Elm Hot Springs Resort – Aguanga, CA

For those travelers who love history and appreciate the roots of a community, the Elm Hot Springs is a place to visit where you may even fall in love with a time gone by. The resort was founded in 1872 by Ezra Adams, who was drawn to the area by the medicinal powers of the hot springs and believed he could create a place that would be a vacation destination. He was not only able to purchase the land but also created an area where people could live and work.

The resort is located in Aguanga, California, about 35 miles east of San Diego, and is now part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s been renovated and can be rented for weddings, reunions, and other gatherings. With its rich history, stunning setting, and excellent hiking trails, it’s no wonder travelers want to see this historic property for themselves. Here’s your guide to exploring all that the Elm Hot Springs Resort has to offer as you create memories with family or friends.


Elm Hot Springs Resort – Aguanga, California
Elm Hot Springs Resort – Aguanga, California

The original resort was built in 1872, and Ezra Adams took in boarders who helped maintain the property. The buildings were constructed with wood, adobe bricks, and limestone rocks gathered from the area. The roofs were made of red clay tiles or wood shingles.

The buildings were enlarged and remodeled over the years as more people began to visit the resort. One of the most popular structures was built in 1877 when a three-story hotel was constructed by John J. McCarty and his wife. The hotel became known as the McCarty House after its first owner. It was damaged by fire twice and rebuilt each time, but it was finally destroyed by a third fire in 1929.

The current structures include rooms built in the 1930s and 1940s and a kitchen that was built in 1890. The newest addition is a guest house that was completed in 1999, just before the resort became part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The facility offers camping, dormitory-style accommodations with shared bathrooms, cottages with shared bathrooms, RV hookups, and cottages with private bathrooms for guests who want to experience this unique place for themselves.

The Town of Elm

The town of Elm, which is the area surrounding the resort, was also founded in 1872 by Ezra Adams. While it no longer has residents, it’s a slice of history with its own unique feel and something you will want to explore.

Many of the structures have been restored, and there are more than 50 historic buildings that now house gift shops, restaurants, and other businesses. The town also has a schoolhouse and a jail that are open to visitors.

The jail was built in 1873 and used until 1969, when it was deactivated. It’s now used for storage. The schoolhouse was built in 1910 and is now used as the visitor center for Elm. There are exhibits about the town’s history as well as about the resort and its founder. You’ll also find maps of hiking trails in the area as well as brochures about activities offered at the resort itself.

If you love a good story, you won’t want to miss the Historic Museum at Elm, where you can learn all about Ezra Adams’ vision for creating a place that people would love to visit for relaxation and enjoyment.

The Hot Springs

Elm Hot Springs Resort – Aguanga, California
Elm Hot Springs Resort – Aguanga, California

The area is home to three natural hot springs that have been drawing people since the days of the early Native Americans and Spanish explorers. The springs have a constant temperature of 101 degrees and flow at a rate of 400 gallons per minute. The pools are fed by the springs, and there are also splash pools where kids can play or those who prefer a gentler dip can relax.

There’s a small charge for using the pools, which goes towards maintaining the buildings and grounds, but don’t forget your swimsuit and towel. You can rent towels for $2 and buy soap from the gift shop, or you can bring your own towels and soap.

The pools are clothing-optional, so if you prefer to swim in the buff, you’re welcome to do so, but families with children may want to stick to the main pool deck area where there are swimming areas roped off for swimmers wearing suits. For those who prefer privacy, there are areas secluded from view.

If you’d rather soak in a hot tub away from the pool deck area, there are five tubs located in various buildings that you can rent by the hour or day. These tubs are heated by gas rather than geothermal water so they vary in temperature. You’ll need to plan ahead as reservations can be made up to six months in advance. To accommodate individual preferences, each tub is heated to a distinct temperature.

They’re covered to protect guests from the famed Southern California sun, but the baths nevertheless offer breathtaking vistas that make you feel at one with nature.

For those who prefer a colder environment to soak and play, the Elm Resort has two pools. Both pools are filled with therapeutic sulfur water, but they’ve been cooled to a comfortable temperature. They offer a refreshing respite from the hot baths and blazing California heat.


While the natural sulfur waters are enough to entice visitors, the Elm Hot Springs attraction also provides a variety of other amenities to ensure a memorable and stress-free experience.

There is an indoor and outdoor communal kitchen where meals can be prepared. The kitchen has everything you need to get the job done, including high-end kitchenware and magnificent marble worktops. With such a magnificent and well-stocked cooking area, you won’t be able to stay away from the soothing waters for long.

Second, there’s a convenient conference room for church groups of little more than 100 people. A complementary kitchen makes it simple to prepare snacks and meals for spiritual gatherings, and the hot baths are ideal for meditation following.

Third, there are magnificent spots meant to highlight the beautiful landscape. These “meditation spots” are located throughout the resort and include a few seating options for guests to sit and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Finally, the Elm Resort provides a soothing heated room. You can choose a place to lie down, close your eyes, and let your thoughts wander, all while enjoying pleasant temperatures designed to calm the mind, body, and spirit.

Elm Hot Springs Today

The Elm Hot Springs Resort has been used as a retreat and vacation spot since 1872 when Ezra Adams purchased the land and began building cabins and a hotel. His vision was to create a place where people could enjoy the benefits of the hot springs and take time to relax.

Today, the resort has undergone extensive renovations under the care of Anza-Borrego State Park. The cottages were rebuilt by two volunteers, who used blueprints from before the fire to ensure that each cabin was true to its original design.

The resort is available for rent, but you can’t stay in the cottages or rooms in the original hotel because they are now used for groups. However, you can rent out the large pavilion for a gathering or rent one of several small cabins located at the end of Mesa Lane.

As you explore Elm Hot Springs, remember that it is a desert environment and be sure to use sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots when you head out on trails because there are plenty of snakes and other creatures that will be hiding in rocks or brush — usually not too happy about being disturbed.

Elm Dinner Club and Spa

The Elm Dinner Club and Spa, once known as the Bath House #3, was constructed in 1918 by Dr. John D. Elmslie, who had purchased the resort from Ezra Adams in 1910. It was built to serve as a clubhouse and hotel and is where the famous “Elm Feast” was created by Alice Elmslie with her original recipes. This feast became so popular that it became its own event and has been celebrated annually since 1939.

The building also served as a boarding house for many guests wanting to enjoy the healing powers of the springs. It was also used as a hospital during World War II and has been restored to its 1918 appearance. Today it’s home to a restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the beautiful dining room or on the patio over looking the pool area. It also houses The Spa at Elm where you can indulge in your choice of treatments from facials to massages.

Today, the resort is operated by California State Parks and is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily through May 31. Hours change beginning June 1; from 8 am to 6 pm through September 2, with shorter hours from then through September 15 before closing for the winter season.


To meet the demands of its customers, this resort has two lodging alternatives.

  • Bungalows – The lovely, simple bungalows sleep up to five adults in one bunk bed and one full bed. It should be noted that the bungalows do not provide beds. For romantic dinners with loved ones, each quaint cottage features an own patio, BBQ, and picnic table.
  • Campground – For those looking for a more natural experience, the Elm Resort has numerous campsites that can accommodate up to six adults at once.

How to Get There

Although the Elm Hot Springs Resort’s isolation is one of its most appealing aspects, it is nonetheless easily accessible. If you’re going from Los Angeles, take the I-15 South, whereas those arriving from San Diego should take the I-15 North. The rest of the instructions are straightforward:

Highway CA-79 South exit (Temecula Parkway)
For 18 kilometers, continue east toward Cahuilla Road.
Take the first left onto CA-371 E.
Continue for another 5 miles.
Turn right into Foolish Pleasure Road.

Exploring the Area

The northern edge of the property is bordered by Highway 78, which makes it easy for visitors to find the resort and explore on their own or with a rental car. The historic building and grounds are mostly self-guided, but you will want to rent a golf cart to get around the grounds, including the trails.

There are a few hiking trails that start on the property, including the popular Split Rock Trail that will take you past petroglyphs and into a slot canyon. The trail is 1.5 miles round-trip and can be steep in places, so wear appropriate hiking shoes and take along water.

To truly explore the area, it’s necessary to venture out of the resort property. The Inn at the Springs does have an area map you can pick up showing all of the nearby attractions. You will want to visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Headquarters where there are exhibits about the history of Aguanga and its hot springs, as well as maps and information about all of the park’s features.

Another great stop is the Split Rock Store in Anza where you can pick up snacks for your stay at the resort or for your hike at Split Rock Trail.

Bottom line

The Elm Hot Springs Resort in Aguanga, California is the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway. With its wide range of activities and amenities, the resort provides something for everyone. From its natural hot springs, to its breathtaking views, to its modern and inviting accommodations, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet weekend retreat or an exciting vacation filled with adventure, the Elm Hot Springs Resort is the perfect place to be. With its tranquil atmosphere and remarkable setting, it’s sure to provide a truly unique and memorable experience. For those looking to truly unwind and relax, the Elm Hot Springs Resort is an ideal destination.

Weather Forecast for next 5 days

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Local information

Address: 48480 Foolish Pleasure Road. Aguanga, California 92536
GPS: 33.491878,-116.818211
Phone: 951-763-4939
Season: Year-round
Reservations: Required for Day and Overnight Guests
Website: elimhotsprings.com/english/#English-Home

For even more information on the Elm Hot Springs Resort and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you can contact the Anza-Borrego Foundation at 800/448-1474 or visit the website at www.abdsp.org.

The National Park Service can be reached at 760/767-5500, or you can find information on their website at www.nps.gov/bor/index.htm.

There are also many other websites and blogs where you can find information about the Elm Hot Springs Resort and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, including:

The resort is also featured in a new book by Kathy Weidner titled “The History of the First Resort in the Deserts of Southern California,” which is available for purchase through Amazon.

You definitely don’t want to miss the chance to see this amazing place for yourself and create memories that will last a lifetime.




Anne loves to explore the world and share her experiences through her blog. She loves to travel to places that are off the beaten path and find unique experiences to share with her readers. She also loves to share tips on how to make the most of a trip, from budgeting to activities. She hopes that her blog will inspire others to explore the world and enjoy the beauty of nature.