The Inside Scoop on Indian Springs Resort

What do you do when you own a spectacular, historic Calistoga resort, but know it could use a little updating? If you’re John and Pat Merchant and your estate is Indian Springs Resort & Spa, you pour $24 million into an expansion and renovation, including adding the property’s first-ever restaurant.

That was the case for the 17-acre property on Lincoln Avenue, where it’s been a very busy several years. The Merchants built 75 additional guest rooms, revamped the grounds and opened Sam’s Social Club restaurant and lounge, with the goal of re-positioning the longtime family-focused retreat to cater to higher-end customers seeking luxury lodging as an option.

Built in 1861 by Gold Rush millionaire Samuel Brannan, Indian Springs Resort is home to California’s oldest continuously operated geothermal pool and spa facility. Long celebrated as a unique, bohemian style retreat, the property has always been popular with visitors who seek rejuvenation with volcanic ash mud baths and swimming in an authentic Olympic-size geyser-heated swimming pool (built in 1910). These thermal geysers produce rich mineral water and deposit pure volcanic ash that is hand dug from the soil for restorative massages, body wraps and facials.

These days many guests arrive to experience the new steam room, set with wood plank benches above another gently bubbling geyser. Here is where you can relax in select new adults-only accommodations, and at an adults-only pool. While visiting, be sure to tour the newly upgraded grounds, spanning hills and ponds, olive and palm trees, roses, lavender garden and pathways leading to a viewpoint hill of the nearby Palisades volcanic ridge. Come sunset, why not sip cocktails and look oh-so stylish as you play bocce ball, shuffleboard, croquet or other games on the giant checkerboard. When you want to head to Calistoga’s downtown, which is just a few blocks away, simply hop on one of the complimentary bikes provided on property and take a quick pedal.

Lodging options

An eclectic array of resort rooms showcases modern-day luxury in a variety of ways. For a taste of history, The Lodge beckons as a 1930s Spanish Revival-style mansion renovated in 2017 with statement décor of stone-floor baths and private patios amid fountains. The Cottages are the original accommodations at Indian Springs and offer 14 private apartments complete with front porch and private yard area.

For a more contemporary feel, the new View rooms are particularly popular. These rooms are set in a collection of Mission Revival-style lodges that were built in 2014. Stay in a geyser room if you want to feel the absolute magic of the moment. These rooms open to balconies overlooking ponds and active, steaming geysers. Other options include more secluded palm orchard settings or hillside views.

Three bungalows debuted in 2014, as well, as a trio of upscale retreats spanning 1,200 square feet. The two new Houses are even more expansive, meanwhile, as private, stand-alone homes boasting full kitchens, large decks, yards, and up to three bedrooms.

Once you’ve unpacked and begin to settle in your digs, you’ll soon feel like you “own” the resort as your own private retreat.

Sam’s Social Club

And here’s a tip everyone can enjoy: the new Sam’s Social Club (namesake of Sam Brannan, of course), welcomes non-resort guests, too. This Mission Revival-style restaurant was built as a sophisticated dining room anchored by a fireplace, a hillside patio with a fire pit, and a geyser-fed water feature, while downstairs is a “secret” brewery that crafts seasonal beers sold in the bar and restaurant.

Through breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can enjoy signature dishes like grilled octopus with romesco sauce, crispy potato, olives and arugula; free range Mary’s chicken in piri piri pepper and estate rosemary brine with haricots verts, almonds and grilled lemon; or Kansas City rib-eye steak with bone marrow butter, Walla-Walla onion escabeche ,and beef-fat French fries.

For all its changes, Indian Springs remains true to its heritage as a family-friendly destination. It remains a place for children to romp around, but today on the newly-built kids’ play yard for the day. At day’s end, they can clamber into the bunk beds of the Palm Row two-bedroom cottage with living room and private outdoor spaces.