Tassajara Zen Mountain Center 39171 Tassajara Rd., 40 mi. from Hwy. 1. Reservations: (415) 865-1899 (M-F 9-12:30 & 1:30-4). 29 units; $$-$$$+; includes 3 vegetarian meals. Closed Sept-Apr. Child rates; number of children permitted is controlled. No TVs; some fireplaces; some shared baths. Hot springs pool; steam rooms. Day use: (831) 659-2229; $25, children $12; reservations essential; lunch by reservation. No pets. Owned by the San Francisco Zen Center, this traditional Soto Zen Buddhist monastery is the oldest one outside of Asia. Located deep in the Ventana Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest, it is home to 50 male and female monks. Getting here requires a 14-mile drive down a steep dirt road (a four-wheel-drive or stick shift is strongly advised), but overnight guests have the option of arranging a ride in on a four-wheel-drive "stage." The famous hot mineral springs are semi-enclosed in a Japanese-style bathhouse. Men's and women's baths and steam rooms are separate, and swimsuits are optional; mixed bathing is permitted after dinner. More activities include hiking, river wading, and picnicking. Guests stay in simple wood or stone cabins with no electricity. Kerosene lamps provide lighting, and everyone shares one phone. This is not a place to sleep in--bells go off at 5:30 a.m. to announce meditation time for any guests who want to participate. Getting a reservation can be difficult; call early. Reservations open on April 3 for overnight stays and on April 25 for day visits. Day guests must bring their own towels and food.
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