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Retreat at Canyon Ranch Woodside to Reflect and Connect

Last updated June 15, 2022

I’ll be candid. I didn’t believe the Canyon Ranch Woodside staff. They said that the 30ish other guests and I would leave this retreat with new friends. It seems unlikely to form friendships in the span of one weekend.

Now that I say that, I realize how questionable my logic is.

By my second night at Woodside, that realization was confirmed. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Canyon Ranch Woodside entrance

Before I share more about what happened on this transformative trip, let me back up. Canyon Ranch is one of the OG all-inclusive wellness destinations (in my opinion).

Visiting a Canyon Ranch property has been high on my spa experience bucket list for years. So when the time came to celebrate for my 40th birthday, I was ready to escape the grind. It was clearly time to finally splurge.

Canyon Ranch now has three locations: Lenox, Massachusetts; Tucson, Arizona; and Woodside, California. Canyon Ranch Woodside is the newest concept, located about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco.

I chose this location because the experience offered is different from the other two destinations. You go to Woodside for a wellness retreat. This wellness retreat was a weekend retreat. Meaning that the doors open on Thursdays to a small group of guests (there are 38 rooms) and then close on Mondays.

Since I like a bit of indulgence to balance out my healthy lifestyle, I felt nervous. I was thankful that Woodside is also the only Canyon Ranch to serve beer and wine! I knew that Canyon Ranch Woodside was exactly where I was meant to be. From the moment I arrived up to the moment I left. The gated property tucked away in the redwood forest radiated comfort.

Here are the reasons why I will return to Canyon Ranch Woodside. The next time I need to reflect and connect, this is what I will remember.

Chaos to Calm

Nurtured by nature. The beauty of this property is that you are constantly immersed within the forest. Whether you are in your room, the spa, the dining space, etc. 

Canyon Ranch Woodside also does an excellent job of providing a casual and cozy environment. The property isn’t lacking when it comes to luxury. I upgraded from a retreat room in the main building to a treehouse! The treehouse is literally a window-filled room. It has a private deck and surrounded by the redwoods. 

And then there are the in-room amenities. The amenities include a tea kettle and filtered water. Each room has a chiller drawer. Within each unit is a tablet featuring the daily programming options. I slept soundly on pillow-top mattresses by Simmons and soothed my muscles in a deep soaking tub. FYI: there are complimentary soaking salts for your tub available at the front desk.

Then, there are the spaces beyond my room. The property offers two hiking trails through the forest. There are also hanging swing chairs scattered around the property. It’s a great place to sit with a cup of tea and watch the fog roll in over the treetops as you swing gently.

The Hearth is the dining space for Canyon Ranch Woodside. The Hearth offers indoor and outdoor options. There are fire pits and blankets available to keep you warm during the cool evenings and mornings. 

The Woodside team does a brilliant job of making you feel at home. Tim escorting me to my treehouse and Michelle taking my dinner order made me feel like family. 

As I wandered about the property, I always felt right at home. It felt like I was visiting a friend’s very posh mountain house vs. a hotel. 

Programming

This is probably the biggest challenge during my visit: striking a balance between peace and programming. I’m a wellness geek. So, the moment I received the program for the weekend I’d be staying at Canyon Ranch Woodside, I read it cover to cover. 

Each day, there are a variety of guided hikes, yoga classes, wellness workshops and creative classes to choose from. Plus, certain weekends offer featured retreat programming. 

One of the reasons I selected the weekend that I did was because Nike Master Trainer and wellness coach Holly Rillinger was leading a talk and workouts based on her signature Lifted program. 

While there are select experiences you can add on to your days for a cost (like Equus coaching or a vineyard tour and wine tasting), the majority of the scheduled daily offerings and any featured retreat programming are included in your package cost. 

Now, it can be a little overwhelming to choose what to go to and when. Since I opted for the Personal Discovery Pathway package, I received a phone call about a week prior to my visit from a Canyon Ranch wellness guide who helped me navigate the schedule. 

The best advice I can give you is to come to Canyon Ranch Woodside knowing what you’d like to do each day—but be open to what you feel like doing at the moment. 

For example, I tried to do yoga and/or a hike each day to move around. If I ended up feeling like a nap instead of a workshop on probiotics, I listened and worked with my body, not against it. 

After all, one of the goals of the trip is to take time to relax and reflect!  

Food for Thought

Crêpes filled with fried egg, greens and muhammara; lemon and orzo chicken soup; king salmon with quinoa and pickled veggies. These are just a few of the delicious dishes I enjoyed during my visit. 

The culinary program at Woodside is in the capable hands of Chef Isabelle Jackson Nunes who uses local produce, meat, seafood and other ingredients to create a host of menu options for each meal. 

Oh, and did I mention that each dish is nutritious, delicious and portioned in a way that I never felt deprived? It was such a gift to walk into The Hearth for breakfast, lunch and dinner (which are all included in the cost of your stay) and have the guesswork removed from the “what should I eat?” process. 

If I ever felt like I needed a little more than what I’d ordered, all I had to do was ask. At each meal, guests are invited to order whatever (and however much) they’d like from the multiple dishes outlined on the menu. 

Canyon Ranch Woodside The Hearth restaurant

Dessert is always included. If you see the tahini chocolate chip brownies, order them. (You’re welcome.) If you get hungry in between meals, there is a snack station where you’ll find hot tea, sparkling water and a selection of KIND and other bars. 

You can always stop by The Hearth and request one of their all-day snack options like a hard-boiled egg or pita chips with housemade dips. And as I mentioned earlier, beer and wine by the bottle are available (for an additional charge) as well as a variety of kombucha options. 

Although I typically am a by-the-glass kind of gal, the bottles of local wine were reasonably priced and fun to sample. Besides, having a bottle to share is all part of the Canyon Ranch Woodside plan to encourage guests to connect. 

But, I’ll get to that in a moment. 

Pampering

Bliss is two 60-minute massages and a facial in three days. 

Based on what you’ve already read about the accommodations, daily offerings, and food and drink, you can see that feeling pampered is a way of life when you’re at Woodside. 

Hot tub

In addition to the gorgeous surroundings, there’s also a pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and full-service spa to indulge in. By selecting the Personal Discovery Pathway for my stay, I also received four services from a menu of options that included the massages and facial as well as private yoga practice and wellness coaching session. 

For me, the three spa treatments and wellness coaching session are the perfect options to complement the other wellness programming built into my visit.  

Connections

Redwood forest

A table for one became a table for many. That describes the evolution of my social life during my time at Woodside. 

First, I should mention that when I visited, I was required to show proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative test. For what it’s worth, this level of precaution made every guest feel a bit more at ease about interacting freely. 

During the orientation session held at the beginning of my stay, we were told that the hope was that the small and casual environment at this property would lend itself to us connecting to one another. 

This sounded great—the challenge of trying to make new friends when you’re an adult is real! But, based on experiences I’ve had at other wellness retreats where I’ve been with the same folks, they’ve always stuck to themselves. 

Canyon Ranch Woodside The Void

Of course, I was skeptical. While there were a few sets of friends and couples during my weekend, the majority of retreatmates were women traveling solo like myself. 

The first night we shyly all sat one to a table in The Hearth. The next day, everyone started to chat with one another during the day’s programming. By that following evening, I was invited to join a table of women enjoying dinner. 

One of them even shared her bottle of wine with me, which then prompted me to invite her to sit with me the next evening to repay the favor. By that third night, a big group of us ended up pushing three tables together to share wine, food and conversation. 

We all recanted stories about our professional and personal lives and discovered connections with one another. We ended the evening giving one another hugs and recognizing how surreal and magical the evening had been. 

On the final day of the retreat, I exchanged numbers and Instagram accounts with many of the women I’d gotten to know. And since returning to the real world, I’ve stayed in touch with several of them.

Much like the beautiful food and wine I consumed at Woodside nourished my body, the friendships I started have nourished my soul. 

This was an unexpected result of investing in this Canyon Ranch experience—and one of the greatest gifts I can give myself for my 40th.  

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