I’ll admit it. I have caviar tastes and something close to a Cheez Whiz budget. I enjoy the finer things in life, and I have no business ever tasting them in the first place. There are certain work assignments that are not, shall we say, hardship posts. This trip planner on how to spa in Central Oregon is one of the delightful perks of working at a magazine. When my editor asked me to check out Central Oregon’s destination resorts and focus on their spa offerings, I felt sure 2020 was really going to be my year.
So I did the hard thing—I went to Black Butte Ranch, Pronghorn and Brasada Ranch. I tried the food, I toured the properties, I checked out the amenities, and most of all, I got spa treatments. I had some parameters. I wanted to try out a spa’s specialty—the treatment it called its signature.
It was a hard job, but someone had to do it. This was for you.
Brasada Ranch is the fever dream of everyone who loves a good destination resort. It appears like a mirage after driving through the dense juniper and volcanic rock—did I make a wrong turn? What on earth is a top-quality resort doing out in Powell Butte?
The placement of this resort is no mistake—its mountain views are absolutely stunning. And though it can serve as a jumping-off point to a variety of all-season adventure, there’s really no reason to leave Brasada the entire time you’re on site.
When you arrive at the property, you’ll drive under a wooden trestle that I (wrongly) assumed was built to up the resort’s rustic feel. Little did I know, this resort is on an old sheep and cattle ranch, and the trestle was once an invaluable part of irrigating the property. Today, you’ll see golf carts passing across it.
If you’re visiting for a romantic weekend, stay in a suite at the Ranch House. The rooms are adults-only, right in the action, and have private amenities such as a hot tub and private patios. For larger groups or a bit more privacy, one of the Sage Canyon cabins or a room in one of the cabins will be a better fit. In addition to having a variety of lodging options on the 1,800-acre property, the Ranch is also a residential resort.
The Ranch House will also be your center for dining while at Brasada. With a huge stone fireplace warming the space, it’s a gathering space with stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts, classic ranch-style dinners and a very Central Oregon happy hour.
Or swing through the General Store in the complex, which sells both staples such as eggs and milk, and high-end locally made artisan treats and souvenirs. There is also a coffee shop on site.
Now to the main event: the fun. There is a long eighteen-hole golf course on the property that winds deep into the ranch, and within the large acreage are a variety of hiking and horseback trails. Many feature a little surprise at the terminus—a set of chairs placed just so to admire the view, for example. Visitors can ask a resort concierge to arrange any number of activities—from horseback rides, bike or e-bike rentals to outdoor excursions away from the ranch. There are also several pools on the property with an athletic facility at the center—families will love the resort pool complete with slides, and couples will want to check out the adults-only pool. Both close in the winter, but an indoor, heated lap pool and outdoor hot tubs remain open year round.
And the reason I visited—Spa Brasada. Guests can choose from a range of spa treatments, from the tried-and-true massages and facials to the signature. Once you’ve donned the robe, you can sit in a comfortable room with lavender cookies and drink options, or visit the steam room.
I went for the High Desert Salt Stone Therapy, which combines massage with Himalayan hot stones rubbed along sore muscles. It was exceedingly relaxing—and different from the usual spa experience. My esthetician asked specific questions about what I was looking for, and was able to customize my massage as a result.
I’d have liked to stay forever—sit in the steam room, go for a quick swim, maybe ride an e-bike up into the hills and get a good look at the Three Sisters. But it was time to head to my next destination—destination resort, that is.
Sometimes, the oldies are the goodies. Black Butte Ranch has been around since the 1970s, and it’s known to Oregonians for its family-friendly vibe, its horseback rides and its general feeling of ease—this is a place for a great vacation.
The Ranch has old-school cool that may get overlooked these days. But don’t sleep on Black Butte, because it has recently added a variety of amenities that make it more cutting edge than you remember.
For starters, the new $11.5 million Lakeside facility has brightened up the resort. The complex includes a big pool and hot tub big enough for a crowd, plus a restaurant and a rec center. The views of the mountains from the 15,000-square foot facility are incredible.
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to check out the Lakeside Activity Center’s games and playground. You can get there, and everywhere else at Black Butte, on the many paved trails that run throughout the resort, which are great for a bike ride. Two championship golf courses are contained on the property, and in winter, Black Butte is a perfect jumping-off point for skiing at nearby Hoodoo Ski Area, which always feels a bit like stepping back in time.
Meals at the ranch center on the Lakeside Bistro and the Lodge restaurant, both of which have Northwest flair. A variety of fine steaks are the order of the day at the Lodge Restaurant, while the Lakeside Bistro is more down to earth, with pizzas and burgers.
Then there’s the spa. Tucked away deep in an older part of the resort, the Spa at Black Butte Ranch is housed in the Glaze Meadow Recreation Center, which also has indoor and outdoor pools and a hot tub. The spa itself is surprising—it feels a bit like you’re headed to the gym because unlike more recently built resorts, there isn’t a sumptuous waiting area or wood-paneled lockers. You receive your (lovely) robe and sandals, then head into a locker room to change and return to the small spa space. But what it may lack in initial presentation, it makes up for in the quality of the spa treatments—and really, that’s the best part. I’d happily sit in a dentist’s office if it meant getting a wonderful massage.
Black Butte’s spa is filled with talented practitioners. The woman who booked me suggested I get the Ranch Signature Package, which includes an hour of massage, a forty-five-minute Thai foot massage (or pedicure) and a sixty-minute “back to nature” facial. If it sounds decadent, please know that it is. The facial was soothing and left my skin perfectly hydrated and ready for winter, while the massage had just the right level of pressure. And really, if you have the opportunity to get forty-five minutes of attention on your sore feet, I highly recommend it.
All good things come to an end, and so it was with not a small amount of sadness that I started my journey to Pronghorn Resort for my final spa experience.
But that sadness disappeared quickly as I rolled up to the resort. Pronghorn feels the most remote, and perhaps the most luxurious, of the three I visited. It’s a straight shot out of Bend, but once off the highway, you travel almost 5 miles into juniper and scrub before arriving at a gate. Pass through, then find yourself in what seems like a series of enormous Italian villas.
Pronghorn’s motto is Living Well, Perfected—and it’s accurate. In 2019, Pronghorn opened Huntington Lodge, which has 104 rooms, as well as a big lobby and an outdoor pool. The lodge looks out over the eighteenth hole of a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, and has great views of the Cascades. If you have a larger group, you can also secure a vacation rental in the form of a condo or house. In addition to the two golf courses (one designed by Jack Nicklaus, the other by Tom Fazio) and the excellent dining options (if you’re a bold person, you’ll get the “Mercy of the Chef” six-course tasting menu at Cascada and love every minute of it), there is a surprising amount to do out here in the sagebrush.
Ever heard of a “phat scooter”? It’s what it sounds like—a scooter but with fat tires, topping out around 20 mph. These are a fun way to get around the resort, or you can use an e-bike or a cruiser. The resort also has lawn games and other treats hiding around each corner.
The spa is tucked in to a quiet space in the clubhouse, and it is true heaven. I was treated to a Signature Body Glow, which started with the resort’s signature scent—a sort of reminder of the juniper and sage that cover the landscape. It was one of those treatments that can easily be weird, but at Pronghorn it felt completely comfortable—first, a layer of warm oil rubbed in all over the body, then a warm mint body polish. After a quick rinse off in the locker room’s showers, I returned for a full-body application of the resort’s signature after bath—essentially a thick lotion that left my skin looking remarkable. It was a great defense against the cold weather, and it felt like a true indulgence. As an add-on, the esthetician rubbed coconut oil into my scalp and hair, leaving it silky.
Did I really have to go back to real life? I had truly become accustomed to this lifestyle. But the good news—I can go back whenever I want, even if it’s just for a weekend at a time.
Lakeside Bistro | www.blackbutteranch.com
Cascada | www.pronghornresort.com
Ranch House | www.brasada.com
Huntington Lodge | www.pronghornresort.com
The Ranch House at Brasada | www.brasada.com
Black Butte Ranch vacation rentals | www.blackbutteranch.com
Spa day | www.blackbutteranch.com
Swimming | www.brasada.com
Golfing | www.pronghornresort.com