Beyond the city limits lies that elusive realm where the utility vehicle of choice is a horse, your dinner jacket is lined with fleece, and you catch your breakfast in a cold-water creek. It may be tough to get there--some of the places can be reached only by dirt road, water, or air (many don't even have an address). In these parts, dogs are called Moose, and wild deer are shooed away from the kitchen garden each morning. Decorating is heavy on hewn pine, stone mantels, and hunting trophies. Call them what you will--camps, haciendas, ranches--lodges evoke a wilder America, where Paul Bunyan can eat a mile-high stack of flapjacks, Pecos Bill rides a bucking tornado, and Davy Crockett is still King of the Wild Frontier.
Riversong Lodge Yentna River at Lake Creek; 907/274-2710, fax 907/277-6256; doubles from $550, including the round-trip flight from Anchorage and all meals. To reach Riversong, you hop aboard a Cessna for a 45-minute trip into the backcountry. Once you're there, Carl and Kirsten Dixon offer a homespun refuge of 10 spruce-log cabins with no locks, no phones, and no fences between you and the grizzlies. Never fear: they're more interested in the river's five species of salmon than in you.
Winterlake Lodge Finger Lake; 907/274-2710, fax 907/277-6256; doubles from $550, including the round-trip flight from Anchorage and all meals. When the north wind blows, Winterlake (sister to Riversong) serves as a checkpoint for Alaska's Iditarod dogsled race. In summer, snow and ice melt to reveal a sprawling alpine landscape; the three guest cabins are surrounded by fields of rare chocolate lilies and nagoonberries. Follow the hiking trails that lead to the Alaska Range and Mount McKinley, or wander through the brush to pick blueberries. Kirsten Dixon, who doubles as chef, will bake you a pie for dessert.
Freestone Inn 17798 Hwy. 20, Mazama; 800/639-3809 or 509/996-3906, fax 509/996-3907; doubles from $160. Over the jagged Cascades in the isolated Methow Valley lies the Freestone, a former cattle ranch turned inn. The rooms in the lodge look out on a man-made lake, but the choice digs are the 15 cabins scattered along the creek. In the morning, kick back on your porch with a cup of Starbucks coffee (this is Washington, after all) and wonder what the city folk are up to.
Salish Lodge 6501 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie; 800/826-6124 or 206/888-2556, fax 206/888-2533; doubles from $269. Just because the 90-room Salish will be forever associated with the haunting theme song from David Lynch's Twin Peaks (filmed there), that doesn't mean you have to hum it in the lobby. Instead, admire those details the television cameras missed: soaring ceilings, hewn fir beams, stone fireplaces, and a massive copper chandelier.
Weasku Inn Resort 5560 Rogue River Hwy., Grants Pass; 800/493-2758 or 541/471-8000, fax 541/471-7038; doubles from $85. Look for the quirky leaping-trout sign that marks the easy-to-miss entrance to the seven-room Weasku, where Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Walt Disney, and Bing Crosby vacationed in the 1930's. During your own hiatus from the limelight, explore local vineyards, go white-water rafting, or hike to nearby Crater Lake.
Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch Hwy. 75, Stanley; 208/774-3544, fax 208/774-3477; doubles from $180, including breakfast and dinner. This hand-hewn 13-room lodge, smack in the middle of the Sawtooth Mountains, looks like a homestead straight out of Bonanza. Make like Little Joe and Hoss on a ride through high meadows full of grazing cattle. Later, soothe your saddle sores with a dip in the hot springs swimming pool.
Teton Ridge Ranch 200 Valley View Rd., Tetonia; 208/456-2650, fax 208/456-2218; doubles from $475, including all meals. After amassing billions at Microsoft, techno-wizard Paul Allen left Silicon Valley for more rugged terrain. His purchase: Teton Ridge Ranch, a 4,000-acre sanctuary with only five suites. Guests gather for meals, followed by matches on an antique billiards table, in the modern pole-and-stone lodge; days are spent exploring the western flanks of the Grand Tetons.
Brooks Lake Lodge 458 Brooks Lake Rd., Dubois; phone and fax 307/455-2121; doubles from $350, including all meals.You'll want to get up for sunrise, when rosy light bounces off the rock pinnacles of the surrounding Shoshone National Forest. Then head for the trails with your wrangler, who'll take you to see the wildflowers in Sublette Meadow near Jade Lake.The house dogs, who have the run of the ranch, like to join guests on their rambles.
Rainbow Ranch Lodge 42950 Gallatin Rd., Gallatin Gateway; 800/937-4132 or 406/995-4132, fax 406/995-2861; doubles from $175. This is River Runs Through It territory. Sorry, no Brad Pitt sightings here, but while soaking in the outdoor hot tub you're likely to spot herds of elk roving along the Gallatin. The main lodge is filled with antler chandeliers, scuffed leather sofas, and a grinning moose head above the fieldstone fireplace. Each of the 21 guest rooms echoes this Western theme. Sit on the deck and gaze out at Lemon's Knob, or slip on your spurs for a horseback ride.