Lessons Learned at the Ranch Hudson Valley, the Extravagant New Boot Camp Spa an Hour from NYC

Written by: Jean Godfrey-June


Published on: May 16, 2024


It somehow makes perfect sense that the spectacular, supremely restful Ranch Hudson Valley is housed in a former convent—which, before becoming a convent, was a Gilded Age mansion built by J. P. Morgan as a wedding gift to his daughter.

The Ranch experience—the original luxe, hiking-based boot camp opened in Malibu in 2010—is both indulgent and ascetic. It’s where you go when you need a hard physical and mental reset but you love a gorgeous setting (there have been pop-ups in places like Vail and Italy’s Palazzo Fiuggi), delicious food, and plenty of massage.

At the new, permanent Hudson Valley location, the Ranch ethos is best expressed by the workout room, which was once the mansion’s ballroom. There, rows of top-of-the-line Fitbench weight systems align perfectly with flickering sconces that punctuate the beautifully restored woodwork. Lying on one of the plush yoga mats, you stare up at an intricately carved ceiling that takes your breath away (nuns are less inclined to renovate than your average mansion-dweller, which meant that designer Steven Gambrel had many such existing gems to work with). A fireplace that 10 people could easily stand in anchors one end of the room, while a wall of windows on the other overlooks the forests and hillsides beyond. So you do yoga watching the sunset, lift weights in front of a crackling fire, and perform your morning stretches lost in the lacy patterns on the ceiling.

The morning stretches are performed at 6 a.m. The staff wake you up—from under crisp white sheets and a fluffy eiderdown duvet in your enormous Gambrel-designed room—at 5:30. This is so they can have you on the trail by 7:30.

Coffee now factors into this timeline (this was not always so at the Ranch). So does a delicious and satisfying breakfast—which you very much need, because every morning involves hiking, vigorously, for four hours.

The mountains and valleys you hike through are spectacular, but they are not easy. As you sweat up and down the trails, you bond almost instantly with your fellow hikers (the other guests and the super friendly, energetic guides), whether you’re way up front (there was a several-time Ironman contestant celebrating her 50th birthday on the weekend I was there) or holding back. For enthusiastic holder-backers, there’s always the option to make it a two-hour hike instead of four; either way, the guides are knowledgeable and supportive.

You spend your afternoons recovering, basking in triumph and the alternating hot and cold treatments, and (somehow) working in a few classes with weights and stretches. A big part of the recovery is the daily massage, which they take extremely seriously (the therapists are some of the best in the NYC area). The massages are surprisingly effective in helping work out the lactic acid (part of what makes your muscles scream posthike).

The hot and cold is mostly conducted in the solarium, studded with pools: one for swimming, plus a hot tub, a cold plunge, and an infrared sauna, all overlooking the property’s lake and forests. (The view is a gorgeous distraction for those sitting in the cold plunge trying not to jump out.)

In between classes and treatments, you can sign up for extras like chiropractic sessions and sound and energy healing (the latter was exceptional).

You have group meals at a long wood table in the stunning orangery that also overlooks the lake, forests, sunrises, and sunsets. The menus were delicious and vegan, and they did not taste as low-calorie as they were (a griddled ravioli made of zucchini and stuffed with cashew cheese and a fresh pho full of vegetables and complex flavors were my favorites). If you’re a very hungry person—I am, and the prescribed 1,400 calories was not quite enough—pack a few extras, just in case: I take olive oil every morning anyway, so I brought it to add some calories, along with a bag of almonds.

I brought a few other things, too, from an Oura ring to some essential beauty supplies. Here, what I learned.

1. Even if you sleep like a baby (I did), mouth tape still makes a noticeable difference in your sleep score. I experimented over several nights and was genuinely surprised at the results.

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    Mouth Tape
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2. Always bring sunscreen, bug repellent, and lip balm in your pack. The Ranch provides sunscreen and repellent, but having your favorites with you on the trail brings you moments of delight in the midst of your (admittedly scenic) suffering.

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    Everyday Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 30
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  2. Kinfield
    Golden Hour Bug Spray
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    Clean Nourishing Lip Balm
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3. If you’re really sore, get a massage. I was amazed at the way my incredibly painful muscles calmed right down after an hour (or two, which you can tack on as an extra) of massage.

4. An ice-cold foot soak is a miracle for an aching foot. We filled metal bowls with cold water and ice immediately posthike and left our feet in for three minutes (not easy), then replaced the cold with hot water and Epsom salts and soaked. It was heaven. At night I massaged my feet right before bed with the incredible cream from KOBA.

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5. You can’t have enough baths. Even though I soaked in hot and cold tubs and basked in the infrared sauna, I still ended up taking a bath every day in my room (request a room with a tub).

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    “The Martini” Emotional Detox Bath Soak
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6. Bring your most-beloved skin basics. I spoiled myself with this easy, indulgent-feeling routine.

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    Active Botanical Serum
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  3. Furtuna Skin
    Cielo Puro Cleansing Oil Balm
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7. Taking care of yourself can involve pushing yourself. Getting to the top of a mountain is rewarding in so many ways—and the strength, confidence, and perspective I felt up there at the summit lasted way beyond the trip.