Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
VENTANA WILDERNESS, NEAR CARMEL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

The first Soto Zen monastery established outside of Asia, Tassajara is open to day and overnight visitors between May and mid-September. Located in a remote part of California's Ventana Wilderness, the monastery offers a limited number of guest rooms and cabins. Sign up for one of the many retreats — including The Zen of Baking, July 20-25, 2008 — or come to simply enjoy the hot springs and gourmet vegetarian fare. The center is nestled 1½ hours down a rustic dirt road from Carmel Valley (or a three-day hike through the Santa Lucia mountains from Big Sur). You don't have to be a student of Zen to appreciate the retreat's profound, natural peace.

  • DO: Soak in Japanese-style baths and hot-spring pools; walk down river to the “narrows” for a dip in natural swimming holes. Enjoy many miles of hiking trails. Participate in morning and evening meditation (zazen) sessions, all levels welcome.

  • EAT: Tassajara is renowned for its elegant vegetarian cuisine; gourmet brown-bag lunches are also available. Don't miss the famous fresh-baked breads.

  • INFO: 415.865.1899; sfzc.org/tassajara/