Three and a half hours from San Francisco, up I-80 toward Tahoe, turn left at Truckee for another 30 miles on a curvy mountain road until you finally pull into Sierraville Hot Springs Retreat Center with a sigh. Oh, the lengths we will go to when relaxation is required!
This is a sister facility to the better-known Harbin Hot Springs near Calistoga. The two centers have similar offerings of a variety of healing waters, health services and assorted accommodations. There is nothing like the intimate woodsy warmth of Sierraville Hot Springs. You arrive at the main lodge with a sense of traveling back in time. The rustic building with two story columns greets you with its wide stairs to the grand deck entry, and once inside the lodge, a living room welcomes you with couches and cozy corners to cuddle into. A full-service kitchen, TV room, yoga space and vegan restaurant share the space.
You can book a private or shared room here, stay at the adjacent Globe Hostel, RV site or tent camp in the meadows or forest hide-out. Prices range from $22 for camping to $77 per person for a private room on the weekend. Because they are a clothing optional facility they are required to operate as a semi-private resort with nominal membership fee, $5 for the month, $20 a year or $200 for a lifetime.
Nature or nurture, both have their advantages. Wake to the grand mountain meadows out your tent flap, or pull your blanket to your chin in your simple yet sweet hotel room. Either way, once you’ve settled into your chosen zone, it’s time to be tempted to the water’s edge.
Up the path, a copper covered geodesic dome sits over the central 108-degree hot pool with sensual sand bottom. Hot enough to make your skin sing, try to last a moment longer and then brave the chilling cold dip. Fifty-degree water splashes from conch shells into two blue tiled tubs. Just beyond is the Temple Dome warm pool—a swimming pool-sized outdoor soak surrounded by sun deck and vast valley views. Here they offer their unique water yoga classes. Slower and often safer than land yoga, water yoga benefits from the buoyancy of water to assist your fluid movement (supported by floating pool noodles).
The newly completed dry sauna tucks into the far corner. You can easily spend your time rotating around this triangle of hot and cold, sun and steam and soak. But there is more.
The Phoenix spa center houses the treatment room’s individually filled baths, and a full menu of massage, facial and body therapies. Indulge in the Ultimate Spa Treatment with a personally blended essential oil body scrub, followed by an aromatherapy body wrap, a full facial treatment, and finish with a flower essence scalp treatment. Massage is interspersed throughout the two-and-a-half-hour-long luxury. Or create your own invigorating experience from their list of spa add-ons. Reservations are recommended.
Finally, to fully dissolve into the healing process, you must experience the floating massage modality called Watsu. Developed at their sister site, Harbin, this slow swirling system is described as having effortless deep tissue impact. Practitioners have adapted Zen Shiatsu techniques for use in warm waters in order to release muscle tension and allow greater access to healing.
You can now say you have fully realized your relaxation. But you can’t go yet.
Not until you’ve discovered the real hidden gem of this property. Walk the road past the lodge through the camping meadow until you find the most charming waters of all. The Meditation Pool lies out in the open air, surrounded by medicinal plants, in an unsculpted garden. Young Aspen trees rustle in the fresh air next to the outdoor shower, alongside the little deck. Leave your things here and slide between natural rock walls into silky smooth lithium waters and settle into the sand bottom pool where the water’s mellow temperature allows you to lounge for a long soak. You’ll want to stay all day.
When your fingers shrivel and the sun begins to set on your vacation, you will wrap up this perfect weekend and vow to make this drive whenever relaxation is required.