This Underrated Arizona Hot Spring Is The Perfect Hidden Oasis

Arizona has some incredible hot springs, but many are tough to reach. To get to the Arizona Hot Springs near the Lake Mead Recreation Area, you have to trek 2.5 miles through a slot canyon or take a boatdown the Colorado River. Getting to the hidden Verde River Hot Springs between Camp Verde and Payson is not an easy task, either. First, you have to swim across the fairly wide Verde River,  and then you have to find the little trail that takes you to a deserted wellness resort, where the sublime springs are located. 

What many Arizonans and others don't know, though, is that there's a small but lovely hot spring resort right outside Phoenix. All that's required is a vehicle that can take you 52 miles west of the city to a little town called Tonopah. El Dorado Hot Springs is right off the highway (I-10W), eliminating the need for any route-finding or fording of rivers. Just stumble out of your car, walk into the resort, and fall into a steaming pool of hot water. Pretty convenient and relaxing, if you're around Phoenix and looking for a no-fuss soak in the middle of the freakin' desert. 

Private soaks in El Dorado

The park-like setting of El Dorado is a nice surprise, given the proximity of the resort to the highway and Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States. The desert vegetation around some of the pools is a bit wild and untamed, giving the place a kind of cowboy-yogi vibe. Adding to the earthy ambiance are the chickens, ducks, a peacock, and other animals that live around the property. So, if you're looking for a luxurious hot springs experience, this place might not be for you. But despite its rustic exterior, it's been compared to bathing in liquid silk.

The resort's pools are fed by subterranean hot springs, the mineral-rich water from which has an average pH of 8.2 and temperature of 107 degrees, with slight seasonal fluctuations in the water temperature. Another great thing about El Dorado is the range of soaking options. Guests can pay by the hour to use a private soaking area like Sunset or Desert View. Both of these have hot pools that can accommodate four to six people as well as a shower, a cold tub, lounge chairs, and stunning mountain views. Camping is available in these areas for a per-person fee (children under 15 are free). 

Public soaking and overnight stays

El Dorado offers public soaking in a partitioned area called Desert Pete, but it's "no clothing" only. So it's best to stay away if you're not comfortable bathing in the buff with your fellow humans, some of whom you may not know. In addition to the communal hot tubs, Desert Pete has a shower, cold tub, lounge chairs, and an area called Desert Saloon, where visitors can hang out and read or take naps. To access the communal area, guests can pay by the hour or purchase a day pass that's good for 12 hours. Please leave your cameras, phones, and alcohol in your vehicle or at home, as these things are not allowed in Desert Pete. This may come as good news for those looking to fully unplug for a day or even a whole weekend. 

A variety of simple accommodations are available at the resort, and in some cases, soaks are included in the price of overnight stays. Desert Pete's Bunkhouse has two rooms, and a smaller room, Mariposa, is available in Desert Pete. Camping areas are aplenty, with desert-themed names like Mesquite West and Palo Verde and some with RV hookups. You can phone the resort to inquire about current prices and make reservations to use the private areas, as these tend to fill up in advance.