November 23- December 8
I had to add 2018 to the title because the last time we stayed in Desert Hot Springs I also wrote a blog post called, “Soaking at Sam’s“. I suppose I could have come up with another title, but as anyone who has been to Sam’s Family Spa is well aware, the main draw is the hot spring tubs, so any other title just won’t do.
Not much has changed at Sam’s since our last stay in 2012. Same basic RV sites, same blah concrete block room where the hot pools reside, and the same mix of permanent and kind-of permanent residents. The one thing that has changed is the management. I only know this because of what I’ve heard from other travelers, mostly in the form of complaints regarding hospitality (or the lack of). We honestly didn’t notice a difference. Some of the staff are friendly and helpful, some not so much. Which is pretty typical of a larger RV park. Sam’s has never been a fancy place, and as a result, we don’t come here expecting 5-star service.
The big difference in our stay this time around was that we paid for the monthly rate so we had to take a spot in the main RV park area instead of the back lot/overflow/group area. It’s nice back there because it’s almost always nearly empty, but the sites are really, really close together, so if it does get busy (like if a large rally shows up) it would not be so great an option. For some reason when you pay monthly, the back 40 is off limits, so we instead chose a really nice, wide, mostly level site in the RV section. Not all the sites here are this big, and some are on a steep slant, so we felt lucky to snag this spot. Especially because we arrived very late in the day on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We also had amazing, quiet neighbors on either side who both happened to be blog readers. (Hi everyone!)
Like most of our itinerary over the last few months, our stay at Sam’s was not planned. It was only after learning that our friend’s Beth & Taylor and Laura & Kevin were staying there did it even become a possibility. The other option was heading down toward Yuma to finish up the dental work that Tim needs in Algodones. Hmmm… good friends and hot springs, or the most boring boondocking spot ever and multiple trips to the dentist? Not a hard choice. We quickly fell into a routine of meeting up for a group soak in the morning or evening (occasionally both) with a few dips in the gently heated outdoor pool just for fun.
After the Thanksgiving weekend crowds left, the park was on the quiet side and it wasn’t unusual to arrive at the pools around 7 or 7:30 PM to find only a smattering of other people there. The pools are drained, scrubbed out, and refilled every morning, making the morning a popular time for soaking, but as they don’t open until the 9 am we found it difficult to make that work and mostly used them in the evenings.
For us, the main downside of Sam’s (and the reason why our 16-day stay was about as long as we would want to stay at one time) is that it feels really isolated. The town of Desert Hot Springs doesn’t have much of an appeal, and even the grocery store chains there have a low quality feel to them. As a result, if you want to go out to eat or do any kind of shopping, you must make the 30-40 minute drive into Palm Springs. Not really a big deal, but since we’re limited to weekends and after work for going out, it means we end up staying home more often.
Fortunately, there are some hiking trails nearby. The closest is an unofficial trail that starts across the street from the park and climbs up a ridge to a series of flags. From the park to the farthest flag and back clocks in somewhere around 5 miles with a good stretch of uphill that gets the heart pumping. We liked it so much we hiked it twice.
The other hiking trails only a short distance from Sam’s are part of the Coachella Valley Preserve. We drove over there on weekend morning with the whole gang in tow for a group hike to the palms. The preserve is one of only a handful of places around California where you can see native fan palms growing in their natural habitat.
We hiked a nice loop around the palms and down a flower-filled wash before dropping everyone else off at the parking lot and continuing our adventure across the street.
The other side of the road requires a longer hike to reach the palms (4-6 miles round trip) but once you get to them, you can walk for a mile or two along the canyon while admiring hundreds(?) of trees. I think this area of the preserve was probably the best hiking we’ve discovered in the area.
Near the end of our stay, we made to a trip over to the Whitewater Preserve. We came here last time, and enjoyed both the hiking and views, so a repeat visit with friends sounded like a good idea. Unlike the Coachella Preserve, Whitewater allows dogs which makes it a popular spot for locals to walk their pooches. While we no longer have a dog to walk, I always enjoy trails with lots of dogs because I usually can find one or two to pet :)
Our last minute decision to come to Sam’s for a few weeks was spot on. In addition to all the hours spent soaking in the hot springs, we also had a fantastic time catching up with RV friends old and new. Let the winter social season begin!