Cabin culture: Escape the crowds at these remote U.S. hideaways

By: Becca Hensley
July, 2021

The Ranch at Emerald Valley is a bygone Girl Scout camp. Photo courtesy Ranch at Emerald Valley

Humans harbor a primal love for cabins. Historically places built on the wilderness’ verge, they once provided a sanctum for explorers into the unknown. Today, simply built, they showcase surrounding nature as a refuge and a contrast to the buzzy pace of modern life. As a place to slow down, cabins can summon mindfulness, restore relationships and lead to thoughtful repose. Naturalist John Muir wrote: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” If cabins are calling, we’ve compiled a few to bring you peace.  

Doves Rest is located on a ridge above Palo Duro Canyon in North Texas. Photo courtesy Doves Rest

Doves Rest, Amarillo, Texas

Don’t expect a log house erected by last century’s pioneers. Instead, this collection of cabins that dot the rim of the Texas Panhandle’s Palo Duro Canyon State Park provides the civilized stay that modern trailblazers crave. Built on the edge like watchtowers, the roomy abodes showcase the largesse of this canyon — a monument that descends 1,000 feet in some portions. Enjoy the park, a playground of hiking and biking trails, including a heart-thumping zip line, and acreage dedicated specifically for equestrian pursuits. Doves Rest’s commodious terraces also invite cooking outside and waking early for sunrise.  

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Fireside Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a short drive from Grand Teton National Park. Photo courtesy Fireside Resort

Fireside Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

If tiny house trends intrigue and sleek styling pleases, Fireside Resort’s contemporary cabins fit the bill. Wedged into a slice of wilderness near Jackson Hole Resort’s Teton Village (a mecca of challenging ski slopes) and a short drive from the gates of Grand Teton National Park, the 20-some, LEED-certified shelters, designed by Wheelhaus, form an 8-acre community that redefines wilderness hideaway. Design-savvy with sloping roofs, high ceilings, fire pits and hang-out decks, each streamlined cabin indulges guests with luxurious amenities, from hedonistic showers (with multiple, perfectly positioned shower heads) to dream-making goose-down pillows. Ski, fly fish, river raft and more — all in season. 

The Trailside Treehouse will call to your inner, tree-climbing child. Photo courtesy Trailside Treehouse

Trailside Treehouse, Richmond, Virginia

Some people look for a cabin in the trees, but what if your tree were a cabin? Climb into The Trailside Treehouse, a two-story, stand-alone treehouse retreat modeled after a fire tower. Meant to converse with your inner child, this imaginative haven is accessed by a bridge. Loaded with books, vintage games, whimsical messages (left by the owners and former guests), not to mention ladders, chutes, hammocks, bikes and more, the funky cabin even holds a stylish bathroom and kitchenette. Just outside, the leafy James River region awaits with its plethora of renowned trails. Kayak, tube, mountain bike and beyond, in season.  

Cotton Gin Village, Fredericksburg, Texas

A short drive from Austin, in the heart of Texas’s wine land, German-intoned Fredericksburg long has been a favorite day trip for central Texans. But why not stay overnight? With social distancing measures in place at an array of wineries, shops and restaurants, plus nearby stellar hiking and biking, the area promises a fulfilling long weekend of amusements. Choose Cotton Gin Village, situated like a portal to the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail. With its seven restored 19th-century log cabins (and some cottages), its ambiance pays homage to the area’s rural past. Special interior touches include wood-burning fireplaces, log-framed beds and a complimentary breakfast picnic basket delivered directly to your door.  

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Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, Boulder, Utah

There’s a lot to see around the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a slick rock paradise in remote Utah. Land of slot canyons, dinosaur fossils, petrified wood and myriad paths to scramble up and totter down, this far-from-airport getaway clarifies the notion of retreating into nature. Stay in tranquility’s web at Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, a 168-acre, eco-minded haven, crisscrossed by hiking paths. With teepees, a yurt, a campground, and well-equipped cabins, it occupies a swathe of pastures, wetland ponds and hilly terrain. Its farm-to-fork restaurant, Sweetwater Kitchen, draws ingredients from its gardens and orchards. Ideal for weddings, family reunions, workshops or solo reflection, the ranch can organize any event — they even have a recording studio. 

Briar Patch Inn, Sedona, Arizona

Northern Arizona’s otherworldly Sedona, situated among majestic red rocks and peppered with piñon and pine trees, draws spiritual seekers for its vortex meditation sites and outdoor buffs for its trails. Just outside the town’s borders, up Oak Creek Canyon (en route to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon), an alternative path to peacefulness exists — Briar Patch Inn. Nestled close enough to a creek to ensure that its rushing flow babbles a serenade, 19 cabins spread across 9 acres. Southwestern furnishings and Native American art reflect the region, with warmth provided by wood burning fireplaces. Start your day with gourmet breakfasts served creekside or in the lodge, according to season.  

Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale, Missouri

Nobody forgets their first sunset over gleaming Table Rock Lake in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. But just imagine the sky’s panoply of pastel hues in autumn, when the landscape presents a whirl of ruby, gold, pink and vivid orange as backdrop. See it this year from the deck of your cabin at Big Cedar Lodge, a back-to-nature destination known for its charming, upscale cabins. Featuring classic elements from wood to stone, with modern styling, the cabins range in size from two bedroom units for 8-10 people to one bedroom cozies, ideal for families of four.  

Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, Buellton, California

This RV and glamping resort in Santa Barbara County’s Wine Country, less than 15 minutes from the California Coast, has been whimsically and eclectically renovated to include cabins, cottages, safari tents and tiki tents. Those with a penchant for vintage chic, might yearn to sleep in its onsite, restored Airstreams trailers. While not located in a far-flung forest, this clever bolthole channels the cabin concept, celebrating simplicity, camaraderie and nature — in this case vineyards, the area’s undeveloped outdoors and perfect crescents of sand. Choose a Surf Cabin, inspired by the carefree lifestyle of the sea, or other themed accommodations, from wine to ranch to village. A cafe, bocce court and pool add to the fun.  

Togwotee Mountain Lodge, Moran, Wyoming

A slice of nostalgia, what every erstwhile camper yearns to experience again, this gratifyingly old-school cabin compound lies conveniently near both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Prime for awakening the inner Eagle Scout, Togwotee opened in 1923 to cater to outdoorsy types — and it continues to do so today. The name, Togwotee, taken from a local indigenous language, mystically means “exactly there.” And here is where guests can immerse deeply in nature. In summer, you’ll likely see bear, moose or wild horses. In winter, this rough-hewn resort turns into the world’s top destination for snow mobile excursions. Enjoy any of comfortable 54 400-square-foot cabins, each with electric fires and kitchenettes.  

 

The Lushna Suite at Eastwind provides a respite in the Catskill Mountains. Photo by Lawrence Braun

Eastwind Hotel & Bar, Windham, New York

Once a bunkhouse for hunters and fly fishermen that dates back to the 1920s, this boutique haven in the verdant Catskill Mountains, three hours from Boston, has been reborn with a chic Scandic aesthetic. With year-round programming such as yoga on the lawn, snowshoeing, horseback riding and a full-service bar, Eastwind elevates sleeping rough. Try one of the Lushna-made cabins and suites, futuristic sanctuaries with outdoor decks and soul-stirring views. Fully-loaded, the cabins coddle with a writer’s nook, outdoor and indoor showers, private fire pits, Frette linens and hooded Pendleton robes.  

The Ranch at Emerald Valley is one of three wilderness camp properties run by The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Photo courtesy Ranch at Emerald Valley

Ranch at Emerald Valley, a Broadmoor Wilderness Property, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Haven’t you always longed to herd cattle? This is the place. Colorado’s beloved grand dame, The Broadmoor, a beacon near Pikes Peak, reigns as an iconic vacation scene. But travelers seeking more intimate digs should turn to its offspring Wilderness Properties, three uniquely executed mountain camp experiences, located nearby among less populated terrain. Choose Ranch at Emerald Valley, a bygone Girl Scout Camp, re-envisioned by The Broadmoor, which offers 10 Western-infused cabins, ranging from one to three bedrooms. On site, the all-inclusive experience includes cattle herding, archery, kayaking, hiking, gourmet cookouts and horseback riding. Want to spa or brunch at the Broadmoor? The big house is just a phone call away.  

The Paws Up dude ranch in Montana is credited with coining the term “glamping.” Photo courtesy Paws Up

The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, Montana

Credited with coining the term “glamping,” all-inclusive Paws Up dude ranch sits on 37,000-acres of dream-laden, Montana scenery. So immense that the resort likes to say they measure social distancing in acres rather than feet, the sanctuary has cabins and houses, though it remains most famous for its six luxury-tented camps, spread throughout the ranch. To be mollycoddled in upscale cowboy style, check into a spacious Big Timber House, one of several exquisite cabins, kitted out with full kitchens and hot tubs. Open year-round, the Paws Up offers pretty much anything you hanker for, from fly fishing to paintball, ice skating to skiing, horse whispering to cooking classes, painting to spa treatments. 

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