A place NOT on everybody’s “Must See” list – Tecopa, CA

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Clay and rock

After days of exploration and fascination at Death Valley National Park its time to say goodbye to one of our favorite places and move along.  We didn’t have a firm destination, but rather a tentative stop in mind before crossing into Nevada.  We took highway 190 E and at the junction turned right onto 127 S, where we traveled through the expanse of the Amargosa Valley.  We initially hesitated to stop at our first tentative destination, for it was in the middle of nowhere and we didn’t know much about it.   But what the heck, lets check out this place called Tecopa Hot Springs.  We saw what looked like a little oasis up on a plateau to the east, so we turned left and followed the sign.  Our GPS directed us to the first RV park, Petersen’s Tecopa Palm RV Park.  At registration we learned we’d be hooking up to natural mineral water, which means it’s not so good for cooking, drinking or using in your coffee.  Also, since we were in the desert there was no cell, internet or tv.  Hmmm, sounds exciting!  So we decided to stay for the night.

Mineral Water Content

Even if Tecopa is off the beaten path, this town seems to be a snow birder’s destination.  As we socialized with folks during the 4pm happy hour we learned that the big attraction here is the natural baths, local hot mineral springs they claim is healing.  There is a public hot springs administered by Inyo County at a cost of $5 per day, where you must shower first then bathe in the nude.  Oh.  Lucky for us, the RV park had their own  private Hot Mineral Baths, natural hot spring water piped into soaking tubs.  The rules are the same, shower first then soak in your  birthday suit.

Hot Tub

The sign says, “Welcome to Paradise”.  Well, maybe if your idea of paradise is scalding hot water!  Too hot for us…

Our planned one-day stay became three days in short order, as the desert landscape and quiteness got to us, plus the natural hot springs.  The mineral water did not bother us much, nor did being off the grid again.  Tecopa is beautiful and has a mix of rolling hills and desert flats.  From our site we enjoyed a 360-degree mountain view, interesting vistas and more.  This place is no Death Valley, yet it has its own character and is worth seeing and enjoying.

View from our Betsy

The view of Tecopa from Betsy

On our second day we hopped in the car and followed the sign pointing to China Ranch, about 7 miles north of Tecopa.  At the end of a twisting road between chalky cliffs cut into desert seemingly barren of plant life, China Ranch came into view.

China Ranch

To China Ranch we go

What the heck is China Ranch? Well, it’s a family-owned small farm in a hidden oasis in the Mojave Desert.  The ranch fills a little valley with groves of stately date palms, stands of cottonwoods and thickets of vegetation, all amid the tranquil sounds of trickling spring water. P1240476

There’s  a bakery with yummy home made bread and cookies made of dates, assorted dates for tasting, a gift shop, landscaping nursery, a one-room museum

and miles of hiking trails.  Mine shafts abound in China Ranch, as the area has a rich history of mining booms and busts.  Lead, Silver, Gypsum and Talc were the primary minerals that were extracted here.

Date Palms

Groves of Date Palms ready for harvest

We were thrilled at  the assortment of hiking trails!  Off we went  without a trail map (the gift shop was not open yet) or drinking water, thinking we’d be back in less than an hour.  In short, we were winging it and feeling adventurous.

Gold Rock

Gold Rock next to Clay hills

Despite the lack of trail markers, this was really a wonderful area to hike and explore.  It is unique, with an assortment of intriguing scenery.  As we were walking along the ancient lakebed sediments, we saw light-colored clay hills mixed in with darker hard “gold rock” mountains.  We also explored a couple of canyons leading between mountain peaks which ended in very high dry waterfalls.  We could just picture the water cascading down those falls and through the canyons we were exploring.

We enjoyed looking at interesting formations and checked out some  veins of gypsum running through the clay hills.  Then we walked down the ridge and flood levee. Rockhounds would love this place with all the colorful rocks strewn in the area.

Waterfall in the desertFinally, we saw a waterfall in the middle of the desert.  Parts of the various trails run along the grade to the old Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, and we found many of the 100+ year old track ties discarded along the way.  As we kept walking and admiring the view of badlands, colorful rhyolitic volcanic rocks, marshes and salt flats we lost track of time and were feeling a little lost in the wilderness.  The half-hour walk became a three-hour trek, and it was pretty awesome.  After arriving back at the park we availed ourselves of the  mineral bath to ease our aching muscles.  Not for long though, that water was super-hot!

The lack of  quality drinking water in Tecopa, a community  built around natural hot springs, does not deter those who seek a destination off the beaten path. Our spur-of-the-moment decision to stop here illustrated that even though it’s NOT on everyone’s must-see list, that only makes it more  alluring.  It was a stop well worth it!

Here are some interesting things we admired along the way.

 

11 thoughts on “A place NOT on everybody’s “Must See” list – Tecopa, CA

  1. You are so right. We found Tacopa about 3 years ago and now return frequently to recharge ourselves. We are from The Vegas area and life can get pretty stressful if you’re not careful to take time and get away from the city and slow down for a while. Tacopa is the ideal place to do just that. As you said no phones, tv, no stress just quiet, hot springs, and wonderful people.

    By the way, Tacopa has a little secret that you should check out if you get a chance to return. It is a 5 star Restaurant called The Bistro run by John, a fabulous chef, and Shelley. The atmosphere is inviting and the food’s to die for.
    Make sure you go early because they sell out quickly and you don’t want to miss it.

    Tacopa is a bit of paradise in Death Valley.

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  2. The ‘Hot Springs’ are not ‘Tecopa’. Tecopa is the small village where you turned east to climb the hill up towards China Ranch.

    Next trip look for the ‘Hole In The Wall’. Climbing up the steep trail north of the C.R. ‘Store’ yields a spectacular view all the way down the Amargosa Canyon.

    A walk through the whole Amargosa Canyon is a great way to spend a long day. You do need plenty of water, there’s no ‘escape’ practical once you’re down into the track !
    http://www.ttrr.org/ac_walk/aw_p01.html

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    • Neither did we until that spur of the moment decision. And if you do visit, just make sure you have enough drinking water..that mineral water was awful. We however enjoyed and like the place with China Ranch as the surprise.

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  3. Great post! It pays to travel the back roads and follow your hunches now and then. Just because it’s not on everyone’s to do list doesn’t mean it’s not interesting or fun.

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    • Thanks, we were glad we made that decision and it was well worth it. But sometimes you will never know, for even those places with glowing reviews still are not as good as what they say. Tecopa is an exception.

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  4. You were right near the old Spanish trail. Did you get a date shake at china grove? Had a friend who owned a big ranch out there. Really fun Rockhunting for arrowheads.

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    • Yes, we were and did not even know about it until the fact. At the store the people there were quite busy baking and packing that we forgot to ask about the famous Date shake. Great place for rock hounds.

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