LAKE ELSINORE — Healthy times have returned to the Lake Elsinore area. The Lakeside Health Resort opened recently and promises to help guests lose both weight . . . and their cares.
Also in full swing is a reborn hot springs haven, Glen Ivy. Boasting the Southland's only red-clay bath, this daytime resort has been dubbed "Club Mud."
The Luiseno Indians were the first to soak away their aches and ills at Lake Elsinore. They called the spot Etengvo Wumona (hot springs by the little sea).
When white settlers discovered the medicinal waters they established a town and turned it into a popular health spa. However, the Great Depression drained away spa goers, and most of Elsinore's mineral wells were capped.
Visitors began to return in 1957 when the lake became a state recreation area and attracted boaters, water skiers and fishermen. Thermal updrafts in the mountain-bordered valley also makes it a center for hang gliders and ultralight aircraft pilots.
Nowadays, health fans are finding good reasons to revisit the lakeside city that's celebrating its 100th birthday.
One of Lake Elsinore's original spa buildings still stands, the 1887 Crescent Bath House, a well-preserved redwood structure that's been designated a national historic landmark. It's now an antique store called the Chimes.
Vintage furniture, china, glassware, clocks and other collectibles fill the former spa's recreation rooms. Go down the long hall to see more antiques and the Roman-style bathtubs, as well as the men's and women's massage rooms. One chamber has been turned into a mini-museum of Lake Elsinore memorabilia.
In the older downtown section of the city, the Chimes is the most interesting place to start your visit. Be sure to ask owners Lory and Wilma Watts about the resident ghost.
Get there from Los Angeles by going south on Interstate 5 to join the Riverside Freeway (California 91) east, and exit south at Corona on Interstate 15 to Lake Elsinore.
Take the Main Street exit, then turn right on Graham Avenue to the two-story colonial building with fancy grillwork on the upper porch. The Chimes is open only on weekends from June 4; phone (714) 674-3456.
Across the street you can get visitor information at the turn-of-the-century Santa Fe train depot, restored as a centennial project for the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce. It's open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; phone (714) 674-2577.
New Health Spa
To reach Lake Elsinore's newest active health spa, continue on Graham Avenue to join Lakeshore Drive, which overlooks the water. At the junction with Riverside Drive (California 74), turn left and go about a mile to the Lakeside Health Resort, an unfancy but full-service fitness center for mind and body. It's on five peaceful acres across the highway from the lake.
The spa opened in 1986, guided by a general manager who came from the Oaks at Ojai and instructors who formerly worked at the Golden Door, Rancho La Puerta and the Bermuda Inn.
As you'll discover on a tour of the property, Lakeside Health Resort occupies the 1950s vacation retreat for officials of the laundry workers union. Its 40 rooms have been renovated to accommodate single, double or triple occupants.
The resort features heated indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, sauna, exercise gym and weight room, along with a tanning booth, beauty salon and massage rooms.
Guests join in a daily activity schedule that includes a series of 45-minute exercise classes, starting with a morning walk along the lakeside or a more rigorous mountain hike. Lectures about fitness, diet and mental and emotional health are included.
Three low-calorie meals are also part of the daily weight-loss and wellness schedule. Guests are welcome to spend a minimum of two nights, but for long-term results, the staff recommends a full week.
Total cost for lodging, meals, exercise and lecture programs, with use of all facilities, is $903 a week single, $693 per person double and $553 per person triple occupancy, plus tax and a 10% service charge.
Nightly rates are $129 single, $99 each for a double and $79 each for a triple. Call the Lakeside Health Resort, (714) 674-1501, or toll-free (800) 472-8583.
Elsinore State Park
Nearby, on the other side of Riverside Drive, look for the entrance to Lake Elsinore State Park, a concession-operated center for visitors who like to camp, picnic, boat and fish.
Campers have a choice of 1,000 first-come, first-served sites ($9.50 a night), including 520 with electrical hookups ($3 extra). You can rent a rowboat or kayak or launch your own boat. Fishermen try for bass, catfish, bluegill and crappie.
Daily admission to the park is $3 a vehicle with two persons, 50 cents for each additional person. Call (714) 674-3177 for more information.
Private marinas and campgrounds flank the park. At 32000 Riverside Drive is Lake Park Resort, which offers motel rooms ($40) and cabin accommodations with kitchens ($50), plus full-hookup RV sites ($13). Call (714) 674-7911.