All photos Kim Carroll
One silver lining to the pandemic has been a surge in travel to America’s National Parks, many of which logged record crowds last year. With its wide-open spaces allowing for a classic and socially distanced back-to-nature escape, if a trip to Yosemite sounds tempting (or has been on the bucket list for a while), the spa getaway package at Rush Creek Lodge could serve as the incentive needed for a few days of R&R in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Tucked discreetly into a hillside amid 20 acres of forest, the woodsy chic Rush Creek Lodge is located less than a mile from Yosemite’s West/Big Oak Flat entrance seven miles from Highway 120. Its proximity to the park makes a perfect base from which to explore year-round, but the resort packs plenty in for guests too. Highlights include the heated saltwater swimming pool, hot tubs, and fire pits with complimentary s’mores kits available each evening.
On-property hiking trails, in some areas accessible by e-mountain bike and snowshoe, depending on the season, offer the chance to spot wildlife. There’s also an outdoor yoga deck and oversized games like chess and Connect 4, plus zip lines for younger guests.
Home to 143 rooms, suites and villas, accommodations are located in the main lodge with a choice of forest or sunset and swimming pool views, while the hugely popular one and two-bedroom hillside villas afford a little more privacy and offer ample space for families. Décor throughout gives a considered nod toward the landscape, wildlife, and history of Yosemite. Equipped with mod cons like Keurig coffee machines in lieu of televisions, rooms come with board games, books and Alexa smart speakers. More games – including vintage shuffleboard and pinball – can be found in the recreation room.
The General Store carries a range of snacks, souvenirs and sundries, including wine and beer, but the onsite Tavern serves food throughout the day. Currently, QR codes can be scanned in-room and orders called ahead for pick up, or guests can order in person and tuck into meals on the wraparound deck or beside one of many outdoor fire pits. Enjoying golden hour with a cocktail in hand is quite something here.
When it comes to activities, the lodge can arrange any number of outdoor adventures from snowshoe tours of the nearby Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias to guided hikes and stargazing. For anyone not experienced navigating mountain roads, especially during winter when chains are often required, there is a YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transport System) stop on site with service through spring and fall, although Rush Creek’s professionally guided excursions are a comfortable alternative to driving.
A Feast for the Senses
While the lodge officially opened in 2016 (the first new resort in the area for a quarter of a century), its latest sparkling addition is Rush Creek Spa. The gorgeous 5,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor space draws inspiration from the natural wonder of Yosemite’s waterfalls and granite monoliths. Its heated outdoor relaxation area features a granite waterfall hot tub, suspended daybed, and near wraparound forest views – the latter of which being quite lovely to sit back and soak up with a complimentary mocktail or mimosa.
When it comes to the warm river rock immersion beds, spa manager Gigi Richardson says there’s an option to just bury feet or make it a full-body experience, depending on personal comfort levels. Inside, a hydrotherapy meets sensory circuit of sorts awaits and encourages guests to move from warm waterfall coves and an aromatherapy steam room through a Himalayan salt sauna to cool mist showers. The heated zero gravity loungers are also incredibly relaxing.
There are five treatment rooms and a concise menu of massages, facials, and foot soaks. With a multi-sensory approach to its wellness offerings, each spa service starts and concludes with Tibetan Singing Bowl sound therapy. Due to current COVID restrictions, the spa can only be accessed as a private buyout for couples and groups of up to 15 people, making the Spa Exclusive Getaway Package a fantastic way to experience the space and feel like a real VIP in the process. Available through April 11, nightly rates are priced from $416 to $698 and include a two-night stay in a deluxe Lodge King Room, two 50-minute massages, and private use of the spa for 90-minutes. Visit rushcreeklodge.com for more details.