Often times, the best things come in the form of discoveries. It’s true in wine, true in dining, true in music. It’s also a reliable theme in the world of travel.
When we reflect on our best trips, we tend to focus on the ones that offered a real sense of getting away. These immersive escapes allow us to feel like a local somewhere else, even if for only a long weekend or so. Popular hotels and resorts can provide the backdrop for such a thing, sure, but the venues that really excel in this department are the hidden ones.
The pandemic rages on, but we’re at least a little bit closer now to returning to normal travel habits. That said, it’s worth looking into some amazing getaways—ones so tucked away that they’re largely unknown.
It doesn’t get much cooler than staying at the base of the Grand Canyon. Phantom Ranch’s one-of-a-kind setting has drawn intrepid tourists for generations, set about a four-hour hike down from the South Kaibab trailhead. The amenities are pretty straightforward, which is understandable given just how tucked away this place is (also due to the fact that it was built in 1922). Yet, luxury abounds in the form of starry nights, unparalleled canyon views, and spending a night someplace few have.
Minam River Lodge
Getting to the Minam River Lodge requires an eight-and-a-half mile trek through the beautiful Eagle Cap Wilderness Area in northeast Oregon. Guests hike the trail or go by horseback, arriving at a remote lodge that underwent a serious remodel just a few years ago. Presently, it’s a gorgeous mix of well-appointed lodge suites, cabins, and simpler wall tents. The dining aspect is one of the most buzzed-about amenities, featuring three full meals a day, including a family-style supper showcasing plenty of produce from the estate garden. Chef Sean Temple brings tremendous experience to the lodge kitchen, having worked at Michelin-approved joints like Jean Georges in New York. But the best part of it all might be the pristine views right in the heart of an extremely removed part of the Pacific Northwest.
This fly-in lodge in Alaska is about twenty miles from the Denali National Park boundary and extremely off the grid. Cradled by the surrounding Talkeetna Mountains with no roads in site, Caribou Lodge may as well exist on another planet. While away from the lodge’s cozy confines, guest can enjoy incredible hikes and wildlife viewing, berry foraging, backcountry camping, kayaking, and even the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Wilderness Bay Lodge
Aptly named, Wilderness Bay Lodge resides in northern Minnesota, in the state’s serene Boundary Waters. This is the land of loons, glassy lakes, northern pike, and seemingly endless stretches of forest. The nine cabins of the property offer tremendous tranquility and there’s even a Scandinavian-style sauna to take off the often chilly edge. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and also happy knowing you supported a true family-run affair in one of the prettiest parts of the American Midwest.
Montana is lucky enough to have a host of hidden hideaways worthy of your attention. Firehole Ranch is among the best, especially for those who love to fly-fish. The getaway is within striking distance of a number of blue-ribbon trout rivers and features high-end dining. The sprawling 640-acre property along Hebgen Lake is just a short drive from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The luxury log cabins blend in with the stunning natural backdrop and pamper guests with warm settings and thoughtful western décor.
The Hoh Valley of Olympic National Park is often considered the quietest place in the country. Such solitude exists in the backyard of Kalaloch Lodge in remote Washington state. Here, a rare combination of rainforest, rugged coast, and sky-high peaks coexist majestically. The lodge honors the surroundings while offering some creature comforts like fresh seafood and thawing fire pits. The earliest incarnation of Kalaloch was assembled out of the driftwood that so often washes up on the nearby beach.
Fire Lookout Towers
One of the sneakiest forms of backcountry travel is by way of the fire lookout tower. They dot forests and valleys from California to the Carolinas and offer a towering perspective on some truly beautiful and undisturbed American scenery. The accommodations tend to be sparse but that allows you the opportunity to pack in some of the finer things. Check out the your region’s section of the USFS website for more details on locations and availability.
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