On this day, we didn’t have anything to do but explore. My sister, Deelow and I have been traveling to other places but in the back of our minds, we knew we had to go back to Gilroy to finish our travel list. The only one left on the list was the Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs Resort. From San Jose, we traveled south and exited to Masten Avenue and from there, it took us about 11 miles to reach the entrance.
Driving left, right, and around the farm lands was fun, yet confusing. Thus, we had to follow the map carefully. Going off New Avenue, the winding road will begin. The surroundings will change from open fields to more densely populated trees. The Cayote Creek is parallel to the road.
It took us almost 20 minutes from Masten to reach the bridge. We park and walk across the bridge and came up to the entrance of the Springs. To our dismay, the Gilroy Hot Springs was already abandoned and trespassing was forbidden but regardless, we still went in and upon entering, we saw the California Historical Marker stating.
“NO. 1017 GILROY YAMATO HOT SPRINGS RESORT – Under the guidance of the George Roop and William McDonald families during the years of 1865 of Francisco Cantua’s discovery to the 1930s, Gilroy Hot Springs was a popular health and family resort oriented around a single hot mineral spring located near Coyote Creek. In 1938 the resort was purchased by H.K. Sakata, a successful Japanese American farmer from Watsonville. Renamed the Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs, it was the only Japanese American owned commercial hot springs in California. The resort served as a recreational and spiritual center for Japanese Americans before World War II and briefly as a hostel after the war for those returning from internment camps.”
At first, our plan was just to take a picture of the marker and went on our ways, but since we were already there, the excitement of exploring the unknown/forbidden place urged us to move forward. Thus, we followed the trail leading up to the hill where we found some empty wooden, box shaped like rental cottages. We walked around and took a peek inside. Now, here is a brief history of the Hot Springs:
“Started in 1865 as a warm mineral water resort with hunting, fishing, hiking, and horseback activities for guests, Gilroy Hot Springs was a very popular destination spot for movers-and-shakers with time and money. Imagine a 3-hour train ride from San Francisco to Gilroy, an overnight stay in town, then a 3-hour horse and buggy ride up 12 miles of dirt trails to reach the place. This isn’t a quick day trip; most guests stayed one or two weeks, at least.
Many of the founding fathers of the Gilroy township had a financial interest in the Hot Springs. Newspaper articles, printed documents, and family photos show local business men and neighboring ranchers enjoyed time at the resort and business collaborations. The business and political associations nurtured by the astute and charismatic Gilroy Hot Springs owners George W. Roop and later William J. McDonald nurtured, contributed to the success and popularity of the resort. In the 1800s it was believed to have the most healing waters in California.
These associations resulted in the railroad and Gilroy train station, redwood for the hotel, clubhouse, and cabins, and the Fleishhacker warm water pool. There were many political rallies, high brow dinner parties and music concerts, flag raisings, and holiday festivities. Gilroy Hot Springs was the destination spot for many decades. Roop and McDonald loved Gilroy Hot Springs, formed trusted relationships with influential leaders, and left a following of loyal family and friends.
The same was true of Harry Kyusaburo Sakata who later held ownership, adding the word “Yamato” — meaning “Japanese” and making it the only Japanese-owned mineral spring resort in California. Under Sakata, GYHS reminded many of similar places in Japan and thereby became a place of physical as well as moral, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Following WWII, Mr. Sakata offered it as a hostel for resettling Japanese Americans, and later reopened the resort to the public. It enjoyed a surge in business during the 1950s to 60s. From 1967 to 2003, other privater groups have owned it, including an investment group, a foreign developer, and the nature Conservancy.
In 2003 it was acquired by, and the became part of Henry Coe State Park. “Friends of Gilroy Host Springs is stepping forward to coordinate and support preservation and restoration efforts.”
We left the area feeling disappointed because of the current situation of the Hot Springs, but there is still a flickering hope for those few people from Friends of Gilroy Hot Springs who are trying their best to restore the Hot Springs to its former self, during the peak and hey days.
After an entire day of walking and exploring, we headed down to our favorite place at the El Grullo by Monterey Road in Morgan Hill to fill our empty tummies with those large plates of Mexican dishes. This was indeed a perfect meal to end the day.
For more information a link to the official site and photos courtesy of: