Why you should plan a wellness road trip to the Northwest right now

Jan 4, 2020

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When life throws you lemons, envision yourself sipping a chilled glass of citrus-infused water in the waiting room of a luxurious spa or a hot springs sanctuary. At least, that’s what I did.

I spent most of 2019 feeling underwhelmed by my status quo, and stuck in my own skin. So, in November, I packed up my apartment in Denver, Colorado, and embarked on a journey to my next chapter. For me, the beginning of that expedition took the form of a wellness road trip through the Northwest.

Instead of dipping into my growing points fund (thanks to incredible sign-up bonuses including 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of opening the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card) to fly overseas for an exotic getaway, I decided to design my own self-drive itinerary departing from my former home base.

Worried you’re about to enter the Boring ‘20s? Let me be your guide as you hit reset — and the road — and take a week off for a self-care sabbatical to access the refresh you deserve.

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A hot springs refuge in Saratoga, Wyoming

With many routes to take from Colorado, Wyoming is the closest state line. Although Cheyenne may not be known for its wellness-centric offerings, there is a hidden hot springs gem in a town about two hours heading northwest. The four-hour drive is serene and accented with plains and peaks. When checking into Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, say “yes” to the robe and freshly baked oatmeal cookies, along with a beer token or two. The rooms are rustic and complete with moose art. Opt for a hot springs poolside room, too, if that’s available.

Saratoga Hot Springs Resort. (Photo courtesy of TravelWyoming.com)
Saratoga Hot Springs Resort. (Photo courtesy of TravelWyoming.com)

Hit the onsite Snowy Mountain Brewery (convenient, or what?) for some sustenance in the form of pub grub, and wash it down with locally crafted hops. If you arrive at night, no problem. Approach the main, 98-degree, 70-foot-long pool, with just the right amount of illumination under the moonlight and a sky full of stars.

Next to the massive mineral pool sit several German hot springs teepees that reach up to 112 degrees, each offering a semiprivate refuge from the outside world. (On a weeknight, you may be the only guest gracing the waters.) Dip into the smaller teepees and walk long laps in the main pool, swirling in the warm, enriched waters.

Wake up and take advantage of the property’s programming. For some relaxation, stop by the spa. If you’re feeling active, head out on a snowmobiling or snowshoeing excursion during the wintertime, or a river float or scenic hike, come summer. Make sure to experience the springs in the daylight and, after one final soak, get back behind the wheel.

TPG tip: Saratoga Hot Springs Resorts is not a member of any major loyalty program, so make sure to charge your room to a credit card that earns bonus points on travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Related: 10 secret Icelandic hot springs cooler than the Blue Lagoon 

A taste of the good life in Park City, Utah

The route from Saratoga to Park City, Utah is less than five hours, and filled with vistas of canyons and mountains and a captivating windmill farm; you’ll never tire of the view. The drive is peaceful, and the snow-capped Park City panoramas are an incredible welcome to Utah. The Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, which is located in The Canyons region, is the luxurious mountain playground you’ll have no choice but to write (or text) home about.

Check in to a two-bedroom suite, complete with a bedroom hot tub, a full kitchen and a cozy living room with a fireplace begging you to move in for a month, minimum. Unpack, relax and enjoy a hearty dinner at Edge Steakhouse, followed by a warm steam shower before climbing into the fluffy, king-size bed.

The Wasatch Mountains near Park City, Utah. (Photo by Scott Markewitz/Getty Images)
The Wasatch Mountains near Park City, Utah. (Photo by Scott Markewitz/Getty Images)

If you’re traveling in the winter, trust in the comprehensive ski-in/ski-out accommodations. Westgate will store your equipment, warm your boots and send your gear up the chairlift for you. After the snow melts, enjoy a hot air balloon ride, some scenic mountain biking and explore the endless mountain trails.

Or, hit a yoga class and curl up indoors at the onsite Serenity Spa for the day, and take advantage of a signature massage (add-on enhancements for customization range from sacred stones to essential oils, a hot oil scalp treatment to arnica leg relief). Afterward, stop by the eucalyptus steam room for a scented schvitz, visit the adults-only indoor pool to relax by the waterfall and cozy up in the lounge with a warm cup of organic tea (and lemon-infused water, of course).

At night, take a ride to Main Street — tap the free shuttle, operable by smartphone app — to peruse local shops and grab dinner and drinks on the town. Back at Westgate, your master bedroom Jacuzzi awaits for the perfect evening soak and a nightcap.

Grab an early, casual lunch at the house Drafts Burger Bar, a cozy gastropub with more than 50 beers (20 on tap), sinful milkshakes and patties that cater to all tastes. Grab a table on the outdoor patio, and watch the action unfold by the nearby chairlift.

Because you’ll most likely book your stay directly through Westgate, consider using fixed-value miles, like those earned with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, to “erase” the travel purchase from your statement. There are also plenty of points hotels in the area, too, like the Hyatt Centric Park City or the St. Regis Deer Valley, the latter of which has a sprawling (but pricey) 14,000-square-foot spa with 11 treatment rooms.

Related: 18 hotels you’ll want to book just for the bathtub 

A small town stay in Sun Valley, Idaho

Pack up the car in the early afternoon: It’s time to take the scenic route toward Idaho. A rocky rainbow of canyons will frame the five-hour way.

Make a pit stop in Brigham City to gas up, grab some coffee and snap a few selfies among the gargantuan massifs. The pink and purple hues of the early sunset on the horizon are a living postcard. Keep an eye on the speed limit as you pass through small towns en route to Ketchum. Stop for a quick bite (Rickshaw’s got the Southeast Asian-infused flavors down pat), and check into the Limelight Hotel Ketchum. Splurge on a room with expansive views of surrounding Sun Valley. Light up the fireplace, throw on your robe and sink into the soft sheets.

Sun Valley resort in Idaho. (Photo by KingWu/Getty Images)
Sun Valley resort in Idaho. (Photo by KingWu/Getty Images)

Take advantage of the hotel breakfast (think: breakfast burritos and waffles) and fuel up with a warm cup of Joe. Board the shuttle to historic, 84-year-old Sun Valley Resort. Walk around the quaint village, go ice skating around the resort’s year-round, outside rink and stroll the halls plastered with historical snapshots of celebrities who have visited through the years. Along with skiing and mountain sports, horseback riding is a popular activity.

A visit to the Sun Valley Spa awards access to the charming retreat overlooking the pool (with heated pavement). For an ultra-progressive treatment, indulge in infrared heat therapy. Get comfortable between the sheets of an extremely warm, 110-degree wrap as your body releases toxins and cellulite trapped below the skin’s surface. It’s truly a test of your will to last 50 minutes, let alone 80, but a dark room with mood music helps set the tone for this unconventional detox. When time is up, just make sure to hydrate.

Board the Limelight shuttle, but detour over to Zenergy Health Club & Spa first, if you’re in need of a fitness fix. At a discounted day rate, Limelight guests can access all of the massive property’s amenities — 85 fitness classes per week, indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, a tennis court, mountain-driven training equipment and more. Return to the Limelight Hotel for happy hour and live music in the lounge (and perhaps another round on your balcony), and a sunset hot tub soak.

Limelight Hotel Ketchum belongs to The Hotel Collection by American Express, where cardholders with either The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card earn 5x and 2x Membership Rewards points on prepaid bookings, respectively. Stay two or more nights to receive a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities, as well as a room upgrade at check-in when available.

Related: These destinations are the next wellness hot spots

A wellness lodge in Bend, Oregon

Brace yourself: The ride from Idaho to your next stop in Oregon is a long one (eight hours), and feels even lengthier without any stops. Lucky for you, intimate soaking haven The Springs in Idaho City is about three hours from Ketchum (it causes a slight detour en route to Oregon, but the rejuvenation will be appreciated). Reservations are required, and a $20 day pass grants you access to the pools, steam room and lounge, and adults also have private pool access for an additional price.

Mt. Bachelor and Todd Lake in Bend, Oregon. (Photo by Morgan Somers/Getty Images)
Mount Bachelor and Todd Lake in Bend, Oregon. (Photo by Morgan Somers/Getty Images)

Following the reboot, hop back on the road, because it’s still about six hours to your destination in Oregon. Drive through burgeoning Boise, and take winding roads over the state line. The mountain landscape transitions into a mix of desert, and then greenery, on the way to Bend.

If you skipped The Springs, consider a more progressive option: float tank therapy at Easy Float. Although not entwined with nature, a chamber void of light and sound and filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt will transport you to an otherworldly meditative realm. The 75-minute session provides joint relief from the stiff drive, evoking a feeling of weightlessness while your mind glides into a state of nothingness. Exit the tank feeling reborn, and then continue to your new home for the night.

Sunriver Resort is just 20 minutes from Bend. Exit the highway and take a dozen roundabouts to get to this lovely, middle-of-nowhere, community-style hideaway with views of the Cascades and nearby Mount Bachelor. Loft-style lodges are a few to a building, so even though the property is massive, it still feels incredibly private. There is much to do at Sunriver, from golf to horseback riding (take a sleigh ride in the winter) to stargazing at the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory.

The main lodge offers upscale dining at Carson’s American Kitchen and tasty pub bites at Twisted River Tavern, and suites are equipped with kitchens, too, in case you’re craving a homecooked meal. Stroll the grounds on foot and catch the sunset from the main lodge, then return to your abode to lounge by the fireplace, before heading upstairs to the roomy bed in your upstairs loft.

The morning calls for more pampering, of course. Hop on the shuttle toward Sage Springs Club & Spa. If you’re feeling brave (this one’s not for the modest), strip down and enter a treatment room for the vanilla chai spice scrub and warm-oil massage. For optimum skin renewal and exfoliation results, a washcloth covers only your unmentionables, and a high-pressure Vichy shower overhead (with seven showerheads) does hypnotic water work. A finale dip in the clothing-optional, same-sex, grotto-style hot tub is a well-suited ending to your self-care stint.

Sunriver Resort also belongs to The Hotel Collection by American Express, so make sure to earn (or cash in) points when booking a stay at this Oregon vacation destination.

Related: The 20 hottest travel destinations of 2020 

Bottom line

On this trip, you’ll cover serious ground — four states in one week — and dedicate invaluable time to your personal wellbeing. And there’s no better way to jumpstart the new year (and travel adventures near and far) than beginning 2020 with a week of wellness excursions.

Featured photo by John P Kelly/Getty Images.

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