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Healthy escapes in New England

Waterbury, Vermont makes a great base for a healthy escape, thanks to fabulous hikes (including Mt. Mansfield.)
Waterbury, Vermont makes a great base for a healthy escape, thanks to fabulous hikes (including Mt. Mansfield.)Dennis Curran/VermontVacation.com/VermontVacation.co

First comes the wonderful vacation. Then comes the guilt trip: You ate too much, drank too much, stayed up too late, and didn't hit the gym once. Wouldn't it be great to come back from a trip feeling stronger, healthier, and in better shape than when you left? Here are some high-energy escapes.

For the joiner

We once visited a spa where patrons exercised by day, dined on steak and scotch by night, and the attendant doing the body wraps smoked a cigarette while covering us with mud. Canyon Ranch was not that spa.

Set in a beautiful Lenox mansion called Bellefontaine, Canyon Ranch offers 40-plus fitness classes daily. Its gourmet spa cuisine, with limited salt and simple carbs, and no artificial sweeteners, is so tasty the resort has published multiple cookbooks so you can re-create your favorite healthy treats at home. While the spa offers numerous beauty treatments, these folks are serious about health. The staff includes seven board-certified physicians and nurses, exercise physiologists, behavioral health professionals, and nutritionists.

But this fabulosity comes at a cost: A typical three-night, all-inclusive stay will set you back $2,500 or more. They run some promotions, though, including New You (first-time guests save 20 percent on an all-inclusive package, available through Dec. 23), the Students & Grads Special (the student guest stays for free, available through August), and Celebrate You, offering savings up to 20 percent for solo travelers.  800-742-9000, www.canyonranch.com


We're yoga dropouts. So we were prepared to hate the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Surprisingly, it's a dandy destination even for the yoga-impaired.

is a dandy destination even for the yoga-impaired.
is a dandy destination even for the yoga-impaired.Nantucket Yoga Festival

Located in Stockbridge, Kripalu is one of the largest and best-known yoga institutes in the country. It offers a variety of programs, including its popular R&R Retreat. R&R guests can choose to attend a variety of daily workshops and demonstrations, as well as several levels of yoga classes. Besides yoga, there are guided nature walks, kayaking on Lake Mahkeenac, cooking demonstrations, workshops, lectures, and concerts.


We started with the "gentle" yoga class, an hour of quiet movement and concentrated breathing. "Even beginners can feel less stressed after their first class," our instructor said. "Focusing on your breath calms the mind." Feeling both relaxed and energized at the same time, we decided to join moderate- and strenuous-level yoga classes the following day. We barely made it through them. Anyone who thinks yoga is a wimpy workout has never visited Kripalu.

Thankfully we were encouraged to heed our own bodies and do as much or as little as we wanted, without criticism from the instructor or withering looks from our classmates. Kripalu is definitely a no judgment zone. R&R retreats, from $213 per night double, include room and meals, daily yoga classes, most evening events, and use of Kripalu facilities. Ayurvedic treatments, massages, body treatments, facials, and one-on-one consultations are available at an additional cost.  800-741-7353, www.kripalu.org


Guests at Kripalu can take add kayaking to a mix that includes yoga classes, cooking demonstrations, workshops, and concerts.
Guests at Kripalu can take add kayaking to a mix that includes yoga classes, cooking demonstrations, workshops, and concerts.Courtesy of Kripalu

Surrounded by the Green Mountains in Killington, Vt., New Life Hiking Spa is a fun retreat for those who believe that nature's hills make the best cross-training machine. Lauded as one of the top "affordable luxury" spas in the country, New Life offers three levels of guided hikes each day, from scenic nature walks to moderate climbs on the Appalachian and Long trails, to thigh-burners that cover steeper terrain and longer distances. Rates for the two- to four-night minivacation, including hiking, room, and meals, are $239 per night for a double, $259 single occupancy. Rooms are comfortable, but more basic than posh. 802-353-2954 www.newlifehikingspa.com


Combine the beauty of Nantucket with the camaraderie of a yoga retreat, and you get the Nantucket Yoga Festival. Running July 12-14 this year, the festival offers workshops for every level, from newbie to advanced yogi. Festival pass $350; day passes $175. www.nantucketyogafestival.com


Waterbury, Vt., is a great base for a do-it-yourself adventure. The Long Trail runs through the town, plus Waterbury is home to the Green Mountain Club (www.greenmountainclub.org), where you'll find trail maps and knowledgeable locals who can direct you to hikes that fit your abilities. With a backdrop of lofty peaks, including Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest summit, the hiking here couldn't be finer.

Make it a multisport adventure with a visit to Waterbury Center State Park (www.vtstateparks.com), a 90-acre peninsula on the Waterbury Reservoir where you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and work several more muscle groups. Even if you're an ace paddler, plan to get wet on purpose. "Waterbury Reservoir is the place I go for open-water swimming," says Jen Butson of the Vermont Department of Tourism, whose favorite spot to jump in is at nearby Little River State Park. "The calm water amidst the mountains is just stunning," she says. The park is also popular for camping.


Not into camping? There are several places to stay in and around Waterbury, from inns to cabins — to treehouses. At the cool, Adirondack-style Moose Meadow Lodge (www.moosemeadowlodge.com), new treehouse-type lodgings open on Father's Day. And it's easy to eat healthily here, thanks to the Waterbury Farmers' Market for fresh produce, Sunflower Market for organic and natural everything, and farm-to-table dining gems like Hen of the Wood and Michael's on the Hill (book these acclaimed dining spots in advance).

The one downside to Waterbury: It's hard to resist the decadent charms of Ben & Jerry's, the Cabot Creamery Annex (think: cheese), and the Lake Champlain Chocolates company store. www.waterbury.org

If the thought of a healthy escape in the wilds of Maine makes your heart skip a beat, put Moosehead Lake in Greenville on your short list. It's a long drive from Boston, but what a place. Plan an itinerary around hiking, paddling, and moose-watching in the North Country, far away from the throngs of tourists on the state's southern coast. We love the individual lakefront cabins at The Birches (www.birches.com), set within the trees with lovely lake views. If you like a little luxe with your outdoor beauty, consider the Lodge at Moosehead Lake (www.lodgeatmooseheadlake.
), a AAA four-diamond resort with nine rooms (including two pet-friendly suites); this is a place that defines the term "rustic chic." If you're a camper, Lily Bay State Park offers one of the most beautiful campgrounds in all of New England. You'll fall asleep to the cry of the loons.


You won't find a slew of health-food stores in this tiny North Woods town, but you'll find fresh-from-the-lake fish on nearly every menu.  www.mooseheadlake.org


An overnight or two at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center Lodge at Crawford Notch, N.H., gets you all the hiking you can handle — minus the un-fun logistics. Stay in a private lodge room with a shared or private bath, eat breakfast (and grab a trail lunch), and hop on the hiker shuttle to nearby trailheads. Bonus: Guests get free use of L.L. Bean gear. Dinner at the lodge always includes vegetarian options. Rooms with shared bath from $98 per person; rooms with private bath from $142.  www.outdoors.org

Rustic-chic Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake in South Casco, Maine, offers a menu of sporty activities, like tennis, waterskiing, kayaking, and sailing — plus massage. It's like summer camp for families, without the musty bunk rooms. Guests stay in a classic lodge or one of 35 cabins set in 125 acres of pine forest. From $149 per person per night, includes all meals and activities except use of motorized boats. Open June 16-Oct. 15.  www.migis.com

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.