The Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, involves connecting with nature in the simplest ways: taking in the smells of the woods, the sounds of the birds in the trees, the sight of towering trunks rising toward the sky. Entirely immersed in a redwood forest—so much so that window-treatment-free glass walls take in nothing but views of these majestic trees—Canyon Ranch Woodside is just 30 minutes from the San Francisco airport, yet aims to transport its guests much farther away.
Those familiar with Canyon Ranch and its properties in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Tucson, Arizona, might expect another one of its sprawling destination spas here, flush with medical facilities, demanding fitness regimens, and a schedule aimed at getting the body in peak shape. However, at Woodside, the emphasis is on getting the mind in shape.
The property has been a wellness retreat since 1994 (formerly known as Skylonda Lodge) and was reimagined as a Canyon Ranch in late 2019. However, COVID caused it to close for most of 2020, reopening in April 2021, perhaps at the perfect time for guests to mentally recuperate after the challenges of the last year.
Daily fitness classes are offered, but are aimed at those seeking moderation, emphasizing recovery, stretching, and the mind-body connection rather than feeling the burn. Instead of the body, this health retreat is aimed at detoxing the mind—from stress, scheduling, devices, and even trauma. There’s still Wi-Fi and televisions in every room where guests can binge on Netflix, but the essence of the 38-room property is about immersing guests in nature at every turn.
The glass-walled treehouse accommodations hover 35–50 feet above a 16-acre redwood forest, where a gentle path has been carved for guests to wander through two hiking trail loops, which include moments for fitness (there’s a rope climb and monkey bars) as well as meditation (rest stops include a labyrinth and a Buddha). The trails can be quickly accomplished in less than 30 minutes, but leisurely strolls prove to be beneficial for the mind.
Those seeking spa services will find a full menu of massages, facials, and body treatments, as well as a menu of spiritual guidance that includes “treatments” like Overcoming Obstacles to Lasting Change, Surviving & Thriving through Life Transitions, and Loss, Grief & Remembrance.
However, one of the best experiences at the spa happens off property. Each Saturday guests have the option of visiting the neighboring Djerassi Resident Artists Program, a private institution that has hosted writers, visual artists, photographers, and scientists from 54 countries. Here, guests are led on an easy hike through the 583-acre grounds, which include redwood forests, grasslands, and numerous art installations from the center’s previous residents. The three-hour experience uses nature as therapy to decompress and unwind—instilling the philosophy that engaging our senses with the natural surroundings can improve our mental well-being. Open to guests Thursday through Monday and groups Monday through Thursday. From $2,600/two-night stay, inclusive of meals and many activities; canyonranch.com