Sometimes you and your kids just want to keep things simple. A cabin-in-the-woods vacation turns your family’s fantasy of getting closer to nature—and away from crowds—into a refreshing reality. At these resorts with acres of land, your family can hike forests and red rock canyons, paddle canoes on lakes, collect seashells on wind-blown beaches, go horseback riding in high-mountain valleys, and strap on cross-country skis to trek through snowy woods. Here’s where to find four seasons’ worth of family fun and relaxation in the woods.
Ludlow’s Island Resort, Minnesota
The only way to reach Ludlow’s Island Resort in remote northeastern Minnesota is by boat. Near the town of Cook, a private water taxi whisks you from a mainland dock and sports complex to 20 acres of accommodations set on islets in Lake Vermilion. Pine and birch trees shade hand-crafted, Northwoods-style cabins facing the 40,000-acre lake. Use the free canoes, kayaks, and rowboats (powerboats can be rented) to explore the lake’s many coves and go after the plentiful bass and perch. During the kids’ fishing derby held in the summer, mini anglers can land nearly a catch a minute. T-shirt painting, sandcastle-building, marshmallow roasts, lake outings in an amphibious car, and movie nights add to the fun for youngsters.
Accommodations: 23 one-, two-, three-, four-, and five-bedroom cabins with kitchens and air-conditioning
Open: May 15 – October 15
Lone Mountain Ranch, Montana
Book a cabin at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky for a true western adventure. In summer, the place operates as a dude ranch where wranglers lead you and your kids (ages 6 and older) on horseback rides through the spectacular Montana countryside. Little ones aged 3 to 5 can ride ponies in the corral. Out of the saddle, go on a naturalist-led tour of nearby Yellowstone National Park and try your hand at canoeing, fly-fishing, and mountain biking. The ranch morphs into a cross-country ski center in winter. After a day of taxing your thighs on skis or snowshoes you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a backcountry cabin for dinner. Most packages include meals and many activities. The western-themed cabins, nestled under lodgepole pines, come in different configurations. Some have bunk beds and a queen in the only bedroom, while others come with pullout sofas in the living area. The adjoining duplexes work well for families with older children since each unit has a separate entrance and most have a connecting door.
Accommodations: 25 one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom cabins, two houses with kitchens (no air-conditioning)
Open: 2 days after Thanksgiving to April 1; late May to mid-October
Little Arrow Outdoor Resort, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park rewards families with lush forests, misty peaks, and waterfalls. Abutting the park’s western end, Little Arrow Outdoor Resort in Townsend stretches across 18 acres of what’s known as the quiet side of the Smokies compared to the touristy attractions and crowds farther east in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. After a day of hiking mountain trails, cool off with your kids in Little Arrow’s outdoor pool and relax by fishing for trout in the Little River, which cuts through the grounds. All of the resort’s indoor accommodations (there are also RV sites here) have kitchens. In addition to bedrooms, Premier cabins (pictured above) add a loft with two mattresses, and Cozy cabins tuck bunk beds into a hallway. For something different, try squeezing into one of Little Arrow’s tiny homes.
Accommodations: 76 RV sites, 19 one- and two-bedroom cabins with air-conditioning, 17 tiny homes; Airstream trailers, glamping tents, and houses also available
Iron Springs Resort, Washington State
Iron Springs Resort at Copalis Beach perches on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On the 100-acre property, cabins face the crashing waves, with the woods rising behind the buildings. Iron Springs is an ideal place to experience the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment. At low tide, beachcomb with your kids for driftwood, sand dollars, and shells, and search for starfish, mussels, and crabs in Copalis Rock’s tidepools. From October through April, try digging for Washington’s famous razor clams (as in the photo above). The resort’s 1-mile hiking trail loops through tall spruce, fir, and hemlock thickets where the moss and sea mist will make kids feel like they’re in an enchanted forest.
Accommodations: 25 one- and two-bedroom cabins with kitchens (no air-conditioning)
Lapland Lake, New York State
Located within the pristine forests of New York State’s Adirondack Park, Lapland Lake operates as a Nordic ski center from November through March and a woodland getaway the remainder of the year. In winter, glide through the glittering landscape with your kids on nearly 24 miles of groomed cross-country trails, go snowshoeing on more than 7 miles of ungroomed paths, and ice skate on the frozen lake. The resort offers rental equipment and lessons for adults and kids, plus Reindeer Rally, a children’s ski and play program for 5- to 10-year-olds. In the spring, summer, and fall, Lapland Lake opens only to overnight guests, bringing enhanced privacy and little competition for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and splashing in the 70-acre lake. Motorboats are prohibited, adding to the sense of calm. There are also trails for hiking and mountain biking. The resort’s compact but functional “tupas” (Finnish for cottages) have screened porches, kitchens, and wood or propane stoves.
Accommodations: Two studios (for adults only), nine two- to four-bedroom cabins, one four-bedroom farmhouse, all with kitchens and heat (but no air-conditioning)
Briar Patch Inn, Arizona
Situated in the Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona’s Briar Patch Inn lies in the heart of the region’s red rock landscape. Nearby hikes lead to vistas of bluffs and pinnacles, and at Slide Rock State Park, kids can slither down smooth boulders to splash in a stream. At the inn, oak and sycamore trees shade the hammocks dotting the 9-acre property, where resident sheep “mow” the meadow. (Note to kids: The animals love apples). The rustic but comfortable cabins feature southwestern décor, with pine paneling, flagstone floors, and rough-hewn furnishings softened by Native American baskets and rugs. Be sure to ask about the configuration of your cabin because beds for kids might be set up in the big bedroom or living area. Rates include full breakfast. Eat outside on weekend mornings to enjoy al fresco violin and guitar performances.
Accommodations: eight studios (five with kitchenettes), nine one- and two-bedroom cabins (all but one with kitchens), one four-bedroom home; all units have air conditioning
Sterling Ridge Resort, Vermont
Sterling Ridge Resort sprawls on 350 acres in Vermont’s Green Mountains. At this classic New England getaway, you can cross a covered bridge on a walking trail, paddle kayaks and canoes on the 9-acre pond, and play cornhole and horseshoes with your kids. In winter, put on complimentary snowshoes to explore the property. For downhill and cross-country skiing, family-friendly Smugglers’ Notch Resort is nearby. In maple season (March to mid-April) tour the resort’s maple woods and sugar house to learn how the sweet syrup is tapped and boiled. Cabin interiors have a country vibe, thanks to wood stoves or fireplaces, quilts, bear-themed couch cushions, and baskets. The two-bedroom cabin decorated by Field & Stream magazine for a 2007 feature stands out with its two-story stone fireplace and jetted tub.
Accommodations: three studios and 21 one-, two-, and three-bedroom cabins with kitchens and air-conditioning; two houses also available
Southern Comfort Lakeside Cabin Resort, Virginia
Southern Comfort Lakeside Cabin Resort rents just four cabins on 200 acres of meadows, rolling hills, and woods in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Meander along 5 miles of groomed trails, swim in the 7-acre lake, and fish for bluegill and perch. Each hand-hewn log cabin overlooks the water. Stone fireplaces, quilts, and kitchens with stainless steel appliances create a comfortable country feel. Sit and rock a while on your front porch with your kids—you’re likely to spot deer, geese, and turkeys. At night, listen to the frogs and catch fireflies. In fall, the region pops with spectacular colors and during the snowy season, a short drive will take you to Wintergreen Resort for downhill skiing and tubing.
Accommodations: four two-bedroom cabins with air-conditioning