If you are seeking an adventure, then this Northern Arizona outdoor activity will not disappoint. However, you will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there safely.
Who can resist sliding into a basin full of clean, warm water, delightfully titillating your legs and arms? My experience as I lazily lay my head back against the lip of the concrete tub, breathing in fresh, cool air, observing golden leafed oak trees blowing gently, then glancing down below to the Verde River meandering slowly through the canyon, feels like a slice of heaven.
Healing Benefits of Hot Mineral Springs
The healing benefits of hot mineral springs are its wonderful therapy for aching bodies. The heat and subsequent sweating have a deeply cleansing effect on your skin and entire body-mind system. The specific mineral content of the springs will offer its unique benefits. The overall effects of soaking in a hot spring is a relaxing one, unnecessary stress and tension melt away, allowing your chi to flow more smoothly through all of your meridians and chakras.
Furthermore, it’s important to be conscious of and honor your unique circumstances. Be intelligent in your decisions regarding how long to stay in the spring before taking a break, and in how much water or superfood beverage to drink. Some hot springs have been developed in a way that makes them very easy to access; others may require a strenuous hike up into relatively uncharted mountain territory. Choose one that aligns with your own levels of fitness and comfort.
You, Will, Need a 4-wheel Drive For this Venture
This was my first time visiting Verde Canyon and I had no idea what to expect. Yet, one thing about nature is the many hidden gems, and Verde Hot Springs in Northern Arizona is one of them. If you love off the beaten path excursions, then this escapade is a winner. These semi-private hot springs are nestled in a remote area of Verde Canyon, 2 hours south of Flagstaff, Arizona. However, getting to it, you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The rocky, dirt road dips and swells while passing through the now-defunct town of Childs where there used to be a working power plant. The road ends at a wide, clean sandy beach. Remnants of old campfire rings are dotted throughout the beach and the swiftly flowing Verde River that lies just beyond the beach is lined with high bushes and tall oak trees.
We parked the camper underneath an oak tree and climbed out of the truck. Just then, a dark-haired man in his early 20’s approached us and announced, “Weather report says a major snowstorm is due in 24 hours.”
Not hard to believe, considering it was late November. Therefore, not wanting to waste any more time, Mark and I followed small wooden arrows staked along a narrow dirt trail that led into the Verde River. Mark was ahead and walked into the ankle-high water, then waited on top of rocks for me about a quarter of the way across.
Walking into the shallow river turned out to be shockingly cold!
Just Keep Going!
Upon reaching the first set of high rocks, I just stood there till warmth traveled back into my feet. Mark effortlessly trekked through the icy water. Rushing out again, my feet froze so quickly and my legs felt like lead weights as I sloshed over to the next protruding set of rocks. Mumbling to myself to keep going because all this torture had to be worth it. Mark, already on the other side only grinned. Now my experience may not be yours, depending on the time of the year you visit. And I definitely encourage you to go!
With one last effort and only about ten more feet, I pushed myself onto the warm sandy shore. We walked together the last 1/4 mile to the hot springs via a narrow dirt path that follows the base of the canyon wall, back downstream. Four concrete steps come into view that leads up to the thermal pools. Rumor has it that in the early 1900s, the mafia built a hot springs bathhouse, hotel, and brothel around these pools. From past pictures, it appears palm trees also used to line the entrance next to the concrete steps. With only a hint of yesteryear left, today, we can still enjoy these spring-fed pools.
3 Pools to Choose From
The first pool we found was hidden in a small cave, the water looked murky and didn’t look inviting. We moved quickly over to another pool enclosed by 4-ten feet high concrete walls without a ceiling. We didn’t hesitate here. The water in this tub was deliciously warm, 100+ degrees.
On the walls are painted various pictures of large eyes, rainbows, and much more. Paint and paintbrushes have been left behind for others to also get creative. These hot springs are very clean and I suggest that whatever you pack in, pack out so others can enjoy this little piece of nirvana too.
Finally, we meandered over to the third tub. Soaking in this tub offers the best views of the Verde canyon and river. We stayed here the longest as the water temperature was just right for an extended soak. As the sun dipped lower in the sky and shadows crept up the1,000 foot canyon walls, we knew it was time to leave. Yet, the thought of sloshing through the river again wasn’t appealing to me. Reluctantly, we left our little bit of heaven. At the riverbank, I held my breath and visualized a quick crossing. Again, it just didn’t matter how quickly I moved, my feet still froze halfway over to the closest high ground. My dance across the river was the same.
The next morning, we awoke to gently falling snow. The best seasons to visit are May through October if you want to cross the river without freezing your toesies.
Location: About 30 miles southeast of Camp Verde or 86 miles south of Flagstaff off paved and graveled roads some of which are always steep and rough and usually muddy after rains.
Directions: From the White Bridge in Camp Verde, go east on Hwy 260 6.8 miles to FR 708 (Fossil Creek Road); turn right and go 15 miles to the junction of FR 708 and FR 502. Go south on FR 502 for 6 miles of VERY BAD Road to the Childs Power Plant and the Verde River.