While Calistoga is renowned for its therapeutic hot springs and mud baths, Indian Springs Resort & Spa remains one-of-a-kind for its priceless asset: dirt. The 17-acre property on Lincoln Avenue is rich with pure volcanic ash that is hand dug from the soil for restorative massages, body wraps and facials. Mix that ash with natural mineral water from the property’s thermal geysers, and you’ve got a soothing, medicinally beneficial mud perfect for slathering all over your skin.
“The soil is why we stand alone in Calistoga,” said John Merchant, who along with his wife, Pat Merchant, purchased the estate in 1987 and has since put in some $25 million in expansions and renovations. “The volcanic ash came from the eruption of Lake County’s Mount Konocti millions of years ago, and blended with our steaming mineral water, becomes an elixir.”
The sustainable treasure has been a property hallmark for nearly 160 years. Built in 1861 by Gold Rush millionaire Sam Brannan, this is California’s oldest continuously operated geothermal pool and spa facility. Long celebrated as a unique, bohemian style retreat, the resort has always been popular with visitors seeking not only the ash mud baths and swimming in an authentic Olympic-size geyser-heated swimming pool built in 1910.
When Merchant completed his initial renovation in 2016, he also introduced the property’s first-ever restaurant, Sam’s Social Club. Named for Brannan, the Cal-American spot welcomes non-resort guests, too, in the Mission Revival-style dining room anchored by a fireplace, or on a hillside patio with a fire pit and a water feature.
Through breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can enjoy signature dishes like pork belly hash; a lobster roll on buttery brioche; or rib eye steak frites with bone marrow butter, caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms and beef fat fries.
Merchant has another secret menu favorite, however.
“We’ve become the favorite restaurant in town, known for our candy cap churros,” he said, of the crispy, cinnamon and sugar coated fried dough treats spiked with the candy cap mushroom that tastes distinctively like maple syrup.
They’re served for breakfast or dessert, dolloped with whipped cream and dunked in luscious dulce de leche – sort of like a tasty snack enjoying a caramel-rich mud bath of its own.