A lush and vibrant oasis in the middle of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert? It sounds like a mirage, but I assure you, it’s not. Welcome to Castle Hot Springs; a quaint, but luxurious resort which is quickly making a name for itself amongst the country’s most discerning travelers.
Watch for free-roaming donkeys (yes, that’s a thing) as you wind your way through a remote dirt road, about an hour and fifteen minutes northwest of Phoenix. This stretch of the Sonoran Desert, punctuated with mountains, valleys and an abundance of cacti, casts its usual muted shades of beige, gold and taupe upon the parched land with an almost hypnotic consistency. So when you turn the final bend and a glossy grove of palm trees, artfully planted in welcoming rows appears, you’ll find yourself doing a double take.
Castle Hot Springs seems to have materialized out of nowhere and with miles of remote, protected land on all sides, you’ll wonder how it was discovered in the first place. Turns out, Castle Hot Springs has quite the history dating back to the 1800’s, when the area's natural hot springs were first discovered. Jump forward to the early/mid 1900’s when Castle Hot Springs was operating as an established wellness resort hosting the likes of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and President Theodore Roosevelt, all who came to enjoy the resort's healing thermal waters. In the 1940’s the resort was declared a rehabilitation center for wounded military vets during World War II with John F. Kennedy amongst those servicemen on the guest list. In the late 1900’s when a fire erupted, Castle Hot Springs saw the end of an era, but lucky for us the resort has been refurbished and reopened its doors in 2019 — third times a charm and I can assure you, there is no shortage of charm here.
The hot springs remain the central attraction of the resort and with three different pools, all whimsically folded into lush natural surroundings, it's clear to see why. You will feel as though you are walking through a forest, rather than the Arizona desert as you make your way up the winding path to the springs, and unlike many other hot spring resorts, you don’t have to worry about overcrowding here. The springs are for resort guests only, leaving plenty of room for all who wish to soak.
When you’re ready for a scenery change, make your way to the resort’s pool, set in the middle of an expansive lawn and farm setting — again, not something you see everyday in the desert. Water fed from the underground springs nourish this area and provide plenty of water to operate the resort’s impressive farm.
The farm tour at Castle Springs is a popular activity, and for good reason; their three acre, eco-friendly operation is truly remarkable, producing varieties of fresh vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and well over 150 different crops. You name it, there’s a good chance they grow it, including their very own hybrid tomato that they’ve named “The Lucid Tiger”. (Go ahead and ask about that name, you won’t be disappointed). And don’t be surprised when the Sonoran Passion Fruit you noticed on your tour delights your dinner plate later that evening, as most of the food you will be enjoying during your stay comes directly from the resort’s farm and is prepared on site.
In addition to the farm tour, there are a plethora of other activities you can sign up for; anything from a guided Via Ferrata climbing adventure course (one of only a handful offered in the United States) to electric bikes, a wild west shooting range or a classic cocktail mixology course. There’s even a horseback riding option for those who wish to suit up and see the beautiful mountain scenery from the saddle. Or maybe you just want to unwind, in which case you can treat yourself to a massage in the resort’s tranquil outdoor spa. There are plenty of hiking trails, and, of course, ample opportunities to just lounge and relax amidst a setting that seems to yield tranquility at every turn.
When booking your stay, go ahead and splurge on one of their bungalows; a spacious Restoration Hardware style casita tastefully surrounded by fauna and trees. It will feel as though you are living amidst a wild garden with no shortage of butterflies and birds to keep you company. The sky view cabins are a beautiful option as well, lofted with an expansive deck allowing you to take in the beauty of the desert from all angles.
After a long day crafted to your preference, arrive at dinner early to enjoy a well deserved cocktail on the resort’s sweeping veranda, soaking in the subtle dip in evening temperatures while live music plays in the background. After your three course dinner, which is included in your stay, linger around one of the many fire pits and watch the sun set over the mountains. Take in the stars as they begin to emerge and decorate the night sky in a way that will impress even the most seasoned of stargazers.
A stay at Castle Hot Springs will surely go down in the books and do wonders for anyone in need of a uniquely memorable getaway. Just make sure you book three nights, as two will leave you longing for more time to enjoy all the resort has to offer.