Verde Hot Springs
Verde Hot Springs
A geothermic pool covered in graffiti
Hot springs are one of my favorite things to seek out when we’re out exploring. Each one is so unique and special in it’s own right, even though they’re all technically the same thing.
The trek to Verde is quite grueling. You head the same way you would to get to Fossil Creek and then it’s twenty miles back on a dirt road. The road is washboarded so the entire ride is rather bumpy.
The first time we tried to make it out there, one of the van’s shocks went through the floor board. They had just been replaced but were missing a part and the vibration of the washboarded road knocked it out of place. We had to give up on our adventure and nurse the van back home, then wait a few days for the part to get delivered to fix it. Not ones to give up easily, our first mission after getting it fixed was to head back out and conquer the hot spring. Once we successfully made it back through an hour of nothing but bumps, we reached the Verde River. Make sure you don’t get yourself stuck in the sand that’s around the banks of the river, it was dark once we arrived and it was an unwelcome surprise to us. No good to be stuck that far out in the middle of nowhere with spotty cell reception.
You’re allowed to camp down there for five days. When we drove in we noticed some horses that were tied to a tree and in the morning we discovered the owner was living down there. He had traveled from Kingman to spend his summer in cooler weather. He was living under a makeshift tarp tent and seemed happier than a clam. I had so many questions but the hot spring was a bigger concern so we set off to find it.
The man said there was a trail from the campground, but we didn’t see it so we headed back up the hill to walk the service road. We packed our gear and headed towards the river. Countless friends have visited this place and not one of them thought it was important to mention this fact: you have to cross the river to access the spring. Normally this probably isn’t a big deal, but we had quite the rainy season and there was also a crazy amount of snow melt. The river was raging and probably at least double its normal size. Once we realized we had to cross, the spot we were looking at seemed impossible. The trail isn’t very well marked but there’s a part where the river narrows considerably and some angel has tied a rope across to assist you. There’s palm trees on the other side that serve as a pretty good marker. The water went up to my booty and was the coldest water I’ve ever willingly submerged myself in. The risk was worth the reward. I pulled myself across the river in a scene that felt like it was out of an action movie. Safely on the other side, I tried to regain feeling in my legs and started running for the hot spring.
The history of the spring itself is quite interesting. It was originally part of a hotel that burned down in the 60’s. The remnants of the pools and some palm trees are basically all that remain. Artists have generously graced the walls with their work, and its a beautiful collaboration to take in while you’re soaking. Some of it’s comical, some of it spiritual, some simply leaving homage to a loved one. There’s three different pools. The main one is the graffitied one and theres another that’s out in the open. I was a bit sketched to soak in that one because it seemed like it didn’t have a floor and was basically just a pit into the spring. The coolest part is that they are situated right on the bank of the river, giving you scenic views all around.
Soaking in the tub was heavenly and I enjoyed myself while we shot some photos. The real bummer was when I realized that we had to cross back through the freezing cold water to get to the van. Did I mention we also forgot to bring towels? Thankfully we had the foresight to leave our shoes and clothes on the other side so they stayed dry, but it was a little harder to regain the warmth in my legs the second time around. If I had let go of the rope, I would definitely have been swept down the river and there were some pretty gnarly rapids just yards away. It was an adrenaline rush and a totally unexpected part of the adventure, but it made the experience that much more rewarding.
Skinny dipping is definitely mandatory, or at least the trend was set by the couple that was already there. I’m a birthday suit enthusiast so I didn’t think twice about embracing the opportunity. When in Rome, right?