Rustic pleasures, from Alaska to Maine

By Shane Mitchell
December 20, 2011

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.ALASKA

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.WASHINGTON

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.OREGON

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

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.WYOMING

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.MONTANA

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.

Ruby Springs Lodge 2487 Hwy. 287, Sheridan; 800/278-7829 or 406/842-5250, fax 406/842-5806; three-night minimum from $1,150 per person, including all meals. On the banks of Montana's legendary (at least in fly-fishing circles) Ruby River, this six-cabin lodge has a full-time staff of seven guides. If you don't like wading in cold water after slippery prey, the snow-capped mountain scenery also rates high. Most popular outing: a visit to Old Faithful, at nearby Yellowstone.

Triple Creek Ranch 5551 West Fork Stage Rte., Darby; 406/821-4600, fax 406/821-4666; doubles from $475, including all meals. Mirroring the surrounding peaks in the Bitterroot Valley, Triple Creek's pitched roof soars above the pine lodge. Your Big Sky encounter is tempered by creature comforts: the 18 cabins are handsomely outfitted with fireplaces, Indian-print throws, and log poster beds. Dine on Montana rainbow trout or venison, but save room for the fresh-baked cookies left at turndown.CALIFORNIA

Lodge at Skylonda 16350 Skyline Blvd., Woodside; 800/851-2222 or 650/851-6625, fax 650/851-5504; doubles from $396, including all meals. Hovering above the fog line in a redwood forest, Skylonda is a modern 16-room log-and-stone spa retreat where mellow will become your mantra. Hang out on your private deck, soak in your personal hot tub (love the aromatherapy bath salts), or sign up for guidedhikes on nearby trails. But don't skip the herbal facial or paraffin pedicure. Roughing it can take a toll.HAWAII

Lodge at Koele 1 Keamoku Dr., Lanai City; 800/321-4666 or 808/565-7300, fax 808/565-3868; doubles from $325. In Lanai's central highlands, the 102-room Lodge at Koele puts a tropical spin on the rustic life. Don't look for trophy heads or porch rockers: there's a collection of rare Pacific art in the great hall and a Japanese garden outside. Guest rooms, with hand-carved beds and Hawaiian paintings,are cooled by ceiling fans. If championship golf and snorkeling in Manele Bay seem tame, hire a Jeep and bump over red dirt roads to the eerie Garden of the Gods.UTAH

Lodge at Red River Ranch 2900 Hwy. 24 West, Teasdale; 800/205-6343 or 435/425-3322, fax 435/425-3329; doubles from $90. Huntin' and fishin' are a big deal in this corner of Utah, so no one blinks when guests arrive with a carload of tackle or a bird dog. On 2,000 acres outside Capitol Reef National Park, this 15-room lodge has plenty of room for roaming. The Fremont River winds through the property; adjoining alpine meadows are perfect for hikes and wagon rides. Back at the ranch, frontier is the fashion with Navajo blankets, Southwestern art, and antique furniture.COLORADO

Seven Lakes Lodge 738 County Rd., Meeker; 800/809-4772 or 970/878-4772, fax 970/476-5750;doubles from $2,120, including all meals. The best lodge that money can buy, Seven Lakes was built for corporate raider Henry Kravis. Commanding a private domain within White River National Forest, the lodge has eight suites and a three-bedroom lakeside cabin. Each guest is paired with a personal fishing guide, but ask head guide Wendy Williamson to reveal her favorite stretches of the White and she'll tell you a few whoppers (even if you don't catch any). While hiking or riding in neighboring Flat Tops Wilderness Area, brake for herds of elk roaming the range.NEW MEXICO

Hacienda del Cerezo 100 Camino del Cerezo,Santa Fe County; 888/982-8001 or 505/982-8000, fax 505/983-7162; doubles from $600, including all meals. Expect to kick up a little dust on the five-mile dirt road that leads to this adobe ranch between the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. Purebred Arabians are stabled out back; plan a ride through the arroyos to the Rio Grande with Sarge McGraw, Cerezo's top wrangler. The 10 suites are decorated Santa Fe­style: Saltillo-tile floors, carved yellow-pine beams, kiva fireplaces, and native weavings. At sunset, float in the infinity pool and watch the desert sky catch fire.

Vermejo Park Ranch Raton; 505/445-3097, fax 505/445-3474; doubles from $650, including all meals. What happens when a billionaire gets bitten by the Western bug?He collects ranches, of course. Ted Turner's latest acquisition is Vermejo Park Ranch, 580,000 acres dotted with ghost towns, stagecoach station ruins, free-roaming bison, and a 51-room lodge. Guests stay in six stone cottages around the main lodge or in a six-bedroom cabin, and sightsee in ranch pickups. Worth a visit just to see Jane's decorating job.TEXAS

Cullen Ranch 8824 County Rd. 2316, Quinlan; 888/839-4868 or 903/356-0944, fax 903/356-5110; doubles from $420, including all meals. Kevin Costner's last film may have bombed at the box office, but he's still a star guest at this 2,000-acre retreat. The six-room lodge has the 10-gallon look you expect deep in the heart of Texas: grand antler chandeliers, leather furniture so massive you disappear within its folds, and scads of hunting trophies on the walls. Big spenders from Dallas flock here to do some serious shooting. You have a choice of either 12- or 20-gauge Beretta over-and-under shotguns. And all those unsuspecting birds don't go to waste--the chef cooks up a mean pan-roasted quail with garlic mashed potatoes.WISCONSIN

Canoe Bay Hogback Rd., Chetek; 800/568-1995 or 715/924-4594, fax 715/924-2078; doubles from $210, including breakfast. Frank Lloyd Wright meets Paul Bunyan at this lakeshore hideaway, an inn with nine double rooms and seven cottages. It's all done in the Prairie School look that Wright, a Wisconsin native, made famous earlier this century. The best bet is the redwood Dream Cottage, with a double whirlpool bath, a two-sided fireplace, and a deck overlooking Lake Wahdoon. Work up an appetite for dinner paddling the lake or bird-watching on private nature trails. Chef Matthew Voskuil prefers Great Lakes' produce for his five-course tasting menu; start with a chilled soup of strawberries and Wisconsin buttermilk, followed by pecan-crusted trout with local wild rice and apple cider beurre blanc.


Glendorn 1032 W. Corydon St., Bradford; 800/843-8568 or 814/362-6511, fax 814/368-9923; doubles from $375, including all meals. An oil baron's estate, this 12-room lodge emphasizes old-fashioned, upper-crust privacy. On 1,280 acres bounded by Allegheny National Forest, Glendorn's trout streams and hiking trails are for use by guests only. The redwood Big House, with its massive sandstone fireplace, cathedral ceiling, and billiards room, recalls family gatherings from a privileged era.NEW YORK

Lake Placid Lodge Whiteface Inn Rd., Lake Placid; 518/523-2700, fax 518/523-1124; doubles from $200, including breakfast. Nestled among white birches, sugar maples, and balsam firs, Lake Placid Lodge is a classic Adirondack great camp with all the rustic trimmings in its 22 rooms and 15 cabins. Fallen in love with the twig-and-birchbark bed in your room?It's for sale, as is most of the furniture at the lodge.MAINE

Little Lyford Pond Camps Greenville; 207/280-0016; cabins from $130, double, including all meals. In true north-woods fashion, you'll have to dodge logging trucks to reach this camp near the Katahdin massif. Prepare to rough it: Little Lyford gets back to basics. The eight log cabins, built in the 1870's, are outfitted with woodstoves, pine beds, and kerosene lanterns, and sleep two to eight people. Stoke up on Maine blueberry pancakes before a hike on the Appalachian Trail or fly-fishing on Lyford's two trout ponds.NORTH CAROLINA

The Swag 2300 Swag Rd., Waynesville; 828/926-0430, fax 828/926-2036; doubles from $240, including all meals. From the Swag's rocker-lined front porch, you can almost reach out and touch Cold Mountain, made famous by Charles Frazier's recent best-seller of the same name. This old-time retreat high in the mist-shrouded Smokies is a favorite with Southern families. Cobbled together from Appalachian log structures, the 16-room lodge has down-home touches such as woven rugs scattered on rough-hewn floors and a bearskin clamped onto the wall above a fieldstone fireplace.

Pilot Knob Inn New Pilot Knob Lane, Pilot Mountain; 336/325-2502; doubles from $110, including breakfast. Tarheel tobacco is long gone from the curing barns atop Pilot Knob. Instead, you'll find juniper beds and antique rugs in six log cabins and a two-bedroom cedar cottage, which were converted from the old barns and reassembled at this Carolina hideaway on the eastern slope of Pilot Mountain. Does the scene ring a faint bell?Think Opie, Andy, Aunt Bee, and Barney: "Mount Pilot" appeared in The Andy Griffith Show,and the star was born and raised in the area.SOUTH CAROLINA

Lodge at Lofton's Landing 8889 Hwy. 17, McClellanville; 843/720-7332, fax 843/856-8468; three-bedroom house with loft from $400. Invite your seven best friends for a good ole Dixie house party in this modern Low Country lodge, overlooking the salt marshes of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Bull Bay. The great room and wraparound veranda have knockout sunset views. A private dock extends into the tidal creek, where you can drop a fishing line or crab net. Or charter the lodge's "flats" boat, and your captain will show you deserted barrier-island beaches perfect for a picnic and a swim.*HOW TO FIND MORE LODGES

Experts in all things lodge-related, Montana-based Off the Beaten Path (800/445-2995 or 406/586-1311, fax 406/587-4147) pairs clients and lodges, recommends guides, and plans adventures in the Rockies, the Southwest, and Alaska.

In her book Great Lodges of the West (W.W. West, $30), Christine Barnes captures the early spirit of roughing it at park and railroad lodges--the Ahwahnee, Bryce Canyon, Crater Lake--many of which you can stay in.

City slickers can toughen their tender feet at one of the lodges in Canada and 12 states represented by the Dude Ranchers Association (970/223-8440).THE LODGE AT HOME

Inspired by the wilderness look?These craftsmen and purveyors of rustic chic bring the great outdoors inside.

If your dining hall's begging for a chandelier or candelabra made of antlers, call on Crystal Farm (18 Antelope Rd., Redstone, Colo.; 970/963-2350).

Larry Hawkins creates twig mosaics on beds and dressers at L. J. Hawkins Rustic Art Furnishings (4621 Markey Rd., Roscommon, Mich.; 517/821-6985).

The Becker Co. (155 Center St., Jackson Hole, Wyo.; 307/733-1331) has assembled a world-class collection of 19th-century Plains Indian artifacts--baskets, blankets, pottery, beadwork.

For weathered barn-post tables, leather chairs, and Telluride-inspired flatware, consult the man who practically invented the look: Ralph Lauren (867 Madison Ave., New York; 212/606-2100).

At Sampson Bog Studio (171Paradise Point, Mayfield, N.Y.; 518/661-6563), Barney and Susan Bellinger construct Adirondack great camp desks decorated with wildlife oil paintings and pinecone flourishes.