Vacation Getaways: Historic Lodges

These vintage lodges are the perfect home base for outdoor adventures.

Rain Forest Beauty

(Shown above.) Built in 1926 in a wilderness rustic style reminiscent of classic lodges in the Adirondacks, the Lake Quinault Lodge is tucked into a temperate rain forest alongside a placid six-square-mile lake. Seemingly stuck in time from a better day, the lodge buzzes with activity throughout the year, but especially during July and August, when warmer weather inspires play on the oft-chilly freshwater lake. Rent a canoe or kayak from the lodge’s waterfront facility, stroll the loamy trails of the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rain forests in the country, or just pull up an Adirondack chair onto the great lawn and relax. Inside, lollygag in the lobby, which is replete with ceiling beams painted in Native American designs. Play board games or read on period wicker furniture, or sip a drink by the grand brick fireplace under the huge antlers. Cozy up in one of the 91 rooms, including those in the main lodge, which are ideal for couples and feature antique furnishings and views of the lake. Families might consider staying in the adjacent Boathouse Annex (the Beverly Suite takes up the entire top floor and features a panoramic treetop view of the lake and lodge), and kids will especially appreciate the indoor pool, a rare amenity at a historic lodge.
Open year around. $114–$267, depending on season. Three to four hours from Seattle. Olympic National Forest, Quinault, 345 South Shore Road; 360.288.2900; —RODDY SCHEER


Snow-play Paradise

Beloved by serious skiers and rustic romantics, this 75-year-old weathered gray lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The magnificent “Cascadian”-style structure, with its central peak and two wings, was built almost entirely by hand near the top of Oregon’s tallest mountain—the 11,245-foot volcano Mount Hood—from local materials by unemployed craftspeople, a “make work” project during the Great Depression. A sense of history persists throughout, but modern luxuries have crept in: The pillow-top feather beds in the 70 pine-paneled rooms are a cut above the usual old-lodge fare, and the rooms are spacious and lovely, and filled with handmade furniture (televisions and telephones are in most rooms; Wi-Fi in public areas). Ask for a fireplace room if you’re booking for a winter stay, then ski straight out of the lobby and onto the chair lift for an unparalleled day at the only ski area in the country that’s open year around (or just ride the lift up for the jaw-dropping view from 7,000 feet). Afterward, unwind in the lobby, with its giant old-growth rafters, stone arches and enormous chimney, in the heated outdoor pool, or with a drink in the lofty 360-degree-view bar.
Open year around. $125–$350. About four and a half hours southeast of Seattle via I-5 and I-205. Timberline Lodge, 27500 E Timberline Road, Oregon; 800.547.1406; —KRISTEN RUSSELL

Lakeside Escape

Originally opened as a fishing retreat in 1916, the Lake Crescent Lodge hasn’t changed all that much in the ensuing 97 years, but why mess with perfection? Perched on an airy expanse where Barnes Creek empties into impossibly teal Lake Crescent—and constructed as if it was your great grandmother’s sprawling lakeside country house, with white painted siding—you might feel torn between lazing on the lawn and renting a kayak or rowboat, or even paying a visit to the nearby Olympic Park Institute. Either way, be sure to explore the wonders of Olympic National Park, which was created by an early lodge visitor: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who stayed here in 1937. The 52 lodge rooms are quaint and feature original antique furnishings, and have their own bathrooms; the eight guest rooms located on the second floor of the main lodge share bathrooms. The real score might be one of the equally historic Singer Tavern Cottages or Roosevelt Fireplace Cottages, which are self-contained one- and two-bedroom cabins (with bathrooms).
The Roosevelt Cottages are available on weekends with a Friday night arrival only. Lodge is open May-October; some cabins are available during winter “off-season”; $120–$232; about three hours from Seattle in Olympic National Park on Olympic Peninsula, WA; 888.896.3818; —R.S.

Rainier Retreat

Minutes after getting out of the car and stretching your legs, it hits you: The air is different here. A feeling of well-being takes hold as you take in staggering views of the Nisqually Glacier from your temporary home on the flank of Mount Rainier. This 96-year-old rock and timber lodge offers industrial-strength natural beauty, a lofty great hall with exposed cedar logs and lots of original furniture—and 121 mostly very basic rooms. By which we mean no Wi-Fi or television, sketchy cell phone reception, creaky floors and no air conditioning (see page 101 for a few survival tips). Book early (even a year in advance) to score one of the precious few double-queen suites, situated at the quiet end of the annex. Wait too long to book and you could wind up without a private bathroom. But remember: You came here to commune with a spectacular and massive volcano, to do a little hiking (easy, epic and everything in between) and to pay a visit to the new Jackson Visitor Center nearby, complete with cool national park displays (lahars! marmots!), a middling café and a gift shop. Back at the lodge, the beautiful high-ceilinged restaurant serves up fairly standard fare, which tastes very good after a day spent adventuring on the trails. In October, the snow-capped peaks of the Tatoosh Range blaze in sharp relief at sunset; in summer, the wildflower displays are world renowned.
Open May–October. $112–$274/night. About two and a half hours from Seattle via I-5 south and Highway 7. Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park; 360.569.2275; —K.R.


A Temple of Trees

Glacier National Park on the U.S.–Canada border is one of the continent’s treasures. Its Rocky Mountain glaciers may be slowly melting away, but the scenery—from snowfields and mirror lakes to wildflowers and roving grizzlies—is still spectacular. When the Great Northern Railway was built through the area in the 1890s, it brought immigrants to the Pacific Northwest from the upper Midwest. It was a kind of Scandinavian mainline that helped produce ethnic enclaves like Ballard. But even as railroad baron James J. Hill, aka “The Empire Builder,” was bringing in immigrants to populate the West, his son, Louis Hill, was pushing to make Glacier a national park. (It was our 10th, established in 1910.) He built great lodges to accommodate urban tourists who flocked to get a taste of the wilds that were rapidly disappearing.

A century later, that is still possible. Amtrak runs from Seattle to Chicago on the old Great Northern route with stops at Glacier in northern Montana. One of Hill’s best lodges is within walking distance of the station at East Glacier Park, only 17 hours by rail from Seattle on Hill’s namesake train, the Empire Builder. You leave King Street Station in the late afternoon, enjoy scenery and dinner while winding east through the Cascades, then sleep as the train clacks across Washington and Idaho. The sun will greet you again in the Rockies, and you should be at Glacier Park Lodge for brunch.

The lodge is a stunner. The three-story lobby features enormous 40-foot pillars made of old-growth Douglas fir with the bark still on. It is as if you are entering a medieval cathedral, a sacred grove arranged by man. Built in 1913, with wings added on later, the main lodge was modeled on the Forestry Building built for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon. Each tree was 500 to 800 years old when cut; the massive timbers were shipped from Northwest forests on specially built flatcars. Erected on the Blackfeet Reservation, the building was dubbed “Big Tree Lodge” by the Indians.

Glacier Lodge is an excellent staging area for exploring the park. The famous “Red Bus” tours in restored 1930s convertible touring cars will take you to views of the lakes and peaks, and you’ll see everything from stands of Northwest red cedar to white mountain goats nimbly navigating what appear to be sheer rock faces. The lodge itself features fine food in The Great Northern Dining Room, with local fare such as the wild game sausage sampler, made from buffalo and venison. Huckleberries adorn many dishes, from chipotle pork ribs to the bread pudding. The 161 comfortable guestrooms range from a “value” room (with private bath) to a deluxe suite, to a private cabin on the 9th hole of the golf course.

As with others, the lodge’s season is short, and, as spectacular as its interior is, the real show is the million acres of protected wilderness outside. Still, no lodge builders have ever done more to take a visitor’s breath away with a great hall design. There is no lodge lobby that offers more neck-bending “wow” than this one.
Open May-September. $145–$449. About 17 hours from Seattle via Amtrak’s Empire Builder. East Glacier Park, Montana; 406.226.5600; —KNUTE BERGER


Caldera Lake
After driving through miles of scrubby brush and ponderosa pines, you round a corner and gasp. There, stretching out before you, is the deepest lake in the United States, a wild blue expanse that was formed nearly 8,000 years in a moment of epic natural violence: the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs—some nearly 2,000 feet high—and rich in fascinating geological history. Here, you’ll find rock formations such as Phantom Ship and The Pinnacles. Take a boat ride to Wizard Island to view another mini caldera and do a little hiking, then ring the lake by car (when the road is open in late summer) to explore other formations at more than 20 scenic overlooks, before settling into your room at the awe-inspiring—and pricey—Crater Lake Lodge. Finished in 1915, the lake-view rooms are especially dear, and worth every penny—see if Room 401 is still available; there, you can soak up the spectacular view from your window-side claw-foot tub. In fact, some rooms have tubs only; request a shower if that matters. Furnishings are lovely and comfortable (no television or phone; Wi-Fi is available), the restaurant is basic but beautiful, but the great hall really shines, with 100-year-old ponderosa beams and pillars, a grand stone fireplace and a veranda with a mind-blowing view of that lake. You simply can’t beat it for beauty, and you won’t want to leave. This national park gets an amazing 533 inches of snow each year, and, while the park is open year around, the lodge is not, and sells out by March; book now for a prime late-summer visit.
Open May–October. $164–$289. About seven and a half hours from Seattle. Crater Lake National Park, southern Oregon; 888.774.2728; —K.R.


Creepy-Cool Caves
The six-story Chateau at the Oregon Caves is a wonder of architecture (and a National Historic Landmark). Built in 1934, the rustic six-story lodge actually spans a steep ravine, and a stream runs through its dining room. From the weathered cedar-bark siding to the peeled local log beams in the lobby, this lodge is as great as they get (and is slated for renovation in 2014–2016). The lobby, with its open-beamed ceiling and marble double-sided fireplace, opens out on huge picture windows over the ravine below. The 23 rooms—some with a view of a waterfall—are basic, spacious and cool during summer heat (but without air conditioning, phone or television). Leave the room behind to explore the Oregon Caves National Monument just across the street. Sign up for a tour and you’ll spend 90 minutes hiking through well-lit but occasionally cramped tunnels deep into the mountain. There, you’ll marvel at stalactites, stalagmites, and the odd but aptly named cave bacon, popcorn and drapery. It’s magical and thrilling, and you’ll want to return for the extra-creepy evening candlelight tour. If caving isn’t your thing (there might be bats!), explore the nearby hiking trails that lead through old-growth forest and scrubby ridges high in the Siskiyous.
Open May–October. $99­–$185. About eight hours south of Seattle via I-5. Cave Junction, 2000 Caves Highway, Oregon; 877.245.9022; —K.R.


HISTORIC LODGES: Things to Know Before You Go

These glorious monuments to early-20th-century optimism and adventure often feature soaring great halls with peeled old-growth timber beams and a distinctly Northwest design. You visit them for their beauty and history—and to experience the spectacular natural surroundings—not necessarily for the food or for luxurious accommodations. Many of these very old lodges do not include telephones or televisions in rooms; Wi-Fi is spotty to nonexistent, and dining rooms can feature very costly, unimaginative fare from the “captive audience” school of menu planning. Here are a few tips. —K.R.
> Order simple, inexpensive dishes at the restaurants, and revel instead in the beauty and history that surround you.
>In summer, consider bringing along a portable fan. Most old lodges do not have air conditioning.
> If you’re a light sleeper, bring earplugs. Walls can be thinner than in modern lodges.
> Bring a good book or other quiet pursuit and plan to spend time in the grand hall or lobby, where you’ll soak up a century of ambiance, usually in front of a crackling fire and often in the presence of happy day-trippers who come to enjoy the glorious surroundings.
> Many great lodges are not open year around, due to weather conditions. Some are literally covered in snow in winter months. Snagging a room in one of these lodges—especially a premium room—is doubly difficult; book now before next season is sold out.


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