From Arctic Igloos to Pacific Yurts: 10 Unique US Wilderness Retreats to Experience
So you want to go into the wild on your next vacation, but you’re not sure which path (read: resort, igloo, wigwam, treehouse) will get you there? To paraphrase the immortal words of Robert Frost, (who was supposedly being sarcastic in this famous poem, but nevertheless): We took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.
From glamping in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest to treehouse living in the forests overlooking Lake Tahoe, we’ve rounded up the most unique wilderness destinations in the USA. Read on to determine which region appeals to you most. We have you covered, from sea to shining sea.
Creekside Cottages Beneath the Red Rocks (Sedona, AZ): Yearning to find yourself amongst the Red Rocks of Sedona while also enjoying the elegant luxuries of the French countryside? Then book a Creekside Cottage at L’Auberge de Sedona. This heavenly retreat in the American Southwest combines the otherworldly powers of Sedona's legendary spiritual vortexes with the pastoral charms of Provence. Think: Manicured grounds bursting with wildflowers, an evening glass of wine paired with an immaculate artisanal charcuterie board, and dining riverside beneath the stars at the resort's eatery, Etch Kitchen & Bar. If the idea of days spent concocting your own signature bath soak (at L’Apothecary Spa) followed by evenings of guided meditation beneath the full moon appeals to you, then L'Auberge is just the place to satisfy your cravings for spiritual transcendence in nature. Sportier travelers, take heed: You don't need to believe in the transformative powers of Sedona's energy to appreciate the hiking trails, Pink Jeep tours, and biking paths in the region. Something for everyone, indeed. (Photo via L’Auberge de Sedona)
Urban Lake House-Style Living in the Pacific Northwest (Bellevue, WA): Washington may be a nature lover's heaven, with its endlessly varied wilderness diversions and retreats, but that doesn't mean we're going to ignore the urban explorer — the traveler who enjoys a nice glass of Pinot Noir (not to mention a proper bed) after a day spent hiking up West Tiger Mountain to Poo Poo Point. It's irrelevant how many SoulCycle classes you've signed up for; you'll be winded. And there's no better place to revive and reenergize your tired body and soul than W Bellevue, the lake house-chic hotel located in the underrated (yet similarly chic) city of Bellevue, right across from Seattle. The sleek design and understated elegance of W Bellevue is a perfect antidote to the discomfort of the Great Outdoors. Dine at The Lakehouse Bellevue and enjoy a cocktail at the speakeasy downstairs, Civility & Unrest, before retiring to your suite. The wallpaper may be adorned with birch trees, but you're definitely far from damp sleeping bags and flimsy tents in this urban oasis. Perfect for the adventurous who also appreciate a bit of luxury on their wilderness vacations. (Photo via W Bellevue)
Private Villas in the Heart of Hill Country (San Antonio, TX): Like L'Auberge de Sedona, La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio is also a Destination Hotel property that capitalized on the natural beauty of its surroundings to deliver top-notch wellness programs (not to mention endless options for the outdoors enthusiast). But, never forget: Everything's bigger in Texas, particularly in the Texas Hill Country of San Antonio. Book a stay at one of La Cantera's secluded villas to enjoy more privacy from the hustle and bustle of patrons enjoying the delectable Tex-Mex cuisine and even more delectable margaritas at Palenque Grill. Of course, there's no shame in watching the sunset over the property with a glass (or two) of tequila in hand. Wellness comes in many forms, y'all. (Photo via La Cantera Resort & Spa)
Glass Igloos in the Arctic Wilderness (Fairbanks, AK): For our next destination, we're headed north — way north, in fact, to the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle. This bustling city, known as the "golden heart of Alaska," offers spectacular opportunities to witness the aurora borealis — opportunities that multiply incrementally when you book one of the glass domes at Borealis Basecamp. There's something more than a little romantic about gazing up at the open sky, so invite your friends, or lover, or almost-lover and reserve your stay now. Next step? Start mapping your road trip (or scanning for flight deals) to Fairbanks and prepare to live out your wildest dreams of Arctic exploration. (Photo via Borealis Basecamp)
Pacific Yurts in NorCal (Lake Sur, CA): The yurts of Big Sur, available at Treebones Resort, provide a breathtaking glamping experience overlooking the scenic shores of Lake Sur. Maximize that California sunshine — and savor those West Coast sunsets — from your light-filled perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy the view of the rugged coastline, which is dramatic enough in real life to rival the cinematography in Big Little Lies. (Photo via Treebones Resort)
Surf Houses in the Hawaiian Islands (Hanalei, Kauai): Trade your sleeping bags for flip-flops and cozy sweaters for Aloha shirts, and head out into the Pacific, in search of the magnificent beauty and rich cultural heritage of Hawaii's oldest (and loveliest and wildest) island: Kauai. Embrace the native sport of America's 50th state with a stay at the Hanalei Surfboard House, located along the iconic Hanalei Bay. You needn't be able to hang 10 to appreciate the whimsical charms of the cottage's beauty or eclectic decor. When you walk through the door of your breezy new home, embrace the sights and sounds of island living. Try to hold onto that "tropical contact high" (you know, the feeling the Beach Boys were eternally after) because you'll have to go home eventually. So savor those mai tais while you can. (Photo via Hanalei Surfboard House)
Glamping in the San Juan Islands (Orcas Island, WA): LEANTO Glamping, in the gray chill of the waters around the San Juan Islands, is not any less relaxing or appealing than your potential beach hut in the Hawaiian Islands. The moody lushness of the PNW is, after all, one of the pinnacles of the country's Great Outdoors. Who minds the rain, hail, sleet, and snow in Seattle when you're in the home state of not only the (vastly under-appreciated) San Juan Islands but also Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks? Hike the gorgeously pristine forests, kayak upon the tranquil waters of the San Juan Channel, eyes and ears always attuned to the glimpse of a dorsal fin or the sound of a blowhole — the powerful yet tranquil sights and sounds of the local orca (or killer whale) population. The San Juan Islands are a marine lover's dream, home to ancient pods of orcas unafraid to swim alongside boats or float beside the oar of a canoe. Gentle, peaceful, and — most importantly — free, these aquatic residents of the San Juan Islands are a living, breaching counterpoint to the atrocities of Sea World. (Photo via LEANTO)
Treehouses overlooking Lake Tahoe (Incline Village, NV): Though a mere 30-minute drive from the desert cityscape of Reno, the picturesque Incline Village overlooks the shores of Lake Tahoe. "Overlook" is the operative term here, as this unique retreat is nothing less than a lookout: a treehouse, to be exact. The Treehouse at Incline in Incline Village is handcrafted for the traveler who's young at heart and recognizes a golden Instagram opportunity when they see one. But, this is all about immersing yourself in nature, not tracking likes-per-minute — so, at least try to ignore the call of social media and listen to the call of the wild instead. Hint: Cut down on your screen time. (Photo via The Treehouse at Incline)
Eco Lodges in the Carrabassett Valley (Kingfield, ME): Check in for a digital detox at Maine Huts & Trails in Kingfield, Maine. Prepare for a full-on 21st-century withdrawal from modern life: No TV, no internet connection, no WiFi, no cell service. The only thing left to entertain you is the wildness and beauty of the Carrabassett Valley. Never heard of the Carrabassett Valley? You're not alone. This stretch of New England has, miraculously, remained largely unspoiled and undiscovered. Luckily, you'll have ample methods of exploring the pristine lakes and mountains of Northern Maine any time of year: from snowmobiling to swimming, cross-country skiing or hiking. Forced to disconnect from your phone, you're more likely to appreciate the glorious world right in front of you — and perhaps even become more attentive toward your travel companion. You'll be going "into the wild" in the truest sense of the term (for the human psyche, at the very least). (Photo via John Orcutt)
Luxury Cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains (Gatlinburg, TN): In the spirit of more is more and merrier is merrier, head for the wildflowers and Blue Ridge Mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Two's a crowd, three's company, and more than that's a party at the luxurious (and luxuriously expansive) cabins of Cherokee Orchard, located among the Great Smoky Mountains. These decadent cabins are perfect for travelers who want to spend the day finding themselves in nature, and their evenings finding themselves with old friends or family. Or maybe new friends and family: The largest cabin sleeps 96 people. Part of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, the chic cabins are structured to accomplish the seemingly impossible: Providing a warm, sophisticated space for large groups to convene together, while assuring that each frenzied traveler also has a room of their own. (Photo via Wyndham Vacation Rentals)
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