Camping might make you feel one with nature, but it far from guarantees a good night’s rest. At the same time, shelling out for quality accommodations in America’s most spectacular outdoor destinations can be a hard-to-justify luxury.
We scoured the country in search of high-octane fun on a dime and discovered subterranean treks in California’s Land of Giants, bike rides through the Grand Canyon of the South, and under-the-radar rain forest hikes on the Olympic Peninsula. The low-budget lodges on this list (from $39 a night!) make it all possible without touching that dream-trip fund.
Lake Quinault Lodge
Lake Quinault Lodge is among a handful of American hotels set inside a temperate rain forest. One of four rain forests in Olympic National Park, the Quinault Rain Forest is often blissfully crowd-free compared to the more popular Hoh Rain Forest to the north.
Rent one of the lodge’s kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards to glide atop Lake Quinault, bike by waterfalls along the 31-mile Loop Drive, and roam the eight miles of interconnected hiking trails right outside your doorstep. Built in 1926, and still retaining much of its rustic old-world glamour, Lake Quinault Lodge offers a four-hour shuttle tour of the Quinault Rain forest, where guests spy on Roosevelt elk, black bears, marmots, and bald eagles and learn about the region’s rich history and fascinating ecosystem. Bathe in the forest’s mystical green glow—a result of the 12 feet of annual rainfall—then visit the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree. It’s more than 1,000 years old and towers at 191 feet tall.
Situated at 9,760 feet and along the Breckenridge Free Ride bus route, which services the world-class ski resort, the Bivvi Hostel is a new launchpad for every conceivable high-altitude Colorado adventure.
Start your day with a complimentary breakfast of cinnamon-maple French toast with homemade almond-coconut granola, Greek yogurt, and honey. Staff at the 10-room boutique hostel will then point you toward the best local spots and outfitters. Options include backcountry skiing on Loveland Pass, hiking 8.9-mile Mohawk Lakes Trail, mountain biking the sublime single track of Bakers Tank Trail, and kayaking Lake Dillon.
The mix of thin air, beautiful landscapes, and laid-back fireside chats with fellow adventurers fuels a spontaneous urge to explore. Fair warning: Views of the Ten Mile Mountain Range from the hot tub with a glass of Broken Compass beer and new friends might lead to an impromptu plan to climb 14er Mount Quandary the next morning.
From $39/night for a shared room or $139/night for a private room.
Hunter, New York
This former sixties motor lodge is now a luxe basecamp and sits just a marshmallow’s throw from the popular slopes of Hunter Mountain. Perched on 20 woodsy acres near hip Catskills towns like Woodstock, 38-room Scribner’s Lodge has a pool, vinyasa yoga classes, a killer restaurant where ricotta tartines come topped with bright edible flowers, and a cozy Wes Anderson-style library lounge that could have birthed the hygge movement.
Take one of Scribner’s complimentary hybrid or electric cars for a nearby hike—a waterfall trek to Kaaterskill Falls, a challenging five-mile jaunt up Overlook Mountain, or a 4.5-mile hike to an unexpected vista at Huckleberry Point. Pick up snowshoes in the lobby for a self-guided shuffle along the property’s private 1.5-mile trail or join the lodge’s adventure concierge for a bushwhacking or fly-fishing outing. Unwind with a Burnt Maple Old Fashioned around the terracotta chiminea fireplace and wait for twilight.
Breaks Interstate Park, Kentucky and Virginia
We just wanted to share a few more photos of the park due to the snowfall from last night and this morning! We had a couple of requests for a photo of the cabins in the snow so we hope you’ll enjoy these! Despite the snow last night, we are confident the roads will be safe to travel tomorrow so we will still be hosting our job fair tomorrow in our Conference Center from 10am to 12pm. We hope all of our guests experiencing the winter weather stays warm, and we are so excited that our 2018 season will be beginning soon! Thank you! #va #virginia #vastateparks #ky #kentucky #kystateparks #swva #southwestvirginia #outdoors #nature #naturephotography #photography #adventure #cabin #snow #winter #snowday
There is no shortage of adventure, savage beauty, and diverse geological features in “The Grand Canyon of the South.” Granted it’s not as big or as deep as its more celebrated namesake, but the crown jewel of Breaks Interstate Park—a five-mile gorge that plunges 1,650 feet—can be intimately explored on a grander scale, accessed by lush trails, rapids, and ravines lined with pink and white rhododendrons. On the Canyon Rim Zipline, which opened in the fall of 2017, visitors can explore 2,000 feet of line run high above the Russell Fork River Gorge.
Spread out over 4,600 acres along the Virginia-Kentucky border, Breaks has a dizzying roster of activities: there’s a new rock-climbing park, 25 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of moderate to difficult mountain-biking terrain, boating on Laurel Lake, horseback rides and elk tours, and world-class rapids on the Russell Fork (one fierce 75-foot section of the river named “El Horrendo” is considered one of the most difficult to paddle in the East).
After the adventures, enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep at the park’s quaint 81-room lodge, which offers no-frills accommodations near stunning lookouts at Clinchfield, Tower, and Lover’s Leap.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is most famous for its Giant Forest, where visitors can walk among the world’s largest trees on the two-mile Congress Trail, but it’s worth booking a room at Wuksachi Lodge to discover the many wild delights high above and below the Sierra Nevada range.
Built at 7,050 feet in the heart of the park, the modern stone-and-cedar chalet is neighbored by sequoias and majestic mountains. After a locally sourced buffet breakfast at Peaks Restaurant, follow hiking trails from the lodge to places like Cahoon Meadow and Mount Silliman, where you’ll pass blue-green lakes, a steep scramble of granite slabs, and sweeping views of the Central Valley. Farther afield, visitors can find General Sherman, the world’s largest living tree (and largest living organism on the planet), and trek 14,494-foot Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. There are enough stunning sites near the lodge itself to consume a weekend though. Duck underground between the ornate marble pillars of Crystal Cave, have a picnic at 75-foot Grizzly Falls, and end the day with a 400-step climb to Moro Rock, overlooking the Giant Forest, 12,000-foot peaks, and a brilliant starry sky.