Turtle Back Mesa Clothing Optional B&B, Desert Hot Springs, California

Rating: 4 out of 5.

BEST FOR: Wine-Foodie Naturist Snob, Yoga-Wellness Guru, Casual Skinny Dipper, The Newbie Nudist

How is it that this little oasis has been sitting out in the desert for SO long, and I just discovered it in recent weeks? Turtle Back Mesa Clothing-Optional B&B is a small, tranquil retreat in the middle of nowhere California, but providing some very unique opportunities for newbie and experienced naturists alike. The place is run by a kind old gentleman named Ernest (And he is!) who created this little utopia with his wife, who has passed just in the last year. He pretty much does it all, from housekeeping to maintaining the hot springs, to making the coffee and breakfast in the morning. Who knows how long he’ll be able to keep all that up, so perhaps you should put it on your bucket list sooner than later. The star attraction of the place involves a 500 foot well that draws on the natural hot springs underneath the property, pulling mineral water out of the earth at 138°F! Not to worry – he’ll adjust the temperature to however you like it by mixing in cold water until it’s “just right.” The rooming situation is a bit quirky (See below), and all in all, it’s a bit like staying at your grandparent’s house, except to say that nobody in my family ever had a house like this! And if you have a burning desire to explore some of the remote regions of the desert in the buff, you could hardly find a better place for your home base.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? Unless you can catch a stage coach, you’re gonna drive! I arrived after dark and wished I’d timed that better for a daytime arrival, as Ernest has to open the gate for you, and the place is not terribly well marked. That said, GPS did its job and took me exactly to the right spot. The place sits on five acres that was originally part of a homestead deal, in this case with special permission to drill down and tap into the hot springs far below the surface. It’s a 20-30 minute drive to Palm Springs or Desert Hot Springs, so if you’re planning on dining out, you’ll need to plan accordingly.

If you’re arriving by air, Palm Springs Airport is just a short drive away, though you can get a much better fare by flying into Ontario and driving the extra hour. Either way, you’ll be renting a car.

WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? I don’t recall if he has an adults-only policy, though I’m going with “no” since he says he sometimes rents out the entire facility for weddings and similar events, some of which choose not to imbibe in the clothing-optional indulgence. You can be naked anywhere on the property, but there’s really not much going there for children, unless they’re used to traveling with their parents, but from an atmosphere perspective, there’s no reason I wouldn’t bring my kids there.

HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? There are three rooms on offer, though right now during the pandemic, he’s only willing to rent out one room at a time in an effort to maintain hygiene and social distancing. The most common remark on Trip Advisor is about the weird configuration of the shared bath between two of the rooms. As it happens, each unit has its own toilet and sink, but there’s a shower between the two that can be accessed from either side, with an open beam ceiling that rather limits your privacy should both you and your neighbors wish to use the bathroom at the same time. It was a really clever idea, but in practice, would require some negotiating if you were staying next door to strangers. The decor is a bit dated, but the bed was comfy and the wifi was great. And who knows when he’ll be taking more than one guest at a time again. Would be great for two couples traveling together, though be advised, he doesn’t accept smokers, and this is most definitely not a swinger place.

ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? I’ve wanted to try out naked hiking in Joshua Tree National Park for a long time, but given the elevation and the time of year, that was simply going to be too cold. Ernest suggested Morongo Canyon, about 30 minutes from his place instead, and it turned out to be a slam dunk. I met Fred, a naturist friend there, and we planted one car at the bottom of the trail, and another at the top, minimizing the chance of running into other hikers as most stay near the loop at the top, or were behind us on an out and back. We covered up for the few people we did meet, only to find out they really didn’t care. (Though I wouldn’t do that on a holiday weekend!) Fred documented our walk on his blog. CHECK THAT OUT HERE. Turtle Back is well situated for similar desert outings offering the best of both worlds – proximity to countless trails, but a comfortable bed with natural hot springs to soak your weary legs at the end of the day.

Some gallery images are from Google and are believed to be in the public domain. Please advise if otherwise.

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