The most authentic and unique hotels in the western U.S., chosen by National Geographic Traveler editors for the 2011 Stay List
Sole historic hotel in city's vibrant center. Rooms a balanced mix of past and present: steam heaters and flat-screens. Largest gift shop in state: birch tree syrup, Ulu knives, Eskimo yo-yos. Weekend Anchorage Market and Festival just one block away (300 vendors). 26 rooms; from $89.
A remote luxury lodge along Iditarod National Historic Trail, reached by float- or ski-plane. Rugged country, sure, but comfort level high: fine cuisine from Cordon Bleu-trained chef-owner, wine tastings, complimentary massage, yoga, hot tub. Artisan log beds, cast-iron fireplaces. Hike into the mountains for alpine flower bloom. Grizzly viewing, Mount McKinley (Denali) fly-bys, glacier-trekking. Upcoming: a new cabin with wood-heated sauna. 9 rooms; $798 per person, all-inclusive.
One of the state's newest lodges, overlooking Black Rapids glacier, in the heart of the Alaska Range. Built as homage to Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel: copper shingles, spruce timbers, black cladding. Four of the rooms share baths; all have French doors opening to balconies. While there, look for Dall sheep and grazing bison. Spiral staircase to Belvedere lookout for winter Northern Lights viewing. 10 rooms; from $190.
A 1920s-frontier false-front hotel in a restored Alaskan ghost town, surrounded by enormous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Home-off-the-range rooms: fabric-covered walls, handmade quilts, pedestal sinks. Saloon is a popular local hangout, with "open mike" evenings. Greenhouse supplies fresh produce; salmon caught wild. Playtime: Fly-in glacier trekking, alpine hiking, rafting. 20 rooms; from $129.
A turn-of-the-century craftsman bungalow on Flagstaff's Nob Hill, two blocks up from resurrected historic downtown. Antique wicker rockers in some rooms, two-person jetted tubs, walk-in rain showers in others. Before tackling Grand Canyon, bulk up on a hearty seasonal breakfast in the dining room or summertime garden terrace; hot apple cider and homemade cookies await your return. 10 rooms; from $150, incl. breakfast and snacks.
Only hotel in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Melds into the red bluffs; backdrop to countless Western movies. All balconies face dramatic Mittens formation. All-natural landscaping, dimmed exterior lights for stargazing. Navajo owned and operated for a purpose: job creation means cultural preservation. Hike nearby Wildcat and Mesa Rim trails. (All other trails require Navajo guide.) 95 rooms; from $95.
Opened its doors in 1929. Built of geometric precast blocks of desert sand. The original "designer" resort; Frank Lloyd Wright was consulting architect. Form-meets-function now encompasses eight pools, 92-foot waterslide, spa greened with vegan products, and a pet-friendly policy. Must-do traditions: high tea in lobby and "high'tini" in lobby lounge. 739 rooms; from $279.
A veritable 1879 Texas longhorn cattle ranch in a box canyon of Chiricahua Mountains. Forget nose-to-tail trail rides; guests ride in the open. Cattle drive first of every month. Hearty ranch grub, comfy rooms with exposed-brick walls, cowskin rugs. Hot tub, pool, world-class bird-watching. Cowboy boots mandatory. 10 rooms; from $220, incl. meals and horse riding.
A 1929 railway hotel originally designed as a centuries-old fantasy Spanish hacienda. Saved from demolition by historic preservationist owner in 1997: hand-painted glass windows, tin chandeliers, some original six-foot-long cast-iron tubs. Planting of original garden based on sustainable desert plants now underway. You can still come here by train: Amtrak stops twice a day. 37 rooms; from $109.
An adobe guest ranch with Spanish land-grant heritage in high Sonoran desert. Pool with 100-year-old saguaro. Mission bell rings when cantina (1725) opens. Lots of bird song (350 species). Everything recycled: horseshoes become wall hooks, saddles turned into furniture. Secret ingredient? Prickly pear syrup in lemonade and sauces. 20 rooms; from $290.
Back-to-nature kitchen cottages in a seaside setting with organic gardens, hens, bunnies, and goats. Essence of simplicity: rooms with Shaker peg rail on walls, cotton slipcovers on furnishings, rag rugs atop wood floors, and compost bin. Guests harvest their own meals from garden, two greenhouses, hen house. Stargaze (no outdoor lighting), explore tidepools, kayak Gualala River. 12 cottages; from $110.
Off-the-grid ridge-top complex of yurts and stilted communal buildings on Cape San Martin. Views: 180 degrees of ocean, 180 degrees of wilderness. Contemporary Big Sur folk art in yurts: patchwork quilts, hand-hooked rag rugs. Oceanview pool and hot tub. Family and staff all live on-site. Beachcombing, ocean kayaking with sea lions and whales. 17 rooms; from $155, incl. breakfast.
Think scallop carpaccio instead of gorp because that's the sort of food you'll get at this off-the-grid tent camp on 40 hillside acres reached by one-mile hike (no cars allowed). Concrete floors, wood-shutter windows, Pendleton wool blankets—and maid service. Open-air dining pavilion for five-course dinners. Trails thread among giant sequoias and into King's Canyon. Crowning achievement: three-mile (one-way) hike to 10,365-foot Mitchell Peak. 36 tents; from $300 per person, including all meals.
No-nonsense eco-conscious lodgings overlooking Klamath River estuary, one mile from Pacific Ocean. Simply built of redwood in arts and crafts style. Interior hews to 1914 heritage: claw-foot tubs, original sinks. Buys carbon credits to offset hotel's energy usage. Do your part by hiking the Coastal Trail or adjoining Redwood National Park. 10 rooms; from $99.
Upscale board-and-batten base camp in Pinot Noir country. In and out of each room: deep soaking tub, alfresco shower, private garden. Eco-tech galore, including membrane bioreactor for wastewater (recycled for gardens and vineyards), geothermal paint for insulation, and Adirondack chairs made of recycled milk cartons. Indulge in crushed grapeseed scrub in spa, early-morning balloon flights, complimentary bikes for sip 'n' cycle winery tours. 86 rooms; from $530.
This is the main-drag motel you stayed in as a kid, a 1950s overnighter built around a small pool. Revamped in retro-mid-century style: blue astroturf pool deck, martinis in the vinyl bar. Each room a 1950s theme: Crooners, TV Shows, Pretty in Pink (Marilyn Monroe actually stayed in this very room). 10 rooms; from $160, incl. breakfast, evening martinis, and appetizers.
Refurbished in youthful homage to J-pop (Japanese pop culture), in center of Japantown. What starts in lobby—Godzilla movies playing under anime ceiling murals—continues in guest rooms: bean bag chairs, glow-in-the-dark desk blotters. Nightly sake tasting. 125 rooms; from $119.
A residential retreat in sync with this hyper-green coastal city. In-room recycling, nontoxic housekeeping, preferred parking for hybrid cars. Stickley-style furnishings, natural limestone countertops. Even hotel's London taxi runs on biodiesel. Guests carpool to attractions, like Santa Monica Pier. 77 rooms; from $239.
The new Bay Area place-to-be enclave with a green heart and a red neighbor: Golden Gate Bridge. Landscape restored with native plants. Rooms (choose historic or contemporary) cozy with organic sheets and towels; recycling bins and ceiling fans. Free yoga and guided weekend hikes. 142 rooms; from $250.
Authentic Aspen character enshrined in 1889 Main Street Victorian. Roomy digs with feather pillows, down comforters, contempo-Victorian decor. Beyond skiing: rafting, cattle drives, walks with naturalist. Score a discount by spending a morning clearing trails for National Park Service. 93 rooms; from $185.
Rocky Mountain High resort anchoring a pedestrian village at base of ski area in White River National Forest. Mountain-man chic: leather sofas and headboards, faux fur throws. Menu defines the region: Colorado elk, venison, produce from local farmers market. Soaring atrium lounge, ski bridge to the slopes. Consider this Vail's less crowded cousin. 72 rooms; from $179.
Honky-tonk hotel on Main Street, spilling beer since 1887. Now on the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America list, this place stays in character: servers in costume, live performances in the Henry Strater Theatre, ragtime piano in the summer. Victorian but not stuffy: walnut antiques, authentic wallpapers. Louis L'Amour's favorite room: 222, directly above the saloon. 93 rooms; from $109, incl. breakfast.
Hawaii unplugged: ancient lava fields, palmy beach set the stage for this frond-thatched Polynesian village free of TVs, phones, radios, air-conditioning. Families can reconnect through all sorts of activities: snorkeling, whale-watching, petroglyph hunting, lei-making, star-gazing, craft classes. Twice-weekly luaus the real deal. 125 bungalows; from $660, all-inclusive except for guided tours.
Four homey cottages, four suites in 1930s Queen Anne-style house in midst of lush fern forest. Natural resources: fireplaces built of lava rock, rainwater collected from metal roofs. Botanical garden setting. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one mile away: lava tubes, active flows, 200 miles of trails. 8 rooms; from $109.
An upcountry manor preserving Hawaiian heritage on misty central highlands 1,600 feet above sea level. There's a reason some rooms come with in-room wood-burning fireplaces. Wraparound verandas, two-poster beds with hand-carved pineapple motif. Hike the five-mile Koloiki ridge, or go on half-day surfing safari with a legendary surfer. 102 rooms; from $345.
Old-school resort with contagious Kahuna spirit. No building higher than a palm tree, private lanais with blue-water panoramas, reefs off crescent sand beach aswirl with polychromatic fish. Daily cultural presentations, including weekly slack-key-guitar concerts. Runs foundation to perpetuate Hawaiiana among local keiki (kids), who stage weekly programs for guests. 163 rooms; from $230.
Nostalgic plantation-style cottages on island's more authentic, less peopled North Shore. Retro-Hawaiian-decor cottages face pretty curve of beach, where locals still fish off rocks at night. Menu changes twice daily, depending on the catch; time dinner to watch the sunset. 12 rooms; from $175.
Hand-peeled log cabins preserve Wild West heritage in Madison River Valley, an hour's drive from Old Faithful. Yippee-ai-ay decor: ranch oak furnishings, leather chairs, wagon-wheel lamps. What you might see: deer, weasels, muskrats, beavers, bears, and moose. What you won't: a restaurant, but they'll point you in the right direction. Activities also outsourced to local community: fly-fishing, bird-watching, rafting, hiking. 29 cabins; from $70.
Luxury lodging on 37,000 acres in Lewis and Clark country. Four-bedroom 1908 house, two-story pine cabins; "glamping" in safari-style tents with feather beds and personal butlers. Weekly themes (Native American, equestrian, history, etc.) with appropriate speakers. Summer barbecues. Montana-inspired cuisine. Bike, fish the Blackfoot River, or head on horseback into the "Bob" (the 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness). 28 homes and 12 tents; from $465, incl. meals.
Hacienda on 225 acres of pinyon and juniper. Who needs TV when you've got Chaco Canyon-style fireplaces or a kiva, whirlpool tubs, and private terraces? Gourmet fare served on hand-starched table linens. Hiking trails take in ancient petroglyphs, high desert wildlife, and sandstone shrine used for meditation and concerts. Visit Ghost Ranch (about 35 miles away), where O'Keeffe spent her days painting similar landscapes. 13 rooms; from $285.
Storm-watchers' hotel of choice, with private balconies that provide salty view of surf splaying off Haystack Rock. Soak in double whirlpool tubs. Wine gatherings in chart-room lounge. Northwest cuisine: mushrooms from local foragers, Tillamook cheese, fish from straight offshore. And if you plan on hitting the summertime surf, buy a hotel beach towel; money goes to support local children's center. 41 rooms; from $359.
A 1912 ten-story structure given a post-mod makeover. Hip left-coast vibe. Whimsical colors and zany style dress up soaring ceilings and tall windows. Rooms with a conscience: recycling bins and complimentary shade-grown coffee. At nightly wine receptions, you're encouraged to create a masterpiece with supplied canvas, easels, brushes, and paint. 221 rooms; from $159.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Cinematic-theme working ranch. Big skies, red rock, and a river (Colorado) runs through it. Main lodge built of local ponderosa pine, riverfront terrace for radiant sunsets bouncing off surrealistic Fisher Towers rock formations. Vineyards and winery, self-guided movie museum tour, horseback riding. Nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks continue the splendor. 110 rooms; from $100.
Trading post-cum-motel in Navajo's iconic Red Rock Canyon. Native American spirituality hovers over sandstone monoliths, backdrop to countless Hollywood westerns. Balconies catch sunrise views over Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Earth Spirit slide shows, daily rug-weaving demos, full-moon tours with local guides. Your museum donations go to much-needed scholarships. 83 rooms; from $73.
A step-back-in-time on bucolic working farm on Orcas Island. Looks the part: late-1880s clapboard farmhouse with newer Shaker-style barn. Claw-foot tubs, stoves for heat, wool comforters courtesy of sheep grazing just out your door. Farm-fresh breakfasts. Island pursuits include kayaking, whale watching, biking. Nearby trailleads to the new 1,575-acre Turtleback Mountain Preserve, which hotel supports. 11 rooms; from $100.
Craftsman-style architecture blends with Zen aesthetics. Binocular-mandatory rooms with 180-degree views of Saratoga Passage: spouting whales, stalking herons. Duvets, wood-burning fireplaces, whirlpool tubs instill nesting instinct. Open-kitchen dining features local treats: Penn Cove mussels, fresh salmon, foraged mushrooms. Farmers markets and gardens abound. 28 rooms; from $195, incl. breakfast.
Modern remake of exclusive clubhouse for lucky Alaska gold-rush veterans. Chic vintage rooms: high ceilings, Klondike-era artifacts, Edward Curtis prints (he was a member). Leather chairs, library lamps, antique atlases in polar-themed bar. Organic, sustainably sourced cuisine. Those ivory tusks on 27 walrus heads decorating building's exterior? Replaced by plastic years ago. 120 rooms; from $159.
High-tech hotel raises Emerald City's geek quotient to new high. Multitasking VoIP phones, infrared occupancy sensors, tubs that fill from the ceiling, a virtual golf driving range. Up-to-the-nanosecond Pacific Rim styling to match: rich cherrywood, leather-wrapped walls. Food served is authentic Northwest, with fresh fish and produce trotted up from Pike Place Market four blocks away. 120 rooms; from $225.
Spokane's 1914 grande dame, spreading across three blocks in city's heart. Opulent classic design a point of civic pride: stunning atrium, original skylights. Civic-minded as well: restaurant leftovers feed homeless, kitchen grease recycled for biodiesel. Ask the concierge for History Detective scavenger hunt handout and unlock hotel's secrets. Stroll Riverfront Park (site of 1974 World's Fair); ten wineries a short drive away. 611 rooms; from $199.
Main-street hotel at the foot of Big Horn Mountains whose 1997 renovation revealed an 1880s time capsule: tin-stamp ceilings, original wainscoting, embossed walls. Everything's for real, including bullet holes in saloon. Rooms named after famous guests: Hoover, Roosevelt, General Sheridan, Owen Wister. (This is where Wister's Virginian finally got his man.) Even the ghosts boogie at Thursday-night bluegrass jams. 14 rooms; from $50.
Family-owned historic art nouveau inn half a block off main drag, near museum and galleries. Library and parlor brimming with local history books. Organic linens, fresh flowers, flat-screen TVs. Room 18: Ernest Hemingway stayed here in 1932 while fishing nearby Clark's Fork River. Yellowstone an hour's drive west. 22 rooms; from $115.
A high-prairie folk Victorian across Medicine Bow River from town (pop. 197). A way station on the Overland Trail; rooms themed to historical figures. Cedar-lap siding, wooden sidewalks, embossed tin ceilings. Strategic base for visiting Wyoming Territorial Prison, Laramie Plains Museum, ghost town of Carbon. 12 rooms; from $119, incl. breakfast.
It's a wind-powered working ranch right in the midst of Grand Teton National Park, with an inspiring view of snaggle-toothed mountains. Since 1924: four generations of family operation. Multibedroom log cabins. Meals served family style in sun porch dining room. Your choice: ranching (wrangling and haying), pack trips, or river runs. 20 cabins; from $1,575 per person per week, all-inclusive.
Old West cabins enveloped by a forest glade backed by the sawtoothed Tetons. Close to three glacial lakes. Get about on cruiser bike, horse, or with walking stick while keeping an eye open for elk, moose, bison, and deer. Strictly monitored green policies, from sustainable cuisine and xeriscaping to interpretive programs and recycling. Gift shop for local art and recycled lariat rope baskets. Ask for the free historical book on the lodge. 31 cabins and 6 suites; from $500, incl. breakfast and dinner.