Castle Hot Springs Rd/Champie Loop
Take a trip on Castle Hot Springs Road and ride through the scenic Castle Creek Wilderness area. You’ll pass a hidden oasis and then ride along a hilly, mountain road to connect back to the start.
Where to go:
From I-10 and Loop 101 in the West Valley, head north on Loop 101 for 14 miles. Take exit 15 (Union Hills Dr.) and turn left. Turn right onto 83rd Ave and follow it north for 1 mile. 83rd turns left into Lake Pleasant Parkway. Follow this north for 9 miles and then turn left onto AZ-74. Follow 74 west past Lake Pleasant for 5 miles and then turn right onto Castle Hot Springs. Continue north on Castle Hot Springs Road for 10.0 miles, ignoring side roads that lead to Lake Pleasant. The road turns to dirt and then crosses over Lake Pleasant. Follow the signs for Crown King by turning right onto Cow Creek Road. Staging is off to the right after 1.5 miles along an old dirt strip (33°57'2.21"N 112°18'40.38"W).
If you are staging at the airstrip, you’ll need to turn left and head south along Cow Creek Road for 1.5 miles back to Castle Hot Springs Road. Reset your odometer as you turn right at the intersection and head north along the easy and wide road. At about 1.5 miles enter a wash and follow it.
At 3.4 miles pass a dump truck and a tractor (respect the Keep Out sign) followed by a few houses off to the right. Be respectful and slow down as you pass through this area. Castle Hot Springs, which you can’t miss is off to the right at 4.3 miles. Take a break here and get some pictures of the historic buildings and unusual green grass and palm trees in the middle of the desert. The best place for pictures is as you turn right and pass in between white fences near the driveway. Behind you, Salvation Peak (which usually has a flag a top of it) stands high above the hot springs. Unfortunately, the actual hot springs aren’t open to the public but you can still appreciate the beauty from the outside. Leaving the hot springs, you’ll climb up hill and then make a sharp left as you descend. At 5.6 miles, you’ll pass the site of another row of palm trees and corral area, known as the Old Resort.
At 6.2 miles you’ll come to a ‘T’ where you have a few options. Left continues along Castle Hot Springs for 18 miles to connect with Highway 74. This is a great drive and an easy trail to explore. It also connects with Anderson Mill Trail, Bog and Coady Ranch Trail, numerous mines, and passes Hellsgate Wilderness Area. If you have the time, take this side trip! You can easily make a whole day exploring the different trails. Whether you take this side trip or not, continuing right back at the ‘T’ takes you along Champie Road which will in turn, connect back to Cow Creek Road if you staged along there. The trail isn’t difficult but winds through the mountains. You’ll pass through a residential area as you approach Cow Creek Road, slow down and be respectful. At 10.1 miles you’ll reach Cow Creek Road where turning left will take you up the Backway to Crown King. To get back to the staging area, turn right here. You’ll be treated with good views of Lake Pleasant as you head south and eventually reach the staging area at around 16 miles.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Whether you do this simple loop or extend your day or weekend by taking the numerous other trails in this area, this loop is a good basis for a fun trip. Many find it surprising to see Castle Hot Springs, an oasis, in the middle of the otherwise dry desert. To complete the 17 mile loop, allow for 3-4 hours with stops. Allow for 1-2 hours to complete the entire stretch of Castle Hot Springs Road and more time if you explore any other trails in the area. This trail is mostly easy and is rated a ‘3’ because of some winding mountain roads along Champie Road. Castle Hot Springs Road stays well maintained along its entire length and can be completed in any stock 2WD or 4WD SUV. You’ll need a much more capable vehicle to do the Backway to Crown King (Rated an 8) but for completing this loop, you should be okay with any kind of OHV or SUV. This trail is a great way to spend half a day with the option of extending your trip into an entire weekend.