Odometer (Legend): 528,711
Odometer (ILX): 68,304
Trip Distance: 120 Miles
For a starting price of just $500,000, you can bid your way toward ownership of a 210-acre former resort in the remote desert north of Phoenix, Arizona! Opened in 1896 as a relaxing getaway for dignitaries and the elite, Castle Hot Springs and its luxurious amenities thrived all the way through the 1950s and 60s. U.S. Presidents Roosevelt, Wilson and Hoover were regular guests.
Here’s a postcard from the 1950’s. Nice place, huh?
The hot springs themselves (yes, they do exist in Arizona!) produce some 180,000 gallons of water per day that’s between 118-120 degrees. However, the resort has been closed since a December 1976 fire destroyed the main building. At that time, the site was 40 miles from the nearest fire station, so assistance was too far out of reach.
The resort never came back to life. In the 38 years since that fire, it’s changed hands a few times. A year ago, the entire piece of property was up for grabs for $5.7 million. This coming Thursday February 27th, an auction will determine its next owner. Remote doesn’t even begin to describe it. Circled in yellow (top left) is the resort location.
Here’s the aerial view of what the site looks like today. Clearly visible is the white 125,000-gallon swimming pool. Tennis courts are located to the left.
Despite the fact that the resort was closed and potentially even inaccessible, I was determined to make the trek in the Acura ILX today to see what this forgotten place was all about. Having done a little bit of online mapping, I knew from Google satellite view that the road was unpaved for a long portion, but I read that conditions could be traversed with a passenger car if driven carefully. Challenge: accepted.
I picked up two friends for the trip this morning: Daniel, visiting from Charlotte NC, and Greg, a colleague from work. Both are avid travelers and I knew they’d be good company. We made our way toward the Carefree Highway and Lake Pleasant. I was surprised to see only one sign for Castle Hot Springs as we exited the highway. The rest of the drive we were winging it with what we thought was the correct route. After we made it to the northwestern edge of the lake, the road turned to dirt.
For eight miles, I carefully weaved my way through the desert while stirring up a cloud of dust in the ILX. Three of those miles were very especially rocky as the road followed the path of the riverbed, and I was lucky to have 6 inches of ground clearance to get around the obstructions in the road. Finally as we rounded a corner, the palm trees of Castle Hot Springs came into view. We’d made it!
To no surprise, the property was entirely fenced off with “No Trespassing” signs. As the three of us chatted outside the gate about site, we were approached by two men who were walking up the road. One of them began, “I’m surprised the caretaker isn’t already out here on her golf cart with a gun, running you guys off.” Rough neighborhood, I guess! As it turns out, this gentleman was a neighbor from down the road. He said they’ve had problems with riffraff in the area – drugs, guns, killings, and (yes he really said this one) “people having lunch on our lawns.” Basically, he’s trying to keep inquisitive people like us away.
He did, at least, give us some interesting info regarding the state of the property. It’s been zoned as a residence instead of commercial property now, so the chance of it being resurrected as a desert resort oasis is slim. The land is in fact being parceled out into sections. The springs are still active (though another area shortly up the road where springs used to exist has since been “capped off” with concrete because it attracted too many troublemakers). It’s really a shame more people aren’t able to enjoy the springs. Check out the photos below from our adventure in checking this place out!
Heading toward Lake Pleasant Regional Park
And a right hand turn at Castle Hot Springs Road. This was the last sign we’d be seeing for Castle Hot Springs.
15 or so miles later, we’d reached the end of the pavement.
Putting my tires and suspension to the test.
This notice stapled to the gate at the resort was in reference to the re-zoning effective 3/3/14
Scoping the place out as best we could from outside the white wooden fence.
Barn across the street
Here we are!
The yellow building that sits near the swimming pool appears to be currently inhabited. A trailer is sitting on the tennis courts.
This is the driveway to the property. I wonder what kind of cars drove down this road in the early 1900’s.
A bit further down the road, we found another palm-lined grassy area with a mysterious looking garage on the premises. I have to wonder what’s inside there!
Just before making our turnaround to head back to Phoenix.
Sharing the road with some cows
I was surprised my Garmin GPS knew the name of the dirt road we were on
Back to civilization we went. For more on Castle Hot Springs including a neat look at what the pools look like today, and some scans from a 1907 brochure/pamphlet, check out this website.
No road trip is complete without great food, so we grabbed burgers at Wild Horse West near the intersection of Carefree Highway and Lake Pleasant Rd.
They weren’t kidding! This thing was pretty amazing.
I saw this range figure after a fuel-up earlier in the week. I don’t know if the car is really capable of 500+ miles on a tank. Has anyone with an ILX ever actually achieved that?
Also spotted another place I may have to check out sometime.
Have a great weekend, everyone!