Man wasn’t made to be cooped up in cubicles, cars, and living rooms. Fortunately, we homo sapiens evolved to appreciate luxury alongside a healthy dose of nature. Comfort and fresh air pair harmoniously at the country’s greatest nature-centric resorts, offering that much-needed break from the doldrums.
But does Mother Nature have the power to heal? The short answer is a resounding yes.
It doesn’t take a scientist to know that stunning landscapes do a mind and body good. At these top destination resorts, opulence pairs with incredible environmental access that will connect you with nature.
Resorts like Dunton Hot Springs and The Point Resort utilize the power of water to restore, while the desert-enmeshed Amangiri harnesses the power of sandstone to invigorate. Trace the farm-to-table phenomenon to its origins at resorts like The Lodge at Primland, where the day’s harvest is the evening’s meal, or experience yoga in the serenity of the outdoors at Miraval Resort & Spa.
Destinations like Lake Austin Spa Resort have made it their mission to further integrate scientific evidence that nature heals. Last year, Lake Austin Spa introduced a new initiative called The Ripple Effect, offering year-round activities that capitalize on the resort’s lakefront setting. Activities such as floating meditation rely on the power of the lake to relax and reconnect, while a forest bathing hike brings the newest wellness trend to the nearby lake surroundings.
What is forest bathing?
Leave the soap and suds at the spa—forest bathing does not necessarily involve a cleansing dunk in water. In its simplest form, forest bathing is the act of being immersed in nature and focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings to promote physiological and psychological health. Forest bathing links back to shinrin-yoku, a Japanese healing practice that has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and strengthen immune systems.
Checking into one of these resorts, your cell signal will wane as you recharge your own battery, summoning the power of the natural surroundings to center you and re-establish your focus. Swap the buzz of the city for backyards that unfurl to mountains, rivers, and deserts; there’s no replicating the charm and healing found at these top resorts.
Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, Washington
A quick 30-minute ride from Seattle, Salish Lodge is a weekend escape into nature. The resort sits at the top of the scenic Snoqualmie Falls, where a constant rush of water helps to destress and center yourself with nature throughout your stay. The resort’s 84 guestrooms all feature fireplaces and oversized spa tubs. It’s best to note that not all rooms face the falls, though the view is worth the premium.
The resort is hub to many hiking paths with access to nearby alpine lakes, mountain biking trails, river rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing. Golf lovers will also appreciate the six local courses, namely TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, the Northwest’s only Jack Nicklaus–designed course.
Resort at Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley, California
Home of the first-ever televised winter Olympics in 1960, Squaw Valley is synonymous with outdoor winter sport. Set on a sprawling 6,200 acres, complete with 43 lifts and over 270 trails, the slopes are one of the country’s largest ski destinations.
Once you’ve tuckered out on the slopes, check into the Resort at Squaw Creek, where you’ll get the total ski lodge experience. Opt for one of the 200 fireplace suites for a comfortable retreat, complete with incredible views of the valley, a soaking tub, and a granite kitchen.
Year-round outdoor recreation is the main draw of the region, with countless hiking and biking trails that weave around the pristine Lake Tahoe. Among the many activities besides skiing, resort favorites include ice skating, sledding, and mountain biking.
Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona
A serene aura flows through the grounds of Miraval Resort & Spa, as the energy of the desert restores and renews. Miraval expertly integrates into its surroundings, welcoming guests to a seamless nature-centric retreat. The resort’s all-inclusive standard rate includes gratuities, setting the tone for a worry-free stay, void of unexpected charges.
Three accommodation types provide a trio of distinct ways to enjoy Miraval, with standard rooms, plush suites, and The Villas, Miraval’s select private luxury living. This option represents the height of desert living, complete with modern and minimalistic interiors that give way to dramatic panoramic views.
With a focus on wellness, Miraval takes its cues from the desert with its roster of activities. Nature hikes, rock labyrinths, horseback rides, and over a dozen variations of yoga fill up the day quickly, while the less active set is kept engaged with workshops on nature photography, trips to the onsite bee hive, or the resort’s recently expanded specialty bodywork treatments.
L’Auberge de Sedona in Sedona, Arizona
The striking red rock buttes and lush desert greens of Sedona set the scene for the L’Auberge de Sedona, a luxe resort tuned into its natural surroundings. The resort’s 87 guest rooms and cottages are scattered throughout the sycamore tree-filled campus, set alongside a bristling creek that provides a calming babble heard throughout the grounds. Select accommodations are optimized to make the most of the setting, namely the suites with outdoor cedar showers and expansive private decks.
Every morning begins with the local ducks waddling their way to a playful feeding off the shallow waters of Oak Creek. The resort’s low-key atmosphere is reflected in its activities, namely gentle yoga stretches, music and meditation, and stargazing.
L’Auberge’s newly-added forest bathing aims to further immerse and commune its guests with the majestic surroundings. Visitors are encouraged to exercise a playful spirit on the creek and find stillness and meaning in the simple wonder of nature.
Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah
Outdoor adventure awaits at the Red Mountain Resort, a destination resort set amidst the glowing landscapes of southern Utah. Set just on the outskirts of Snow Canyon State Park, Red Mountain Resort caters to both wellness and adventure retreats with an impressive offering of nature-centric activities.
You’re going to want to make the most of your time outdoors as the red and white Navajo Sandstone is an idyllic backdrop that radiates energy. Winter temperatures average in the mid-50s throughout the colder months, maintaining a moderate climate for all outdoor activities year-round. Come prepared in July, as averages can reach above 100 degrees.
One of the rarer nature encounters offered at the Red Mountain Resort is the “Where Heart Meets Horse” experience, in which guests are taught how to use their personal energy to achieve equine connection. The two-hour session is completed with a “heart hug,” a moving experience of embracing the horse’s neck to listen to its heartbeat.
Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa in Moab, Utah
Set on the banks of the Colorado River, Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa sees nature as its greatest amenity, and there’s no doubting why. Towering red rock mesas across the river set a colorful backdrop for the resort’s 55 cabin suites. Each suite comes complete with a kitchenette and soaking tub, with a select few featuring riverfront patios.
Daily guided hikes offer the chance to get closer to the surrounding red rocks, and mountain bikes are available to cover more ground. For the real ranch experience, hop on horseback and go for a ride along the river. Nightly bonfires are the perfect way to close out a long day at the ranch, especially when there are s’mores.
Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah
An architectural marvel of nature-inspired innovation, Amangiri delivers some of the region’s most remarkable views. The resort’s understated style accents the breathtaking rock formations throughout the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Amangiri’s real masterwork is in the engineering of its one-of-a-kind pool, custom-fit to the grounds’ protruding rock, a modern wonder that sets the resort’s environment-forward atmosphere.
Sophisticated luxury touches add a deeper understanding of nature as a resident archaeologist and geologist lead tours and workshops of the region. Customized itineraries are standard with a stay at the resort, with popular activities including hikes, horseback riding, rock climbing, and early morning hot air balloon rides.
After a day spent exploring the desert, make it a priority to retire to your room in time to capture panoramic views of the dwindling sunset.
Dunton Hot Springs in Dolores, Colorado
Take one dip in the soothing simmer of Dunton Hot Springs, and you’ll be a believer in the power of nature. Rising from its former glory as a pass-through ghost town, Dunton Hot Springs has emerged as a refined luxe nature retreat. The allure of the hot springs paired with the backdrop of the Dolores River and San Juan Mountains sets this rustic resort apart.
Twelve cabins and one tent dot the property, with handsomely outfitted interiors adorned with period antiques, heated slate floors, and custom-built signature soaking tubs. A few accommodations also feature outdoor showers.
The intimate resort has no set activities, and instead customizes itineraries to each guest’s interests to create unique adventures. Rely on the resort to provide the necessary gear for all seasons, including ice skates, snow shoes, cross-country skis, and mountain bikes.
For the best lay of the land, suit up for a dog-sledding expedition. There’s no comparable thrill to being guided through remote annexes of the forest by a pack of racing huskies.
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming
There are more than 30,000 acres to explore at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, a 41-room luxury dude ranch on the Sierra Madre range. Capturing the pioneering spirit of the 1800s, the grounds still operate as a working cattle ranch, so if you’re feeling up to task, grab a rope and bucket and lend a hand. There’s plenty else to do beyond bailing hay, whether it’s fly fishing on the property’s 20 miles of private waters, hiking through well-groomed trails, or racing through the meadows on horseback.
The historic accommodations have a newly-minted classic feel, with contemporary finishes including plush beds, high ceilings, and granite countertops.
For a change of scenery, the resort is 30 miles from the million-acre Medicine Bow National Forest, a stunning nature preserve known as a sports paradise. Thrill-seekers head to the rugged Wyoming terrain for its excellent rock climbing, rafting, and skiing.
The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana
A wilderness sanctuary awaits at The Resort at Paws Up, the toast of rustic luxury set on an active 37,000-acre cattle ranch. Two accommodation options allow guests to choose the speed of their getaway, whether it be in the confines of a luxe tent, complete with an en-suite bathroom and wood floors, or in one of the resort’s comfortable private homes, which offer a more refined nature retreat.
Days fill up quickly at the resort as adventures happen spontaneously, whether it’s a hike through the 100-plus miles of trails, fly fishing on the banks of the Blackfoot River, or exploring the mountainside on horseback. For the best sense of your surroundings, hop aboard the resort’s hot air balloon. The exceptional quiet is stirring as the wind guides you over the rolling hills of Blackfoot Valley.
Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas
An oasis of natural splendor, Lake Austin Spa Resort charms with its relaxed setting and picture-perfect lakefront. Establishing its majestic setting on the banks of Lake Austin, the resort uses its lakeside surroundings as an integral part of its dedication to wellness through its new initiative, The Ripple Effect.
The resort cites inspiration for the new program from Wallace J. Nichols, author of the acclaimed book Blue Mind, who explains that proximity to water can have real and impactful results on our happiness and wellbeing.
The program has brought 30 new activities to the resort, further exploring the power of nature with one-of-a-kind programs, like Sunset Glow Paddle, offering the chance to glide along the stillness of the lake as night sets, and a newly-invented watersport known as “pedalboarding,” a fun hybrid of an elliptical and a paddleboard.
Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania
A destination spa that has welcomed urbanites to revel in the fresh air of the Poconos since 2006, The Lodge at Woodloch is conveniently located two hours outside of New York City and two and a half hours from Philadelphia. Weekend getaways refresh the mind and body as the resort makes the most of its 400-acre property, accented with a private 15-acre lake.
The Lodge’s commitment to nature sustains a year-round roster of activities, even capturing the wonder of winter with the resort’s unique Forest Bathing for Winter Months program. The newly-integrated activity is certainly not for the faint of heart, as the process involves plunging into frigid waters for brief spurts, while maintaining focus on breathing, mind-body awareness, and the surroundings.
While some might not warm up to the idea of healing through an arctic plunge, growing research finds that those willing to take the plunge benefit from a decrease in stress-related hormones, reduced heart rates, and lower blood pressure.
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York
With a sweeping, dramatic facade more likely to be found in a fairytale than the backwoods of upstate New York, Mohonk Mountain House stands as a wildly-evocative Victorian castle, complete with turrets and native stone. The resort marks the spot for a journey into nature.
Guided hikes throughout the ground’s 85 miles of trails kick off each day, while a rotating roster of activities includes expert-led tours of the greenhouse and gardens, meditation and yoga outdoors on the newly-minted green roof, and rock climbing on the cliffs of The Ridge.
For those who appreciate a checklist getaway, make it your mission to discover all of the 125 “summerhouses” that dot the Mohonk property. Each summerhouse is unique, though all feature a covered bench in the style of a mini-gazebo, offering a peaceful respite—and a remarkable view. Take the time to cozy up in one of the tiny structures and enjoy the serenity of the natural surroundings.
The Point Resort in Saranac Lake, New York
Refined luxury meets unspoiled wilderness at The Point Resort, a remote resort built over a century ago by William Avery Rockefeller. Eleven custom-designed log mansions capture the spirit of 19th century romance, as the resort curates a private, peaceful air.
The northern New York resort embraces the extended winters with aplomb, equipped with cross-country skis and snowshoes for the miles of paths that stretch through the Adirondacks. But the winter fun really begins once the lake freezes and it’s time for ice skating, curling, and ice fishing.
Guests in the summer will find a dramatically different vibe at The Point, as the resort turns into an activity hub for Lake Saranac. Days are filled with boat rides on the resort’s vintage mahogany boat, renowned trout and bass fishing, swimming, waterskiing, and lazy afternoon naps on lakeside hammocks.
This article originally appeared in Travel & Leisure.