ILX Drive: Castle Hot Springs Resort, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  528,711

528711

Odometer (ILX):  68,304

68304

Trip Distance:  120 Miles

primitive_road_sign_ilx

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.

hot_springs_sign

Here’s a postcard from the 1950’s.  Nice place, huh?

castle_hot_springs_1950s

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.

fire_dec_1976

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.

circled

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.

overhead

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.

warning_sign_with_ilx

river_bottom_road

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!

tyson_greg_resort

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.

private_party_keep_out

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

lake_pleasant_sign

And a right hand turn at Castle Hot Springs Road.  This was the last sign we’d be seeing for Castle Hot Springs.

castle_hot_springs_sign

15 or so miles later, we’d reached the end of the pavement.

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Putting my tires and suspension to the test.

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This notice stapled to the gate at the resort was in reference to the re-zoning effective 3/3/14

hearing

Scoping the place out as best we could from outside the white wooden fence.

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Barn across the street

barn

Here we are!

tyson_with_ilx

The yellow building that sits near the swimming pool appears to be currently inhabited.  A trailer is sitting on the tennis courts.

yellow_house

This is the driveway to the property.  I wonder what kind of cars drove down this road in the early 1900’s.

castle_hot_springs_driveway

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!

garage

Just before making our turnaround to head back to Phoenix.

ilx_dirt_road

Sharing the road with some cows

cow

I was surprised my Garmin GPS knew the name of the dirt road we were on

gps

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.

ilx_on_dirt_road_2

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.

wild_horse_west

They weren’t kidding!  This thing was pretty amazing.

burger

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?

523_mile_range

Also spotted another place I may have to check out sometime.

arizona_legends

Have a great weekend, everyone!

8 Responses to “ILX Drive: Castle Hot Springs Resort, Arizona”

  1. STAY OFF MY LAWN! LOL I’m surprised you got as close as you did for pictures. The hamburger looks good too. I’m sure you did, but going to ask anyway – did the ILX get a good wash when you got back?

    • Hey Dave, YES, I couldn’t wait to get over to the car wash. I decided to take the ILX to the self-serve high-pressure wash a mile or so from my place. Got the undercarriage, engine, and wheel wells all cleaned up again. Much better!

  2. I would dare bet that your presence at this defunct resort was the most action it had seen in a month. Mr. Good Neighbor would have been taken aback (that word actually bugs me a bit) if you had said you and your buddies were rich tycoons who were looking to buy the resort and resurrect it. Why didn’t you feed them a line? And who in their right mind, unless he/she wants seclusion, would build a resort so far removed from anything else in the desert? I guess that’s the point — a resort in the desert. My kind of idea of seclusion is being in a cheap motel across the street from a big swanky mall. If it has a pool, that’s a bonus. 🙂

    • Yeah, Castle Hot Springs has NOTHING on Scottsdale Motel 6! Lol. Someday I will dip my toes into the hot springs, even if it means having to become buddy buddy with the lucky new owner of the property.

  3. Denise Says:

    Good job guys, We travel that road all the time when we go 4 wheeling. Love all the pictures and comments.

    • Thanks Denise! It’s a beautiful area. I still need to find out what ended up happening with the auction. If you ever have any good ideas for Arizona drives, let me know. I love exploring.

  4. Denise Says:

    http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/real-estate/2014/03/18/historic-arizona-resorts-sells-million/6576203/

    It sold for $1.95M. Hopefully you can pull up this article.
    I see that you travel in a car??? What parts of AZ are you interested in? We can give you some good ideas. I’m glad that you like to get out an about. Have you seen the Ice/Lave Caves up by Belmont area? What about Crown King, etc

    • Thanks for that link! Yes I travel by car, and I’ve hit up many of AZ’s state highways but I’m sure there are plenty of sights I’ve yet to see. I will take note of the lava caves near Belmont – hadn’t heard of that! Nor Crown King!! I’ll look into them 🙂

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