It’s 6:30 a.m. at Civana Wellness Resort & Spa in Carefree, Ariz., and my sister, Lindsay Veling, is on the hunt for coffee. I’m waiting at the fitness centre with 10 other resort guests. We’ve all signed up for a guided two-hour hike through the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, which spans 2,000 acres of desert and saguaro cacti. I’m feeling thankful that jet lag is (for once) on my side – a sunrise hike in the state is a “mid-morning” hike for two sisters who’ve just arrived from Toronto. As our guide finishes checking off the names on his list, Lindsay rushes through the door, a green smoothie and an oat-milk latte in hand.
Lindsay and I have travelled to Carefree to experience the uniquely spectacular scenery of the Sonoran Desert and stay at Civana, a wellness resort where the cuisine is described as “hyper-seasonal offerings [with] high vibes.” (Try their CBD Spritz recipe and decide for yourself.)
At Civana, the low-slung buildings and the mid-century- modern-meets-Southwestern decor are quintessentially Arizona. Mindfulness reigns supreme at the resort. The spa even features a winding path that leads to a labyrinth of pebbles, designed as a quiet spot for guests to try walking meditation – or take Instagram self-portraits (guilty as charged). Just steps from the resort, the spa is a world unto itself. An entire wing is dedicated to hydrotherapy, while spa treatments – ranging from a CBD facial to a massage inspired by the property’s medicine-wheel garden – take place in another wing. One of the most beautiful views on the property also belongs to the spa: the stark yet dramatic desert landscape hugging the edges of the outdoor pool.
Guests are encouraged to borrow bikes from the resort for a short ride to Carefree’s town centre to get a coffee from a local roastery or shop at one of the many small art galleries. Cycle 10 more minutes and you’ll find the neighbouring town of Cave Creek, which can aptly be described as a “one-horse town.” Despite its small footprint, Cave Creek has an eclectic collection of eateries and Southwestern-inspired experiences. There’s the weekly bull-riding nights and barbecue buffet at the Buffalo Chip Saloon, the replica 1870s frontier town with (fake) gallows and a (real) ice cream shop that sells a house-made prickly pear flavour. No trip to Cave Creek is complete without a meal at Local Jonny’s, a tavern favoured by locals that serves specialties like “flat-tire” burritos and a surprisingly delicious breakfast bowl.
After we return from our hike, Lindsay heads off again, this time to try aerial yoga, while I settle under a sun shade at the resort pool to read. We’ve signed up for a few more early-morning hikes – there is truly no more beautiful place to see the sun rise.