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Walnut Creek Magazine

This Guerneville Hidden Gem Offers The Perfect Wellness Retreat

Oct 10, 2023 08:51AM ● By Pam Kessler

In a lush natural environment off Highway 116, a historic Guerneville destination has emerged as Dawn Ranch — a chic retreat centered around wellness.

The 81-room secluded resort—a mix of modernized cabins, cottages, and glamping tents—is a rarity for this small town known for river rafting, artistic enclaves, and bohemian vibes. Getting its name from the two ancient, towering redwoods on the property, Dawn Ranch sprawls across 22-acres of rolling green meadows and vintage apple orchards.


From its first impression, a calm, tranquil atmosphere permeates the property. Private decks on rejuvenated cabins open to serene interiors with high beamed ceilings and custom furnishings. Bathrooms are adorned with rain showers, Le Labo hair and body products, and refreshing green hues. An onsite spa features redwood soaking tubs, steam rooms, and invigorating body scrubs.


Established in 1905, the legacy of Dawn Ranch is rich. Originally known as Murphy’s Ranch, it was a vacation haven for wealthy San Franciscans, before becoming Fife’s Resort in 1978—a popular gay destination. Then in 2005, it rebranded as Dawn Ranch Lodge and was acquired by Bridgeton Holdings in 2022 and underwent a luxe revamp.


A path cuts through the heart of the property leading to the Boathouse—the place to grab an inner tube or kayak for adventures on the Russian River below. Other activities range from  meditative redwood forest bathing to scent-making classes, designed to foster connection to nature without the screens. (There are no TVs here, but WIFI is abundant.) Evening brings a community bonfire with complimentary s’mores.


Inside the property’s restaurant, The Lodge at Dawn Ranch, Argentinian Chef Fernando Trocca incorporates ingredients from the onsite garden into his breakfast and dinner menus. In the morning, a bountiful continental breakfast buffet is served—sweet and savory pastries, yogurt with granola, fresh juices, plus assorted meats and cheeses.


At dinner, Trocca’s South American heritage is highlighted in seasonal dishes like thinly sliced yellowfin tiradito, squid ink-chorizo paella, and grilled halibut with caramelized bell pimiento confit. His decadent desserts include raspberry filo, Basque cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Artisanal sips are crafted with Northern California produced spirits and local Sonoma wines, easy to enjoy outdoors on the expansive deck.

Downtown Guerneville restaurants and shops are a short five-minute walk from the resort, and dogs are welcome in designated cabins. 


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