Best Trek-In Lodges and Cabins Across the Country
If you really want to go off the grid, check into a hotel that can’t be reached by car. These retreats can only be found by hiking, skiing or rafting.
Photo By: Appalachian Mountain Club
Photo By: Xanterra Parks & Resorts/Scott Temme
Photo By: Len Foote Hike Inn
Photo By: Getty Images/Brian VanderBrug
Photo By: iStockphoto.com/CampPhoto
Photo By: Charit Creek Lodge
Photo By: iStockphoto.com/Adventure_Photo
Photo By: Belton Chalets Inc.
Photo By: OPUS Hut
Photo By: iStockphoto.com/jcarillet
White Mountain Huts
In 1888 the Appalachian Mountain Club, or AMC, built the first hut for hikers in America called Madison Springs Hut. Today, there’s still a hut at this location but Madison Springs is now part of a chain of huts along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. This hut system makes up a 52-mile stretch of the trail and each hut is designed to be a day-hike apart. The huts feature bunkbed lodging, home-cooked dinner and astronomy programs for avid stargazers. What’s most impressive about the hike, however, is the landscape. The rolling green hills look like a postcard from Ireland.
Grand Canyon National Park has some of the best and most historic lodges in the country, but the only lodge with a view below the rim is Phantom Ranch. The name sounds scary but comes from the materials used to build the cabins. Wood and native stone act as camouflage and the structures blend in seamlessly with the outdoors. The real scare or thrill is getting down there. The ranch is only accessible via foot, mule or rafting the Colorado River. While it only takes four to six hours to hike down the Grand Canyon, it can take more than 10 hours coming back up so it’s important to plan according to your physical ability and start early to beat the desert sun. The park recommends that for every hour it takes you to get down, plan on two hours coming back up.
The Hike Inn
Appropriately named, the Hike Inn is a favorite for both serious Appalachian Trail through-hikers and Atlanta residents who want to spend a weekend in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Georgia State Park facility pampers guests with creature comforts such as hot showers, warm-cooked meals and private rooms. Start your morning with coffee and the sunrise from an Adirondack chair on the lodge’s wrap-around porch.
Bearpaw Meadow Camp
Sequoia National Park has been offering glamping for nearly a century, when glamping wasn’t a trend or even a word but just backcountry hospitality. Bearpaw High Sierra Camp’s six tent-cabins feature hardwood flooring and the shower house has hot showers and flush toilets. Home-cooked dinner includes steak and chocolate layer cake. And breakfast features fresh fruit compote and seasonal quiche. Yes, quiche in backcountry. If you have reservations about hike-in lodges and going off the grid, Bearpaw is a great start. It’s anything but roughing it.
Instead of hiking in, how about floating in? Paradise Lodge, located on Oregon’s scenic Rogue River, is a wilderness retreat that can only be accessed by rafting, kayaking or jet boating along more than 50 miles of the lower Rogue River. You can also hike in parallel to the water via the Rogue River Trail which is great for spotting wildlife, especially eagles.
Charit Creek Lodge
Located inside Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee, Charit Creek Lodge is like taking a step back in time. You likely won’t have cell service which means you’ll have to focus on cabin life: relaxing in the great outdoors, enjoying family-style dinners and listening to the creek flow. Hiking the Twin Arches Loop is a must. It features giant rock arches that rival formations in Utah and Arizona. Charit Creek is also accessible by horseback, and the lodge has stables for overnight equine guests. Charit Creek is dog-friendly, too. Guests can bring their pups on the hike, though note that the National Park Service has strict leash laws.
Granite Park Chalet
Many visitors only drive Going to the Sun Road, but if you really want a truly stunning panoramic view of Glacier National Park, hit the backcountry trails. Granite Park Chalet can only be accessed by foot and is so rustic it should probably be called camping. There’s no electricity or modern toilets, and visitors are expected to prepare their own meals. But you’re not paying for amenities, you’re paying for location. Hike the famous Garden Wall for gorgeous lookouts or the Swiftcurrent Trail for intense switchbacks and beautiful waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
If Granite Park Chalet sounds too rustic for you, you can still rough it at the park’s off the grid hotel. Sperry Chalet is also located in Glacier backcountry and can only be reached by hiking but the lodge features amenities like warm-cooked meals, private rooms with bedding and blankets, and modern toilets. Mountain goats frequent the area but remember not to get too close to wildlife. As the lodge warns, “They are not always happy to see you.”
The luxury, European-style OPUS Hut in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains is a great option for people who want the off-the-grid experience but can’t do rigorous and lengthy 10-mile day hikes. In the summer, you can drive within a quarter mile of the hut. In the winter, roads close and it takes 3.5 miles to reach the hut. But winter is the best time to visit as the San Juan Mountains have some of the best backcountry skiing in the country and feature challenging passes like Lizard Head.
The highest guest house in the eastern United States, LeConte Lodge sits just below Mount LeConte at more than a 6,000-foot elevation. Located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the lodge can only be reached on foot. The shortest hike to get to the lodge, Alum Cave Trail, takes at least four hours. The longer, more popular hikes can take nearly six hours one way. And these hikes aren’t easy. They’re steep and have quick elevation gains. But the reward at the top is worth it. Take in the view with a hearty country dinner and bottomless wine (an extra charge that's worth it).