Gold Lake Resort: 24-Hour Shangri-La

gold lake mountain resort and spaSixty-hour work weeks do not promote good health or a balanced lifestyle. My husband and I were mentally weary and physically spent. We knew we needed some “me” and “we” time.

Now here is the “kicker.” We only had one night for our quick getaway. How could we possibly feel relaxed and restored in one day? The solution arrived in the form of the Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa near Ward, a hidden jewel nestled within the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area of the Rocky Mountains, and not too far from home.

We followed the directions on the Website, which, according to my husband, should put us at the resort within about an hour from our home in Boulder County.

Three hot pools sit beside 35-acre Gold Lake and offer outstanding views of the surrounding peaks.

The drive set the mood as we passed tall green pines and golden aspens along the Peak-to-Peak Highway. Anticipation got the better part of us after making the last turn onto Gold Lake Road toward the resort. The sign at the top of the road indicated 2.5 miles. The curvy dirt road seemed never-ending as we motored down. Even though it was a short distance, a child-like excitement got the better of us as we both wondered “are we there yet?” And, just like a vision of “Shangri-La,” the path suddenly opened up to a glorious mountain lake setting.

Our excitement was rewarded with a splendid view of the 35-acre lake cradled within the panoramic arms of the Rockies. Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa rests under the brow of the Continental Divide and is a feast for both the eyes and spirit.

I imagine that is what Chief Niwot had in mind, too, during the mid-1800s as he brought his tribe, the Southern Arapahos, up each summer to Gold Lake. The Arapahos valued the area’s vantage point as it ensured awareness of animal migrations, other tribes’ movements and plentiful food. It also provided a setting for peaceful meetings between the Arapahos, the Utes and other Native American tribes concerning the past year’s events and future plans. Spiritual ceremonies were also conducted in the area and it was believed that Chief Niwot used the large rock out-cropping to the south of the lake for his “vision quests.”

Perhaps a modern-day version of a spiritual exercise would start with a spa treatment. Luckily, I had made an appointment a few weeks in advance as the resort recommended. After checking into our rustic chic cabin complete with log bed draped with a lovely downy duvet, antiques, gas stove and bathroom featuring a small tub with a copper and slate surround, I kicked off my sneakers and strapped on my sandals, ready to walk to the spa. My husband opted for a nap and sank deep into the cushy comfort of the bed. The plan was to meet up at the lakeside hot pools after my treatment.

Like a kid in a candy store, I marveled at the beauty of the natural surroundings and took in a deep breath of sweet-smelling pine and crisp mountain air as I practically skipped along the lake path to the spa facility, about ¼ of a mile from the main cabin lodge.

Available to overnight guests as well as day visitors, the spa features eastern-inspired therapies, a variety of massage and facial treatments and both private and group yoga classes.

The two-story cabin spa offered a sunny waiting room on the second level. Herbal tea was available as well as homemade granola for snacking. A beautiful fireplace offered warmth, and the floor-to-ceiling windows presented a phenomenal view while waiting for my hot stone reflexology treatment. After my treatment, I became convinced that heated river stones are a brilliant enhancement to massage. The soothing smooth stones were placed on my feet, rubbed back and forth along my legs and also placed in my hands. Toward the end of the hour, I felt like melted butter.

The spa offered a changing area, which is convenient for day guests, but I had my own little cozy cabin to escape to for a quick change into my swim suit before meeting my husband at the hot pools. Hammocks looked inviting as I passed them on my short walk along the lake to the three hot pools, which are terraced and sunken into the mountainside above the lake. (Each hot pool is kept at 104 degrees and has its own unique view.) Indian tipis placed at the entrance to the pools provide a convenient changing area for guests if needed.

My husband was in the third pool that offered a magnificent view of the lake and mountains beyond. It was formed of mountain rock and river stones and offered smooth rock surface for sitting if the heat of the pool became too much. We lazed in the pool enjoying the warmth and the view as the sun cast a golden glow onto the lake. We were enchanted and, most of all, relaxed.

We had ample time to change clothes before dinner and enjoy a cocktail at the bar before going to Alice’s Restaurant, renowned for its “rustic mountain” cuisine. The elegant restaurant with splendid views offers a three-course prix-fix dinner menu or a seven-course tasting menu for the more adventurous. After a leisurely dinner we made our way to our cabin realizing how important this little nugget of time was to us.

We awoke in the morning to find that a light dusting of snow had capped the mountain peaks. It was lovely and so very peaceful. Had we reached a rejuvenation state of being? Oh yes. Our bodies seemed more relaxed and not as tense with computer neck ache tension and Blackberry overload. Making our way to breakfast, only the sound of leaves crunching beneath our feet could be heard. No cell phones, no alarms, no techie nothing. There is a lot of tranquility in the sound of silence. The beauty of the morning inspired us to take a stroll around the lake before breakfast to stretch our legs and breathe in the mountain air.

Overnight guests can choose from luxurious suite-style cabins or cozy, two-person rooms.

Our breakfast was just as memorable as the dinner we had the night before. The breakfast buffet offered homemade granola, organic eggs and bacon, homemade muffins, breads and scones. The “from scratch” kitchen uses free-range and hormone-free products as well.

There’s far more to Gold Lake than our quick getaway. Active travelers will find plenty to do, from fly-fishing, horseback riding, hiking and canoeing, to snowshoeing and backcountry skiing in winter. If the travelers are like us, they can revel in the natural abundance of the resort, kick back and relax.

If You Go

Gold Lake Mountain Resort & Spa
3371 Gold Lake Road
Ward, Colorado 80481

Gigi Ragland is a freelance writer in Boulder. Her stories have appeared in various local, national and international publications.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.