Pocketed in a residential neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona, amid the Sonoran Desert, the Hermosa Inn was constructed as a home in the 1930s by renowned cowboy artist Lon Megargee, who hand-built it as an adobe ranch in the traditional regional style. Today, Megargee’s spirit remains as conspicuous as background music around the enclave, which became a hotel when he sold it suddenly and fled amid rumors of bankruptcy. His palpable presence cannot be explained merely by the fact that the hotel presents a vast collection of his paintings, nostalgic depictions of bygone Western life and lore. Nor can it be attributed to the restaurant and bar, both named for him. One can’t even blame it on the staff, who perpetually regale and captivate guests with tales of the legendary fellow, a bigger-than-life character who defines the allure and dogged romanticism of the Old West.
At the hotel, I find the phenomenon of Lon lurking invisibly, like a phantom by my side. As I walk the storied grounds and nooks, I detect Lon everywhere, overseeing his former outpost. When I lounge in the hammock, strung between trees, flowers peeping from the grass, Lon whispers sweet nothings. At LONS, the hotel’s popular restaurant, I swear he sits at the next table, knocking back a shot — or 10. Submerged in the vintage-style, kidney-shaped pool, I blink and see him delivering drinks as a diaphanous shadow, his natural hospitality apparent. On the porch of my new-built casita, which looks toward eye-catching Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain in the distance, Lon joins me for sunrise as a spark of prism and shadow — though my suite wasn’t built when Lon physically roamed the place. It’s all a bit eerie and magical at once. One thing’s for sure. The cowboy artist left his mark.
“Oh, Lon’s everywhere,” says a staff member who has worked at the hotel for years. She soon relates her personal encounter with him, a saga in which she and the chef stand in the kitchen, transfixed in awe as all the kitchen knives prise themselves from the wall and dance through the air toward them. As they watch, the knives land alarmingly close (mischievously close?) to their feet. “The joke was on us,” she grins, noticing how I relish the story. She leans in: “Lon loved a good joke.” (Note: I do spend the next few days looking for flying knives.)
Another employee takes me down to the chilly, 57-degree wine cellar (a rare room to have in Scottsdale), where the Hermosa Inn holds intimate, heat-of-the-summer dinner parties in a program called Cool Dining. Guests wear furs, coats and other finery not normally donned in the desert’s heat in order to eat inside the chilly, cozy, subterranean room. As I hear about how Lon built the room, complete with escape tunnels for his friends to cavort and debauch during Prohibition, I feel someone staring at me. I whip around to see nobody. The employee who accompanies me laughs sympathetically. “Did you feel Lon?” he asks. I nod. “He’s everywhere.”
Bigger than life, Lon Megargee, legendary artist whose work still appears inside Stetson hats, was a champion roper, respected artist, ladies’ man, gadabout and, as one person whispers to me hoping Lon’s ghost won’t hear, “a notorious flimflam man.” Today, the hotel welcomes guests looking for a quiet oasis in the desert. Full of gravitas and soul, it reigns as an absolute gem among Scottsdale’s trove of fine hotels. Festive, brimming with personality and history, sporting views of Camelback Mountain and offering complimentary bikes for exploring the area, Hermosa Inn also features pool cabanas for all-day repose and an artisanal cocktail laboratory at the bar, prime for sunset toasts at the end of the day.
What we love:
- The heyday desert-styled casitas, havens of swish comfort, have leather furniture, hand-carved accoutrements, kiva fireplaces, skylights to see the stars and decadent soaking tubs.
- This place is beyond dog friendly. In fact, dogs are deified and receive special treats and the utmost coddling.
- LONS. This unforgettable restaurant is a local favorite. Don’t miss a meal here.
- The location. The Hermosa Inn is near everything you want to do in Scottsdale.
- Cruiser bikes are available to explore the neighborhood and nearby bike paths.
Need to know:
- Be sure to make dinner reservations at LONS, as it gets busy all year round.
- Ask your waiter about the “Trust Cocktail.” That’s when you let the bartender choose. Bar alchemists at LON’s Last Drop come up with crafty, new cocktails every day.
- Spring for a pool cabana and lounge beneath it all day. For the price, you’ll get complimentary snacks and sangria.
- There is not a full-service spa on property. However, the retreat lies just minutes from world class spas nearby, and the concierge can arrange bookings. They do have a dedicated spa suite, however, and massages on property can be arranged.
- Forever a highlight, the Sonoran Desert awaits. Hermosa Inn works with the best hiking and biking guides in the business. We suggest Wild Bunch Desert Guides for your outings, https://www.wildbunchdesertguides.com/. Also, the hot-air balloon rides can’t be beat. Take a memorable ride with Hot Air Expeditions, followed by a white tablecloth meal in the desert.