Verde Hot Springs Near Sedona Arizona
Now who doesn't love getting naked with strangers?
If you raised your hand, just click on by. If you were hoping, however, that I meant enjoying one of Northern Arizona's wilderness hot springs, read on my adventurous friend! Whether you're after the touted health benefits of soaking in warm, mineral-rich water, the sociability of enjoying the springs and the scenery with friends or if you just have to have a purpose when you hike, you can satisfy the hot springs urge just a quick day trip away from the Sedona area.
About Hot Springs in General
One of the benefits of living in or near mountain ranges is the existence of hot or thermal springs. These springs are found in mountainous regions because the deep groundwater, cooked by the primal heat of the earth, needs a fault line to travel quickly back up to the surface before it loses its heat. Limestone formations, like those around the Verde Valley, are often conducive to letting this water up to the surface because it's easily eroded.
What's With the Smell?
That's the hydrogen supplied, a gas produced by bacteria that live in the water. Not all springs have that characteristic rotten-egg smell - it depends on how deep the source of the spring is and how quickly the water can get to the surface. The Verde Hot Springs' aroma is definitely noticeable, but not as pungent as some.
While the water of a thermal spring is generally too warm for your average fish or bug, algae and bacteria do live happily in the warm waters. Most are harmless, but cautious types might want to avoid submerging your head or ingesting the water. There's a nasty amoeba found in many hot springs that can get to your brain via your nose and cause a potentially fatal brain infection.
Getting To Verde Hot Springs
Now that I've panicked you about brain-frying amoebas, let's go soak! Take I17 to exit 285 (General Crook Trail), go east for about three miles, then turn right on East HWY 260. Go about 8 miles and turn right on Forest Service Road 708, where the sign says "Fossil Creek & Verde River." Now comes the 19-mile drive down a dirt road. You know how long that is? WAY longer than you'd think. The road quality varies from OK to downright dangerous, so go slow, even though you'll be eager for it to end. At the intersection with Forest Service Road 502, turn right. You'll go past the Childs Power plant and end up in a campground that despite a 5-night limit, seems to be semi-permanently inhabited by groups of, oh, let's say, "free spirits."
Just head upstream from the campground for a little less than a mile. It's been suggested there's a trail there, but I've been twice and didn't see it. Just pick your way along the river bank until you see your unmistakable cue that the crossing's coming up--a couple of lanky palm trees on the other side! The Camp Verde hot springs burble away in the remnants of an old hotel that burnt down in 1962. It was apparently a swank spot in the Jazz Age, but rumors that Al Capone used it as an occasional hideaway are pure fiction. Just a little bit past where you're even with the palm trees, you'll see a road of sorts that dips down and crosses the river. This is the place to wade in. Double back slightly once you reach the other side, and you'll find the two pools, encased in concrete since the days of the resort.
The water is pleasantly warm, between 98 and 104 degrees. As to any microbes that might be swimming around - well, I'm no scientist. All I can tell you is I splashed around the pools on two separate occasions and suffered no ill effects.
Well hello there!
There is a sign at the Childs campground that indicates that public nudity is prohibited. This prohibition is about as effective as you'd imagine. It's a hot springs, and there's a whole subculture of folks who seek out these geological treats specifically to enjoy getting a little nature on their bare hides. The trip to Verde Hot Springs is probably best left to adults only, and if you're shy, try visiting during off-times, like mid-week.
Article by Sarah Horton; Photos by Per Bothner and Nathan Williams.
More Verde Hot Springs Facts:
The Verde Hot Springs are the remains of a once-famous hot springs resort that burned down in 1962. There are several pools; the main pool is built into the foundation (all that remains of the resort), with several other pools in the cliffside.
Remember: if you go, you are on your own — there is no lifeguard or nearby hospital. Use at your own risk!
Getting to Verde Hot Springs:
Map and Additional Information
Verde Hot Springs on the Forest Service website.
Video about Verde Hot Springs: