Thirteen miles west of a desolate stretch of California’s Interstate 5 is an unexpected oasis that promises naturally occurring geothermal waters, holistic workshops and other restorative activities including yoga, energy healing and spirit guide coaching. Located in a sparsely populated section of Fresno County, Mercey Hot Springs was initially discovered by Native Americans and developed into a resort in the early 1900s. Later, it was transformed into an RV park. Thankfully, the current owners have realized the unique rejuvenating properties of the land and have redesigned it as a rustic resort.
Stuart Thornton lives in coastal California and is the author of the Moon Coastal California Handbook, the Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast Handbook, Moon California Road Trip and the Moon Monterey & Carmel Handbook.
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Mercey Hot Springs' location just minutes off one of California's busiest highways makes it an ideal pit stop for passing motorists, especially for those drivers doing the long slog between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rather than stock up on junk food at a highway exit, Mercey will let you unwind from the road by indulging in a healthier diversion, whether it's soaking in mineral springs or breaking a sweat in a dry sauna. The rustic resort is a 2.5-hour drive from San Francisco and a four-hour drive from Los Angeles.
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Mercey Hot Springs' registration office is one of the old resort's original buildings dating back to the late 1800s. Resembling the façade of a California mission, the unique structure was once a bottling plant where the mineral-rich waters were bottled for sale as an elixir. Now it's the place where visitors can purchase a day pass (half day rates range from $30 to $40, while full day rates go from $40 to $50).
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The main attraction at Mercey is its naturally occurring hot springs. Visitors can opt to bathe au naturel on one secluded deck or enjoy the waters in a clothing-mandatory area. Hot springs like these are the reason the term "balneotherapy" exists; that is, the treatment of disease with baths. Of course, natural hot springs have proven to aid in the treatment of other ailments and conditions that aren't considered disease, like pains, stress, hypertension and even a broken heart.
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Guests soak in their own private tubs. Rich in sodium chloride (salt), the waters are 112 degrees Fahrenheit at their source before cooling to temperatures around 105 degrees for use in the tubs.
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Visitors can also enjoy the hot springs in a private indoor tub located within the resort's bathhouse to avoid the sun. (In the summer, daytime temperatures in the area can reach 110 degrees). It's $20 a person for an hour to reserve a tub in the bathhouse.
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The resort has a large stone patio inlaid with a pool that is filled with 80-degree spring water. With its sun and palm trees, the sunny deck feels more like Palm Springs than Fresno County.
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Most weekends in the spring and summer, Mercey offers yoga classes in its Pavilion Tent. Throughout the year, massages and holistic workshops are available on the property.
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The 144-acre resort has a nine-hole disc golf course built into the hills. There are also trails that offer views of the facilities from above and vistas of the surrounding, wide-open landscape.
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In many ways, the evening is the best time to be at Mercey Hot Springs. When the sun goes down, guests can soak to the sounds of cooing owls while staring at a sky full of stars scattered like jewels. One option for overnight guests is a stay in one of the resort's cabins, which range from $135 to $205 a night and include use of the hot tubs.
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For a full-fledged glamping experience, Mercey has a couple of tricked-out Airstream trailers for discerning visitors. The distinctive luxury trailers have air conditioners, TVs, kitchens and their own decks with grills. Prices per night range from $200 to $285.