. These are places that had entire “lives” that slowly faded away. I feel my mortality in these places — not in a morbid way, but in a way that does put life into a new perspective. Just as the waters of the hot springs may have realigned me physically, I think ghost towns can mentally realign me.
Would I go back again? Absolutely. Put this down as one place that this former-hermit would definitely leave the house to visit again.
If you are curious about the Inn at Benton Hot Springs and the surrounding area, check out the photos below: