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Gateway Canyons is the perfect vacation destination for a cowgirl.

In the heart of the American West, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks has created a luxury resort that exceeds the expectations of the most discerning traveler—while also delivering exciting outdoor activities, breathtaking natural beauty and world-class intellectual adventures.

Thoughtfully placed in harmony with nature amid Colorado’s red rock canyons is the recently renovated Gateway Canyons Resort. This relaxing, scenic get-away complete with luxury spa treatments, gourmet cuisine, and inspiring views, also offers mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and exploring via Jeeps or ATV’s. Or try rafting, kayaking, tubing, fly fishing, archery, horseback riding or a scenic helicopter tour!

Flowers in bloom.

Having completed a $100 million dollar make-over on this dream destination, John Hendricks has exceeded what many top-level resorts strive for. A staff of carefully selected personalities is sincerely engaged in ensuring every guest captures the diverse magic Gateway Canyons has to offer.

This lucky cowgirl spent a weekend at Gateway Canyons when Mr. Hendricks was on site. In addition to enjoying all of the adventures one can pack into three days, I got the chance to see exactly where the passion that inspired this destination was born. Imagine the wonder and intensity of your favorite Discovery Channel production come to life, complete with breathtaking locations, an emotional musical score, and new information that stretches your mind and lifts your spirit. John Hendricks has taken the same concept that succeeds so brilliantly on his network and crafted it into a travel experience like no other.

Gateway Canyons is an aesthetically planned community of adobe structures, blending seamlessly into their red rock surroundings. Upon arrival, you’ll be escorted by the gracious, welcoming staff to one of 58 guest rooms in the Kiva and newly completed Kayenta Lodges. Accommodations are furnished with custom-made Peruvian furniture, and accented by warm tones and soft southwest-inspired patterns.

Guests enjoy a white water rafting trip arranged by Gateway Canyon’s on-site Adventure Center.

Amenities like private patios with in-ground hot tubs and firepits, claw foot tubs, and cozy leather chairs contribute to a high-end feel, but the most amazing element of each room by far is the breathtaking view out the window every dusk and dawn. A fun bonus: Each guestroom is equipped with an iPad, complete with customized apps so you can take advantage of all the activities being offered during your stay.

Days at Gateway Canyons are brimming with activities to indulge in. Curiosity Adventures are a series of daily, hands-on workshops and discussions led by resident “curiosity experts,” on topics such as geology, dinosaurs, star gazing, and Native American history. At the on-site Adventure Center, things get physical with mountain biking, hiking, river trips, fly fishing, riding ATV’s, traveling to the mountain top via jeep, or archery practice.

A gun range just off site is also lots of fun for target practice or a friendly shotgun competition. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a helicopter tour of the area, a must-do Gateway activity.

One of Gateway Canyon’s Kayenta Lodges.

After an exhilarating morning of activity, a body treatment at the world-class Spa at Gateway Canyons is both restorative and luxurious. Sipping a cocktail poolside, enjoying a good book on the expansive lawn, or taking in a Discovery Channel feature in the HD Theatre are also excellent ways to spend a relaxing  afternoon.

Many guests, as I did, often enjoy an early dinner at the Entrada Restaurant. The Executive Chef offers a variety of exquisite specialties to match any gustatory mood. Baked Colorado striped bass or a delicately flavored venison loin with creamy grits? One can’t go wrong either way! Compliment your main course with a regional Colorado wine and a fresh plate of locally grown fruit… or indulge in the decadent flourless chocolate cake. I highly recommend the Arugula Salad and Baby Spinach for a light and palate-pleasing lunch on Entrada’s al fresco patio.

Entrada Restaurant, offering al fresco dining.

Gateway Canyon is home to Mr. Hendricks world-famous automobile collection, housing 45 of the most prized and well preserved cars from American History. I’m not an avid car enthusiast, but the museum kept me hooked for quite some time! Serious auto aficionados will be smitten. Relics from yesteryear are displayed in the museum as well: road maps and signs from days gone by.

The museum draws a huge weekend crowd from all over the country and hosts a prestigious car show as well. Soon to open: Duesey’s Diner, a 1948 vintage food trailer serving Classic American fare like burgers and shakes for museum patrons.

Author, Callie Tice embarking on a moonlit horseback ride at Gateway Canyons.

Though the entire experience at Gateway Canyons was extremely impressive, one of my favorite travel treats is getting to ride horses somewhere new. The Stables at Gateway Canyons did not disappoint. We set out at dusk on a trail ride, the sun glowing in late-day swaths of gold and orange down the mountainside, highlighting groves of Aspen along the way. We rode for about an hour to a hillside pavilion where dinner was being prepared and local musicians entertained.

With a few seasoned riders in our group, we were encouraged to ride on a bit farther and invited to gallop and take in the cool night air (definitely not your typical-nose-to-tail trail ride!). A gorgeous sunset dinner in the Pavilion followed, complete with a variety of local game, grilled on site and plenty of laughter and enthusiastic storytelling about our weekend adventures was embellished by the brightly lit sky of May’s super moon. Then, after dinner, and unheard of opportunity: we got to take a moonlit ride back down the mountain on horseback, instead of the customary van transport back to the stable. This enchanted night ride under a full moon was the perfect way to complete my glorious weekend at Gateway Canyons Resort.

(Originally published in the September/October 2012 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).