Haute Spots: Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa

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This stunning rock formation is called a palisade
This stunning rock formation is called a palisade

Want to plan an adventurous escape before summer is over, but prefer to stay close to the Bay Area? Book a long weekend at Gateway Canyons Resort and Spa in Central Western Colorado. At the base of a massive rock formation (known as a palisade) and the meeting point of five canyons, Gateway is a resort unlike any other. It offers unparalleled experiences for everyone—from curious kids to thrill-seeking bachelors—in a breathtakingly scenic natural setting. The resort, which opened 11 years ago, was conceptualized by John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel. In his memoir A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur’s Story, Hendricks describes his “desire for a permanent place where we could retreat, reflect, and enrich our lives amid an unspoiled natural landscape.” When he finally found the location of what would later become Gateway Canyons, it was love at first site. “We began to circle an area where magnificent red rock canyons converged at the confluence of West Creek and the Dolores River. As we descended into the canyons, a dirt landing strip appeared just ahead of the most stunning red rock landform I had ever seen, glowing in the morning light. We purchased the ranch a few weeks later.” Today Hendricks invites savvy travelers to the retreat to reflect and enrich their lives, Gateway style. After just an hour in the exceptional landscape, you’ll feel more relaxed and one with nature.

From private jet to Bentley, you'll arrive at the resort in style
From private jet to Bentley, you’ll arrive at the resort in style

To get to Gateway Canyons from San Francisco, book a private flight into Grand Junction. The resort is an hour’s drive from the small airport, but you can work with the accommodating staff to have a car service ready and waiting to whisk you away. We’re not talking about your typical hotel car service—Gateway has an extensive collection of luxury cars available for guests to test drive. Speak with Gateway’s car concierge before your trip and you can step off the plane into a Bentley Continental convertible or Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.

An asparagus dish at Entrada
An asparagus dish at Entrada

There are three types of rooms at Gateway—for the most palatial experience, book a casita suite which is a one bedroom house with private outdoor shower and intimate balcony. The decor is upscale Western with Navajo-print curtains, oversized leather chairs, crisp white linens, and warmly colored yellow and teal walls. The suites have electric fireplaces (both inside and outside), expansive bathrooms with stable doors and massive soaking tubs, and multiple televisions. Some of the rooms have private outdoor hot tubs. The resort sits on more than 6,000 acres of land, so bring your walking shoes—or head to the adventure center and check out a bike for you to use throughout your stay. Ride around the property from the pool to the spa to lunch. Speaking of lunch, Gateway has four unique dining options. The Paradox Grill has a bar and outdoor patio and serves up Southwestern fare all day—think lamb burgers and fancy truffle grilled cheese for lunch and rabbit ragout and crispy pork shank for dinner. At Entrada, diners can enjoy the flavors of Colorado—local venison, wild salmon, dry-aged bison, and filet of beef—in a more formal setting. A poolside cafe, all-day cantina, and vintage food truck round out the delicious culinary offerings at Gateway.

Take flight in a helicopter tour
Take flight in a helicopter tour

While the resort has your standard high-end amenities: two pools, an intimate spa with four treatment rooms and an assortment of facials, massages, and body indulgences, and fitness center—it has a slew of more outrageous offerings. Want to ride in a helicopter over the canyons? Drive through the desert surrounding in an UTV? Horseback ride across a meadow at sunset? You can do all of these things at Gateway. In fact, the hotel has an entire adventure center devoted to active outdoor pursuits that include motor biking, river fishing, shooting, and hiking. It’s also one of the only—if not the only—resort in the nation that has a private Pro-Baja track. A Pro-Baja is an open-air racing truck that swivels as it takes the track’s sandy curves and flies into the air as it propels over jumps. It’s a thrilling experience truly unique to Gateway.

Gateway Canyon's Auto Museum
Gateway Canyon’s Auto Museum

If these action-packed exploits make you anxious, the hotel has more subdued activities that are equally fascinating. Walk the canyon’s valleys with the Curator of Curiosity, Zebulon Miracle (yes, that’s his real name) in search of dinosaur fossils. Learn about rocks, the history of the earth, and local landmarks like the Hanging Flume while you tour the nearby land with Miracle. Gateway also has an Auto Museum that features Hendricks’s personal collection of 60 prized historic cars in impeccable condition. 100 years of American automotive history is showcased at the museum and rare classic colorful cars are on display. When staying at the resort, an afternoon at the museum is a must. With education, discovery, adventure, relaxation, and natural beauty—Gateway Canyons is a destination that every one would benefit from visiting at least once in their life.

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