Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Arizona Hot Springs

I need to start off by saying that these hot springs were, by far, the absolute best hot springs I have ever visited in my life.

Tucked away in a slot canyon less than a half a mile from the Colorado River, Arizona — or, more properly, Ringbolt — Hot Springs consist of three “tubs” created by using sandbags as dams between the canyon walls. Hot water emerges from cracks in the walls to fill the first tub with very hot water — so hot I couldn’t sit in it. The water cascades over the sandbag dam to the next tub, which is cooler. The same happens to fill the third tub with even cooler water. (According to one regular, water temperatures are 102 to 115 degrees F.) Each tub had a gravelly sand floor and various depths, the deepest part being perfect for submerging up to your neck while sitting on the ground. The water was clean and algae free. There was no slime or nasty sulphuric smell. Although there may have been as many as a dozen people there at a time, it was never what I would call crowded.

This Hot Spring is accessible by a long, 2 mile hike down a trail from route 93 or by a much shorter hike up from the Colorado River. This physical limitation in access is likely what keeps it so pristine; there was absolutely no litter.  I choose the river route and rented a boat to make the 10 mile river trip up from Willow Beach. The boat trip was beautiful with many interesting spots along the way — I’ll save that for another set of postcards.

Here are a few pictures that I took along the hike to the hot spring and at the spring itself. The hike started on a dry beach and soon entered a narrow slot canyon with ever-growing trickles of warm water. There was a bit of scrambling up rocky cascades, some of which were slippery. The trickiest part of the whole trip was getting Penny up the 20 foot ladder to where the tubs were.

Along the trail to the hot spring.


There were a few places where we had to scramble up Cascades of warm water.


This 20-foot ladder was securely fastened to the canyon walls.


The third, coolest tub was the first one we reached.


The shallow end of the third tub had very warm water from the second tub.

Penny watches from the dam at the end of the third tub. She did swim twice in that tub, although she didn’t like it.


The first and hottest of the tubs was the last one I reached. I didn’t soak in it at all.


Our lunch spot just downstream from the tubs.


We spent more than two hours at the springs. I soaked mostly in the deep ends of the second and third tubs. The first tub was simply too hot for me and just about everyone else. The people who were there were mostly young and outdoorsy — I might have been the oldest one there! I very much enjoyed the company of three medical students from Syracuse who were making the most of their trip to Vegas for a convention. I also had a great conversation with a local who told me about another hot spring I might pass near in my travels later this week.

3 thoughts on “Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Arizona Hot Springs

  1. It looks like a comfortable and warming experience.
    I have been a tourist thereabouts several times but we have always ducked-out of that sort of gig because, well, how do you know the place has not been taken over by biker gangs from the tough zones?
    You struck lucky but some of those folk would worry me. Surely, the M/F ratio is all important?
    How do you check that it is going to be safe? You strike me as a very plugged-in and wise traveller. How do you get a ‘feel’ for this sort of site?

    • If I worried about safety every moment of my life, I wouldn’t do a fraction of the things I do. In fact, I’d have a very boring life with nothing worth blogging about — or living for.

      In this case, the most common way to get to the Hot Springs is a relatively strenuous 2 mile hike through the desert. It’s downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back. The kind of people willing to do a hike like that are not the same kind of people who have bad intentions. They are outdoorsy people, the kind of people who eat organic, ride bikes to reduce their carbon footprint, and donate to NPR or Greenpeace. They are not biker gang types.

      And how many people will spend $135 plus tax and fuel to rent a boat to make the trip as I did?

      The kind of people intent on robbery, rape, or murder — which seems to be what worries you — can get far easier pickings in the outskirts of Las Vegas less than 50 miles away.

      And it’s not as if the place is deserted. It’s not. I was there on a Thursday afternoon in February for more than 2 hours and there was never fewer than 6 people or 3 groups there. Safety in numbers, right?

      But I’m glad that so many people think (and worry) as you do. Helps prevent places like these from getting crowded with tourists!

  2. Fair comment.
    I suppose I was just transferring my anxieties from my limited traveling from Alaska to New Zeland, from Sri Lanka to the toughest parts of South Africa, Singapore, LA, Serbia and Greece.
    I have just watched the film ‘Nocturnal Animals’ , in which a journey around the area you are exploring goes badly wrong. I worry about this stuff and the stats support my caution. Brits like me are hardly ever shot and mugged but it is 100 times riskier out your way.
    My hunch is that the ‘hot springs’ are quiet because others share my caution. The risk remains an unknown until you get there… By which time…
    If we are not at home, we are All tourists. IMHO, that is a vulnerable state…

What do you think?