FRESNO COUNTY (KRON) — If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway that’s not too far from the Bay Area, there’s a literal oasis tucked away in the rolling hills a few miles off Interstate 5.
It’s not a bad drive — and it’s an even shorter flight.
California’s Central Valley may not be the first place you think of when it comes to natural beauty.
In a small corner of Fresno County, a little south of Los Banos, there’s a dirt airstrip tucked in the foothills of the Diablo Range.
This is where you’ll find the hidden oasis of Mercey Hot Springs.
It’s the water that has been drawing people to this hideaway since California’s Yokut Tribes lived here.
A Frenchman named John Nicholas Mercy settled here and by the late 1890s, this small mission-style building was selling bottles of mineral water to travelers.
“It’s a very clean mineral water that [makes] your skin feels very soft and smooth after getting out of it,” said Larry Ronneberg, with Mercey Hot Springs. “The more you soak the better you feel.”
Ronneberg and his wife Grazyna have slowly expanded the facilities since they bought the property more than 30 years ago.
A large swimming pool and individual soaking baths — all fed by natural hot water that comes out of the ground at close to 120 degrees.
The pool water is cooled to about 88 — perfect for a dip on a chilly morning.
On our Sunday afternoon visit all the guests had checked out for the weekend except for Karl Watson.
“What is it that keeps me coming back to mercey hot springs?” asked the Oakland resident . “The beautiful oasis atmosphere and the fact that it’s not a meat market.”
For those so inclined, there is also a clothing optional area.
You don’t have to look far for the local inhabitants. Squirrels, owls and rabbits all scamper about the property.
There are two sights in particular that stand out — one is when Spring arrives.
Nearby rolling hills will be covered with California wildflowers.
“Amazing — [like] a carpet of different colors. It just feel like you’re in paradise, really,” Grazyna said.
The other is the clear skies — all you have to do is look up.
“This is one of the darkest areas in California where you don’t have the influx of city lights,” Grazyna. “The milky way you can see it from horizon to horizon and of course it moves across the sky at night and it’s nothing short of amazing.”
There are campsites and cabins and even an airstream for rent.
A new outdoor restaurant is almost ready for service and hiking trails make for leisurely ways to explore the 150 acres that surround Mercey.
It’s the perfect place to de-stress.
To find Mercey Hot Springs by car just drive south on Interstate 5 south of Los Banos and look for the sign.
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