In southern Utah there is a tiny town called Monroe, somewhere in the middle of Fishlake National Forest. Drive west of the stunning red rock and hoodoos of Moab and down a lonesome road. Go east off the highway and head toward the hills. There, at the base of Glenwood Mountain, is Mystic Hot Springs.
You would never know to look at Monroe that there is a hippie haven hiding there.
Legend has it that this guy named Mystic Mike was traveling home to Denver from a Grateful Dead show in 1995 when his bus broke down at the hot springs. Instead of leaving, he bought the place and revitalized it.
Nomadic bands of native peoples from the Ute, Shoshone, and Piute tribes would once make their camps on the warm ground near the hot springs. As settlers arrived, the hot springs became popular as a resting place along the “Old Spanish Trail.” Now jam bands and string bands stop there on their way to California and Colorado.
Being at Mystic Hot Springs is like stepping back in time 40 years. It’s a campground, a mobile home park, a music venue, and also a wonderful place to soak your tired bones in naturally flowing mineral waters. Mystic Mike has somehow acquired two old cameras (formerly used by the TV game show The Price Is Right) and uses them to produce multi-angle video shoots of the many amazing bands that come through. There is evidence of all these great performances on YouTube.
When I was touring all the time, those hot springs served a very important purpose for me – a stop in the desert that was more than just a show; it was a chance for actual rejuvenation.
There’s not much to do out there in Southern Utah for a traveling musician, so when you find a magical spot like this, you keep going back again and again.
One of my favorite ways to spend a summer night was to sing some songs for a few locals and then go get in a clawfoot tub full of hot water under the bright rural stars.
When I was there last, in 2010, they even had a ping-pong table and a talking parrot. This July, the owners are hosting their first ever music festival and I highly recommend stopping there on your summer road trip adventures. What’s better than music, workshops, hot springs, and a sky full of stars?