I exit the tiny airport in Grand Junction, Colorado, to a blast of desert heat. This isn’t Connecticut anymore. A stylish older man stands at the curb next to a maroon Bentley convertible with a sign in his hands that reads “Gateway Canyons.” This is my ride. I can’t help thinking pinch me; I must be dreaming. That feeling prevails over most of the weekend.
It takes about an hour to reach Gateway, Colorado from the airport, but it seems about the perfect amount of time. Driving down Route 141, you’re able to acclimate; you breathe in that fresh air and your pulse slows. Daily life drops away in that journey through red rock and yucca and desert sage. You’re now prepared for your stay at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa.
Located at the convergence of five canyons, there isn’t a bad view in sight. Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa was developed here by Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks because he believed this is “where the planet has opened up to tell its story.” The resort blends beautifully into the landscape, accentuating, rather than competing with, the astounding surroundings.
Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa began humbly with only 10 rooms and one restaurant — Paradox Grille — but has since expanded to a total of 58 rooms in the Kiva and Kayenta Lodges. In 2013, the Casitas were completed, contributing 14 additional units to the site. Accommodations range from 475 square feet to 2,075 square feet, offering something for everyone.
I’m given my key and escorted to 203, a Premium Room in the upper corner of the Kayenta Lodge. It’s impossible to resist stopping several times along the way to snap photos. Eventually, I make my way to that decorative carved wooden door and enter pure luxury.
Beyond the door is a space about a large as the apartment my husband and I shared for 10 years — and I get it all to myself. It’s divided into a work station/living room, large bedroom with a heavenly king-sized bed and double-sided fireplace, and luxurious bathroom, including a spacious shower with a separate tub made for soaking. A balcony connects the bedroom and living room outside, with a private fire pit brought to life with the flip of a switch; the perfect place to catch glimpses of the Palisade by day, or read a book with a glass of wine at night.
I could spend the entire weekend in my room relaxing, but there’s more on my agenda.
Guests seeking relief from the desert heat have access to the seasonal Kiva pool and year-round Palisade pools. At the Palisade pools, you’ll find The Cantina, where you can order snacks and sandwiches, as well as smoothies, beer, wine, and cocktails. In a brief moment between activities, I take my frozen prickly pear margarita poolside and discover there’s a spacious hot tub as well. The bartender turns on the jets for me and I am instantly relaxed.
Those who like to feel adrenaline rushing through their veins will love the variety of experiences available at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa. Where else can you embark upon a UTV adventure into the mesas in the morning, ride horses in the evening, and throw in a Pro-Baja ride-along or luxury car cruise in the middle?
On this trip, I try them all, and find that the ponies — under the hood and in the corral — suit me just fine. Most especially, Big ‘Un, the bay horse I rode through the desert brush at Palisade Ranch. We’re kindred spirits, that horse and I, and I bonded with him during that trek. A close second would be the horses under the hood of the green Bentley Continental Convertible that I temporarily had possession over. I let them run free for a rather memorable 30 miles up Route 141 to Hanging Flume Overlook.
Car enthusiasts especially will enjoy the on-site Gateway Auto Museum, one of the original elements of the resort. Inside are nearly 60 of the most prized cars in the country, secured in a time capsule devoted to every era of automobiles since their invention. And, in a special room, spins the enchantress herself: a 1954 Oldsmobile F-88, the only one of her kind remaining. She glimmers and gleams on her pedestal; time slips silently away as you stand there in awe, unable to break your gaze. She’ll make a car lover out of you, if you weren’t already.
No trip is complete without a great meal to eat! Despite being located literally in the middle of nowhere, Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa is well-versed in providing gastronomic delights. From the skirt steak tostada salad at Paradox Grille, to dry-aged bison rib eye and mashed taters at Entrada, to smoked brisket hash and eggs for breakfast (and more), it’s all so satisfying. Comfort food and elegance blend for a perfect balance of eating options expertly tickling the taste buds.
And the cocktails! Oh, my, are they fabulous! Yes, the frozen prickly pear margarita is a poolside favorite, but even more so I found the Desert Heat — with silver tequila, muddled cucumber, jalapeño, pineapple, and lime juice — to be just what I needed to quench my thirst. Even if you’re not staying at the resort, it’s worth driving there for dinner at Paradox Grille or Entrada. Who knew you could find a culinary destination in Gateway, Colorado?
Monday, I depart early in the wee hours to catch my flight home. My long weekend is over, but my head and heart are overflowing. Lee, the same gentleman who picked me up at the airport just a few days prior, attempts to chat, but I’m too groggy to hold up my end of the conversation. Instead, I simply enjoy listening to him speak. A deer startles us when we’ve nearly arrived in Grand Junction. She breaks the spell — a symbol of returning to reality. But I know that I can slip away for a little while any time. I just need to make the call and reserve a room at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa. It’s all so simple.
Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa
43200 Colorado 141
Gateway, CO 81522