The main pool at Indian Springs Resort and Spa, Calistoga, California
The main pool at Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga, California

Indian Springs Resort and Spa is one of the oldest resorts in California – this year marks its 155th year.

The resort has a lot to offer: magical geyser waters that reinvigorate the weary, world-class spa treatments using volcanic ash found onsite, a trendsetting restaurant, and “summer camp chic” accommodations that are less than one block from historic downtown Calistoga in Napa Valley.

I visited Indian Springs on a much needed overnight stay by myself in early May.

Location

The resort is located in Calistoga, California, approximately 2 hours north of San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport and about 45 minutes east of Sonoma County Airport. Calistoga is a part of Northern California Wine Country, in northern Napa Valley.

Calistoga is a great point to call home during a visit to Napa Valley for wine tasting, or a nice place to retreat for a quiet spa getaway. Quaint downtown Calistoga is filled with world-class restaurants, boutiques, and bars, all under the umbrella of dormant volcanos, geysers and vineyards.

The “famous mineral springs” at Indian Springs Resort & Spa (Photo from Find Everything Historic)

The Story

The start of the Indian Springs’ story is geologically based: a volcano in Lake County, California, named Mt. Konocti (about 20 miles north of Calistoga) erupted millions of years ago. Its eruption deposited volcanic ash throughout the nearby region, with large deposits settling in Calistoga.

The volcano also caused fractures to open up in the earth, which allowed groundwater to reach magma under the earth’s surface.

This contact with the extremely hot magma, 4,000 feet below the surface, heated up the water to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. The boiling water shot up into the sky, due to the pressure, as a geyser. Humans eventually learned to tame the geysers for health and spiritual purposes.

The Indigenous Wappo peoples resided in the area 8,000 years ago. The Wappo used pools filled with mineral water from the hot geysers to relax and for spiritual purposes – starting a tradition remains today.

Calistoga Hot Springs (Photo: Napa County Historical Society)
Calistoga Hot Springs (Photo: Napa County Historical Society)

Fast forward to the early white California settlers and Samuel Brannan makes his appearance. He was the first millionaire in California, having made his money mainly during the gold rush. In the 1860s he purchased the entire northern part of Napa Valley, with the intention of making it into a resort.

In 1861, he became the first to build a spa and resort on the land where Indian Springs resides. Things went sour for Brannan (that is worth an entire blog post on its own) and Leland Stanford bought the property in 1880.

The spa and resort continued for many years, changing hands multiple times. In 1988, it was purchased by the Merchant family of Napa Valley, who own it today. It recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, too!

Check-in

When I pulled into the property, I was guided to check-in by colorful waymarkers that proved critical during my visit –  the property is huge and it is easy to get lost, so look for the signs!

I drove slowly past the pool house and spa, spotting a couple playing giant checkers and a family relaxing around a fire pit in classic white Adirondacks. I felt like a kid going to a fancy summer camp!

I had arrived early for my visit (but I did notify the staff ahead of time, as one always should!), so while I waited for my room key I chilled on the porch at the check-in, sipping spa water (aka water with cucumbers). The relaxation had begun.

A few moments later, I had a map in hand and I hopped in my car to drive to the east side of the property to my “Geyser View Room.”

The view from my second floor Geyser Room porch
The view from my second floor Geyser Room porch

The Room

Indian Springs has plentiful rooms, and many different types. They have traditional hotel-style rooms that are great for solo or couple travelers and cottages and bungalows that can accommodate families and groups.

As a solo traveler, I stayed in a View room. There are three types of View rooms, each with, different, well, views – palm tree groves, hills or my pick – the geyser. Each room has a patio or porch, and some have fireplaces.

The Geyser Rooms have a view of the Geyser Pond. The pond is full of happy ducks, birds (on my visit a Blue Heron was hanging out!), and Zen-inspired sculptures that reflect the meditative vibe of the onsite spa. A fountain provides a relaxing background noise, which helped lull me to sleep.

Honestly, the pond was so exotic looking and tranquil that one would think they escaped to Thailand, not Calistoga.

My Geyser View Room with a king sized bed
My Geyser View Room with a king sized bed

These rooms are slightly more remote from the rest of the property and very quiet. My room had a king size bed and clocked in at just over 460 square feet, perfect for a solo traveler or couple.

The rooms are decorated in a style reminiscent of the California Mission Revival movement, with touches of red, turmeric, and blue colored linen fabrics and natural wood furniture. The design is accented by Moroccan style textiles and tile-work.

The artwork provides a pop culture feeling, with throwback posters for 1950s spa getaways and modern art themes. Most of the art and furniture is California designed and made, which makes this “Buy American” geek a happy GLAMper.

Seating area in the Geyser View Room
Seating area in the Geyser View Room

The rooms are full of natural light and the wooden blinds helped provide privacy and keep the light out for a restful sleep.

The room has a television and a mini fridge with complimentary mineral water from the property. There is free WiFi, plenty of chargers, mood and reading lights, and a cozy wool blanket to cuddle up with on the patio.

The bathroom is nicely appointed with more colorful hip artwork, neutral colored tiling and a nice marble sink. As a short person (I’m under 5 feet tall!) I was pleased that the sink was accommodating to my height – I did not have to stand on my tippy toes to do my make up in the morning!

All the necessities are there – from a blow dryer to robes, and a nice, big walk in shower.

I’m one of those forgetful (er…lazy?!) people that never packs shampoo, so I’m always appreciative of nice toiletries. Indian Springs offers toiletries made by Pharmacopia, a natural, organic personal care line based in nearby Mill Valley, California. The toiletries were verbena scented, which made for an invigorating shower experience in the morning (especially after a few cocktails at the onsite restaurant and bar, Sam’s Social Club).

My only complaint is that there is no room service. The onsite restaurant is located on the opposite side of the property and the room lacks a kitchenette for in-room preparations. No breakfast in bed for me!

Bocce anyone?
Bocce anyone?

Property offerings

The amenities at Indian Springs were overwhelming. There are plenty of activities for kids and families, couples and solo travelers.

A big pocket book perk at Indian Springs: the resort doesn’t charge a resort fee, which is a daily fee guests pay for using pools and other amenities (If you have stayed at a casino in Las Vegas, for example, you most likely paid a resort fee even if you did not use the pool or spa).

Relaxed pool guests float in the main mineral pool
Relaxed pool guests floating in the main mineral pool

Pool and spa

Indian Springs has two mineral pools, which are kept between 82-102 degrees Fahrenheit. This means the pools can get quite hot during the day, but, the pools are open until midnight making for a perfect, warm, relaxing opportunity to gaze at the stars while floating in the historic mineral waters.

One mineral pool is family friendly and is one of the largest Olympic size pools in California. The second pool is smaller and for adults only. There is a cool retro vibe at both pools, with vintage 1950s bathing suits framed and hanging in lounge areas and an old Pepsi soda clock glowing down over the larger pool.

Tons of lounge areas are available to choose from, including a fire place with coffee table books when it is chilly and many shaded and sunny lounge chair options, too. They offer free water and poolside snacks are available to order.

You can come dressed in your swimsuit or change in the dressing room. I’m more of a “change in the comfort of my own private space” type of person, so I opted to change in my room and then wander over in my robe. Towels are provided.

No alcohol though – the water can get so hot that it can cause health problems for guests who imbibe too much.

Lounge-time at the Buddha Pond
Lounging at the Buddha Pond

The Spa at Indian Springs is a “must visit” for all spa geeks. Spa treatments are focused around volcanic ash collected at the resort and the on-site mineral waters.

They offer mud baths, mineral baths, facials, massages, and body treatments, many that use products created for Indian Springs – you can even buy Indian Springs treatment products in the spa shop. (I have a container of volcanic facial mud that I used to exfoliate with – it’s the bomb!)

I had an hour long Swedish massage, followed by a mud bath (just wait until I tell you about that in my next blog post!), a soaking in a mineral bath, sauna, and a relaxing nap on that big round couch in the photo above – it is next to the original geyser that used to run 24-hours at the resort.

That couch is located at the Buddha Pond, a chill out area that is like a secret enclave on the property, exclusive to spa guests only. A beautiful pond with recycled water from the mineral baths makes for happy animals and plants, and a relaxed natural landscape to enjoy for guests.

After my nap, I sipped on refreshing spa water next to a fireplace, watching the birds and admiring the collection of Buddha sculptures decorating the landscape. Again, I would have thought I was in Thailand, not Calistoga.

The property is so big that guests can rent, for free, bikes to get around
The property is so big that they provide guests bicycles

More fun stuff

As if laying around in mineral pools and chilling at the Buddha Pond isn’t enough, there are so many additional activities available that you will never be bored at Indian Springs.

While I was traveling solo, I limited my fun to the pool and spa, and exploring the many walking trails on the property. But, next time I’ll use a bike to get around – the property is so big that they offer free bikes to guests to use on property.

They also offer croquet, bocce ball, petanque, shuffleboard (just like a cruise ship!), giant checkers, a play ground, grills, a hammock garden, and free WiFi resort wide.

Bay Area artist Lauren McIntosh painted the funky history-themed mural at Sam's Social Club
Bay Area artist Lauren McIntosh painted the funky history-themed mural at Sam’s Social Club

Food and drink

In 2014, the property opened its first restaurant: Sam’s Social Club. It’s named after Samuel Brannan, who founded the original resort, and features innovative twists on comfort food and California cuisine.

They serve breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner. I enjoyed happy hour, where they have discounted cocktails, beer, local wines, and pizzas. Dinner was great, too – the Allen Brother’s rib eye was large enough for two to share. For non-meat eaters, the cauliflower steak is the highlight of the menu. End dinner with a port and a decadent dessert – housemade churros or a Valrhona chocolate pudding, perhaps. (Now I’m craving those churros again!)

Fire pits, lounge areas, and formal dining are offered outside, weather permitting.

Read more about my visit to Sam’s Social Club here. It makes for a great destination restaurant whether you are staying at Indian Springs or not.

Since there is no room service, you’re better off either packing your own snacks or be prepared to hang out at Sam’s Social Club for your stay.

I needed a change of pace, after having happy hour and dinner at Sam’s, so in the morning I walked to downtown Calistoga Roastery for a great, inexpensive, breakfast sandwich and coffee.

Final thoughts

Ever since moving to the North Bay Area, I have met countless locals who make Indian Springs an annual getaway for their family – there is so much to do, for all ages. Even a brief 24-hour visit made it clear why that tradition has withstood generations of Californians.

Indian Springs offers a great blend of retro design, luxury offerings, and a “summer camp” style environment that has been used for generations – now with modern amenities.

For solo travelers, it’s a great opportunity to feel like you’re far away from it all, even in the heart of one of the most popular tourist destinations (Napa Valley) in the world. The spa and pool are worth it even for a day visit (spa guests get pool access without having to stay on property).

And of course, if you enjoy yourself in Wine Country a little too much you can recover peacefully at Indian Springs.

I left rejuvenated, and for that, I am grateful to this legendary place.

Take note

The property is ADA accessible and pets are not allowed.

Take action

Indian Springs Resort and Spa is located at 1712 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, California, 94515. (707) 942-4913. Room rates start at $259 and include pool access.

Have you stayed at Indian Springs?

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I confess: These accommodations were provided by a third-party as part of a press trip to Indian Springs Resort and Spa, however, my opinion is mine and mine only.

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