Written by Sierra on 01 Jul, 2004
The Mayacamas Indians who lived in the Napa Valley region were the original beneficiaries of the natural hot springs in the area, then early Spanish settlers. Eventually Napa became known for its farmland, and winemakers began moving in. Sam Brannan, who had amassed his riches…Read More
The Mayacamas Indians who lived in the Napa Valley region were the original beneficiaries of the natural hot springs in the area, then early Spanish settlers. Eventually Napa became known for its farmland, and winemakers began moving in. Sam Brannan, who had amassed his riches selling shovellers to gold prospectors, bought much of the land at the northern end of Napa Valley, intending to make the area the "Saratago Springs of California." Legend has it that one night, while a bit drunk, he was speaking of his plans and proclaimed, ""I will make this place the Calistoga of Sarafornia."
Whether or not the legend is true, the name stuck, and Sam Brannan's Hot Springs Hotel, opened in 1860. Others eventually followed, but Brannan was supposedly the first to make the combination of volcanic ash from nearby Mt. St. Helena with the hot geyser waters to make Calistoga's now-famous mud baths. Today, most mud baths in town use a combination of clay, peat, hot mineral waters, and some still use ash. This mixture is then heated, and enjoying a mud bath helps clean impurities in the skin, relaxes muscles and joints, and makes your skin softer too.
I first "took the mud" in Calistoga in 1998. I was concerned at the time about how sanitary it could be to sit in mud used repeatedly, but between customers, the mud is brought to over 212 degrees and thoroughly raked.
I went a few times to the same spa because they were economical, but then I found the Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort from their website. Golden Haven offered a variety of good package deals via their website, including discounts if you stay at the hotel. I had another trip to California coming, so I squeezed in some time to go to Calistoga, and booked a combination spa/lodging package.
Golden Haven is located on Lake Street, a fairly quiet residential area of town. There is ample parking. Like many of the spas in town, their original building construction dates to the 1970's or earlier, but the rooms are very clean and tidy, and the bed was plenty comfortable. A faint sulphuric odor is noticeable throughout much of Calistoga, but once you have been there for a while you don't even notice it. Golden Haven has a variety of accommodations available, from bare-basics queen room to a king sized suite complete with private jacuzzi.
The main reason I chose the Golden Haven this time was that they offer private spa facilities, where 1 or 2 people at a time can enjoy treatments. (Several of the other spas have communal mud bath areas, which is fine if you're either an exhibitionist, or don't mind, but I prefer a little privacy.) You can do these treatments either in the nude or wearing a bathing suit or underwear, but be warned that the mud gets everywhere, and it is very fine, so it can be difficult to wash out of clothing.
My spa attendant led me to the private treatment room, and left me for the moment to my privacy, where I took a quick shower and then enjoyed a soak in a hot mineral bath. After about 10 minutes were up, the attendant helped me into my mudbath.
The first time you enter a mudbath, it's a very weird thing. It's really hot, it smells odd (the sulfuric content of the mineral water), and to be honest, it feels like stepping into a giant sarcophagus of muddy oatmeal. The attendant scoops out a depression in the mud, and you step in, sit down, then lean back, and stretch your legs out and try to wiggle your butt a little deeper into the mud so that the attendant can scoop the mud over you. At first it's hot and feels a little oppressive on the chest, but after a few minutes and the heat has begun to seep into your bones, it feels wonderful. They place a cold cloth on your forehead and will come by to give you cold water. You can feel your aches just disappear.
After about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long you can stand the heat, the attendant helps you out of the mud and leaves you to your shower. Now, I cannot say that the mud itself has any properties to soften the skin, but as you rub and rinse it from yourself, it does feel like your skin is softer. Once you are showered and wrapped up in a big sheet, they take you to a quiet area where you lie down and are covered with an herbal blanket to relax and cool down. This is all pretty relaxing, so I generally fall asleep at this point!
You can do any combination of treatments along with or independent of the mudbath, including herbal mineral baths, hot tub, body wraps, facials, or massages. I usually opt for a 90-minute massage after a mudbath -- and never will a massage feel so good as when you are already a relaxed limp noodle! And if those treatments aren't enough, at Golden Haven you also get unlimited use of their outdoor mineral pool.
My main tip about getting a mudspa treatment is that since it's so incredibly relaxing, it's great to have them late in the day. That way you can have dinner or go right to bed after. When I am in Calistoga, I like to get my treatments around 4-5pm and then go for dinner at Brannan's in the center of town: a great evening all around.
Golden Haven Hot Springs
1713 Lake Street
Calistoga, CA 94515
707/942-6793 | www.goldenhaven.com
Written by food&fun on 22 Apr, 2002
As part of the spa package I did at Dr. Wilkinson's, I spent the morning at the salon. My salon person started off with a Cerofango Treatment for my feet, which began with a delightful foot massage. Each foot was then dipped into…Read More
As part of the spa package I did at Dr. Wilkinson's, I spent the morning at the salon. My salon person started off with a Cerofango Treatment for my feet, which began with a delightful foot massage. Each foot was then dipped into a warm mixture of clay, paraffin and herbs, then wrapped in plastic, then covered with a heated bootie. While my feet cooked, I was given a relaxing facial with lots of moisturizing lotions. Finally, a facial mask was put on and I sat back in the darkened room for about 10 minutes while the mask dried. It was gently scrubbed off and more emollients were massaged into my face. I left the salon totally renewed.
A variety of other salon treatments are available, including a seaweed body wrap. Prices range from $50 to $95, and packages combining treatments and massages are available.
As part of my spa package, I got "The Works," an aftrnoon of pampering and strange experiences.
I was led to the locker room, where I left my clothes and wrapped myself in a large, soft sheet. Then I was guided to the famous mud…Read More
As part of my spa package, I got "The Works," an aftrnoon of pampering and strange experiences.
I was led to the locker room, where I left my clothes and wrapped myself in a large, soft sheet. Then I was guided to the famous mud baths. I expected a slurry-like substance, like the facial-in-a-jar mud, but it was more like a big bathtub of hot, soupy potting soil! (But it didn't smell bad.) The attendant helped me in; you kind of rest under a layer of it, almost floating. The attendant placed cucumber slices on my eyes and covered my head and face with a towel dipped in ice water. I sat there, trying not to giggle, for about 10 minutes. It was not very relaxing for me -- just weird -- but the woman in the tub next to me said she fell asleep almost instantly.
From there, I showered off the peat moss with a hand-held shower and hopped into a hot whirlpool tub for a soak. Another cold towel covered my head, and a cup of ice water was placed at my fingertips. After another 10 minutes or so, I was led to a steam room where I could stay as long as I wanted. Then I was taken to a cubicle where I could lie down and was wrapped in sheets, supposedly to "equalize" my body temperature. After about 20 minutes, the attendant took me to a small, darkened room where I had a lovely hour-long massage. By the time I was done, I was noodle-like! I don't think I'd do the mud part again, but the rest was great.
Written by nmagann on 14 Dec, 2000
The treatments we had began with a mud bath. There were two side by side tubs. You don't get into the mud bath as it is heated from the bottom and very hot. Instead we were told to lay on top and…Read More
The treatments we had began with a mud bath. There were two side by side tubs. You don't get into the mud bath as it is heated from the bottom and very hot. Instead we were told to lay on top and the staff covered us with mud. The mud is actually volcanic ash. You only spend about 10-15 minutes in it, although I begged for time. She did give me a couple more minutes. I had no idea how relaxing this could be, better than any massage I had before.
Next came the 15 minute herbal bubble bath to make sure all the mud was washed away. Then we were taken to a room and wrapped in blankets. Yes, it is called a blanket wrap. Nice, cozy and warm. You are wrapped from neck to toes and brought water to sip from a straw. A cool fan is turned on with the scent of oranges coming from it.
About 20 minutes later, we were escorted to private rooms for a 30 minute massage. I requested concentration on my neck and received just that. My friend's feet were tickled to death from the massage. Sensitive feet.
All of this cost $45 per person and allowed us to go outside afterwards and enjoy the swimming pool. As if we had the energy to do anything but lounge around.
Written by Travel Queen on 07 Nov, 2000
Check this one out. It costs $6 to see this real active geyser. It's on the main drag also and I believe there's a public pool that's heated by the geyser water. Pretty neat. …Read More
Check this one out. It costs $6 to see this real active geyser. It's on the main drag also and I believe there's a public pool that's heated by the geyser water. Pretty neat. Close
Written by Travel Queen on 02 Nov, 2000
Calistoga and Napa are have a lot of cute little shops for antique shopping. They also have a certain amount of craft shops to check out.…Read More
Calistoga and Napa are have a lot of cute little shops for antique shopping. They also have a certain amount of craft shops to check out. Close
I have yet to do this but I read and hear from friends rave reviews about the food on this infamous Wine Train. Yes it's a little pricey but from what I hear it's worth it. Next time I go to wine country…Read More
I have yet to do this but I read and hear from friends rave reviews about the food on this infamous Wine Train. Yes it's a little pricey but from what I hear it's worth it. Next time I go to wine country I'm doing this! Close