When John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, thinks about the most beautiful place on earth, the American West, specifically the red rock country of Colorado, tops his well-traveled list.
Hendricks fell in love with Colorado shortly after graduating college—a place he visited at the suggestion of his father, who traveled extensively and always spoke about the beauty and natural wonders of the western state. Hendricks bought property in Gateway, a small community located in Mesa County, in 1995 and began enjoying family vacations in the area. Not long after purchasing the property, Hendricks began to develop the concept for a unique lodging experience focused on luxury accommodations mixed with adventure activities and educational programming.
"I've spent my career in media helping people explore the world and satisfy their curiosity," he says. "I wanted to share this place with more than just my family and friends. That was the genesis to start exploring the development of a luxury resort that could really celebrate the geology, the science, and all the recreational activities of the area."
Hendricks opened Gateway Canyons Resort in 2005 and began to offer guests "Curiosity Adventures," which currently include activities such as guided hiking tours, horseback riding, geology walks, kayaking trips, stargazing excursions, helicopter adventures, and more. The resort, a part of the Noble House Hotels & Resorts family, also acts as a hub for educational programming and lectures that range in topics from astronomy and the universe to the human body and species of the planet.
"I kind of think of myself as a teacher," says Hendricks. "For me, it's about getting closer—to not only allow people to see the world, but actually touch the world."
The resort recently underwent a $100 million expansion that fulfills Hendricks' original vision. The 38-room Kiva Lodge was renovated and an additional 20-room luxury lodge, the Kayenta Lodge, was constructed, bringing the total number of guestrooms on the property to 58. Next year, the number or rooms will grow even higher when the construction of luxurious private guesthouses called the Palisade Casitas is complete. A new pool complex will be added with the Casitas, and the resort is also in the process of developing an aircraft hangar and landing pad for property helicopter tours.
"We've made a significant investment when you look at the financial figures compared to the number of rooms on the property," says Hendricks. "We wanted the lodging experience to be world class. This will rival any kind of luxury retreat in the world."
Gateway Canyons may be a haven for luxury-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, but it also has a special appeal for car fanatics. The property is home to the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, a showcase of more than 40 classic cars from Hendricks' personal collection that spans a century of automotive history.
"I've had a fascination with machines and cars since I was a kid," he says. "We think of the car museum as an art collection, and it's right there for our guests to enjoy anytime they want."
Hendricks also reveals that he is currently working on developing a driving program for the resort, where guests will have the ability to drive unique and exciting cars ranging from a Bentley Continental GT to the all-electric Tesla Roadster.
"This is the place where most of the great car commercials have been filmed—it's just a great place to drive," says Hendricks. "In addition to being able to explore the landscape by horseback or by foot or by helicopter, Gateway Canyons will offer great driving experiences that guests can take advantage of as well."
For Hendricks, a unique and memorable experience is really what he hopes guests will take home from Gateway Canyons Resort. The endless programming and activities are in place to ensure that no traveler gets bored while visiting.
"If I'm going to invest in taking time out—whether five days or two weeks—I always treasure coming back from a vacation experience enriched," says Hendricks. "I think that's our goal—to produce one of the most enriching vacations you can have in the world."