Photo: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain

72 Hours, 4 Spas, 135 Miles: the Ultimate Phoenix Spa Road Trip

Phoenix Wellness
by Sharael Kolberg Jan 16, 2024

As I floated on my back, weightless in the 98-degree-Fahrenheit water at the Castle Hot Springs Resort in the serene Sonoran Desert, I looked up at the dark sky filled with more stars than I could count in my lifetime. The soothing sound of the small waterfall put me deeper into my meditative state. “This is what travel should be,” I thought.

Rather than running yourself ragged to see endless amounts of tourist attractions that you’ve seen posted on social media, gorging on overpriced foods that aren’t all that tasty, and spending money on souvenirs that will ultimately end up in the landfill, visiting the spas in Phoenix were a rare chance to use travel as a chance to rest and revive.

The Phoenix area proved to be an ideal place for a rejuvenating road trip, as it’s home to many of the most luxurious and restorative resorts in Arizona. Spas in Phoenix range from the he region has both tranquil and relaxed hot springs like the oasis of CIVANA Wellness Resort or the timeless Castle Hot Springs, as well as opulent spas like the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North or the blissful grounds of Sanctuary Camelback Resort. All the spas and hot springs are open year-round, but summer can be quite hot. Consider avoiding June through September, or else you may find the pools are cooler than the air outside.

To experience the best spas in Phoenix, consider planning a wellness road trip through the area. It’s one you can do in a long weekend – though spending a week will give you even more time to enjoy the thermal waters, massages, and zen-like scenery of the stunning Sonoran desert.

Leg 1: Airport to Castle Hot Springs

  • Driving distance: 54.2 miles
  • Total drive time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Castle Hot Springs is renowned for its naturally heated, mineral-rich hot springs, which have been enjoyed for their healing properties for centuries. From the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, you’ll want to rent an SUV to handle the final seven miles of rocky, dusty road.

The remote, all-inclusive resort, recently designated as a National Historic Landmark, markets itself as having a unique blend of history, wellness, luxury and adventure. It’s high-end, but not stuffy, and the dining is primarily farm-to-table cuisine made using ingredients grown in the on-property garden.

The four natural pools are surrounded by a spectacular canyon filled with towering palm trees and prickly cacti. The turquoise water flows from the underground source and cascades over rock walls colored by the minerals, filling the first pool that hovers around 106 degrees. The sequence of pools gets cooler the further from the source, with the lower pools’ temperature reaching 86 degrees. Watsu aquatic therapy is offered in the smallest, waist-deep mineral pool.

The resort also has more on-site activities than many other spas in Phoenix, including guided desert hikes and a via ferrata (plus Arizona’s first and only female guide). It’s also noteworthy for its zen-like rooms, with both “spring bungalows” set alongside a warm and bubbling creek, as well as “Sky View Cabins” with wooden decks and a stargazing telescope in each unit.

Castle Hot Springs: 5050 N Castle Hot Springs Rd, Morristown, AZ 85342

Leg 2: Castle Hot Springs to CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa

  • Driving distance: 38.7 miles
  • Total drive time: 1 hour

The next stop is to one of the most holistic Phoenix spa resorts: CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa. It focuses not just on spa services and hot springs, but also on building knowledge, positive energy, and mental fortitude via classes and activities with world-class instructors. The resort has more than 70 complimentary group classes for guests to choose from, whether your goal is to improve your fitness, become more mindful, spend time in nature, deepen a relationship, overcome grief, or get to know yourself, among other goals.

The vibe is more casual, approachable, and affordable than some wellness resorts. No need to pack your Insta-worthy outfits or get dressed up for dinner. The Lululemon-clad guests are there, sure, but they’re mostly working on themselves rather than impressing others. The Boho-style decor is warm and welcoming, with lots of textures and a neutral color palette that mimics the desert landscape.

Those wanting a peaceful journey can soak up the sun poolside, experience the vibrations of a sound bath, visit the labyrinth for walking meditation, or get pampered with a hot stone massage. There are also more unique spa services available, like a “Sonoran Rain Dance” to “reestablish your inner calm and enhance relaxation.”

Visitors looking to dive into their creativity can take a “Journaling for Transformation” class, while those who prefer to sweat out their stress can go for a guided hike in the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, take a challenging “TRX Mix” class in the modern fitness center, join an immersive aqua therapy circuit, or borrow bikes to explore the town of Carefree.

Meals are not included, but there are two dining options – sit-down meals at Terras and to-go items at Seed. Terras’ menu is mostly health-conscious items, such as matcha pancakes or chocolate buckwheat porridge at breakfast and Faroe Island salmon or smoked eggplant hummus for dinner. Seed is a great place for a quick breakfast or snack, with fresh pressed juices, superfood lattes, bowls, wraps and paninis.

CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa: 37220 Mule Train Rd, Carefree, AZ 85377

Leg 3: CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa to Four Season Scottsdale

  • Driving distance: 10.7 miles
  • Total drive time: 15 minutes

The next leg is just a quick trip, headed to the upscale Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, tucked into the scenic landscape of Pinnacle Peak with adobe casitas that blend in with the natural environment. Whether you golf or not, you may want to book the “golfer’s massage,” which kneads into muscles with warm golf balls. It’s a nice afternoon activity on a day started with a gentle on-site hike through the diverse ecosystems of the Sonoran desert, and ended with watching the sunset while dining on a flavorful Latin meal of paella, stuffed Iberico pork, and patatas bravas, at Talavera.

Of the various spas in Phoenix, the Four Seasons is one of the best places to book more adventure-focused activities, and the resort can arrange any number of tours in the area, from a Jeep tour of Red Rocks or a Grand Canyon experience to mountain biking or a guided interpretive hike at Pinnacle Peak Park. But it also offers unique spa service in case you’d rather take it easy. That includes creative body therapies inspired by desert botanicals, such as the “Turquoise Sage Renewal” or “Jojoba and Prickly Pear Body Polish.”

Classes are also offered on a rotating weekly basis for guests, for those that want to try activities like desert bathing, candlelight yoga, float fit, or pickleball. If you’d rather have some alone time, for a fee, you can have a Peloton bike, Technogym equipment or a Theragun massage tool delivered to your room. Complimentary yoga mat and weights are also available.

Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North: 10600 E Crescent Moon Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

Leg 4: Four Seasons to Sanctuary Camelback Mountain

  • Driving distance: 21.4 miles
  • Total drive time: 32 minutes

If you’re an architecture buff, before heading to the last destination on your Phoenix spas road trip, make a short side trip to the inspiring Taliesin West. The museum and tour site was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and design studio. It’s open daily, 10 AM-5 PM.

Otherwise, end your wellness journey at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, A Gurney’s Resort & Spa, spread across 53 acres in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The mountain casitas, suites and villas are luxurious and contemporary, with oversized soaking tubs, mood lighting, and breathtaking views of the desert and Camelback Mountain. It’s an excellent place to end your trip on a high note.

The Asian-inspired Sanctuary Spa offers specialty treatments, including Watsu aquatic therapy, a “masami” anti-aging facial, a “luk pra kope” massage with medicinal herbs, and even a meditative “Nidra sound voyage.” The facilities are quite tranquil overall, with a reflection pond and Zen meditation garden. The treatment rooms open to the tranquil garden with a trickling fountain, while the relaxation lounge overlooks the adjacent serene reflection pond.

But if you’re into trendy workouts, set aside some time to be active. Pickleball enthusiasts flock to Sanctuary Camelback Mountain for private lessons and clinics on four pickleball courts. But there are also workout classes like aerial yoga, water fitness, foam rolling, and even power walking.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain: 5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

The final step of your Phoenix spas road trip is either to return to the airport, or head elsewhere in Arizona. You could look for wild horses, visit “Chocolate Falls,” or even do a day trip to the Grand Canyon, if you’re feeling ambitious.

As you head back to the airport, ideally, the Phoenix spas you visited have left you with a clear mind, refreshed body, invigorated soul, and renewed sense of purpose – so you’ll be ready for an adventure when it’s time to hit the road again for another wellness road trip.

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