Aspen Times Weekly: In Gateway, a desert oasis is calling
IF YOU GO...
Gateway Canyons Resort
43200 Colorado 141, Gateway, Colorado (about three hours from Aspen)
Rooms: 58 guest rooms and 14 Palisade Casitas
Don’t miss: The auto museum, Driven Experiences, off-roading and air tours.
Best meal of the weekend: The chicken-and-waffles at Paradox Grille, one of five restaurants on the property. It was served with candied pecans, bourbon maple syrup, crispy Brussels sprouts and gravy — delicious.
Fun fact: Gateway is one of the only places in the world where Precambrian rock is still visible by the human eye.
It’s a sunny Saturday and we’re ripping around one of the most beautiful desert landscapes I’ve ever seen in a Polaris RZR.
We’re not in Sedona or Moab or Lake Powell — we’re in a place arguably more beautiful but without the tacky fudge shops or T-shirt stores. The best part is that we’re only a three-hour drive away from Aspen.
My boyfriend Ryan and I have traveled the world together —Tokyo, Sri Lanka, The Maldives, Borneo, Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, to name a few — roughing it one day and living the lap of luxury the next. We have become accustomed to just about every tier of travel, with luxury obviously taking the cake, but it’s rare for the resort to be the main destination.
We had been to Gateway, Colorado, once before after leaving Moab roughly six or seven years ago and taking the scenic route home. I had heard of Gateway because of its auto museum, but that was before the majority of the spectacular Gateway Canyons Resort was built. As a Formula 1 fan myself, and with Ryan as an aficionado of just about all steam or combustion engine machines, a car museum set against the red rocks of western Colorado seemed like a great place to visit.
And that it was — but that was then. Since we were last there in 2009 or 2010, the place has morphed into one of the most magnificent properties I’ve ever seen, with its adobe-style southwestern architecture, a sublime main pool, impressive views of the Palisade rock formation and five different canyons, and luxury casitas that’ll make you never want to leave.
General Manager Rudy Sharp said it best when he described the resort as a place where you can experience things you don’t typically get to do anywhere else.
Owned by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, Gateway Canyons started out as a small inn with the auto museum — which features more than 50 cars from Hendricks’ private collection on display in a 30,000-square-foot facility — as the main attraction. Fast forward a little more than a decade after the resort first opened and now the property has grown into a resort with 72 rooms, multiple restaurants, two pools, a spa, events center, amphitheater and more.
And while a stay in the rooms is lovely — don’t miss the sprawling casitas with private patios, vaulted open-beam ceilings, outdoor showers and high-end finishes throughout — it’s the stuff you can do at this resort that makes it stand out.
Stuff like driving a Bentley Continental Supersport or a Ford GT through awe-inspiring scenery for the day, or a helicopter tour that shows off this stunning landscape from above.
Or a RZR tour up a dirt road toward Moab, where about 40 minutes of climbing delivers you to an overlook that almost looks fake. More daring drivers can follow guides along for some serious off-roading adventures, too.
But it doesn’t stop there. This place offers ATV’s, guided mountain biking or hiking trips, sport shooting, horseback riding, wine country tours and fishing trips, just to name a few of the things you can fill your days with.
I used to think of Gateway as a place for a weekend getaway — and it most certainly can be exactly that — but you could stay for a week or longer and never run out of exciting things to do.
But when you want to slow things down, this resort offers serenity, too, like its full-service spa or relaxing pools. And any car lover could spend hours walking through the museum, imagining yourself driving down Highway 141 with the top down on your 1932 Auburn 8-100A Boattail Speedster, or hitting a banked turn in Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR Chevrolet championship car at high speeds. This auto museum is something special, and its location would make anyone wonder, “How in the world did this auto museum end up way out here?”
That’s a question only Hendricks could answer, but it’s not the point. The point is that it’s there and it’s awesome.
Combining Gateway with a Moab adventure or a mountain biking trip to Fruita works — we combined it on this trip with a stop in Palisade at the annual peach festival — but what we found is that Gateway is the destination all on its own. Choose it for adventure, relaxation, a special occasion or just because.
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