5 HIDDEN HIDEAWAYS
OTHERWORLDLY NATURAL ATTRACTIONS EXIST RIGHT IN THE BACKYARDS OF BENCHMARK PROPERTIES.
The most amazing natural attractions don’t always entail a plane ticket to some remote corner of the globe. These five require just some good walking shoes and a few hours spent away from your Benchmark guest room.
Granit Hot Springs | Jackson, Wyoming
If you want to experience Granite Hot Springs between the months of November and April, you’ll have to hire a dogsled to get there (a snowmobile or skis work, too). A favorite local spot, the springs – 7,000 feet above sea level – are accessible by car only via an 11-mile bumpy dirt road off US-191 that closes each winter due to snowfall. But it’s worth it; the site is a tiny pocket of paradise encircled by rocky hillsides and soaring evergreens. The 104-degree waters – a crystal-clear Caribbean turquoise – flow into a swimming pool built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, set into a wooden deck that looks out on stunning views of the Gros Ventre Mountains.
Distance from Snow King Resort Hotel & Grandview Lodge: 35 miles
Wilder Ranch State Park’s Hole in the Wall Beach | Santa Cruz, California
If Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had grown up in Northern California, this is where they would have hung out – it’s a perfect, private haven for pirates and sunbathers alike. Pass beneath a massive rock arch (the “hole-in-the-wall” part of the moniker) near the south end of Panther Beach and you’ll find this gorgeous, secluded vista of sand and sea, backed by tall sandstone bluffs. The hues are eye-popping – the marbled yellows and reds of the stone, the vibrant green lichen, and the reflected blues of the water and sky. You can walk through the arch when the tide ebbs, but be sure to get back before high tide, or you’ll find yourself afloat.
Distance from Chaminade Resort & Spa: 10 miles
Denman Estate Park | San Antonio, Texas
Here’s one of the last things you’d expect to find on the grounds of a classic Southern mansion: a traditional oriental pavilion hand-built and assembled by craftsmen from Gwangju, South Korea. Overlooking a lake on a northwest San Antonio estate of the late philanthropist Gilbert Denman Jr., the pavilion was given to the San Antonio community as an official sister-city gift from Gwangju. It’s a surprising and brilliantly hued gem in a peaceful park setting, which also features a walking trail and labyrinth.
Distance from Hotel Contessa: 10 miles
Blackwater Falls | Davis, West Virginia
Blackwater Falls, where the Blackwater River plunges 62 feet over a natural sandstone ledge, is one of those rare places that feels untouched by time or human interference, worn from slabs of rock and surrounded by dense forest. But most unusual is the color of the falls – a dark amber tinge that is produced by the leaching of tannins from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. It’s particularly noticeable in winter, in contrast to the snow-covered rocks around it, making it one of the most photographed sites in the state.
Distance from Stonewall Resort: 80 miles
Turtle Bay Resort’s Banyan Tree | Oahu, Hawaii
It looks like a forest with a canopy that creates a natural awning in the forest near Kawela Bay – but it’s actually a single tree with roots that, over time, have grown into trunks as large as the original. Located on the grounds of Turtle Bay Resort, the colossal banyan’s maze-like spaces, created from a vast tapestry of snaking trunks and vines, is so enchanting that it has served as the backdrop for numerous films and television shows, including Lost and the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in which the lagoon around the tree became the Mermaid’s Lair.
Distance from Turtle Bay Resort: <1 mile